The Personal Costs of Gambling


A Youth Pastor's Tragic Story


   I am an inmate housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. 
   Some weeks ago you had Dr. Adrian Rodgers on your program [American Family Radio] who was talking on the subject of gambling. Dr. Rogers mentioned a youth pastor who fell into the sin of gambling and was constntly lured by the billboards on the highways. A youth pastor who destroyed his life and is now serving a 27-year sentence for bad checks and forgery. 
   Mr. Wildmon, I am that youth pastor. I want to share my story with you. I let gambling devastate my life and destroy all God had given me. 
   Mr. Wildmon, I came to know Christ at 14 (at a Christian school).....I later went off to college and returned to that Christian school and was asked to be on staff. I became the Activities Director, in charge of activities, Bible studies, and programs. I was especially involved in discipleship one on one with the kids who surrendered their hearts to Christ.
   Then I married a beautiful godly woman and took a position as youth pastor at [a local church]. Three days before my first year wedding anniversary, I went to my first casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I came home $300.00 richer, I thought. The next night, I lost it and it started a cycle of events that destroyed my relationship with God.
   I was hooked. I drove two and one half hours one way to and from Vicksburg just to gamble and win back what I lost.
   I eventually let all this destroy everything in my life; my witness, my marriage, trust of family and friends and the younge people I was directing.
   I went into the food business as a chef. I lost job after job. My wife couldn't bear it anymore. She separated from me, hoping I would return to the Lord and to my vows. I didn't stop. I eventually started stealing money, robbing houses, and pawning everything I could get my hands on. I didn't care about anyone or anything. I even stole money from my dear grandmother and my parents, who are on retirement and social security.
   Toward the end, the elders of my church met with me every morning for prayer, Scripture memory and accountability. I wouldn't listen to them. I continued to go. One day I even stole my boss' van to go to the casino. My church even applied from the Word church discipline and banned me from the Lord's table. I still wouldn't turn. I stole credit cards from my parents as well.
   My wife had had enough. She divorced me. I sure didn't care now is what I said. I couldn't stop, it was too big for me.
   Though I know Christ, I felt I had abandoned Him and He didn't want me any longer.
   I eventually swindled a bank out of $27,000 and after a couple of nights of gambling, I was arrested and held without bail. Within a week, I received 27 years from three judges. I have been in prison for little over a year. I am not eligible for parole until the year 2021. 
   I am not sad that I am here. I am thankful.
   It took all of this for God to break my heart, to break me in half. Even after God had forgiven me and restored me, I still had those thoughts. I was hounded by the thoughts of the craps tables, blackjack and the money.
   It wasn't until six months ago through filling my mind and spirit with the Word of God and avoiding this lifestyle did the Lord take this away from me. My mind is clear. I have sound mind and I sleep, something I did very little [of before].
   Mr. Wildmon, gambling is one of the subtlest forms of deception the devil has ever created. I venture to say there are thousands of compulsive gamblers in this state and many of those may even be Christians, who have gotten lured in by dreams of riches, getting something for nothing.
   There are more divorces, crimes, robberies, burglaries, bankruptcies and even suicides in our state because of the destructive presence of gambling.
   So many shake it off as entertainment, or getting dinner cheaply or a night on the town. Many in my church say they just go for the food. But the Psalmist was clear, "Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked or sit in the seat of scoffers."
   .....I weep for my state. I weep for the wives, for the husbands and especially for the children of these. I weep that some of the children who are victims will become gamblers as well.
   Please warn people about this destructive force that we have allowed to creep in our state. We have all turned a blind eye to this destructive force. Oh, my God, what have I done? What have we done?

In Christ,
Name withheld
 

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