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At a turning point in my life in 2007, I realized that I needed to allow God to redeem the story of my childhood. That story was so painfully confusing that I did not speak of it for 35 years. Where did my prayers go, my cries for mercy and rescue screamed into my pillow? Did I have the laziest guardian angel in all of heaven?

I received my calling, my purpose, and my life's mission in my darkest and most painful moment, in about 90 seconds at age 10. The moment involved a pink birthday candle, one that had been trimmed with a pocketknife at the blunt end so that it could burn from both directions. The wicks were lit by the man who had authority over me, the houseparent of a boarding school for the children of missionaries in West Africa. The school had been my home for nine months of each year since I was 6 years old. My whole life can be divided into two parts: B.C. (before the candle) and A.D. (after the damage).

'Africans in Hell Because of Wesley'

The houseparent had marched me to the school's dining hall, dragged a metal chair across the concrete floor, and slammed it down in front of my schoolmates. He threw me up on the chair and jammed the candle in my hand.

"Children," he said, "you cannot serve both God and Satan. Wesley has tried. You cannot burn a candle at both ends without getting burned. Watch what happens when you try."

Fifty children stared in silence. Nobody dared even breathe.

Striking a match, the man lit both wicks. "Watch!" Standing on that chair, my knees knocking, I stared incredulously at the candle in my shaking fingers as I contemplated what this would mean. Beyond the two flames, I could see the faces of my friends—children who, like me, had been gathered up from villages and mission stations ...

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In the Magazine

May 2010

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