From drugs to Jesus
Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 17, 2011 at 1:17 a.m.
Stephen Hundley never thought he'd enter the ministry.
The 44-year-old felon-turned-reverend was born into a Christian family; his father was the minister of a small Nazarene Church in Indiana.
But growing up, Hundley's life didn't match the Christian values his father taught from behind the pulpit.
"Sometimes, I fit in the Christian bubble," he said. "I just know I wasn't accepted."
At 12 years old, Hundley began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. By age 14, the year his parents divorced, he nearly died from an overdose of prescription drugs.
"I started taking pills, and taking them, and taking them. One time, I took them and woke up a week later ... I thought it was the same day," said First Church of the Nazarene pastor, the Rev. Hundley.
After the weeklong, pill-induced coma, Hundley recalled how seamlessly life carried on.
"I stopped using pills, but nothing else really changed," he said.
Surrounded by friends who shared Hundley's partying style, alcohol, dope and crime continued to follow him. At the age of 18, Hundley earned his first felony.
"I had a friend who burglarized homes. We'd walk down neighborhoods and look for homes where no one was home and break a window," Hundley said. "We were usually looking for money or drugs. That was our purpose, to get drugs."
Hundley remarked his life of crime didn't last too long, and after serving 17 days in jail, he never repeated the offense.
"I wasn't good at it. We were the WDC - World's Dumbest Criminals," he said, laughing.
Released from jail, Hundley found a job and eventually obtained a GED. Two years later, Hundley said a friend brought him to a Nazarene church revival, the same ministry he grew up in and rejected as a child.
"It was a divine appointment that I was there," he said. "That's when I gave my life to Christ. I began praying and reading the (Bible)."
With a new hope and passion for God, Hundley began reaching out to his partying friends, aiming to show them a new a path for their lives.
"They pulled me back into their lifestyle. So, I got back into the life again, and it probably got worse that time. Things got a little more violent," Hundley said. "I probably wasn't grounded enough."
But the lifestyle wasn't fulfilling for Hundley, and he said he could feel God begin to pursue him.
"It was fun for a while, but it doesn't take long to realize it's not the life you're designed to live," he said.
At 24 years old, Hundley finally got the wake-up call he needed.
Leaving a party one night, Hundley said he was pulled over by a policeman.
When the officer asked for Hundley's driver's license, he knew instantly his life was about to change.
Drunk, driving on a suspended license, with stolen license plates and no insurance, Hundley called out for God.
"I said to Him, 'I will give you my life if you get me out of this mess,'" Hundley said.
The cop returned to Hundley's driver side window, and decided not to arrest him. Rather, he issued Hundley a small lecture, impounded his car, took his license, and told Hundley to go back to his friend's house and think about the gravity of the cop's leniency.
That was the beginning of God's divine transformation, Hundley said
Over a period of six months, Hundley said he struggled with feeling convicted to clean up his life, often unable to sleep from the guilt of his former life away from God's love. Then Hundley began feeling troubled for his friends who were also living apart from God.
"I couldn't understand it," he said.
Another church revival was coming to town in 1991, and Hundley decided to go with a friend. He re-dedicated his life to Christ for a second time, and hasn't looked back since.
"That was the last day illegal drugs entered my body," he said. "I was filled with purpose, like there's a reason to be on the Earth."
The reason, Hundley soon learned, was to enter the Nazarene ministry and lead others to a Christian life.
"It's hard to describe a calling to the ministry," he said. "He speaks to you through his Word. It's an inward thing and you can't know it or hear without having a relationship with him."
Moving to Colorado, Hundley enrolled in the Nazarene Bible College, spending eight years in ministry preparation.
In 1998, Hundley met his wife Deborah Hundley.
"He told me about his past four months after we started dating. I was shocked because that is not who I saw," said Deborah Hundley, 40.
Raised in a Christian home and never veering from the path, Deborah said she wasn't bothered by her husband's former life because she was in love with him, and it didn't matter.
"I was looking for someone sold out for Christ," Deborah said. "He was."
Today, the couple works side by side at the Nazarene Church, Victoria's only Nazarene congregation in the area.
And because the Hundley's share different life experiences, Deborah believes it helps them relate to the church members better.
"I think we make a very good couple because he relates to people and circumstances that I may not understand," she said. "He can connect with them, and I can connect with people who've grown up in the church."
As a pastor who continues to be sold out for Christ, the father of two children - 9-year-old Mackenzie and 6-year-old Dawson - and a wife he's still in love with, Hundley said his life was far better than he ever knew it could be.
"I'm living a dream life, really. I have the wife of my dreams, children of my dreams and the life of my dreams," Hundley said. "I have the life God has completely willed me to do. There's nothing more amazing than living the way my creator desired me to live. There's nothing more fulfilling than that."