First published in The Lively Letter, 12/29/2023
When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ back in February of 1986, it was because I had finally hit rock bottom in my sixteen year addiction to drugs and alcohol. My downward spiral started when, in response to a minor vandalism spree I carried out the very first time I got drunk (at 12 years old) my mentally ill father destroyed my bedroom with a sledgehammer, including my prized television set I had bought with the proceeds from my paper route. Standing there in shock and shame amidst the shattered glass and chunks of sheet-rock I knew deep inside that my childhood was over and I no longer had a home in that family. That house became just a crash-pad to me from that day forward as I wandered further and further out into the world for longer and longer periods of time.
Just before I turned sixteen, my father had an armed standoff with the state police in that house, over an incident triggered by my having dropped out of school, and he was hauled off that day to the mental hospital for the rest of his life. I no longer had even a crash-pad because my Mom had to move herself and my five younger siblings to a smaller house she could afford, and there was literally no place for me. I became permanently homeless then, in the sense that I’ve never since considered anyplace I’ve lived “home,” and my lifestyle has ever since been “nomadic.”
Eleven years, a failed short-term marriage, and thousands of hitched-hiked miles later I found myself literally in the deep woods on the Oregon coast in a comically pathetic effort to break free from my addictions by “going natural.” Sitting for days under a sheet of plastic in Oregon’s infamously relentless rain, reading “Walden Pond” for clues on survival, I had an epiphany about finding purpose in life by finding a family in need to devote my life to – seeing no purpose or hope in the life I’d been living. A few months later I met Anne in Portland where she struggled to survive her own failed first marriage with two young children to raise. The long version of that inspirational story is published as a chapter in my book of testimonies about God’s miracles: My Life in His Hands.
My days as a homeless drifter ended when I moved in with Anne a few months later in fulfilment of the inner pledge I’d made. We married and had two children of our own before my continuing addictions brought that relatively stable and healthy life to the brink of disaster. It was only then that I was willing to do what all those Christians had advised who’d I’d encountered along the way: “Ask Jesus to come into your heart.” I finally did, and He saved and healed me miraculously and completely, never once to suffer another twinge of desire to drink or take drugs since that day.
I never lost my nomadic nature, however, nor wanted to. I came to learn that my name, Scott, means “wanderer,” suggesting a divine hand even in that. Anne has ever since been the focus of my domestic inclinations: home is wherever she is, and I have simply taken her along with me in my wanderings around the world: 66 countries at present count for me, about 55 for her because many of my short term “culture war” missions had to be solo.
In the interim years, from my 12 year old crisis point until meeting Anne, my Mom represented “home” to me, even though she no longer provided me a living space, and even though were we never really close after my end-of-childhood experience.
Today those two most important women in my life are both suffering health crises. My Mom, for whom I now exercise power of attorney, is in long-term care with incrementally worsening dementia, and Anne, for whom I have become primary care-giver (contrary to my lifetime of innate selfishness) being incrementally crushed to death by her own spine in the slow-motion process of severe, untreatable degenerative scoliosis. But praise God, she remains a cheerful trooper and still has some personal mobility.
Anne’s condition has put an end to our nomadic lifestyle in the sense that we can no longer pick up and move to a new house, state or nation at will (which we did about every two years) in pursuit of our missionary goals. Instead, we’re rooted now on our son Sam’s farm, which he bought specifically as a long-term homestead to raise his now four daughters (a fifth on the way). (He literally delivered the last two himself at home when – both times in the dead of night – the midwife was late.) Sam’s choice is an intentional rejection of nomadism for himself – and a great blessing to Anne – and Me.
It’s been very hard for me to adjust to this, but also healing. Sam has broken what for him was a generational curse of “homelessness” and his selfless reintegration of our family on this property has provided for Anne a sense of groundedness I don’t think I would be capable of providing.
Homelessness has not been a curse for me, but a blessing in the sense that I share what I think is a rare experiential awareness with Jesus. When I read His statement in the Gospels that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” I feel a great satisfaction that my decades of ministry somewhat parallel his time on earth as a man.
Looking back over 2023, I realize that I’ve gotten closer to feeling like I have a physical home than at any time since the crises in my family of origin. I can see that the purposefulness pledge I made in that soggy woodland sojourn that led me to Anne has acquired new meaning as Gramps” to these girls and the primary restorer of this fixer-upper farm, structures and grounds.
But it’s also meant tough emotional challenges as it feels like my wings are clipped as my options get more limited.
I wrote this piece because a few days ago I happened to rediscover the graphic above featuring my poem “Why I Wander” that I wrote during a walk on the beach on the Isle of White in England (although the background picture is the Alhambra Fortress in Spain.) It dawned on me after all these years that the reason I wander also has roots in pain and personal crisis. So I’ve shared this with you as another testimony of God’s goodness and blessing. He really does “make all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
In 2024 I will continue to serve Him as best I can in whatever circumstances await us, including the transition from a globe-hopping missionary to a home-based historian and motivational writer. All those adventures in Christ we’ve lived – and collected documentation to share – will find their way into print and publication to encourage, edify and enlighten the Body of Christ and hopefully to evangelize many salvation seekers. I thank you in advance for being a part of that through your prayers, financial giving and your own words of encouragement.