Last summer, First Lutheran Church launched its Heart of the Father series highlighting the core beliefs and values established by the leadership of the church. Within the “Love Pours Out” week of the series, Peter Doherty shared his story with the congregation through video. Six years ago, Peter surrendered his life to Christ, repenting of a life filled with addiction and pain. Peter’s addiction began at the age of 13 and carried into his 40’s. Weary of the vicious cycle of regret, deceit and shame, Peter began to see a message of hope in the lives of people at First Lutheran Church. He attended church for about twelve years prior to his conversion, but never committed to Christ. “There really wasn’t much hope left for me. After two bankruptcies and a couple of divorces, I was about to do something drastic to my life.” On the brink of homelessness and plagued with suicidal thoughts, Peter began to reflect on his life and wonder if his life could be saved. “I listened to Pastor Steve’s sermon as much as I could comprehend on those mornings.”
Little by little, the message of God’s love replaced the desperation Peter experienced. Peter traded his sorrows for peace, kindness, gentleness with love pouring out.
Since the video aired a year ago, Peter’s life continues on a course paved by God’s direction rather than the enemy’s. “The devil has won so many battles in my life, but God has won the war. There is no way I am going back after what God has done for me.” And God has plenty of good things planned for Peter. After he accepted Christ, Peter asked God for opportunities to use his life story to help others. Telling his story brought more and more healing to his life. “I was really reserved…almost ashamed of my past. It’s hard to come out and tell my story, but it’s so important to tell our stories. Once the story was told, things began to open up in my life.”
An opportunity to minister within the Washington County jail system opened up for Peter. Every Friday evening, Peter travels to the jail to speak with those incarcerated because of various crimes: murder, felony theft, drug charges and misdemeanors. He brings along Bibles and other literature to share the same message of hope that transformed Peter’s life. Peter prays for them and their salvation.
“I know the pain that they are going through. I can tell the same story they tell. I know the process they are going through. I could have easily been convicted of felonies. I just never got caught. And if I did get caught, my penalty usually resulted in a misdemeanor. But I understand where they are at.” Peter sits with the inmates for approximately two hours. He tells them about the hope and mercy granted to him and that the same hope and mercy is available to them. “I’m just trying to pour back out to others and explain what has been given to me through this process.”
Bible Study Fellowship is another door opened for Peter. Each Monday evening, he joins other men to study the Bible and learn how to apply its truths to their own lives. With a six-month commitment to BSF, his physical training as a triathlete, and his involvement in Project Home through First Lutheran Church, Peter’s life remains full to the brim with life-giving activities. Peter’s priorities are completely upended now to where his first priority is God; his second is his service to God; his third is his family; and the last priority is his work. One day, he hopes to work in ministry full-time to continue his passion for helping others through some of the same experiences as him. “I know through my story God brought me employment, a home, restored relationships, and a boatload of emotional gifts in peace, patience and grace.”