The night before he went to court, Tony Peterson knew he was facing a sentence of two or more years in prison. He had pled guilty. He had repented. He had reconciled with his wife. He had completed six months of the year-long Changed Life Recovery Program (CLRP) at Frederick Rescue Mission. Facing prison time was hard to swallow, but Tony had accepted this likelihood as a necessary part of his recovery process. Then his wife told him something that changed his perspective: “I’m pregnant.”
Tony was baptized when he was 12 years old, and while he grew up believing in God, reckless behavior marked his teens and early 20s. Tony says, “I had belief, but I didn’t have faith.” You can read about how he became addicted to pain medication in the August 2019 edition of the Frederick Rescue Mission newsletter on the Mission’s website. While Tony’s journey has included rebellion, pain, and suffering, he says, “I have seen God perform miracle after miracle.” He entered the CLRP in January 2019 broken and unable to manage his addiction but became the Lead Pastor at Frederick Church of Christ last year.
Tony says, “The CLRP helped me know who I am. Substance abuse is a symptom of the root problem. Every Christian is in sin recovery.” Three months into the CLRP, Tony sensed God calling him to vocational ministry. Tony was resistant to the call because it seemed so unlikely. Each CLRP participant is assigned a mentor, and Tony’s mentor was the Senior Pastor of Frederick Church of Christ. He taught Tony how to be a godly man and husband, and the two formed a close bond.
As Tony contemplated the news that he would soon be a father, going away for the first years of his child’s life was the last thing he wanted. He pleaded with God for a miracle: to make his felony conviction disappear. The next day, at Tony’s sentencing, the judge read a letter written by Tony’s mentor that motivated him to make an extremely unusual judgment: one-year probation, and if Tony completed the CLRP, the judge would change Tony’s felony conviction to “Probation Before Judgment.” The legal system will expunge Tony’s criminal record in January 2023. God made Tony’s felony conviction disappear!
Tony will graduate from seminary in March, after which he will study clinical counseling. He spends much of his time as a pastor doing home visits, prison visits, and individual counseling. He also teaches in the CLRP every Tuesday morning.
The difficulties Tony has endured the last few years would not fit in a year of newsletters. While Tony’s journey has been challenging, he does not resent his trials. He says, “Our individual suffering makes each of us uniquely qualified to help someone else.”