By Lindsay Philpott, a student at Weimar College
Johnny Stricker grew up in a Christian home. His mom wasn’t able to have kids, but she had him through a miraculous set of events. Being in a faith-based home, Stricker grew up ignorant of the complete message of what it meant to truly live a Christian life.
When Stricker was five, his family moved to Belgium to do mission work. They had many amazing experiences, and when they came back to the states three-and-a-half years later, they were on fire for the Lord. They wanted to get their home church involved in evangelism, but they were unwilling to work with them. The pastor didn’t like them, and was physically abusive to Stricker.
By high school, Stricker had given up on studying the Bible. Instead, he invested his time into reading other material, watching movies, playing video games, and listening to music that wasn’t good for him. He eventually questioned what he believed. “I believed in the Bible, and had heard the prophecy seminars, but what do I believe?” So, he lived in this tumultuous state of mind.
Stricker wasn’t grounded in Christ when he started working. He met many friends, but instead of leading him in the right direction, they were a bad influence on him. He started learning things that he shouldn’t have known. He was getting depressed, but he didn’t want to admit it.
He figured he wouldn’t be able to do much good in the world, so he decided it was worth having all the pleasure he could find. He started using drugs, and got into partying. When he got in trouble at school for using drugs, they had him go to an intensive outpatient program. No matter how much information he heard, he decided he was still going to live his life like he wanted.
Stricker’s mom was agonizing and praying over him, because she knew something was wrong. His parents soon learned that Stricker had depression and suicidal thoughts. They began talking to different church members, and one of them suggested Dr. Neil Nedley’s Depression Recovery program. “My parents were desperate, so they wanted me to try it.” But Stricker only had intentions of using drugs and living life the way he wanted to.
Yet, the Lord had different plans for him. “The Holy Spirit was working. A week later, I woke up and it was on my mind to think that maybe this program does have something for me.” So Stricker called Weimar and did the survey for the program. They told him he couldn’t do drugs while at the program. “I was like, ‘OK, yeah sure.’ I’ll not do drugs for 10 days so that when I get back home I can get twice as high.”
The week came, Stricker’s parents dropped him off at the Depression Recovery program. His mom left a Bible beside his bed, embraced him and said, “You are in the Lord’s hands now.” Before his parents left, they told Stricker to embrace the whole program. He thought about that. “Maybe this program does have the answer. I’m going to do the best that I can, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll go back to drugs.”
As the program started, Stricker’s mind cleared up and he started to think clearly again. He hated it, because all the old questions about religion started coming back. Each morning he had to go to lectures. It was hard for him to get through them as he wanted to cry so much. After one lecture, Stricker went back to his room, opened the door and just started weeping. He picked up the Bible that his mom had left.
“I opened my Bible, but I didn’t know where to read. So, I randomly pointed at a verse, but that didn’t make any sense to me. It didn’t apply to me. I thought maybe the New Testament has something for me, so I went there. When I started reading some of what Paul had written, it again didn’t apply to me or make any sense.”
But then he thought, “maybe I should pray.” He closed his eyes, and said, “God, I don’t even know if you are real. If you are real, and if you care, show me who I can relate to in this Book.”
Stricker continued to do the program; all the hydrotherapy, the exercising, and the lectures. One lecture in particular that Dr. Nedley did was on pride, and how pride can lead to depression. He gave two examples. On the second example, Stricker new that God was real. The person that Dr. Nedley spoke about was depressed, a drug addict, a porn addict, an alcoholic, and had suicidal thoughts. But God had helped him to change to live a happy, fulfilling life. “This guy, if there was any guy in the universe that can relate to me, it was this guy. I knew God was real after that.”
As Stricker continued the program, he saw the care that each person was giving him; he saw their love for him. He saw Christ through them. It started to change him. He started reading his Bible more, and realized that God was asking him to give up his friends. “I was like, ‘Lord, I don’t want to give up my friends.’ I wanted them to have what I have.” Stricker started praying as he had never had before. He prayed that his friends would have this same experience that he had. Stricker also knew he had other things to give up too. He called his parents up and asked them to throw away some of his belongings that he wouldn’t need anymore. “They didn’t see that coming,” he said. He was at peace, he was happy. He started to feel a love for his parents that beforehand he had hated. He decided to become a new person.
Stricker wanted to come to Weimar for college, but the Lord knew that he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t accepted. He remembered that there was the HEALTH program, so he went to that. After the program, the Lord helped him finish the prerequisites that he needed to get into nursing school. He again applied for the Weimar Institute nursing program, and was finally accepted. He is eager to see how the Lord can use him in this ministry to reach a hurting world.
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)