Getting Up After the Fall
By Kelly Bevill
In the middle of January 1991, while doing construction work
in Westchester County, N.Y., Paul Mead fell 30 feet from an icy rooftop onto
the frozen ground. His heel bones shattered upon impact, followed by almost
every bone in his ankles and legs.
His physical injuries were just the first results of a much
Blood blisters and swelling from his ankles to his waist
prevented surgery for three weeks. Operating too early could lead to infection.
For nearly two years Mead used a wheelchair while he endured multiple surgeries
and physical therapy relearning to walk.
An avid athlete before the accident, Mead had a difficult
time adjusting to limited mobility. While in the wheelchair, he dreamed of the
days when he played basketball, soccer and softball. He fell into a deep
A year after the fall, he received a lawsuit settlement of
half a million dollars.
“Here I was in a wheelchair, severely depressed, with
$500,000,” Mead says. “I began to look for a substitute that would help me to
get through the depression.”
Mead began using cocaine. He spent up to $1,000 on drugs
daily. He found shelter in taxis, hotels, bars and crack houses.
“I lived for crack, and that was it,” Mead says.
Eventually, he smoked all of the money away. He was homeless
with only a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, a T-shirt and a hat to his name. He
was empty-handed and alone.
“I had destroyed every relationship that I had,” Mead says.
Mead sought help from various treatment facilities, 28-day
rehab programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and halfway houses.
He would be sober for about a month at a time with the different treatments and
then return to the drugs.
His story is not uncommon among drug addicts. In 1990, the
National Institute on Drug Abuse began an ongoing study on drug abuse treatment
outcomes. The study found that cocaine use is the most common drug problem of
patients entering treatment for illicit drug use. It was also determined that
90 days or longer in residential programs was needed to improve outcomes for
the most severely addicted patients.
Mead’s longest stretch of sobriety began in 1998. He went
through a 28-day program and then went straight to a halfway house. It was
during this time that he attended a church service where he met the woman he
would marry the next year. He stayed clean through 1999.
In early 2000, just as Mead thought his addictions were a
thing of the past, his brother-in-law died in a snowmobile accident. Unable to
deal with the grief, he ran away from his family and returned to the streets to
smoke crack. His marriage was annulled the following month.
“It was a horrible existence,” Mead says. “I didn’t want to
live like this anymore, but I didn’t know how to stop.” While living on the
streets, he heard about Teen Challenge — a drug and alcohol recovery
program that also disciples participants in their relationship with Christ.
Having no faith background, Mead was uncomfortable with the faith-based aspect,
but decided to try it to get his life back.
He enrolled in Teen Challenge in Syracuse, N.Y., but only
stayed four months — well short of the yearlong prescribed program. He
returned to crack, went back on the streets for a couple of months and then
returned to Teen Challenge. This time he lasted 11 months.
“I watched men accept Jesus into their hearts every day in
Teen Challenge. But I couldn’t do it,” Mead says regretfully. “After 11 months,
I gave up again.”
Without money, Mead figured out another way to get drugs. He
let a dealer use his car in return for drugs. Mead would wander the streets
waiting for the drug dealer to return with more crack.
In December of 2002, he was sitting on the street and saw a
phone booth. He remembered the phone number for Teen Challenge. Mead believes
the Lord was prompting him to call the ministry and ask for another chance. He
spoke with the director.
“He told me, ‘Of course you can come back. We love Paul
Mead,’” Mead remembers.
While in Teen Challenge this time, Mead’s life changed
forever when he finally committed his life to Christ. He saw a vision of Jesus
walking into his heart.
A month later while praying, he sensed God calling him into
ministry. After finishing the program at Teen Challenge, Mead took Berean
School of the Bible classes in order to complete the requirements for the
certificate of ministry with the Assemblies of God, which he finished in July 2007.
In January 2008 he received his license to preach.
After accepting Jesus, Mead realized how important
everything was that he had lost, especially his marriage. He prayed and felt
like God was telling him his marriage would be restored. In 2003, Mead’s wife,
Sharon, also committed her life to Christ, and they were remarried.
“The Lord put my whole family back together,” Mead says.
Four years after he felt God calling him into ministry, Mead
was elected senior pastor of Gospel Lighthouse Church in Hudson Falls, N.Y.
Just a few weeks into his pastorate, he struggled with discouragement, lying on
the church floor weeping. He didn’t think he was qualified for the ministry
because of his inexperience and his messy past.
“I feel like God told me to go tell the people what He did
for me and that He will do it for them too,” Mead remembers.
He shared this mandate with his congregation and now calls
it the heartbeat of his church.
Mead now sees that God is using his past to touch people.
The congregation has grown from an average Sunday morning attendance of 100
people to 175 people since he was elected. After falling so far, Mead is now
able to use his struggle to accept people into his church from all walks of
“I’m just an average guy who got touched in a miraculous way
by Jesus Christ,” Mead says.
KELLY BEVILL served as an intern at the Pentecostal Evangel.
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