Dear Friends, we are gathered here together to share in the Grace of the Lord. Today I want to speak to you of his grace and terror. Terror is a real and terrible feeling, for I have seen the depths of terror and horror, and it was only through his grace that I survived.
I was not always the humble Man of God you see before you today. When I was young I was a sinner. I grew up in the hardscrabble hills of Arkansas. My Daddy left us when I was but a young child. My Ma did what she could to keep us fed and clothed. And by that I mean she did anything she could, for us young children. Some would call her a sinner, and she was. But her heart was in the right place.
I first experienced terror soon after Daddy left us. A man was visiting our farm. And I was awoken by the screams of my mother. I went to her room, trembling with fear at what I would find that caused my mother such pain. When I opened the door that man stepped out, picked me up by the scruff of my neck and stuck a knife in my face. He swore that if I ever spoke of this to anyone he would return and make sure we all paid, and then drew a line in blood across my face, leaving this scar you see today.
I came of age when the war began. And it was not long after that the first raiders came to our farm. I was barely old enough to hold up my Daddy’s rifle when I tried to stop them. But I failed, and I felt terror again as I lay weeping from a blow from one of the raiders, watching as my home burned, with the screams of my Mommy echoing in my ears.
I vowed to use that terror, turn it into a weapon. I found a friendly group of raiders and joined them. And I became a terror to my enemies. I also became a great sinner. Killing, raping, drinking, no sin was too great for me. My name became synonymous with hatred and fear, even those I claimed to protect feared me.
And then, on one of our most horrific raids I experienced the greatest terror of my life. We had captured some runaway slaves and some soldiers. And we had what we thought was a fun night with them. Visiting horrific injuries and abuse on them. And then the next morning, in the cold dawn, my victims awoke and came for me. That is right, in his wisdom the Lord chose to use my victims as his tools. The dead arose, and took me and my fellow raiders, and strung us up, and inflicted all kinds of horrors upon us. It truly was the most horrific and terrible thing that I had ever experienced.
And then, in the depths of my misery, I prayed again, at first out of habit, and then in earnest. I told the Lord that I knew that I was a sinner, I had killed, swore, raped, and drank. And I truly deserved this punishment. And in that moment, I felt the Hand of God. He came to me and granted me a truly terrible and awesome gift. I was given a new birth, born again in the eyes of the Lord.
And now I come before you today, spreading the word of his Grace. And urge you to accept his salvation. For without that, this is truly a world of Terror we live in.