Challenged to change
Choose your family or the drugs.
That was the ultimatum Shawn Barker's wife, Kim, gave him almost two years ago. On Sunday it was evident Barker chose his family.
As he sat shivering inside a metal watering trough, Kim stood behind her husband and Holy Spirit Harvest Church pastor Bob Murray held Barker's hand.
"By the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ I baptize Shawn, who has expressed his belief in Jesus, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," Murray said.
Barker's head went backward into the cold water and he came up with a smile on his face. When he got out of the watering trough, Kim put a towel around him and gave her husband a kiss. About 30 members of the Holy Spirit Harvest Church cheered for Barker.
Next, it was Kim's turn to be baptized. Like her husband, Kim also battled powerful drug addictions for several years.
The Barkers were baptized Sunday along with several other members of the Holy Spirit Harvest congregation.
"Baptism is a very special thing. The greatest thing a person can do is ask the Lord Jesus Christ into their lives," Murray said.
Before his baptism Sunday, Shawn Barker sat next to his brother-in-law, David Depoister, in a pew near the back of the church. A couple of years ago the two men, who are originally from Effingham County, Ill., were getting high on methamphetamine together.
Barker said he grew up in a broken home with several different stepfathers who abused him. He experimented with marijuana and alcohol at the age of 13. Then he became addicted to cocaine and methamphetamine.
"I was wrapped up in the doper's life," Barker said. "I started as a user and went all the way up to a manufacturer."
It wasn't until June 2004 that Barker eventually sought help at a drug rehabilitation program in Anna, Ill. That was shortly after Kim gave birth to their second child, Colton. The couple already had one son, Jordan, and Barker said he was sober only three days during the first three years of Jordan's life.
"I put my wife and kids through hell. I knew I needed to change," Barker said.
The Barkers moved to Chaffee about two years ago. And Shawn Barker stayed sober ever since.
"I knew if I went back to my old stopping grounds, I would go back to how I was," Barker said. "I opened up my heart and let God in. If it wasn't for God, I'd probably be in prison for the rest of my life. Or dead."
Depoister followed a similar path as Barker. He started drinking at the age of 14 and also experimented with marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
"I always thought I was in control of everything," Depoister said. "But I missed out on a lot. I was too busy getting drunk or high. Eventually I got so lonely that the Lord called me and said he had enough."
Depoister began reading the Bible and followed Barker's footsteps by moving away from Illinois.
This June he's marrying his girlfriend, Meagan, and moving to Oakland City, Ind., to attend theology classes at Oakland City University. Depoister wants to be a pastor.
"I've actually got a course in my life now and it feels great," Depoister said.
A majority of the members at Holy Spirit Harvest Church have overcome powerful drug and alcohol addictions. "They're not perfect, but they all love Jesus and each one has had a miracle in their lives," Murray said.
Most of the children who played together behind the church on Sunday have been in and out of foster homes. One or both of their parents is in prison. One little boy has AIDS and probably won't survive this summer, Murray said.
No matter what problems they've had in the past, the Holy Spirit Harvest Church congregation now knows Jesus is the answer, Murray said. "There's been some real profound things that have happened in our fellowship, but it is the Lord that's done them," he said.
Murray is a fourth-generation general Baptist ordained minister. The 70-year-old previously lived in Alaska and Russia, was a pastor at other churches, cared for foster children and led mission trips. When Murray turned 65, he and his wife, Paula, moved to his hometown of Van Buren, Mo., to retire.
But that wasn't meant to happen in Murray's life -- he was called back into ministry.
Two years ago, Murray started the Holy Spirit Harvest Church in a farmhouse in Scott City. The congregation grew and moved into office space at the Town Plaza Shopping Center.
Two months ago, the growing congregation moved into its present location at the corner of Big Bend Road and Third Avenue in Cape Girardeau.
Murray hopes the congregation continues to grow. He knows there's a need for the church in Southeast Missouri.
"It's a difficult ministry to be in. We've had some real sad times and some real miraculous times here," Murray said.
As for the Barkers, Depoister and the six others who were baptized, Sunday was one of those miraculous times.
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