At the age of ten, living in the ghetto in Cleveland, Ohio, I held a gun to my head. I was ready to fire a bullet and end my life.
Fortunately for me, the gun had a hidden safety feature that I did not know about. The gun would not fire.
Why would a ten-year-old boy want to die? The age of ten should be filled with dreams of becoming a football player, an astronaut, an explorer or a movie star.
I just wanted to die. But God had another plan.
A Family Comes Unraveled
My grandmother was an immigrant from Germany. And my grandfather was an immigrant from Cuba. It was in Cleveland, Ohio where they met and married. They had three boys and four girls.
Through a series of events, including a fight, my grandfather was convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to prison. When the story of his crime hit the newspapers, my grandmother lost her job. Being a strong German mother, she began to work odd jobs such as cleaning bathrooms to support her seven children. But soon, she lost her health and was unable to work. She had five operations, which left her maimed and deeply depressed. The family lost everything and was thrown into the streets.
My mother was the oldest of their children. She was stunning in appearance and was often told she looked like Elizabeth Taylor. A pimp in the community heard of her and offered my mother money just to have dinner with his male clients.
Eventually this led to her performing other favors for these clients and at the age of 14, my mother became a professional call girl. Her three brothers had become heroin addicts and joined a gang called, “The Devil’s Disciples.”
With a father in prison, a mother in ailing health and no place to call “home,” the children’s lives were becoming unraveled. They fell prey to prostitution, drugs and violence.
Surviving Despite The Circumstances
At age 16, as a hardened call girl, my mom became pregnant with a baby conceived with one of her “tricks,” as they were called. Her pimp made it clear there was no time to have a baby because it would get in the way of his making money from her.
After several abortion attempts, my mother eventually gave birth. Born prematurely with no pancreas, under-developed lungs and other physical deformities, the baby was not wanted and almost died of pneumonia.
That unwanted baby was me.
When I began school I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. I was a severe stutterer. I often saw my mom beaten by her clients. Many times they would beat me, as well.
By the age of ten I wanted to die.
Tragedy Turns Into Triumph
In 1973 my life changed when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Spears, volunteered to be my speech coach. She was a kind Christian lady who had no children. She gave me a Bible. As part of my speech therapy, I would read the Bible aloud into a tape recorder. I have since learned that this Bible was a Hotel Bible that had been placed by The Gideons International.
Until then, I had never held a Bible in my hand.
I read this Bible every day for a full year. I read about a stutterer named Moses whom God used to bring people out of bondage. I read about a young shepherd boy who beat Goliath with a slingshot and a stone.
I began to understand from the reading of my Gideon Bible that God uses those who have been wounded very deeply. I began to understand that life can be a mess, but with His help it can become a message.
I became a scholar, student body president and a young pastor. With that same Gideon Bible, I preached messages of hope and healing that led my mother, sister, grandmother, grandfather and other relatives to Christ through my church.
Today with that same Gideon Bible, the Lord has helped me plant churches, preach revivals, author five books, host TV programs, advise world leaders and lead peace-keeping efforts in Africa and India. Hundreds of thousands have heard the gospel message because of that one Bible.
May God bless The Gideons International through the continued placement of His Word.
Yes I was born a “trick baby.” But through that one Gideon Bible, the real trick was on the devil.
Bishop Ron Archer
Edited by The Gideons International