MANKATO — Ben Priest had been involved with a violent motorcycle gang for some time when his actions finally caught up with him.
He was charged with various crimes and facing years in the Louisiana state penitentiary. Priest didn't elaborate on the charges but did say his past was full of violence and drugs. He himself had been stabbed and shot, he said.
“We were guilty of everything we were charged for and more they didn't know about,” Priest said during his guest sermon at Jesus Assembly of God in St. Peter Sunday.
The case was blown on a technicality and Priest was set free, which later he said was God intervening, although he didn't realize it at the time. The same night he was released his home was fire-bombed with him in it.
The fire burned through the clothes he was wearing, and as he lay almost lifeless on the ground, rescue officials said he wouldn't make it. But his grandmother stood over him and called on God to heal him, and he started “spitting, spurting, coughing and carrying on,” he said.
“God spared me,” he said.
But it wasn't until a short time later, while in Texas, that Priest “ran into God.” In the midst of a drug overdose, his brother's girlfriend, whom he had never met, called him and told him he needed to go to church that morning. His brother had found his faith several years before and had been trying to help Priest do the same.
So, for whatever reason, Priest went to church that morning “full of dope and full of the devil.” And three decades later, Priest is a pastor, he's a husband, he's a father and he's a believer that happiness and salvation are dependent on a full surrender to God.