By Michael Ashcraft –
Caught for the third time by the cops at age 19, Rick Buchholz knew he was going to prison but pleaded desperately to God for reprieve even as he did pushups to prepare to defend himself against the inevitable prison violence.
“I’m thinking, ‘I can’t go to prison’,” Rick says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I remember saying, ‘God, you’ve got to help me.’ I felt the love of God. Something came down and gave me goosebumps.”
Rick got off course when his father abandoned the home when he was only 11. Rick was the youngest of six kids.
”My dad wound up getting into an affair. That really spun out our family. I was really hurt,” he recalled. “I remember looking out the window as my dad left, somehow I felt like it was my fault. I was devastated to see my dad walk away in the dark like that. I never really recovered from that.”
At a cousin’s house, Rick got snagged by pornography. The cousin had turned the garage into a pool room with pinups covering the walls and adult magazines piled everywhere.
“That wasn’t a very good place for an ll-year-old kid to spend all day,” Rick says. “That really messed with my head. My mind became messed up and perverted from a very young age.”
At the same time, Rick began stealing. He broke into a neighbor’s house, stole a jar of coins, which he buried in his yard and would use to buy from the ice cream truck that passed through the neighborhood.
His mother hooked up with an escaped convict who taught him to shoplift with brazen audacity. “He taught me everything I knew,” Ricky says. “It wasn’t so much for the money. It really was just for the thrill.”
Being encouraged to continue stealing, Rick started getting arrested for stealing. He fell in love with a high school girl, whose dad was a cop, a fact that prompted him to try to clean up his act. When she broke up with him, he despaired, filled with rage and hopelessness, and proceeded to driver his car recklessly through town. The police chased him, but he didn’t care.
Meanwhile, he heard here and there bits and pieces of Jesus. He saw “The Cross and the Switchblade” and became infatuated with the testimony of gang members getting saved. He even went to church once and accepted Jesus.
But he didn’t stop stealing and didn’t follow up with salvation. One time, he had stolen some guns, which he tried to sell. The prospective buyers turned out to be undercover cops. That was his third offense; he was 19 years old; there was no way he could avoid prison.
Miraculously, Rick walked free from the courthouse. “You would have thought I would have walked out of there and would’ve gone looking for a church,” he says. “But that didn’t happen.”
He continued drugs and stealing. Nine months later, he got invited to a church in Tempe, Arizona. When the altar call came, Rick adamantly entrenched himself in opposition to getting saved.
He went back the next night though. “I didn’t know why I went,” he says. “I don’t remember what he preached, but he turned really red. I don’t know what he said.”
Again, Rick resisted the urge to get saved.
But as the service was closing, a brother delivered a prophetic word: I’ve loved you. I’ve dealt with you. I’ve called you. But if you want your sin, I’ll let you go.
“It was like a javelin pierced my heart because I absolutely knew that God was speaking to me,” he says.
Rick trotted down the aisle to the altar, fell on his knees and begged God.
“God, don’t give up on me,” he pleaded. “I was afraid God was going to give up on me and let me go and I was going to end up in hell.”
“That same love of God that I felt in that cell” when he was fighting the charges associated with trying to sell guns to undercover cops he felt again. “It so blew me away. I remember thinking, ‘God if you love me, I’m going to give everything to follow you.’”
“My life that night took a new turn where I was a new creature. I didn’t curse anymore. I had no desire to drink or do drugs. It was completely taken from me,” he says. “It was so good, I wanted to get other people.”
He locked into church and began pulling in others to join him. He invited new attenders out for coffee or dinner after every service. “I just wanted people to make it,” he explains.
Rick married Kathy, the girl whose father was a cop. They reunited following the breakup. After six months in the church, they got married. Today they have six kids and some grandkids.
“It’s incredible the life we have now,” he says.
Rick was so thoroughgoing with his salvation that eventually he became an ordained pastor, pioneering new churches in San Diego, New York, Turkey and Malta. Today he is a pastor in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Here’s an irony. The toughest battle was not Muslim-dominant Turkey. It was secular New York City, where “I felt like a drill bit that God was using.” he says. “Turkey was a cake-walk compared to New York City. That was the hardest time ever, ever in my ministry. It was incredibly intense.”
But the battles in Turkey are keenly interesting. The uphill battle started with people’s misconceptions about Christianity. The Muslims there believe that Christians think God had sex with Mary. Talk about a straw man.
First, teach what Christians really believe and not what the imams misrepresent. Then you have to make friends so they’ll trust you. “They think everybody is a spy there, and that America wants to take over,” Rick says.
After they trust you, you can share the gospel. Then they must believe the gospel and not the Koran. Once they accept Christ, the hard part comes: the disowning that comes from the individual’s family.
Breakthrough came when a girl dying of Lupus was miraculously healed through Pastor Rick’s prayers at the hospital. Whereas the doctor told her brother that she would die that night and to gather the family, the girl walked out three weeks later.
“The doctors were amazed,” Rick reports. “What happened out of that was that people – the people that hated us for no reason – said, we’d better leave these people alone. That gave us incredible favor.”
Local government persecution brought them into court five times. The final suit was a counter suit in which Rick’s lawyer sued the government. The judge ruled in favor and granted permission for their church, a huge win in Muslim nations even those that are somewhat “secular” like Turkey’s.
When radicals broke the windows with rocks, the cops came out in force to defend the church.
“It was a big hoopla just because somebody threw a rock,” Rick says. “Later I found out that today it’s a rock, tomorrow it’s a bomb. The rock is a warning.
“God helped us.”
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 California.