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James Burch - Testimony

My name is James Burch. Over the course of my life I have usually been called Jimmy, and this is the name I prefer to be called by informally. I was born in the spring of 1966 at Fort Benning, Georgia (now named Fort Moore), while my father was on his first tour of duty in Vietnam. He did two tours in all, and a few years later, in 1973, he had to retire at the age of 31 because Agent Orange ruined his health. Dad was able to work a civilian job for a while but by 1983 he had been classified as a 100% disabled veteran. All these factors had a significant effect on the dynamics of my family.
My parents never divorced, but there were arguments. My poor father emerged from the Vietnam conflict as a broken man. At first the manifestations were emotional, then a few years later the physical aspects showed up with Agent Orange’s delayed effects. Dad drank a lot, especially after becoming 100% disabled. My sister and I did not enjoy his drinking or his angry outbursts, nor did Mom. At the same time, who knows what horrors he witnessed in combat? Dad, on top of everything else, was not one to talk openly about his problems, a trait I picked up and began practicing at an early age. I learned there were things you did not discuss, especially sex, unless it was in a vulgar, joking way.
At the age of 7 going on 8, Dad severely shamed me over playing show-and-tell with some girls at school. Being so young, I didn’t even understand what we were really doing, but I knew innately that this was something my father did not need to find out. He did find out, and after saying he would not whip me, he gave me the worst whipping of my life and said all kinds of terrible things to me. This literally blew my mind.  I imploded, going from a somewhat rambunctious, outgoing boy to someone who was introverted and fearful. I became the target of bullies and was not popular with girls. In high school I was sexually harassed by an older boy, a senior, while I was a sophomore. I never told Dad about these incidents because I was sure he would have blamed me somehow. You see, I couldn’t talk about my problems. I started to hide my pain with alcohol. I medicated it also with pornography, developing a sexual addiction. I felt useless and worthless, and my issues did not help me to feel any better about myself.
Although I graduated college and had a steady job, I was a mess on the inside. By 25 I was in jail. I would serve 5 years in prison followed by 5 years of probation. It was in prison that I was born again. On Friday, April 28, 1995, at Central State Prison in Macon, Georgia, on the first day of a three-day series of presentations by Bill Glass Ministries, it happened, and I have not been the same since. I got out of prison on September 5, 1996, and began serving my probation. My first probation officer was someone I had been to college with and we got along great. My first counselor was a Christian counselor and I got to hear that with God’s power I could overcome my personal issues. If only that had lasted…
In the spring of 1997 the powers that be decreed that those on probation had to go to certain secular care providers for probation-mandated counseling, although this did not kick in until November of that year for some of us. Also, I got a new probation officer. He professed to be a Christian, but he was a hard man to deal with sometimes. In retrospect, I realized that besides maintaining professional boundaries, he was practicing tough love, but I could not receive that at the time because of my damaged view of authority from childhood. That damaged view extended all the way to God. Before I go further, I will explain.
For the first 11 months of my salvation I truly was a babe in Christ. I felt secure in the presence of my heavenly father. But then, five months before my release from prison and about three or four weeks before my first spiritual birthday, a Bible teacher taught that a Christian could lose his or her salvation. I had not heard that before. It awakened a sleeping monster inside of me, a terror of false security and rejection firmly planted in me by Dad when he broke his promise not to whip me over the show-and-tell stuff and then demeaned me to the point of breaking my spirit.  So God was not a loving heavenly Father after all. He was just like Dad, I thought: Perform or else. There was no security. Things were never really all right. Issues were never over. And coming from the Almighty, it was a no-win situation. On top of that, I was a convicted felon.  Was I really forgiven by God?
When the probation-mandated counseling was switched over to secular and I was told that my issues could not be cured, only controlled, I sank into one of the deepest black fogs of despair I have ever experienced in my life. I felt that if God had truly forgiven me, He would not have let this happen. It was Dad all over again:  Everything’s all right, son—No it isn’t, you sorry, good-for-nothing, lowdown, dirty, filthy, rotten loser! I imploded again, plummeting back into drinking. I became sexually promiscuous, having flings with a number of different women.  Every now and then I would rally and sober up for a bit, only to crash and burn again. From December 15, 1998, to May 25, 1999, I spent 34 days of that period free. I incurred a probation violation via a DUI but was able to get out of jail four days before my birthday. Shortly after finishing DUI school, still despondent, I started drinking again and this time I caught more felony charges. For that I got a 10-year sentence, and I served every day of it.
The remorse I felt for doing something I said and believed I would never do again—harming others and getting in serious trouble—shocked me awake. I got deep into God’s Word and prayer and before long God began to use me to teach his word or serve on prayer teams while behind bars. One of the best experiences of my Christian life came in 2003 when I went through a 3 ½ -day Christian program called Kairos. It was like a concentrated dose of God’s love. There are very few times in my life that I had ever been happier, yet not long after the Kairos walk was over, I returned to my normal, struggling with doubts about God’s love.
The following year I was transferred to Lee State Prison near Leesburg, Georgia, and it was there that I met David Fore, the man to whom God gave the vision for It Ain’t Over Ministries and Outcast Full Gospel Assembly. In May 2005 David and I served on a Kairos and were greatly used by God, and the fourth-day speaker was a convicted felon who was married and had a successful business. God was showing us that “It Ain’t Over.”
David got out in November 2005 and I got out in May 2009, serving my final year at Central State Prison, the place where I first got saved. Aside from the fact that the world had changed significantly during the 10 years I was in prison, I did not realize that there were still a lot of brokenness and emotional frailty in me. Before Dad passed away in 2008, we had mended our relationship and he had been sober since 1991, but the psychological damage he had inflicted upon me in the past had yet to heal. Also, between the difficulties of finding a job as a convicted felon and the fact that in 2012 I found myself facing additional consequences from my criminal past, I struggled both with staying sober and with my faith in God. Once again I felt that God would never forgive me for the things I had done although I was sorry I had ever done them and wished that I had never harmed anyone. In the summer of 2012 I almost destroyed myself through heavy drinking. I did switch from AA to Celebrate Recovery (CR), though, when a most unkind AA member got wind of my past and started hassling me about it. I left because the anger generated in me on top of the stress of the extra consequences was so intense I feared that I might take this man’s life, and because none of my other “friends” in the program rose up to defend me. An alcohol-induced gastric hemorrhage and subsequent seizures from alcohol withdrawal in September 2012 woke me up to the fact that I needed to do something serious about my issues, so I buckled down and got heavily into CR.
CR was a different experience from AA altogether. I was shown the true love of Christ by people who did not judge me yet held me accountable, and I experienced a lot of emotional healing during the years I was involved with it, but something was still out of place in me. I had long ceased from struggles with my most serious issues, but still battled lust towards women, bouts with drinking, and feelings that God had never forgiven me for my criminal history. David and I had stayed in touch after his release in 2005 and mine in 2009, and God began to open his eyes to deliverance and the fact that Christians could have demons. At first I was skeptical but through my own research I found out this was true. That was the missing piece of the puzzle!  This was why I was still struggling: I was demonized and didn’t even know it. Institutional Christianity had failed me in that most of it that I was familiar with not only did not teach deliverance, but also considered it blasphemous to say Christians could have demons.
In November 2017 David, his wife, and their pastor at that time, a man named Brian, traveled down to Columbus and we had a deliverance session right out in the parking lot of what was then an abandoned K-Mart. It was real. I could really feel something, or things, leaving me. Since then I have been doing a good deal better. A tremendous amount of emotional healing took place. However, I hit a few potholes along the way with relapses in doubts, lustful thoughts, and drinking. Why?  Because deliverance is not a one-and-done deal. It has to be maintained. This I was told, but I underestimated the tenacity of demons and was not vigilant enough with maintaining my own deliverance until more recently.
I also got a dose of church-hurt in 2019 when, twice in a five-week span, I experienced doubt and skepticism from two different churches I had wanted to join based on my felonious past. Had I been in the same condition in 2019 that I was in in 2012, this would have sent me over the edge and I would have drank myself to death. As it was, I battled this pain of rejection for three more years until, finally, in another full-fledged self-deliverance session, I got free of it. To God be the glory!
As of now my doubts about God are fading, the lustful thoughts are likewise melting away, and the deliverance from alcoholism is complete. I still have other issues to address, but by the grace of God I will have victory yet again. Against the backdrop of all this David and I were inspired to put together a series of Bible studies, “The Remnant Bible Study Course”, in which lost or poorly known truths of Scripture are taught, including deliverance and how the Church should really function according to the Bible. It Ain’t Over Ministries was birthed by God to show His love to “those kind,” the ones whom a lot of churches don’t want: People with checkered pasts. God loves us, and He saved us and can use us mightily in spite of our pasts. As an example of this, I have been in Kairos leadership in prison; church leadership in prison as a prayer team member, as a worship service emcee, and as a participant and sometimes leader in dorm Bible studies, sometimes teaching lessons there or in the main prison worship area; outside of prison at a church which does not judge me, as a door greeter and later as a Sunday school teacher; and in Celebrate Recovery leadership. Since May 2022 I have had the privilege of volunteering one to two days a week at a men’s homeless shelter.
David and I have been blessed with excellent family support in spite of past issues. My grandmother (God rest her soul) and especially my mother have been Godsends to me. We realize that others have not been so fortunate, particularly convicted felons, some who have few or no resources whereas others are often ostracized by their families even when their loved ones are able to help. That is why God led David to include support of transitional housing as part of the ministry once it has grown some more. Deliverance will also be practiced. It should be a no-brainer that those who commit crimes suffer from serious mental and spiritual afflictions, and in a number of cases even demonization. But the Lord loves us all! And He has the power to remake those of us who used to be criminals into law-abiding citizens, as He has done with me. I will conclude with three Scriptures which really inspire me and remind me of how much God loves us—“those kind”:

2 Peter 3:9-  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31:  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11:  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.