It had been a busy day of running errands. I was finishing up at the bank, eager to go home and put my feet up, when a bank employee asked me if I could step into her office. I obliged.
“I’m Sally Pachik,” she volunteered, “and you’re with The Salvation Army, right?” Although I didn’t know it at the time, Sally remembered my bank application, which revealed that prior to retirement I had served as a Salvation Army officer.
“Yes, I am,” I replied. I had no idea where this conversation was going.
Then the story began to spill from Sally’s lips—and from her heart. Her son Chris was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was in jail but would be released to his mother’s custody if she could guarantee his placement in a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC). Could I help?
Sally had already made contact with the Suncoast ARC in St. Petersburg, Florida. There was a three-week waiting list, but she was not about to give up. Her son’s life was at stake, and she was desperate to find him the help he needed. “Perhaps if you make a call, you can influence them to make an exception,” she pleaded.
I really wanted to go home, so I told her, “I’ll see what I can do.”
At home, I debated. It probably won’t do any good, I thought.
But an inner voice said, it’s worth a try.
The ARC people don’t even know who I am, I argued.
You won’t know the answer unless you ask the question, came the silent but insistent response.
“All right, Lord,” I said aloud. I was beginning to understand that the positive inward promptings were the voice of the Holy Spirit. So I called the center and explained that I was a retired Salvation Army officer calling on behalf of a woman who cared very much for her son. “I’m Mrs. Major Leidy,” I kept saying, hoping my rank and my experience would have a positive effect.
“Please hold,” said the voice at the other end of the line.
You’re being given the runaround, the negative voice in my mind said. I uttered a silent prayer that God would have His way.
“Hello.” The voice from the ARC was speaking again. “Because of the circumstances, we’re moving Chris to the top of the list. Have him come in tomorrow morning. We’ll accept him into the program.” I breathed a sigh of relief and uttered a brief prayer of thanksgiving.
The next morning, Sally drove Chris to the center, where he began an exciting adventure that would make a radical change in his lifestyle and in his plans for the future. Chris Pachik’s acceptance into the ARC was a miracle—the first of many.
A promising pitcher hoping to make a living as a professional athlete, Chris had gone to college on a baseball scholarship. But when he suffered a baseball-related injury, the team’s physician prescribed opiates to relieve the pain. That was the beginning of the end.
A victim of the epidemic of prescription drug abuse sweeping the country, Chris fell into a pattern of addiction similar to many who are prescribed powerful painkillers. He eventually discovered ways to get the medicine without a doctor’s prescription. To no one’s surprise, including his own, the drugs interfered with Chris’ ability to pitch.
“One day I was high on drugs in the dugout,” he recalls. “So I was kicked off the team. I dropped out of college, and things went from bad to worse.” By the time he was arrested in October 2014 for selling illicit drugs to an undercover detective, Chris had been incarcerated 10 times. “I was the lowest of the low,” he confesses. “In fact, I was given the gift of desperation. I was absolutely helpless, angry at God, miserable, unable to make the necessary changes in my life. I had reached the bottom, and I was willing to do anything to get my life back.”
Chris successfully completed the six-month ARC program and was hired as an assistant at one of the Army’s thrift stores. Meanwhile, under the tutelage of the ARC administrators and a sponsor who himself had found freedom from drugs through the center’s program, Chris gave his life to Christ. He experienced the miracle of new birth.
That’s when Chris began attending meetings at the Clearwater Corps. “I was overwhelmed by the acceptance I received from the people at the corps,” he said. “They showed me a love I had never experienced before.”
On Thanksgiving Day in 2014, Chris’ older brother Sean, also an addict, visited him at the center. Looking for a way out of his own illness and impressed by the remarkable change in his brother, Sean enrolled in the program. Today, clean and sober, he drives an ARC pickup truck.
Miracles continue to occur in Chris’ life. The Clearwater Corps has hired him as a program assistant and he was responsible for the corps’ bell-ringing effort last Christmas, supervising more than a hundred employees and volunteers.
Chris has grown exponentially in his spirituality. Now a uniformed Salvationist, he is currently a prospective candidate for Salvation Army officership with hopes to enter the Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta in the fall of 2016.
Recently, when giving the sermon in a Sunday evening meeting at the corps, he was supported by his parents and a number of his buddies from the ARC, as well as by scores of newfound friends from the corps.
“I thank God for the tremendous change He has made in Chris’ life. I’m so glad I listened to the voice of the Lord and made that phone call.”
By Major Mary Leidy (as told to Commissioner Robert E. Thomson)
Both Major Leidy and Commissioner Thomson are soldiering at the Army‘s Clearwater, FL. Corps.