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MY SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE

By- Rev. Dr. Charles E. Sanders, Jr.





I was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1951 to a family of working poor, with two younger siblings. At the age of seven, my mother and father divorced, and my mother gave us up to my dad. Church was a non-issue, we just never attended during my childhood. By the age of twelve, I felt that something was missing in my life. I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew something was missing.

The realization of something missing led me to an outward search. I found this small Church and use to hide in their old dried out lake and listen to the sermons and the music. It really made me feel good, and the people I would see were so happy and full of life. Each Sunday I would get closer to the Church, and finally I found myself in the door. I was in the door every time the doors opened after that. I found what was missing in my life. I accepted Christ as my Savior and was led by the Holy Spirit to a commitment in the Ministry.

At the age of fourteen my whole world was turned upside down, as I went to live with my mother. Life became a party; glue sniffing, alcohol, smoking, constant fights, womanizing, and constant bouts with the law. By the age of fifteen I was the youngest member of a motorcycle gang called the Outlaws. I was a constant runaway and dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. By the ripe old age of sixteen I was in a boy's Detention Facility.

Two weeks prior to my seventeenth birthday my dad picked me up and took me downtown in the recruiter's office. I chose the Marine Corps since the only other choice was the Army, and I didnít want that as they would have drafter me and I wanted to feel I had a choice. It was not a great choice, but as a tenth grade dropout, the choices were very limited.

I had a difficult time in recruit training, as I had an attitude problem. But the Marine Corps solved that problem. On my eighteenth birthday I received the dreaded orders, the orders to go to Vietnam. I was an infantryman, and that was not a good job. I went on leave and stayed drunk for thirty days. This was a quick thirty days, and I was enroute to Vietnam.

The first four weeks in Vietnam I had mess duty. This was followed by four weeks of exterior guard duty, then four weeks of interior guard, then finally four weeks of Recon Indoctrination in Vietnam. I had now been in the country for four months and had not fired a shot at the enemy.

After recon training, I began to go on patrols. I had seen several of my friends die or get wounded, but I could not conceive the fact that I could get hurt or die. Then on a long term recon operation, everything broke loose, and the enemy completely run over us. there were six of us that survived out of forty-eight, and I prayed harder than I ever remember praying. I was medically evacuated all the way back to the States, with nerve damage to my right arm, and I couldn't pull a trigger. Several months went by and the damage began to heal. When I was well I began to think about what I'd promised to the Lord if he would get me out alive. So I asked the Lord for a rain check since I was still young.

I became more wicked than I'd ever been and was actually proud of it. I re-enlisted to go back to Vietnam, and the Marine Corps was glad to oblige. This time I went twelve months without a scratch. I was getting cocky and reckless, when once again the world fell on my shoulders and I was hit by an RPG. I had scrap metal lodged in the head of the femur. I was told I would have associated problems later in life. But being young and thinking I had all the answers, I volunteered to go back to Vietnam for a third tour. It wasn't that I was so brave, but quite the contrary. I didn't know how to survive in mainstream society, and when I went back to Louisville, Kentucky, they were flying American flags upside down over the bussing issue. Contrary to the mainstream society's motion picture image, we never had the racial problems in the actual combat units that the new media was trying to sensationalize. I knew how to survive in combat, and I survived this tour without a scratch, and came back in 1971.

In 1972 I re-enlisted and was sent to Marine Corps Drill Instructors School and graduated to become one of the elite, a Marine Corps Drill Instructor as Parris Island, South Carolina. I lasted for just over a year, until I had a new recruit die of respiratory arrest. This was a pretty6 nasty situation since the Marine Corps had just come under fire for cruel and inhumane treatment in recruit training. To further spark the volatile situation, the recruit was black, and Shirley Chisom got involved and I was reassigned to Okinawa, Japan, without a leave in between.

In Okinawa I was assigned to the famous second battalion ninth Marines. I built a good reputation by starting the very first Surveillance Target Acquisition Platoon. This was to be the new battalion level recon unit. But as with all things times were to rapidly change and the Mayaguez situation erupted. My unit was flown from Okinawa to Thailand, where we received live ammunition and were sent to the Island of Kotang to recapture the hips and the crew of the Mayaguez. I was the platoon commander, and lost nearly all my men, most of which were young and barely trained, with their whole lives ahead of them. I still live with this today!

My chest covered with medals, and awards enough to paper the walls, my nightmares would not go away, and I would often, in a drunken stupor, pick up my Bible and set it back down, feeling unworthy and not wanting to accept the commitment of what seemed so long ago in another life. I continued to live in a semi-drunken capacity and continued to get awards. I was constantly in jail over the weekends, from things ranging from drunk driving to assault, and after three marriages, I ended my career.

My first job was with a janitorial service in Honolulu, where my wife would encourage me and tell me it was a start. I tried furniture finishing and finally management at a Burger King. Seeing we were never going to get ahead living on Oahu, we moved to Washington State, on Whidbey Island, about an hour south from the Canadian border. I got a job at the Jack-in-the-Box as an assistant manager; we got a single wide mobile home in this trailer park and lived there for a year or two. During that time frame, my hips completely gave out and I was bedridden for about eight months.

The Veteran's Administration replaced both hips. After I healed several months quicker than was expected, I landed a job at a pellet-stove manufacturer and worked my way up from production line worker to laboratory technician. The money was pretty good, and my wife and I were able to purchase a ten-acre truck farm, and after a year we were able to put a new 2,000 square foot manufactured home on a foundation on the property. I worked there at the pellet-stove place for about five years and was laid off. It wasn't long before I landed a job at a refinery as a heavy equipment operator in the coker unit. I worked there for thirteen months and was laid off. I prayed daily, and felt as if God had forgotten me and could not or would not answer my prayers. I knew I had let Him down, and felt He was now letting me down.

One night as my wife and I were watching the news, they announced an accident at the refinery and said that people were killed. When the late news came on, we found out the accident was in the coker unit. The next day they announced the names of the workers who were killed, and it was my team, minus one, ME! I thanked God, as I knew He had answered my prayers by not answering them. Once again He had spared me, the same me that had so many times let Him down. I knew it was now time to fulfill my commitment to God and be the minister I so long ago promised.

I started going to school and started counseling. I eventually earned two Associate degrees, a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling, and a Master's in Pastoral Counseling. Shortly after that I was Licensed as a Minister of Christ. I continued on with my education and earned my Doctor of Counseling and Communication degree. Then came the big step, I was Ordained a Minister of Christ, by the Full Gospel of Christ Fellowship, an interdenominational Church.

My lovely wife, being from Hawaii originally, wanted to come back home, and it was now time. We sold our house and property in Washington State and moved to the Big Island where the pace is slower and a home more affordable. We bought a house, made it a home, and now I am seeking a Church to Pastor. I truly am blessed with my wife of twenty years and with her support in my calling to the Ministry.

I have learned that we often blame others or even God for our troubles, negative situations, and pain, but it is only our choices that have caused these to happen. Because of a choice we made we perpetuate the influx of exhaustive pain and suffering on ourselves and those who love us. it is significant to remember, God doesn't cause these things to happen to us, but as He told us, He will always be there and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). You can be assured, our negative situations will be used for good. It doesn't matter what was in our part, God will forgive us (1 John 1:9; Romans 8:1).

Each day is a new day and we can do all things in God, and He tells is this in {Philippians 4:13. He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19), and all we need to do is trust in Him and be open to His direction.