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Cleanse Me, Mold Me,

Deena Bartel-Wagner

08/30/2008

inside_asi_fall_08_page_12_image_0001Many Christians often believe they are immune to the seduction of the world. It’s unthinkable that they could turn away from all they know and believe. But for Ron and Marty Kowalkowski the unthinkable became a reality.

“It was the little openings that the devil was looking for in our lives,” says Ron. “Without even realizing what was happening, we drifted from God for 25 years.”

Following God’s leading Ron and Marty moved from South Lancaster, Massachusetts to Vermont in 1969. There they settled into a busy life of running a thriving printing business and raising three daughters.

“We were heavily involved in church activities, especially with our daughters,” says Marty. “We attended campmeetings and were active in the Central Vermont Seventh-day Adventist School.” Everything seemed to be running smoothly, and Ron and Marty thought themselves content. But there were serious changes on the horizon.

“We began to join social clubs in the area,” recalls Ron. “As a part of being members of the clubs, we began to be invited to parties.” The more parties and events they attended, the more the allure of another lifestyle began to attract Ron and Marty.

Eventually, both Marty and Ron began drinking socially. Their lives became consumed with socializing and partying as they continued to run their business. Yet despite their new lifestyle, Ron describes how they never opened their business on Sabbath.

For 25 years they would wander through the world’s charms and pleasures, seeking something they didn’t find.

Along with the drinking, Ron began to gamble. At first it was just another social outlet, but eventually he became seriously addicted.

After years of this lifestyle, the toll on Ron’s health began to mount. “My dad and uncle both died in their 40s, and I was well on my way to following them,” says Ron. “I began to have serious health issues but couldn’t seem to get things under control.”

During a medical exam, Ron was informed he needed an angioplasty because his arteries were ninety percent blocked. “I had the procedure done, but it wasn’t successful,” he recalls.

At this point, a cascading series of health problems almost took Ron’s life. “I was pretty much an upbeat guy and could face anything,” he says. “Then I was faced with one crisis after another.”

With his arteries almost totally blocked, Ron also discovered he needed emergency surgery for an obstruction in his intestines. Following the surgery, he became completely septic; and not one doctor wanted to deal with his case. Finally a second surgery was scheduled, and Ron’s body had to endure another crisis.

“The doctors came and told me that during the surgery, Ron’s heart stopped,” says Marty. “When they resuscitated him, he suffered a stroke. To top it all off, he needed to have a colostomy.”

After recovering from the surgeries and eventually having his colostomy reversed, Ron fell into a deep depression. “I couldn’t shake it and began drinking even more heavily,” he admits. “But somewhere in the back of my mind there was a kernel of thought that began to grow.”

Ron remembered hearing that exercise was a good way to overcome depression. “I knew that exercise helped with endorphins and depression,” he says. “So I decided that I would work out on a treadmill every day.” The exercise worked. Ron began losing weight and feeling better. Over a period of three or four years, people noticed a change in him and would comment on how good he was looking.

Privately, however, Ron was truly at his lowest. “I had come to the point where I thought I’d never be in heaven,” says Ron. “I’d tried to give up the alcohol but couldn’t, and it seemed that there truly was no hope for me.”

Yet while Ron thought there was no hope, God had other plans. One morning, during a visit to their second home in Palm Beach, Florida, Ron felt the urge to pray. So he decided to ask God to take the desire for drinking away from him. “I suddenly heard a voice that said, ‘Don’t worry about the alcohol,’” says Ron.

Ron and Marty had a regular cocktail hour beginning at 4:30 pm. “I knew something had happened when Ron didn’t have a drink,” says Marty. “Later Ron said he needed to talk to me. I didn’t believe that he was going to make a change. He’d tried it before and always went back to the drinking.”

Marty watched him closely for several months. “In the past when Ron would quit drinking, he was unbearable to live with,” she recalls. “The withdrawal from the alcohol took its toll, and I was always relieved when he would start drinking again.”

But this time the change was different. Ron even went back to church. And that first Sabbath back was communion Sabbath. “A man named Clifford washed my feet that morning,” says Ron. “In the past when I was active in church, I was always trying to [obey] the rules, but I had never fallen in love with Jesus.”

That communion Sabbath was the turning point in Ron’s life. He felt something he had never experienced before—Ron knew he’d been truly forgiven.

As soon as Ron made the decision to give his life back to God, the devil began to work on him. “I remember the feelings of inadequacy concerning my marriage and the hold that gambling, alcohol and socializing held on my life,” says Ron. “The devil really attacked me by putting doubts in my mind in all of these areas.”

Marty continued to drink and party with her friends. She didn’t think that Ron’s “conversion” was going to last. When six months had passed, she knew he truly had changed. It was then that Marty also recommitted her life to Christ.

“As I began to witness to others, I had a great fear that a secret that I’d held close would be discovered,” says Ron. “It was another area [where] the devil was able to put doubts in my mind—I couldn’t read or spell well even though I’d become the president of a multi-million-dollar company.”

Ron decided to plead with Jesus for another miracle in his life. “I have to know His Word, and the only way to know it is to read it,” says Ron. God answered that plea, and for the last one and a half years Ron has been reading non-stop.

Ron and Marty’s desire to tell others about Jesus begins with a simple daily prayer: “Cleanse me, mold me, prepare me. I want to be a witness. Put people in my life that I can witness to today.”

And God has been faithful, continually leading them to people who need to know the love of Jesus; the same love that changed Ron and Marty just a short time ago.