His dad was The Lawrence Welk Show classical jazz pianist, his mom a concert pianist, but David Smale (rhymes with mail) wanted to play heavy metal.
“Wouldn’t you just love for your daughter to date the singer of ‘Cranial Abortion’?” Dave jokes on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. They played backyard parties, prompting cops to come and shut it down, until they debuted at a club along with Incubus.
With rock ‘n’ roll, came drugs and sex. He progressed from cigarettes at 13, to weed at 14 and LSD at 15.
In the Los Angeles Unified School system, Dave attended middle and high school with Latinos and African Americans who were bused into the San Fernando Valley as part of integration policies.
“We got bullied a lot. We were just these little heavy metal-loving white kids,” he says. “One time this guy said he was going to do a drive-by shooting on us the next day. Because of that, I noticed in my house it was ok for me to express racist things. My dad and my brother would say the N-word and other racial slurs.”
Later he joined a punk rock band “Uneducated,” until his party girl got pregnant and he took up delivering fast food and telemarketing as a high school dropout to put food on the table for his baby and the girl whom he married at 18.
“I remember times stumbling around drunk and high, and all of a sudden, the baby starts crying,” says he, and thought: “I don’t know if I can change his diaper right now. I might put it on his head.”
“It was just awful,” he says. “I was partying and my baby was right there. It was not good.”
Five weeks after his first baby was born by C-section, his wife got pregnant, and the nurse at urged her to abort: “You’re going to die,” she said.
Leaving the women’s health care center, Dave and his wife felt an eerie sensation. “Did you feel like we just murdered somebody?” she asked. “Yeah, I do,” he responded.
Unable to make ends meet, he eventually decided to join the Navy with hopes of learning a trade. “That was my only way forward,” he says. “I was going nowhere. I was lost in dead-end stuff.”
At 20, Dave looked for a new beginning in the Navy, but the same old addictions and racism didn’t let him get that new start.
“I could wear a uniform, I could stand up taller, I could march in a straight line,” he says. “But I was still fighting addiction.”
Stationed a Point Mugu, California, Dave and his wife got invited to a Baptist church. She was gung-ho, he was blasé.
Dave went anyhow, and the sermon made sense. So, he accepted Jesus into his heart on April 1, 1999 and was born again.
“When I raised my head, everything was different,” he says. “My entire perspective changed in a moment. There was no going back. The cursing went away immediately, the addictions were all gone, the racism was gone. I didn’t hate all the guys in the Navy from different races and ethnicities. I loved these guys who didn’t look like me, but I saw them as God saw me. It blew my mind.”
His wife was pregnant with twins when he got deployed for six months. He kept pursuing Jesus the whole time, but when he came home, he realized his wife had given up on God and church.
“The laundry was piled to the ceiling. Checks had bounced,” he says. “There was no food in the house.”
He coaxed her to return to church with him, but she persisted in the party life.
For months, he tried to win her over, but she left him when he got orders to Virginia Beach.
Stung by the abandonment, Dave decided to backslide. He went straight to the oceanfront and ogled every girl in a bikini.
“At that point, I was so mad, so bitter, so upset, I completely decided to backslide,” he acknowledges. “I was on the warpath to find me a girl and do something that I would have totally regretted.”
But every time he leered with lust, the Holy Spirit smote him with conviction. “Deep down I knew every time I looked at a woman, I felt cut to the heart. Oh man, I shouldn’t be looking.”
After an hour, he abandoned the beach and decided to go to church. Returning to his car, he was confronted by a man passing out flyers for the Virginia Beach Potter’s House.
“I said that to myself, and boom, there it was,” he says.
Immediately he immersed himself in the church, along with their outreaches and street-preaching — a radical style that resonated with Dave. “If the gospel is the most important thing, why shouldn’t we be evangelizing?” he reasoned.
For five years, he didn’t miss an activity. He called, wrote, and appealed to his wife to reconcile.
“I tried everything to avoid divorce,” Dave says. “I would hear these testimonies of ‘God restored my marriage,’ and I would think, ‘I can’t wait to be one of those people that God restored my marriage.’”
But she pointedly refused time after time. “I don’t want any part of that,” she told him bluntly.
After five years, his wife asked for a divorce — and he consented — but with a feeling of grief.
“It was a terrible experience that I wouldn’t have wished it on Osama Ben Ladin,” Dave says. “It was really painful.”
In 2008, he remarried a lady named Katelyn, who had been attending the church faithfully and shares his passion for outreach. He returned to his piano-playing skills to form an outreach band.
Dave has just become an ordained a pastor and will be launching a church in Kempsville, a borough of Virginia Beach.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
About the writer of this article: Pastor Michael Ashcraft is also a financial professional in Virginia.