Predator No More: Debt Collector Pays Up

“When I went to church on Christmas Eve in 2004, and I made that decision to rededicate my life to the Lord, I stopped using drugs, I stopped the drinking. I quit smoking, you know. All of that stuff, you know, I just stopped doing it.”

Mike’s bad life began when he was a young boy, and the constant target of his father’s violent temper.

“And I’d hear him, you know, coming up the stairs and I’d hear the belt being removed. He’d walk into the room - 5, 6, 7, 8 years old. And the last words he’d say is, ‘If I hear a sound, you’re going to get it worse.’ It left me feeling unloved. And it left me feeling devalued. So growing up I just believed the lie that my life had no value.”

As Mike’s fear of his father intensified, so did his anger, which he learned to unleash on his classmates.

“My father’s treatment of me at home made me feel bad about myself. Me fighting with other people and beating them up made me feel good about myself. You get a lot of respect when you win a lot of fights, right?”

When Mike got kicked out of high school, he began drinking and using drugs. He also started dating a young woman whose father ran a loan shark business. He recruited Mike to be a strong arm man, collecting debts with brute force. One day Mike was sent out to collect from a client in a hotel parking lot.

“I says ‘No, you’re going to give me the money today or you’re going to get hurt right here.’ He looked me in the eye and he smiled. And he said, ‘I ain’t giving you nothing.’ And as soon as he finished saying the words I punched him in his head, ripped his watch off his hand and hit him again. And I heard something and I looked. And all these guys with guns were running at me and I’m thinking, I’m dead. He set me up and I’m going to get killed today.”

Mike had been set up. He was arrested and sentenced to three years for extortion. While in prison, he lost a card game to another inmate and when he paid up, the inmate demanded more money. Mike refused and when the inmate returned to his cell with backup, Mike decided there was only one way out.

“And as soon as I was going to stab this man in his throat, I heard a voice ask me out loud, ‘How’s it feel, tough guy? How’s it feel to genuinely fear you’re going to lose your life because someone’s threatening you to pay a debt you don’t owe?’ It didn’t feel so good. Every cell in my body was consumed with shame. The scales fell from my eyes and all of a sudden I saw myself for exactly who I was - a drug addict, a criminal - and I knew I deserved to be exactly where I was.”

Mike had gone to church as a child and believed the voice was God’s. He agreed to pay, and the men left. He gave his life to Christ and grew in his faith while in prison. But once released, he started to drink and do drugs again. Nearly two decades had passed when Mike left behind a failed marriage and moved into the building he was restoring as a carpenter. There he met Heidi, a Christian, who had been hired as a painter.   

“I could just tell that he was down and out,” says Heidi. “He wasn’t in a good place. I mean, he was sleeping on the third floor on a blow up mattress. So I just prayed for him.”

Heidi kept inviting Mike to church, even stopping by on Christmas Eve to offer him a ride to the service. Mike declined and retreated to the third floor to drink.  Then he walked out onto the balcony.

“And this voice just starts talking in my head,” remembers Mike. ‘You’re good for nothing. You’d be better off to jump off this balcony and end it now than to fight the battle you’re going to have to fight to reclaim your life.’ And I believed that voice. Physically, emotionally, in any way a man can be broken, I was broken and I just felt hopeless. I didn’t see any way out. And then I heard this other voice speak to me. And it said Mike, ‘We spoke twenty years ago in a prison cell. Your enemy today is the same enemy you had twenty years ago. You’re your own worst enemy. And you got to save yourself from yourself.’”

Mike heeded the second voice and drove to the Christmas Eve service in time to hear the message.    

“It pointed to the kind of life I was living. And Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free. And hearing those words of truth to me was like a man who –it was like a man receiving food within minutes of dying of starvation. And that’s when I settled it for sure. Jesus died for no other reason than to save me from my sin. And I made a decision that night that I was going to give my life back to the Lord. And I made that decision on Christmas Eve 2004.”

Mike and Heidi married a few years later. Together they lead a recovery group at their church. Mike has forgiven his father and let go of his anger - for good.
“He doesn’t have a spirit of anger anymore,” says Heidi. “He really doesn’t. There’s a spirit of peace about him.”

And each year at Christmas, Mike celebrates his rebirth alongside the birth of his Saviour, Who makes all things new.

“The worst moments in my life have brought about the greatest moments in my life. And if you can just hang on, your worst moment is going to become your greatest moment. You just have to be willing to say, ‘I surrender.’ That’s it.”

You can purchase Mike's award-winning book, "How's It Feel, Tough Guy?" here.

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