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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 deeper fall.

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 depression.

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 life.

“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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