ENCOURAGE EVERYONE IN THE HILL CITY AREA TO HAVE A CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST!
Thom Heisler's Story
At first, I thought I would avoid some of the details of my life because I thought it would make for a read that was just too maudlin or dismal. Then I realized that it was reality; much of my life was pretty miserable.
Why was it such a mess? Simple.
Even though I had always verbally acknowledged the existence of the one true God and that Jesus Christ was His Son who died on the cross to deliver us from sin, I didn’t “walk the walk”.
I first asked Jesus into my heart at the tender age of ten during an evangelism service. As I knelt at the alter crying, my parents sat twenty feet away and just looked at me. My dad was a Sunday school teacher at that church! Were they embarrassed or what?! I never knew. Fortunately a very kindly lady came forward and put her arm around me. I never forgot her words, “You dear, sweet child. God will always love you!” That church also had an excellent weekly after school youth fellowship. It was the basics that I learned there that stuck with me, and eventually helped bring me back.
I went to church every Sunday, not only because it was mandatory in our family, but also I truly wanted to go. The hunger for Him was always there. Trouble was, I fed upon the fruits of the world, but not the Bread of Life.
Our family was not close in any sense of the word. The words “I love you” were never spoken. We were fed, clothed, sheltered and then pretty much left on our own. My siblings who were all 5-15 years older left home ASAP. I spent a large portion of my life looking for love and acceptance---ignoring the one, true source, THE FATHER who had always loved me, and would forever. My earthly father, according to my mom, did not feel much joy when blessed with a new addition to the family. She told me that his usual reaction to her announcement of being pregnant was, “Uh, another mouth to feed.” Thisindifference showed through most of his interactions with us.
The rebel for all of my teenage years, life was one big party.Lots of alcohol, drugs, and an immoral lifestyle momentarily quieted the nagging ache in my heart.I wanted more than anything to live a life I could be proud of, a life pleasing to Him. He continued to knock at the door of my heart, but I refused to answer and let Him in. That just wasn’t the “cool “ thing to do!
I “calmed down” in my early twenties, got married, fathered three children, and seemed to be set in a career as a professional cook. Very little changed beneath the surface though.I still lacked the strength to say “no" to the world’s trappings.
I found a new addiction---food. Lots of food. At the age of 32 I weighed in excess of 400 pounds.The medical term was morbid obesity. In 1985 I underwent a gastric stapling. There were days when I would lose as much as three pounds. In less than 18 months I lost 220 pounds.Then I found a new addiction---ME!
Arrogance was my best friend. Once again, life became a party. My body was a new toy.
Through it all though, my kids were my joy, my reason for living, but even losing them and my marriage was not enough to deter my wicked ways.
Then, somewhere along the line I realized I had lost something else---myself.Never quite suicidal---I just didn’t care if I woke up each morning. The knock at the door of my heart continued, but went unanswered.
As He closed doors in my life He opened others.A job opportunity in (of all places) South Dakota. I had never been there, didn’t know where it was, didn’t care. It was a chance to get out Phoenix, which in retrospect was Sodom and Gomorrah for me! It was a chance to heal. Time to meditate and analyze. I stayed sober, but refused to answer His call. Somehow I felt I was doing better. I worked hard, stayed sober, but otherwise became a hermit.
After four years I felt the need to return to city life.I took a one-year leave of absence and went to Chicago to work for a non-profit organization, under the guise of needing a break from cooking and doing good for a charitable organization. My feet had barely touched the WindyCity’s sidewalks until I was right back to my old ways.
This time though I didn’t see my behavior through blinders. I saw it as it was and for what it was; ugly, and not what I really wanted.
I found a church in downtown Chicago and began reading my Bible again. I would read it on the hour-long train ride to work each morning. Many times I would just open it and read, convinced that He would open it to what I needed to read. One such passage was Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And he inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock and established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth –
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.”
Reading it began my journey back (and reading it every day). I began to identify with Christ’s parable of the lost lamb (Luke 15:3-7).
I lived in Evanston; the train was usually crowded from there to downtown. One day after I switched trains in the Loop, I noticed that I was the only person in that car. Then a guy got on at the next stop.He was acting sort of strangely; very anxious, looking all around the car, and with one hand holding something in his coat pocket. A voice “in my head” told me to get off at the next stop; that this guy was going to rob me, or worse. So, I got off and caught the next train. In the fifteen minutes between trains I realized that my year’s leave was over. I really felt the need to return to South Dakota.
My return to the Black Hills heralded another return. I began to feel like a scrap of metal being pulled by a magnet. I realized that the time had come to surrender, do it for real this time--- the time had come to turn it all over to Him. He filled me with hunger, spiritual hunger, I began going to church, bible study, reading the Bible every morning and sometimes at night. I promised Him at least AN HOUR A DAY ---reading His word, praising, and praying ---DAILY WORSHIP.
Since moving to HillCity and becoming a part of the LWC family, I really feel like I‘ve come home---He carried the lost lamb back to the flock.
The events in my life of the last year are pretty familiar, since many of you are a great part of it. If all of you hadn’t been so diligent in your prayers for me, who knows if I’d be here to write this!
Out of the surgeries, lengthy hospital stay, and long recovery came a realization of just what a large part of my life He has become. Through the weekly Bible study, Pastor Ron’s teachings, Bible study and discussion at the Men’s Breakfast, and my own reading I’ve learned and experienced what it is to have a real relationship with God and our Savior. He used my illness to do great things. Jack and Mary Jewett stayed by my side in the hospital, and felt the call for Jack to become a hospital chaplain. All those who held me up in prayer and all who know me saw an answer to prayer as I went from a fifty-fifty survival status to being in the best health I’ve had in years. My surgeon, Dr. Statz, called it a miracle. The nurses and hospital staff witnessed and were amazed at what a loving church family can do. He gave me the opportunity to tell and show them what He can do.
God delivered me from a 40-year smoking addiction. I had prayed for it at a year prior to being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. As soon as I was admitted to the hospital last September they put a nicotine patch on me. Seven days later, without a patch, I was “smoke free”. A year later, I continue to be without cravings, withdrawal symptoms, or any of the things I had experienced when I tried to do it on my own.
That says it all---you can’t do it on your own. All things are possible through Him. All you have to do is surrender it all, turn yourself over to our awesome God. I’ve never known such peace and contentment!
Let Jesus in---into your heart, into your life, He wants to show you what true love is!
I thought I was unlovable and unforgivable. He proved me wrong! He wants to bring you into the flock.
Hill City Area Ministries, Inc.
A South Dakota Non-Profit Corporation
Income Tax Deductible IRS 501 (c) (3) Organization