The Morphing of a Jesus Freak
by Kevin Thompson
Gone in a Flash!
In rural Iowa early on the morning of February 11, 1986, a fire broke out in the small mobile home of Kevin Thompson’s family. His two young sons were sleeping in one room, and he, his wife, and baby were sleeping in another.
As Kevin heard his two boys screaming “Daddy!”, he told his wife, Debbie, to grab their youngest son, Russell (age 6 months), and he hurried to get Todd (age 3) and Dennis (age 2). But when Kevin entered the hallway, a wall of flames blocked him and his boys, so he immediately opened a side door to go around to the outside of the trailer. As the door opened, flames rushed down the hallway, throwing him outside—but throwing his wife and baby back into the bedroom!
Frantically, Kevin tried to get back into the trailer! He ran around to the bedroom window—only to be confronted by flames coming out of the already broken glass panes. He then ran toward the front of the trailer, but was restrained from entering the door by men passing by who saw the fire. While struggling to reenter the trailer, Kevin was overcome with the horrifying knowledge that his family was still inside—and there was nothing he could do to help them!
“I wanted to die!” Kevin says. “All I could think about was that everything I had was gone, and that nothing would ever be the same for me.”
As Kevin was put into a car and driven to the hospital, he looked back and saw the walls of his home falling in and fire reaching into the sky. “I could feel the presence of God with me, telling me He would help me, telling me He was there, but I pushed Him away and screamed in my spirit that I hated Him.”
A Burial Plot for Anger
After Kevin buried his family, he tried to bury his pain through drugs and alcohol. He even thought about committing suicide. His anger was so strong toward God that he tried to make God kill him by doing things like riding his motorcycle with his eyes closed. He was so angry that he wanted to hurt other people, but he knew he would probably kill someone. So instead he turned all of his anger toward God.
As the years passed, Kevin carried his pain deep inside and lived life running away from God. He even went so far as to try to bargain with God to leave him alone. He was quick to stop any conversations regarding God or Jesus with hurtful words.
Nightmares of his boys screaming “Daddy” and flames consuming his family tormented Kevin through 21 years of barely functioning in life. He remarried, but after 18 years, the marriage ended due to the anger and pain in his heart. He tried to remove his guilt by working in the corporate world to prove that he could succeed in life. But this didn’t work because of the anger in his heart and the hatred he had for people. “Even though I was functioning, I didn’t want to be there,” Kevin says. “I literally hated the people I worked for. I was jealous of the families they had and the positions they held, and I was always doing or saying something that caused me grief on the job.”
Kevin made it a point to keep his family out of his life. He didn’t want to be close to anyone. He pushed everyone away with the exception of his two goddaughters. After his divorce, he wanted to move away into the mountains and not be around anyone. But then he met a lady named Judi and, once again, his life was changed.
A Flashback and Flash Forward
“I tried to get Judi to run away from me,” Kevin explains. “I told her everything bad about myself, all that I had done and what was in my heart, but she would just say, ‘Okay, but I know that God has a plan for you.’ And my answer was always the same, ‘Yeah, he’s going to let me live to be 104 and I’ll suffer every night of it.’”
Two years later Kevin and Judi were married and moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas—to get as far away from people as he could. But God had other plans. “The first thing I did in our new house was tear off the front walls, which caused everyone who drove by to stop and talk. Judi would just sit and smile as I tried to run people off with their questions and small talk.”
One day the pastor from down the street stopped by to visit, and invited Kevin to church. True to his anger, Kevin promptly ran him off. But the pastor came back, and Kevin’s father-in-law also came to visit. Both of these men came to help with work on the house, but they couldn’t stop talking about God and Jesus.
“I became so angry one day after talking to the pastor that I asked my father-in-law why I felt this way. His answer to me opened doors and pierced my heart. He told me that if I continued to be angry with God, He couldn’t heal me, and when I died, I would go to an eternity in hell. Hearing this—and other things he said—the Holy Spirit began to work inside of me.”
A few months later, Kevin was outside in his yard burning branches and was confronted with his past. He says, “One minute I was looking around my yard, felt a peace in my life, and was actually happy. Then I threw some wood on the fire and had a flashback to the earlier fire. As I struggled with images and sounds of the fire, and hearing my wife and boys screaming, in desperation I called out to Jesus!”
Kevin describes it this way, “At that time, I saw exactly where I was in life, and knew that if I decided to ignore the Holy Spirit, I would continue to suffer in anger and guilt. I recognized my sins against God, and I recognized the peace that would come with forgiveness. I asked for forgiveness and asked Jesus to give me His peace—and He did! I promised Jesus that if He would take away my pain and anger, I would give Him my life. He did exactly what He promised and more. Now I am trying to keep my end of the promise!”
The Past—A Frame for Understanding God’s Love
Today Kevin ministers to those who are lost in the darkness, riding his motorcycle to towns and preaching on the streets to anyone who comes by. “I go by Jesus’ first sermon—‘Repent for the Kingdom is near!’ In everything I do, I try to serve my King and Savior. I know the Truth, and it has set me free. I have to obey Him! God took the anger I had against Him and turned it into a righteous anger toward the darkness. He has shown me the lies of Satan and all that is wrong. I am called to preach on the streets and speak the Truth.” Kevin’s wife, Judi, is a prayer warrior who supports him and keeps their home comfortable.
Even before the fire that took the lives of his family, Kevin had a lot to overcome. His parents divorced when he was five years old. Kevin’s dad left his wife and five children for a relationship with another man, so the family was abandoned for several years. Later his dad came back, but the family was so torn up that healing never took place. As the children got older, they began to use drugs and alcohol to try to find peace. Kevin says, “We were all drinking by the age of fourteen, and we started smoking pot around the same time. It was supposed to help us escape, but in reality it only led us deeper into depression and anger.”
Kevin’s brothers lived on the streets for a few years, or were moved around to live with other families. “Our dad didn’t want us to live with him. We cramped his lifestyle and were too expensive, and our mom was too busy trying to find herself in life. So we took care of ourselves, and we took care of each other.”
While Kevin was still a teenager, his brother was killed in a car accident, and the loss to his family was devastating! Even though Kevin’s family was broken anyway—and had never experienced anything close to a normal life—his brother’s accident drove a deeper wedge between everyone.
The year before Kevin’s family died in the fire, his older brother had committed suicide due to anger and alcohol. “My brother, Tony, was such a smart young man, and yet he had so many issues with anger that he couldn’t get past. One morning he just put a shotgun to his chest and pulled the trigger. That was one reason why I couldn’t kill myself after the fire—I knew the depth of pain it would create for my family and friends.”
The tragic deaths of his brothers and the loss of his family have brought Kevin to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us. “God sacrificed His only Son on the cross to suffer in pain and humiliation for my sins and for the sins of the world, and people need to understand that He has already paid the price.” This is what drives Kevin to go into the streets and speak to the young—especially those who are being deceived by alcohol and drugs. “Satan is a liar. There is no peace in drugs or alcohol. There is nothing that the darkness has to offer that will relieve the anger and pain. Only Jesus can do that.”
Kevin admits that for most of his life he lived in the past, carrying his pain and anger like a badge. But on February 10, 2007, Kevin gave up his anger, and nothing has been the same since.
Kevin no longer lives in the past. His life and his ministry are centered on God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. “What’s interesting is that I no longer hate anyone. In fact, I have more love in me than I could ever have imagined! And yet now that I have Jesus in my life, many of the people who were family and friends no longer want to talk to me. I guess I’m just a ‘Jesus Freak,’” Kevin says with a smile.