I had given up on Christianity. I just didn’t think it worked for me any more.

I had to leave full-time ministry at The Salvation Army in 1990 because my marriage was falling apart. I tried to salvage that relationship but went through a divorce. Suddenly I was a single dad taking care of three children.

I tried to keep things together on the outside, but inwardly I was crushed. It felt like a scarlet letter “D” always hung above me. I contemplated suicide.

My family physician, Dr. Matt Datzman, came to my aid with counseling and care, but I really believed God had given up on me. Certainly I was a failure in His eyes.

In 1994 a good friend of mine was totally mistreated by a congregation, which for me was the final straw. I quit going to church. But loneliness gnawed at my soul.

I was working at Cardinal Center at the time and Cookie Wilson talked about this new church her husband Denny and some others had formed at Harrison School. For some reason I felt compelled to visit, even though I dreaded seeing this pastor I admired from afar, sure he would define me by failure as well.

I headed to Harrison one Sunday in October and walked into the gym, cartoon characters on the wall, and canvas on the floor with metal chairs. I was used to pews and a more traditional setting. Worship was accompanied by guitar and words were up on a screen — no hymnals.

I tried to hide in the back so I could escape.

The songs ended and Denny stepped up to the microphone. He just stood there with this forlorn look on his face. Finally he explained how he had been struggling, then said, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The silence gripped the room. Suddenly, person after person began lining up and taking turns wrapping their arms around Denny and Cookie, who had come up front.

I was shocked. I wanted to run out of the building, but with tears running down my face I got in line. When I got up to Denny I put my arms around him and wept. I stammered, “I can’t do it anymore either.” We cried together, Cookie and others joining us.

Denny was willing to be honest with a simple five-word message. That day was the beginning of healing for many.

Psalm 51:17 says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” God loves the broken-hearted. I learned that day and continue to be reminded that I am desperately in need of His grace, mercy and leading.

We used to sing a song by Micah Stampley that “brokenness is what I need and long for,” and then sang in the chorus, “So, take my heart and mold it, Take my mind, transform it, Take my will, conform it, To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.”

I humbly look back and thank God for my wife, Sina (Denny performed the ceremony), my family, and restoring me to ministry in The Salvation Army and the community.

Warsaw Community Church will observe its 25th anniversary at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center in Winona Lake — a celebration of Jesus, the wounded but worthy Savior, who compels his broken but redeemed followers to live His love in this lost and sin-sick world.

Ken Locke is community ministries director of The Salvation Army in Warsaw and director of the Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association.

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