The Song That Saved This Man From Death
James Wilfong was just a boy when he got word his mother had shot his father on the front porch of their home. “He said he was leaving, and was packing his clothes. Momma was sitting there drinking,” James says. “According to my mom, her mind snapped, and she grabbed a gun and loaded it in him. She was still pulling the trigger with no more bullets.”
James recalls when he heard the shocking news. “We were at the Rec center playing ball, and my nephew came and said, ‘Ya’all need to go to the hospital. Something bad has happened to your dad.’ We got to the hospital, and he died three hours later.”
That wasn’t the first time James suffered a traumatic experience. “When I was nine years old, I was molested by a family member,” he says. “He told me that if I told anybody he would kill me. So I never said a word to anybody for 42 years.”
Those events left James with a distorted view of people, and of God.
“My world was coming apart,” he recalls. “And I was thinking, ‘If there is a God, why would God allow this to happen to me?’ I didn’t understand it.
With their father dead, and mother in prison, James and his siblings were sent to a foster home. When they were neglected, James ran away.
“At that point, I didn’t care about life no more. I took a bottle of pills to try to commit suicide.” A relative notified the police who found James and took him to the hospital. After he was released, James began living on the streets. “That’s when I started turning to drugs and alcohol, to try to erase the pain. But it made it worse.”
To support his habits, James began breaking into homes. Finally he was arrested and served two terms in prison, the second one for fourteen years. Even after he was released, his past continued to haunt him. “People would remind me of what my mother did to my father,” he says. “There was so much darkness in my life. I just couldn’t see the light. Some people would try to point me toward the light but I couldn’t see the light.”
He began drinking heavily and became addicted to cocaine. After a 48-hour binge on cocaine and alcohol, James once again hit bottom. “I told God I didn’t want to live no more. I said, ‘If you’re so big, God, why did I have to go through the things I had to go through?’ So I took the gun and put it to my brain and pulled the trigger, and it wouldn’t shoot,” James says. “So I gave up trying to kill myself that night.”
The next day, James was sweeping floors at work when he heard a co-worker singing, Jesus Loves Me. “I began to question him and I said, ‘How can Jesus love me? Look what happened to me. I was molested when I was a little boy. My momma killed my daddy. I tried to commit suicide. I’ve been bad all my life. I’ve stolen, I’ve broken into people’s homes, and you mean to tell me Jesus loves me? How could he love me?’”
But his co-worker’s words touched something deep inside James.
“Then he said, according to the Bible, ‘John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me that Jesus loves me like that? That He would die for me, as bad as I am; that He loves me?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to try this Jesus. If this Jesus is real, I want Him.”
That night James went home to his apartment and prayed a simple prayer. “I began to cry out to God, and I said, ‘God, that man told me you loved me, and all I have to do is ask You to come into my life, and ask You to forgive me,’” James says. So I said, “’Lord, I’m asking You right now to forgive me.’ And I promise you, after I said that, all the weight of what was on me was gone. I felt like I had wings and I could fly!”
James couldn’t wait to learn more about God. “I started reading the Bible and God began to change me,” he recalls. “I saw a lot of stuff in there, and I started applying it to my life; especially when I saw that verse that said, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and all things become new.’ I took a couple days off and when I came back to work, people began to look at me and say, ’What’s wrong with you?’ And I said, ‘I met Jesus two days ago. I got saved.’”
James also knew that to fully release his pain, he would have to forgive those who had hurt him. “I have forgiven the guy that molested me, and I told him that I love him, and that was hard, but God said, ‘If you can’t forgive him, then I can’t forgive you.” James also forgave his mother, who now attends the church where he is the pastor.
James says when he wakes up each day; he thanks God for all He has done. “Life is good. I’m pastoring a church. I’ve got a bus ministry where we go out into the community and I share the gospel. I’m just trying to do the right thing and share what God has done for me. I just want to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
“When you look back on my life and I look where I’m at today, I say ‘Nobody but God could’ve done this. Nobody but God changed me and gave me a beautiful family and wife.’ I can’t ask for any better from God. In 1997, when I gave my life to Christ, I seen the Light. I seen that Light, and I haven’t been the same since.”