Willy shouldn’t be here right now. He should be in prison, or dead. He definitely shouldn’t be a husband and father of four.
His childhood memories are filled with fear, depravity, and pain. “My mom left my biological dad when I was two,” recalls Willy. By his ninth birthday, she had remarried four times.
“It was a disaster for me because I wanted a father so badly. When a guy would leave, I would always feel like I was the one that screwed it up. I didn’t have the ability to register that it was out of my control.”
Willy’s mother was looking for her own answers, not just through men, but through new age mysticism. And that’s where she met his last stepfather, Larry.
Larry brought unreal turmoil and chaos into Willy’s life. “He made a living as a new age guru . . . holding séances and crystal healings. But behind all that positivity, behind closed doors, I lived in fear. He was full of rage. Every picture in our house hid a fist-hole in the wall behind it. It wasn’t uncommon for him to close-fist punch me or choke me. ”
His stepdad exposed him to more than just uncontrolled anger - he gave him pornography. “He just said ‘Here you go.’ I didn’t even know what it was at the time, but now I can see it has had a lasting effect on my life. It became a source of comfort for me. It became a parent to me. It was more of a mom to me than my actual mother. But I felt so filthy because it chips away at your soul and crushes it.”
It didn’t stop there. His stepfather also brought swing parties into their home, and eventually, another woman into their marriage. “I came home from school one day to find my dad having sex with this other woman. As a kid, I just knew it wasn’t right.” Willy was hurting for his mom with no outlet or way to express it.
“Even though she said that it didn’t bother her, I knew it did. How could it not?” Willy withdrew into depression and started contemplating suicide. “I had it planned out meticulously . . . how I would do it, who would find me, and how they’d react.”
Just like pornography, thoughts of suicide became a source of comfort. “I bought into the lies completely. And so I committed suicide. I took a belt and nailed it to the loft in my room. I put a chair underneath it, climbed up on the chair, wrapped the belt around my neck, kicked out the chair, and blacked out. That was it.”
He awoke to find a friend reviving him.
He was saved, physically. But it took several years and the friendship and prayers of a Christian girl named Allison to chip away at the layers of pain in Willy’s soul.
Allison invited him to youth group, and it was the lifeline he’d been desperate for. “There was something different. It was like walking into a warm, dry room when you've been living in soaking wet sheets your whole life.”
When Willy decided to become a Christian, his stepfather threatened to beat him. “It was the scariest moment of my life. My stepdad took my Bible and threw it across the room, the pages flying everywhere. He said, ‘If you become a Christian, you’re out of this family.’” But Willy was ready to embrace a new family.
Just 17 years old and out on his own, he began to be healed by his relationship with Christ and his new church family. “God started peeling away the layers, convicting me of things, and leading me.” After graduating high school, Willy went to Bible college, joined the Coast Guard, and married Allison at the age of 20. He became a youth pastor shortly after that and worked with kids in crisis. “It was about looking a kid in the eyes and saying, ‘I’m glad you exist.’ Because that’s what I needed so badly . . . just to know someone cared.”
And now, despite the odds that were stacked against Willy, he is a father of four.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a dad,” says Willy with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know if it’s because I never had a father in my life, but it’s what I’ve always wanted. I believe that’s my calling.”
Because Jesus rose…Willy is a daddy.