Kris is co-coordinator for South Asia with his brother Aaron at the HeartCry home office in Radford, Virginia. Kris is married to Crystal, and they have two sons: Kamron and Timothy.
I grew up in a nominal Christian family with sporadic church involvement. Some years we went to church every Sunday, and other years we only went on Christmas and Easter. My mother taught me some things about Christianity as a child, and from a young age, I always believed I was a Christian. I thought I had a pretty good relationship with God, and I prayed and talked with Him regularly. I believed all of the standard Christian truths that I had been taught: that Jesus died for our sins, that He was the only way to heaven, etc. I cannot remember ever hearing anything that made me question whether or not I was truly a Christian, and nobody that I remember ever expressed doubt to me that I was genuinely converted. My pastor had taught us to ask Jesus into our hearts in order to be saved and to believe that He died for us on the cross. I did this at an early age and meant it just as much as anyone else. I even repeated the prayer a few times down the road, “just to make sure,” as my pastor would sometimes tell people.
My father owned a small landscaping business during my childhood, and he worked a very heavy schedule. So I was predominantly raised by my mother. She expressed a lot of love to her children, but her parenting style was very indulgent, often giving in to whatever my brother and I wanted. I learned how to manipulate my mother and to get her to give in to my demands.
From a young age, I became attracted to violence, and I began listening to heavy metal music. I was also attracted to many of the kids who would always get into trouble in school. I found them to be more interesting and exciting than the others. They had a bad influence on me, and I eventually began watching R-rated movies and listening to gangster rap music. Because I had learned to manipulate my mother, I could get her to buy music for me that she didn’t realize was full of violence, profanity, and all manner of wickedness.
My parents began having serious marital conflict when I was in middle school, and my father moved out of the house when I was in 8th grade. Although he wasn’t around much to begin with, I now saw myself as the man of the house. I felt I could do just about anything I wanted to, and I didn’t think there was anyone around to stop me. My mother had largely given up trying to control me, and she was also very distracted due to her marital problems.
When I was 14, I began experimenting with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana with some of my friends. This eventually led to many more dangerous drugs, and I also began getting involved in sexual relationships and other escapades. Though I considered myself to be better than my friends, we were increasingly corrupted by the music we listened to and the influences of others we met.
I was always involved with sports throughout my childhood, and I played high school basketball during my first two years at the school. I was considered to be one of the best basketball players in my city (Gahanna), and some teammates even made the statement in 8th grade that they thought I would one day play in the NBA. I didn’t think this was necessarily feasible, but I did think I would at least play Division I basketball in college. During the two years I played in high school, I had many problems that greatly interfered with my success on the team. Some of these were due to my parents separating and eventually getting divorced, and others were due to my relationship with the basketball coach and his son. The coach’s son and I were rivals growing up, and we did not like each other. We also played the same position, so I didn’t have much of a chance to start over him. Eventually I decided that I had had enough of high school basketball, and I went hard core into drugs and further depravity.
It was around this time that I met Crystal at a local night club. Crystal and I began dating shortly afterward, and her presence in my life had some positive effects on me, such as improving my performance at school. However, there was something else happening to me around this time that was very ominous. The attraction to violence I had acquired in elementary school had been growing and growing, and I had now also developed an intense anger and hatred for the world and for other people. I hated the way that the world operated, and I sometimes wondered if this was the way it was supposed to be. I felt that I needed to destroy the weakness of my emotions in order to properly deal with the pain and adversity in life. I also began to experience recurring fantasies of taking out my anger and rage on other people, since I felt that many people had wronged me throughout my life, and I thought they deserved to feel my pain and suffer my vengeance. However, I believed that I was a Christian, and I knew that God would not approve of such a thing.
In 2001, I started college at Ohio State University, and after one quarter, I joined the Army National Guard. I needed a part-time job during college, and my mother had told me about the Guard and how they paid 100% of your college tuition, along with a significant amount of money for only working one weekend per month. During Basic Training, I went to church every Sunday and fairly regularly read my Bible since it was the only thing we were allowed to read other than the Army handbook. The standard church service there was a Pentecostal service, and I really enjoyed the preaching and the worship. I often “felt” what I “thought” was the love of God during the worship portion of the service.
Before I went to Basic Training, Crystal and I had started attending a Church of Christ that was associated with the church in which she had grown up. I really liked the pastor, for he seemed like a very caring man and was often moved to tears himself during his sermons. I had never before known a pastor like him. I had planned to continue attending the Church of Christ when I finished Basic Training, but circumstances in my life prevented me from doing so. My National Guard unit was activated in the beginning of 2003, and I was called to provide security for an air force base in Ohio. During my training at Fort Knox, I heard another soldier mention a man in our unit who “listened to Christian Rock music.” I had never heard of Christian Rock music before, and I was curious and intrigued. I felt like God wanted me to reach out to this man and get to know him.
After my training at Fort Knox, I was stationed at an air force base outside of Columbus, Ohio. I was retrained as a military police officer (MP) in order to beef up the security at the base in case of another terrorist attack (following September 11, 2001). During this time, I often worked on the same shift with the man who listened to Christian Rock. I found that he was very different from the rest of the soldiers in my company. Soldiers are known for using very filthy language, and this man never used profanity. He was very kind, gentle, and respectful toward others. There was also another thing about him that was truly amazing to me. Many of the soldiers would look at pornography while on duty. One day some of us were watching a pornographic movie in the guard shack, and Sargent (the Christian man) was in the room. When they turned on the movie, he looked away from the screen, and eventually he left the room. The other soldiers made fun of him, but I had never seen anything like this before – someone near my age who did not like pornography.
During the time I worked with Sargent, we would often talk about the Bible. I liked talking about the Bible, and it was nice to have someone else to talk to about it. Sargent would share verses and passages with me which often were difficult to understand. He also gave me several books to read. Two of these had Bible verses organized into different topics, and the other contained stories of Christians who had died for their faith in Christ.
I began spending time reading these verses and also reading the Bible myself. I was shocked at some of the things I found in the Bible. For example, I read that it was not only a sin to commit adultery, but also even to look at another woman with lust in your heart (Matthew 5:28). I thought, “If this is true, I’ve committed this sin thousands of times!” One day, I asked my squad leader what he thought about this verse. He was a pleasant, respectable man whom I looked up to, as well as a professing Christian. He told me that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally but rather is more of a guidebook. This explanation was pleasing to my “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3), but it didn’t quite sit right with me. I considered myself to be a very intelligent man, who used sound logic to arrive at my opinions. And although part of me hoped that he was right, the verse in the Bible seemed pretty clear in what it was communicating.
As I read more of the Bible each day, I began to be very impressed with some of the statements that Jesus made. Though I strongly thought of myself as a Christian, I sometimes wondered if it was really possible to know the truth. I believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that one could only be saved by believing in Him, but I wondered if it was possible to know this as an absolute fact. I felt like I just wanted to know the truth about the world. But as I read more about Jesus, I found His life and teachings to be self-validating. I saw Someone who spoke differently from anyone I had ever seen. His teachings contained a wisdom and righteousness that I had never experienced before. His words seemed to explain everything about the world, including many of the things that I had had trouble understanding.
Though God was clearly working in my life at this time, I was still utterly enslaved to my sin. My inner hatred and rage were continuing to grow stronger, and I began to be afraid of what was happening to me. My relationship with Crystal was also on the rocks, and she was strongly considering leaving me.
One evening, I was sitting on Crystal’s bed by myself. I was completely awake, but all of a sudden, I felt like I was flying through some very dark place that looked like a wasteland. It was almost completely pitch black, and I felt like I was on fire. After a few minutes, I snapped out of it and was back in the bedroom. I thought to myself, “Was God trying to tell me something?” Though I completely believed myself to be a child of God, I felt like maybe God was showing me I needed to change.
Thus far, nothing had happened to me that made me question whether or not I was really a Christian. Sargent had never told me that he didn’t think I was a Christian, though he did share a number of verses with me to express this idea. But I didn’t understand many of them, and I believed that I had a close relationship with God and that He was my closest friend. I saw that Sargent lived differently from everyone else I worked with in the Army, but I believed that God’s will for him was different from His will for me. I thought God was permissive of my profanity, drinking, and smoking as long as I didn’t hurt anybody.
I had a friend that I sometimes hung out with at this time, and we sometimes got into arguments about religion. He was a Catholic, and he believed that you just had to be a good person to go to heaven, regardless of your religious beliefs. I knew that the Bible said believing in Jesus was the only way to heaven, so I stood firm on this conviction. One night, I went to a bar with this friend, Crystal, and another guy. As we were having a drink, my friend suddenly started angrily debating religion with me. He told me that I was stupid for believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and he was shaming me and trying to convince me that you just need to be a good person.
Normally this would have made me furious, as I was a person with great pride who thought that nobody should ever talk to me as my friend was and get away with it. But something very strange happened that night. I had read how Christians are supposed to be persecuted for their faith, and I realized that this is exactly what was happening to me. So it completely made sense to me that my friend was so upset. It was with Christ he was upset, not me. And instead of feeling animosity toward my friend, I felt a great love for him that seemed to come from a source outside of myself. Instead of responding with anger, I responded with a meekness and love that I had never felt before for another person.
While my friend was arguing with me, a man came over from another table to join us. He told us that he couldn’t help overhearing our conversation, and he said that he was a pastor. I immediately knew that God had sent this man to help me. My friend began debating harshly with this man. He told the pastor that if he could show him a passage in the Bible where it says that it is only by believing in Jesus that people are saved, he would change his stance. The pastor pulled out his Bible and read to him a verse that answered exactly what we had been arguing about. The verse said that we are saved through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). My friend then asked the pastor what version his Bible was, and upon finding out it was not the King James Version, he claimed to only accept that version.
As my friend debated the pastor that night, I realized that every single Christian was supposed to live like Sargent, exactly as the Bible tells us to live. I had never seen this crucial fact before; I always thought that God’s will was different for Sargent than myself. But I now knew that God was calling me to surrender my life to Him and live like Sargent.
When I got home that night, I lay on my bed, deeply pondering the events that had taken place that night. I began counting the cost of what it would mean to wholeheartedly follow the teachings of the Bible. There were many things I loved that I knew I would have to give up, especially pornography and gangster rap music. However, I felt like I loved Jesus, and I wanted to do whatever it was that He desired for me. Still, I knew it would be the biggest decision I ever made in my life. What would my friends think about me? They would think I’d absolutely lost my mind! I needed something to assure me that I would not regret this decision and that it would all work out well. Suddenly, as I was thinking about this, I felt the presence of God more strongly than I ever had before in my life. I experienced an overwhelming joy and love inside of me, and it was absolutely clear that God was assuring me that He was with me and that I could trust Him to take care of me if I surrendered my life to Him. All of my remaining doubts and hesitations were swept away, and I confidently decided that I would start living exactly as Jesus teaches in the Bible to the best of my ability.
The next day, I went to work at the military base, and everything was different. The love and the joy I felt from the previous night continued to be with me, and it seemed as if all the anger and hatred that had been building up over the years had evaporated. I felt a love for everyone I encountered, and I wanted them all to know about Jesus. I also started to see sin everywhere. It was all around me, including in myself. The conversations people were having were filled with profanity and sin, and I saw it as filthy. Some people were watching a television show in the guard shack called Jerry Springer, which we often watched. I usually found the show funny. We were even watching it the previous day, and I had had no problem with it. But now I was stunned at what the people on the show were doing. I thought, “Don’t these people know how much God must hate what they’re doing?” It was utterly putrid to me, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
There is much more I could say about my post-conversion experiences, but the important thing is that these changes have continued to this day, by God’s grace. Though I was often very tempted to go back to my previous sinful life, the Lord never allowed me to return. He always sustained me and helped me to continue to follow Christ, fleeing from sin and pursuing obedience to His commandments. Sanctification is a process, and though my desires often waver, I have continued to desire that Christ be honored and glorified through my life on this earth. He is my great Treasure and my Portion, and I can honestly say with the psalmist that “there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25). I only count my sanctification and continued fruit as evidence that the faith God has given me is genuine. My hope is completely and utterly in the Gospel and in Christ’s perfect sacrifice, atonement, and propitiation on my behalf. By His grace, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).