Rev. Michael Hirsch
Facilitator-The Truth Project
Good evening everyone and thank you for inviting me to share my testimony of how God used a Gideon placed bible to touch my life, as I do I’d like to read from Psalm 107:1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psa 107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, west, north, south. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
Psa 107:8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
Psa 107:15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
These scriptures describe what my life had become before I was reached by the grace of God through a Gideon placed Bible. At 18 years old I was a hard core drug addicted multiple convicted felon already serving time while waiting further prosecution of outstanding warrants in multiple jurisdictions. Sitting in a prison cell that day how could I know that reading an old brown Gideon Bible would impact and forever change the course of my life.
I humbly stand before you today as the redeemed of the Lord and am delighted to tell you that God used a Gideon placed bible to reach with His unfailing love into my life with the light of the good news of Jesus Christ and turn my heart from darkness to light.
I thank our Lord for the work and sacrifice that the Gideon’s made in order to put the word of God within my reach in my time of hopelessness and utter despair. My story of being reached by God’s redeeming love demonstrates how you are His hand extended every time you place scriptures in His behalf.
I am a first generation American, the first born son of an immigrant Ukrainian Jew who fled the Czarist Russian Empire, emigrated to America and married my mother, also Jewish.
When I was born, my Father was 60 and my Mother 19! Needless to say their dysfunctional codependent marriage held no hope of a normal family home or upbringing for me. My Father had a gambling addiction and abandoned my Mother and me immediately after my birth.
Sadly, I never knew my Dad because after the divorce he passed away without ever being reconciled to either of us. Subsequently, through her struggles as a single teen age parent trying to raise a child in the fifties in New York City, my Mother lost her maternal rights due to her heroin addiction and turning to crime to support her habit.
So I became a ward of the state and was moved from the South Bronx and placed in foster care. At the age of five I was kidnapped by my maternal grandmother and an Aunt who worked together to raise me in the suburbs of Boston.
My childhood was difficult and more and more I was on the streets fending for myself. During the turbulent times of the late 60’s, I wanted to fit in and be accepted and so I succumbed to peer pressure and began smoking marijuana when I was thirteen years old.
How was I to know that that breath of death that fateful day would lead me down a path to clinically incurable drug addiction and a life of delinquency and hard core crime?
I would spend the next five years for my life living as a wild animal in the streets. In and out of counseling sessions, a half way house, and multiple lock ups as I progressed from Marijuana to dropping acid and smoking hashish, to pill popping speed and barbituates. Nothing would satisfy as I went from snorting to skin popping, free basing and shooting up hard core narcotics, every day caught in a vicious cycle of drug addiction and crime.
You can only imagine what it’s like to be sixteen years old and strung out on drugs living on the street every day of your life. I was so strung out that I would wake up early, get high and go back to sleep so I could wake up high.
To support my habit I would steal a car, get the owners registration, break into the house in broad daylight while nobody was there. I was on a one man crime spree breaking into homes and businesses, stealing anything and everything that I could get my hands on.
But at the age of seventeen, I made a turn and went in a new direction as I tried something different, I went into direct point of delivery sales in a multi level marketing business distributing pharmaceuticals, yeah, I started dealing drugs and began moving up through the ranks among bookies and mobsters in Brockton, Massachusetts.
You know the first neighborhood kid I ever smoked pot with ended up hanging himself in his basement. The first guy I ever shot up with was strangled in his own home with his shaving towel by co defendants that he had turned states evidence against. The first guy I dropped acid with was killed in a car accident. I’ve been shot at, overdosed, in car wrecks and what is incredible to me today is to stop and think that God was already working behind those scenes. He was working having a Gideon’s chapter pray over and place a bible for me while I was lost, undone by sin and at the most desperate point in my life.
You know the bible says in Psalm 68:11, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” God uses the Gideon’s as His company of faithful workers who are busy publishing and placing His word for lost people everywhere.
My life was headed for certain destruction, I would go for days on end without eating, one night I took 35 hits of blotter acid that sent me over the edge into insanity and was sent to the Metropolitan State Hospital where for twenty eight days I was straight jacketed, placed in a padded cell and medicated until somehow I came back to reality. The psychiatrists and court appointed counselors told my family that I was beyond reach, that I would never change, completely hopeless.
Well, I was eighteen years old and at five foot ten I weighed only 120 pounds when I was finally apprehended by the Police in Cape Cod. I was already on probation in Watertown, Waltham and Newton and now arrested for grand theft auto, possession of class a, b, and c drugs, possession of burglar’s tools and stolen property. At the time I had been shooting up, smoking treated marijuana and dropping acid, all at the same time.
I was sentenced to serve time in The Dedham House of Correction. While there things only got worse as I knew so many people from the streets and I got involved in a crew and began running drugs and finally ended up involved in a prison riot to stage the escape of a Federal prisoner. But it was just as I got out of solitary lock down that something happened that would change my life forever.
My Aunt Michele had been a Catholic and had become a born again Christian and she came to visit me. During one of her visits she could see that I was high and that my condition was only getting worse and she pleaded with me to read the Bible and pray. Somehow those words kept sinking in, read the bible and pray. So I went to the prison library and got that old brown Gideon bible and took it back to my cell.
I’ll never forget waiting until I was alone, sitting down and opening it and reading John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I fell to my knees, clenched my fist and shook it at the ceiling and said, “God, if you’re for real and this Jesus Christ is who He says He is, then get me out of here and I will check you out!”
Do to my misbehavior in prison, my petition for parole had already been declined, and I was seeking for a speedy trial on all of my outstanding warrants in the hopes of getting all of my sentences running concurrent.
The day after that prayer I was taken to court, and interviewed by a board of psychiatrists who under a special provision of the youthful offender act made an immediate recommendation to the judge and I was paroled on the spot!
I didn’t stop my thieving ways and I hope you won’t hold it against me , yeah, I took that Gideon bible with me. Only God can bring good out of evil.
After being released from the courts to await my trials a month later my Aunt took me in and I checked into the Brockton, Teen Challenge program. But due to my many crimes, when I returned to court I was taken from the program to be re incarcerated in The Billerica House of Correction.
I remember walking into the recreation yard with my little Gideon New Testament that I had gotten while in Teen Challenge. When I was confronted by some guys who wanted me to run with them I pulled it out of my t-shirt pocket, held it up in front of them and told them I’m not giving this up, and they never bothered me again.
Little did I know how God would use this second time of incarceration and that old brown Gideon bible to completely turn my life around. It’s a funny story, I went to the mess hall for a fellowship meeting one night and when I saw some men who looked like preachers I walked over with my Gideon bible, sat down and said, “Praise the Lord, I know that I have to serve my time, but I’m so thankful that I’m saved.” The man said to me, “you certainly are zealously affected young man, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I said, “yeah, Jehovah, that’s a name of God and we’re all supposed to be a witness, so I guess I am a Jehovah’s witness too!’
They offered me a New World Translation and wouldn’t you know it, as I opened it I looked straight to John 1:1, I could see something was different from what had read in my Gideon’s bible. So I studied every day comparing their version with my Gideon’s bible until I was able to show them in the book of Revelation where Christ in heaven is worshipped as God. For some reason they never returned after that visit.
After my final release I joined the local church and then went on to the Teen Challenge Bible College in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Then I came to Virginia to visit a friend from school who was serving as Dean of Men at New Life For Youth, I remained there, joined the Staff and eventually became the Assistant Director. While serving there I met a “good looking, good cooking, choice prime rib”, my wife of thirty years and Mother of our two children, Susan.
In 1986 I was called to full time pastoral service and for 25 years Susan and I have served that church family in four different locations in the greater Fredericksburg area, the church is now known as Calvary Christian Church, located at Confederate Ridge.
Over the years we have traveled to 18 nations while ministering in Missionary Evangelism Crusade meetings with four trips to Colombia, SA, four times to India where one night crowds swelled to over forty thousand people in one city and helping plant churches through 13 missionary trips to the nations of the former Soviet Union in Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia.
Pastor Michael is dedicated to developing the “Raising the BARS of Education” ™ initiative to help underprivileged and disabled children with educational opportunities through faith based and neighborhood partnerships across America.
So I want you to see how far God has grown that one little seed and spread it from a single Gideon placed bible in a prison cell to the far flung nations of the world. Please pray for me and once again.
2012 Lobbying Efforts by Rev. Michael Hirsch
Greene has asked me to share my comment in support of HB1 when I spoke before Senate Education and Health Committee, so please consider the following.
When given the invitation by Delegate Bob Marshall to speak to the Senate Ed and Health Committee in support of HB1 here are my statements (all of which took 42 seconds).
“When my wife returned from her Obstetrician I asked here, “Well honey, what did the doctor say?” Susan replied, “Michael it is wonderful, the doctor said, “Congratulations Susan, there’s a baby in there! You’re a Mother and Michael is a father.””
I continued, “As a minister of the gospel let me shed the light of God’s word on the subject, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee and ordained thee…” Jeremiah 1:5.
Please support HB1.””
God creates life at conception and all people should be protected at every stage of their physical development.