By Michael Ashcraft —
His marriage was in shambles because, despite loving his wife, he fooled around with other girls.
“Our mantra was we don’t fall in love, we stand in love, because in case something goes wrong you can always just walk out,” says Orlando Patterson, describing his Jamaican heritage. “It was very common in the culture, we live in this apartment complex to be living with your supposed wife and a couple of kids. And you have another woman a couple streets over and she has a couple of kids for you. And you have another woman in another apartment complex and she has a couple of kids for you. That is business as usual.”
So when an officer in the U.S. Navy turned and abruptly and asked him about his eternal destination, Orlando responded with genuine self-examination: “I’m pretty confident I’d probably go to hell.”
Orlando Patterson knew nothing about God and fidelity because he grew up with his non-Christian parents fighting over custody. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a high-society dad and a pretty mom whom the dad’s relatives detested.
At age five, his dad tricked his mom into letting Orlando go to Queens, New York. What was supposed to a be a summer visit, turned into a permanent stay. Dad simply called mom: “By the way, he’s never going back.”
Dad’s intentions were to give Orlando a good education and the opportunities that arise in America. But the young man grew up “a square peg in a round hole.” By the time his mom was able to come over to America, the damage was done.
“I had drawn certain conclusions about life,” Orlando says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I was a problem child and felt horribly unwanted. No one really wanted me around. I never got rid of this feeling.”
He fell in with “miscreants.” His first arrest was for grand theft auto. An older boy was showing him how to steal a car when the cops pulled up. The older boy ran, Orlando hid in the car hoping the police would pursue the older boy. When he crept out of the car, an old lady trained a gun on him and ordered him to sit still until the cops came back.
“This lady was shaking,” Orlando says. “I knew I was gonna die that night if I would have flinched. If I breathed too hard that lady was gonna shoot me, so I just held my hands up and just kind of froze.”
Throughout high school, he butted heads with his mom, but she eventually prevailed with the plan he would join the military. He and his 8th grade sweetheart, Vanessa, both joined the Navy.
He became a jet engine mechanic.
Though they tried to stay together, their union was beset by troubles from the beginning because infidelity was what Orlando had learned from his Jamaican upbringing. “My marriage was shot, you know, infidelity on my part, just foolishness that I had done,” he recognizes.
On his first tour on the Adriatic Sea on the U.S.S. Enterprise, he was pulling an overnight shift. There wasn’t much to do, so he wandered to the other shops. That’s where he overheard a sailor evangelizing another man. “He was chopping wood,” Orlando remembers about the serious discussion.
Though not directed at him, the conversation unsettled Orlando. He’d been raised Catholic, but faith had never factored into his life as being real or relevant. As an altar boy, he’d report hung over at 8:00 a.m. mass.
“I couldn’t shake what I just heard,” he recalls.
Troubled by what he’d overheard, he continued to wander the deck. When he reported for his “midrats” midnight meal, he wound up eating next to an officer because the mess was unusually crowded.
The officer turned to Orlando and asked him point blank: “Young man, let me ask you a question. If you were to die right now, would you go to Heaven?”
“The whole world just stood still in that moment,” he recalls.
His innards were churning from what he’d previously heard about being born-again. On the one hand, he wanted to save his girlfriend. On the other hand, he wanted to save his marriage.
“If I start doing this church thing and my wife sees that, she would look at me different and I could probably salvage my marriage. She could see me as a different guy.”
So, he received Jesus into his heart and was born-again. A dramatic sensation filled the core of his being.
“That haze gray boat never looked so good,” Orlando says. “I stood up. I was smiling. I was laughing i never felt so good in my life.”
The first things God dealt with: Get rid of the Jamaican flag and license plate and stop listening to reggae after he returned to Jacksonville, Florida.
Then God impressed on his heart: Do you want to be known as the Christian guy or do you want to be known as the Jamaican guy?
I want to be known as a Christian, he thought.
“That was a big big big deal,” he remembers. “I stopped listening to reggae music because reggae is not just music for us, it is our identity. It is who we are, I mean, this is serious business.”
Then God dealt with his issues of infidelity, revolutionizing the cultural norms. He had to learn monogamy. While his dad had abandoned his mom, he needed to learn to be present — and tender to her.
“It was never a question that I loved my wife,” he says. “I just didn’t know how to love her.”
Vanessa didn’t immediately accept Jesus. Instead, she watched Orlando. When the cashier gave him back too much change, Vanessa was happy. More money for them, she thought. But Orlando acted honestly and went back into the store to make things right.
“She would see that I was serious about this stuff,” Orlando recalls about his wife. Vanessa got saved the next year, and they formalized their marriage.
Today, Orlando is pastor of the Door Christian Fellowship Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
Pastor Michael Ashcraft is also a trusted financial professional in California.