Dennis McHawes and I served with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines of the 1st Marine Division at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MGACC) 29 Palms, California. Dennis is a veteran of the Gulf War in 1991 also.
I asked Dennis for his permission to share this on my blog and what follows is his story of God's amazing grace.
To all my fellow Marines, family, friends and to you Dennis, Semper fi in Christ.
"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10, NKJV.
We as Christians, all know that one of the greatest gifts that our Lord has given us is the gift of forgiveness. As he died on the cross, forgiving us of our sins.
With that being said, I want to share the testimony of a man that I know. This man may not be the “typical” Christian. He is a large tattooed biker; in fact he is the President of a motorcycle club, a former Marine, former Professional Wrestler and a former police officer. He is a real “man’s man”.
This man is married with three beautiful children and a wonderful wife. However, for the biggest part of his life he was about as mean and ornery as you were going to find. When it came to doing wrong, he did it right. Some of his friends even joked and nicknamed El Diablo. He got a kick out the title and thought it was quite funny.
The last time that he ever really prayed had been when he was in a fighting hole in Desert Storm back in 1991.
He was the grandson of a Baptist preacher. Even though his Grandfather had died before he was born, he had always heard stories that before his Grandfather became a Christian, he had been a bar room brawling, drinking woman chaser. Hey, if it was good enough for his Grandpa, the wild side was good enough for him. In fact his Grandmother would tell him that he was a lot like his Grandfather and that wasn’t always a good thing. He used to laugh at this as well.
For many years he made excuses of why he wasn’t a Christian and why he didn’t go to church. You couldn’t be a real man if you were a Christian. You couldn’t go and do what you wanted. The church was full of hypocrites. He knew this because he was a cop in the area and he knew what they did when they weren’t in the church. Why would he want to go and associate with them? These were just a few of the excuses that he used.
After getting married the second time, he and his wife built a new home and started a family. However, God was not a part of any of it. His wife urged him to attend church. He flooded her with excuses of why he would not go. It just wasn’t for him. Even after his two daughters were born, he still avoided going even though his wife attended a few times without him.
About a year ago, his marriage had got to the point that it was on the verge of a divorce. The main reason for this was because of his behavior, even though it was tough for him to admit that. He found a girlfriend on the side and he was going to do as he wanted. After a month or so of this he decided that he would tell his wife and move out. He was going to turn his back on his family and do his own thing. He was going to do what he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted.
After the break up he moved back home with his parents and did just what he had set out to do. He was going to have the time of his life. He was going to be happier than he had ever been. He was doing it his way and all by himself.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that he missed his children tremendously. But, hey he couldn’t let anybody know how he was feeling. It was his choice to do these things.
What he was doing was supposed to make him happier than he had ever been. But yet, he found himself more depressed and lonely than he ever imagined he could be. Why is this happening he thought? He eventually got rid of the girlfriend, but he still did not have his wife and children back.
During this time he was approached by a member of his motorcycle club. This man had been through the same thing a few years back with his wife and they had worked it out. He explained that they had sought and found help through the church. Now this guy was also a man’s man. He was a veteran, a biker, a cage fighter and a Christian. If it worked for him maybe there was something to it. But he still hadn’t “bought” into the whole idea of going to church.
He began talking with his wife more and spending more time there at his old home. They attended counseling, but there was still something missing.
One night he was talking to his mother about how low he felt and fearing the mistakes that he had made and what he had lost. She asked him a simple question.
“Have you prayed to God for help during this time?”
Well no. It hadn’t even crossed his mind. He wasn’t real sure that God would even listen to him with the things that he had done.
A few more days passed and the depression grew deeper. He had downloaded some music from the internet. Some of it was actually gospel music. He had always enjoyed the music. The songs included Amazing Grace and we all know how that goes, “To save a wretch like me.” He also downloaded the Old rugged Cross, which had been sung at his Grandpa’s funeral.
While sitting in his office one day, basking in his misery, he thought what have I done? How did this happen to me? It wasn’t supposed to work like this. As he played some of his music that he had downloaded he thought why not give prayer a shot and see what happens. He had realized that he couldn’t do this on his own and he needed help. He closed his eyes and asked God for forgiveness for the things he had done. He asked for guidance and he asked what he should do. It was at this time something happened inside of him as well as the exterior. He heard a voice. The voice was not mad but stern where he heard in a simple manner, “Love your family.”
He immediately felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from him. He cried tears of relief and joy. He called his Mom and told her what had just happened to him. He explained that he had heard a voice and its message was loud and clear.
That Sunday he and his wife and two girls attended the Baptist church near their home with his fellow biker and his wife. On the way in he ran into others that he knew. Some even asked, “What are you doing here?” and they were shocked to see him at church. The sermon that day was about forgiveness and how no matter what material thing you may have, if God is not a part of them you have nothing. Your home, your marriage, your life, they are all empty without the presence of the Lord.
Each Sunday when they went back they felt as if the preacher spoke directly to them. He thought maybe somebody was filling the preacher in on the side and telling him what to talk about. He preached sermons on sins of the flesh and desire and how they are short lived. He preached about forgiveness and living your life for the Lord and doing His will.
Sunday after Sunday, they attended church as a family. He got to where he couldn’t wait for Sunday to arrive so he could get back to church. After a few weeks he had moved back home with his family and they were rebuilding what he had tore up.
He explained to his wife that he felt that he needed to meet with the preacher and tell him what had happened to him. So one Sunday after the service he approached the pastor, Brother Mike Goodwin. He told him that he wanted to talk to him and share something that had happened to him recently. He also told him that had never been baptized and he wanted him to do it. A meeting was arranged.
That next week he and the preacher met. They laughed, they cried, they prayed and they rejoiced. They scheduled the baptism to take place on April 15th 2007. The preacher told him not to be a silent Christian, to share his blessing with those around him. And that’s what I am doing. I am telling anyone that I can what God has done for me since I brought Him into my life. I am that big tattooed biker. But most of all I am a Christian. I am now really a man’s man.
I guess I am a lot like Grandpa and this time that is a good thing. If God can forgive me and change my life, restoring me to my family, He can do the same for anyone who asks Him. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
Dennis T. McHawes
After I read Dennis' testimony I was crying. What an amazing work God has done to restore him to his family and how he humbled himself, acknowledging his own sin, asking to be forgiven and for help to be with his family.
Dennis then shared the following with me in his reply email, "Please feel free to share it with everyone that you want. It is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me and my family. Brother Mike told me that night that there has to be a break or a death of your old ways before we can experience the joy of the new. I had taken myself to the very bottom and broke and God let me do this. I am so thankful that he did so I would listen."
"I hope that my testimony will bless others that are just like me. The answer is so easy and all you have to do is ask!"