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The Story of Stanley Lee Gority

The alcohol buzzing in my head gave me the courage to do it.  I staggered down the tracks toward the railroad bridge, my mind in grim neutral.  This morning was to be my last on earth; the early freight train would be my last sight as it slammed into me.

"It won't make any difference to anyone anyhow," I muttered to myself.  "Nobody cares.  Nobody wants a drunken bum with a learning disability and epilepsy!"  I stepped firmly onto the bridge.

It probably started when I was just a tot, the last of six children.  I don't remember my father.  He left Mom several times, each time coming back just long enough to get her pregnant again. when I was four he left for good; I didn't see him again until I attended his funeral 30 years later.  Mom couldn't support all six of us, although she tried, working two jobs as a waitress and a custodian in the church.

We were poor, but it seemed to me we were happy; at least the seven of us were together, and we knew Mother loved us all.  As a child of four and five, I did my best to earn my share.  I walked all over Alexandria, Virginia, knocking on doors, offering to help ladies with their shopping or housework for a dime or a quarter.

At the same time, however, I was learning another method of getting what I wanted:  my oldest brother Don was teaching me how to steal.  One of us would keep watch at the door of the five-and-ten store while the other slipped in and stole candy.  Then we would sneak to the stairwell behind the store and feast on the candy as we joked about our adventures.

After I started first grade, Don would take me out of school and we would run the streets stealing and causing trouble.  I thought I was having a wonderful childhood, but the fact that I was not in school learning how to study probably increased my learning problems later.

Then, when I was six, my world came to an end.

The welfare department split the family up and sent the youngest three of us children to foster homes.  My sister June and brother Don were sent to reform schools and another sister Bessie told Mom she was going to live with a different family. We haven't heard from her since.

I never forgot her, and I never stopped hoping I'd find her.  I can remember times when Bessie came home from work in the middle of the night and woke us up to feed us because we hadn't eaten all day.  She was mother to me when our mother wasn't there.

I was a city boy, but suddenly I found myself on a 300-acre farm near Leesburg in the foothills of Virginia.  My foster mother told us (the number varied, but there were usually four or five other foster children living there besides me) that we should call her "Mom," and that we could come to her with any problems we had.  My city instincts screamed "beware!"-and how right I was.

The eleven years I spent in the foster home can only be described as hell.  I was a slow learner, but people didn't understand learning disabilities then as they do now.  My foster parents believed the answer to my "stubborn refusal" to learn was more physical punishment and more work.

Although I was assigned homework in school, I had chores to do before I went to school and after I got home.  When I finished my chores around 9:30 or 10:00 at night, I was allowed to do homework if I could stay awake.

If I misbehaved in the slightest, my chores were increased and I was spanked and forced to spend as much as eight hours at a time standing on one foot in the corner, my hands over my head like a prisoner of war.  I developed scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) and I still have back problems as a result.  My foster mother pulled on my ears and hit me so often that one of my eardrums perforated.  I had to have an operation when I was 10 to have it repaired.

The beatings and insults only added to my learning problems.  I never got beyond the fourth grade, although I was in school until I was 18.

The one bright spot in my years at the foster home was Grandmother Green.  She was my foster mother's mother, but as different from her daughter as day is from night.  A devout Baptist, Grandmother Green took me to church, taught me to pray, and gave me my first Bible.  She also helped me with my homework and encouraged me to keep trying when it seemed I never would learn my lessons.  She died when I was in my early teens, and I still miss her.  Although I didn't realize it until years later, she left me with a priceless legacy: the knowledge that there is a God who cares about me.

When I was 18 I was sent to the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation School in Staunton, Virginia, where they tried to teach me a trade, and tried to correct my back problems with a special lift in one shoe.  I was given drugs for the pain, but the pills drove me to a nervous breakdown.  The pain in my back and legs got worse.

After trade school I went back to Alexandria to live with my real mother.  I worked for a printer, then tried construction jobs and janitorial work.  Since I read on only a fourthgrade level, I couldn't get a better job.  I thought there ought to be more to life than hard work and unhappiness and pain, but I saw no hope for a dummy like me.  Drinking became a way to forget, for a while, that I was a "retard" going nowhere.  It also helped me block out the pain in my back and legs from the scoliosis.  I started first thing in the morning, drinking vodka straight from the bottle.  Of course I lost job after job, but I always managed to find enough money for another drink and a pack of cigarettes.

Because of Grandmother Green's training, I sensed God was with me through all the turmoil.  Oh, there were times when I wished he would leave me alone, and other times when I thought he had, but I know now that his hand was always upon me, even when I was the most rebellious.  I never had to steal to support my habit, so I have no arrest record.  Because of my learning disability I couldn't pass the written driver's license test, but I believe that was God's way of keeping me from killing someone while I was driving under the influence of alcohol.  I praise God that I don't have to live with that guilt.

I wanted to stop drinking and serve God, but I couldn't do it alone and my friends laughed at me and handed me another beer.  At least when I drank I had friends-until my money ran out.  But deep inside, I knew I was a loner.

Resigned to spending the rest of my life alone, I stopped bathing and shaving.  The clothes I wore were ragged, dirty and smelly.  I decided my foster mother had been right when she pulled on my ears and screamed that I was a dummy and I'd never amount to anything.  I was a worthless bum and I knew it, but I knew no one else cared, so why should I?  The only real friend I had was my bottle.

I had been a dedicated alcoholic for three years when I had my first epileptic seizure.  Mom and I were packing to move-again-because we were behind in the rent.  I had just lost another job and I was afraid I wouldn't find another one.  I felt the pressure intensely, and something snapped inside me.  Out of control, I picked up a heavy, solid wood table and threw it at my mother.  I came to in a hospital room where they told me I had had an epileptic seizure.

Learning disability.  Alcoholism.  Poverty.  Illiteracy.  And now epilepsy.  It was more than I could take.  One day I decided I had had enough.  I was too weak to serve God and too drunk to care.

In order to get to my job in Quantico, Virginia, I walked down the RF&P railroad tracks and across the railroad bridge.  This particular morning I stopped in the middle of the bridge where I was sure I could not get away when the train thundered by.

I heard the whistle and numbly watched the train roaring straight toward me.  I was too miserable to be afraid; I just wanted to get it over with.

Suddenly a voice from behind and above me bellowed over the roar of the train.  "If you will stop feeling sorry for yourself and seek my face, all these things will be added to you. NOW GET OFF THOSE TRACKS!"  Too surprised to do anything but obey, I pressed myself against the railing.  The train missed me by inches.

After the train had passed and I stopped shaking, I looked around.  There was no way any other human being could have gotten close to me without my seeing him; no one was even in sight, much less close enough to be heard above the roar of the train.  I had no doubt that God had spoken to me, but it was years later that I realized those words I heard on the tracks are in the Bible.  Thoroughly frightened, and suddenly absolutely sober, I stumbled off the bridge and went on to work.  My coworkers at the plant asked me why I was so pale, but I refused to talk about it.  For years I never told anyone.

I did stop drinking for about a year and a half, and began attending a Pentecostal church in Woodbridge, Virginia.  But I was living with my sister and her husband, both alcoholics.  Their nagging was constant: "Have a drink!  One isn't going to hurt you! Whatsa matter-you too good to drink with us?"  Finally I took a drink out of sheer spite, and it was downhill from there.  I quit going to church because I felt I was not being a good witness for God.  Besides, if I stayed away from church, I could more easily ignore the guilt and condemnation I felt for going back to the bottle.

In 1978, doctors discovered what was causing my epileptic seizures: I had a brain tumor the diameter of a baseball.  I don't remember exactly what the doctor told me, but whatever he said scared me enough to make me understand that I couldn't continue to drink while I was taking Dilantin for the seizures.

Giving up alcohol was the hardest thing I ever did; the withdrawal pains were agonizing.  I was beginning to sense my need for the God Grandmother Green had told me about, although I had not yet given my life to Him.  Nevertheless, God gave me the strength to quit drinking, and in 1979 I turned my life over to Him completely.  I could never have stayed away from the bottle if He hadn't saved me.

As a matter of fact, a year later I was still fighting my need for liquor.  Finally I cried out to God, "If You want me as much as I want You, You're going to have to do something about my alcoholism!  I can't do it myself!"  It was about that time that he filled me with his Holy Spirit.

I don't know exactly when it started, but I began to notice that the very sight of a bottle of liquor would upset my stomach, and it's still true today.  The smell of liquor on someone's breath makes me nauseous; even talking about it too much makes me sick.  Although I still occasionally get the urge to take a drink, I don't dare-because I know I would be violently sick.  And somewhere in there God helped me lose my three-pack-a-day cigarette habit.  I praise him for that!

Since he saved me, my life has been changing so fast it still leaves me dizzy.

In April of 1980 I felt strongly that the Lord was going to heal me of epilepsy.  I had only one Dilantin pill left.  A few days before the Washington for Jesus rally, I took that last pill and prayed a simple prayer:  "Lord, I rebuke the devil and his epilepsy.  I'm not going to refill this prescription.  I'm believing you are going to heal me." It is vitally important that people with epilepsy eat regular meals, get enough rest, take their medication regularly, and avoid stress.  During the rally I had had no sleep or food for over 24 hours and no medication for several days.  Sure enough, I felt the first symptoms of a seizure.  For two hours I pleaded the Blood of Jesus and rebuked Satan.  Other people near me, sensing I was in difficulty, prayed with me.

Suddenly I felt a spot of warmth on the back of my head where the tumor was, and then the symptoms of the seizure disappeared.  I knew the Lord had healed me, and I was on a spiritual "high" for days.  I have not had a seizure since, and haven't taken any medication since that day in 1980.   As a matter of fact, I still have the doctor's prescription for Dilantin which I never got refilled.  It is dated August 14, 1979 .

In 1983 I finally received concrete proof of what I already knew:  X-rays showed no sign of a brain tumor.  The technician who took the X-rays thought I was kidding-or lying-when I told him that I was looking for a brain tumor on my X-rays.  When God heals, he does it right!

Not long after my healing a friend from church introduced me to Woody Taylor, a Spirit-filled Full Gospel Business Man.  He helped me get my finances straightened out, and encouraged me to work on getting a driver's license.   I had taken the test many times before and always failed it.  This time, to my joy and amazement, I passed it.  Mr. Taylor also helped me buy my first car, an ancient Chevrolet station wagon.  I was 30 years old, but no 16-year-old boy has ever been as excited about his first car as I was; it was one thing I was sure I would never own.

For the first time in my life I am getting a taste of that life I wanted so desperately but was sure I would never have.  In 1982 I married Jonni, the friend from the church who had introduced me to Mr. Taylor.  I am working with the Fairfax County Adult Education Program to earn my high school diploma.  God has begun a healing of my learning disability and school has become easier for me.   I can remember things as I never could before.  In just two years, my reading ability jumped from the fifth grade level to the eleventh grade level, and my math ability has gone up one level.

God has led us to a chiropractor who has been working on my twisted spine, and he is amazed at the progress I have made.  Medical evidence indicates that my learning disability could be caused in part by the scoliosis, which puts pressure on the base of my brain.

In 1985 Jonni and I bought a house, another thing I was sure I would never own.

I guess you never really get used to having people laugh at you when you tell them you're a Christian, but in spite of the amusement of the rest of the world, I'm glad I turned control of my life over to Someone who does a better job of running things than I ever did.  You have to actually experience salvation to understand what I feel, but the rewards of being saved are here and now-they're not pie in the sky.

I know God loves me because I feel his presence in my daily life.  Sometimes I can actually feel his hand on my shoulder, leading, guiding, and comforting me.  Sometimes he speaks to me, telling me how to solve a problem, reassuring me that I'm doing the right thing-and sometimes reprimanding me for doing something wrong.  The world may not have time for me, but God comes to me and acknowledges me on a one-to-one basis.  He knows exactly what I've done and where I've been.

I wasn't exactly an angel when I drank.  Like most alcoholics, I lied rather than tell the truth-and there were other things I did wrong which I'm still too ashamed to recount.  But in spite of my background, he still loves me, and he never lets me forget it.  For the first time in my life I feel truly loved, and I am at peace.

I have had a camera since I was eleven, but the last few years, as my learning disability has begun to clear up, my photography has become more than a tourist's toy.   My work has taken on a professionalism and distinction it never had before, although I have never had any professional training.  God is leading me into full-time professional photography, and I am excited about my new venture.

My photographs are of God's creatures in their natural habitat.  One of my favorites is a picture of a mallard with a dirty face.  I specialize in nature photography because I want to show others that this is still God's world and it is still beautiful.

From the gutters of alcoholism to the heights of whatever God has for me.  Pretty good for a drunken bum who had lost all hope!  I give God all the glory, for it is through his power and guidance that I have progressed as far as I have, and I know there's more to come.

If I did it, anyone can do it.  But how do you get saved, or born again, or whatever you want to call it?  Well, it's quite simple.  The Bible provides the answer:

God hears every prayer.  Don't be afraid to reach out to Him . I did it, and I've never regretted it.

July 25, 1988
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