On May 4, 1980, I was invited to go to church by a girl that I really liked. I asked her to go out on a date and she suggested that our date could be at her church. I would have gone anywhere she wanted to go so I agreed. I thought that I was getting closer to getting the girl but that day Jesus got me. For several years I went from church to church trying to find where I fit in. I was attracted/distracted by the “prosperity gospel” churches believing that God wanted me to be rich. I was also struggling with an addiction to gambling. I would tell myself that I would do great things with the money if God would bless me. This foolish thinking would lead me into more suffering and shame than I could have ever imagined…not only for myself but for everyone that I loved.
I got married in December, 1989 and within a few years we had four beautiful children: two boys and two girls. I had the perfect family and a successful business. I had everything that a man could want but it wasn’t enough.
On December 21, 2001, I was sentenced to seven consecutive terms of 26-120 months for embezzlement that was a result of my gambling. That meant that I would have to do a minimum of two years and two months on each sentence before I could be paroled on to the next sentence. I was going to be separated from my family for over fifteen years. I was at the lowest point in my life. The promises of God that I had memorized through the years became my only source of hope. I held on tightly to Romans 8:28. I did not know how God could possibly work this out for good but I did know that He was the only One who possibly could.
Being incarcerated gave me a lot of time to read and study the Bible. After working at a prison job for about 6 months I was able to purchase a radio. I spent as much time as I could listening to sermons that were broadcast as well as listening to sermons that were being sent to me through the mail by my church at home. We had community volunteers from local churches that would conduct Sunday services and weekly bible studies at the prison, but the messages that were being taught were from the same prosperity gospel that I knew was toxic.
In the Spring of 2003, Pastor Brian Borgman from Grace Community Church in Minden was invited to come as a guest speaker on a Sunday. I had heard him many times on the local radio station so was excited to meet him and hear him preach in person. This was exactly what I had been missing. By October of that year he had arranged to conduct weekly bible studies. Every week I would feel my desire for God’s Word increase as His grace was working in my life. The ministry of Grace Community Church was a tremendous encouragement to me.
I began my studies with RBS because I knew that I wanted to serve God’s people and thought that this would be the perfect way to build on the foundation that had been established and to be equipped for whatever God would lead me to do. It has been a great blessing to be able to learn from some excellent teachers. I felt challenged every step of the way but it was well worth the effort. I appreciate that I had to work hard to learn the material. Often during the first reading of some of the books, I felt like I was in way over my head, but re-reading them a second and third time through I got a deeper understanding of the author’s thoughts. The more that I learned, the more I wanted to go even deeper. I can’t imagine a point where I won’t want to learn more about our awesome God. I would highly recommend RBS to anyone looking for a more intimate knowledge of Scripture and to be equipped to serve the Lord. I am so thankful for the constant encouragement and support that I have received from Grace Community Church. I am excited about the future and look forward to seeing what God has planned.
Steven Cropper, D.T.S.