Kevin Thompson: Finding a Reason to Live
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
At the age of 15, Kevin Thompson had the word ‘hell’ tattooed on his shoulder.
“Basically, that was my definition of the world when I was 15,” he said. “That’s what I thought life was about. That’s what I knew my life was specifically.”
Kevin was born the third of six children. His father left when Kevin was just five and his oldest brother, Tony, tried to help their mother raise the younger kids.
“My oldest brother, Tony, taught us to survive by fighting. It was nothing for us to physically hurt each other. He picked my brother, Dennis, up and threw him out the window and went out behind him,” Kevin said.
When Kevin was a teenager, Tony committed suicide. A few years later, Dennis was killed in a car accident.
“My mom moved a lot,” Kevin said. “We moved 30 or 40 times within my grade school years. We didn’t really have any home.”
After high school, Kevin joined the service, then returned to Iowa, where he married Debbie. Three children followed in rapid succession. Jobs were hard to come by, though, and the couple struggled to make ends meet. Then came the day Kevin will never forget: February 11, 1986. He was frustrated that his car wouldn’t start that morning, so he went back to bed.
“I fell asleep. And I woke up to screaming,” he said. “I could hear Debbie screaming my name and it was a sound that I had never heard before. There was terror in her voice that I’d never heard before.”
A fire had broken out in the Thompsons’ trailer while they slept. Within minutes, their home was an inferno.
“I yelled for Debbie to grab my youngest boy Russell out of the crib,” he said. “When I turned to go into the hallway, the walls were consumed with flames. There was a wall of flame in front of me from floor to ceiling. And I could hear my boys on the other side of the wall of flames yelling for their daddy.”
Kevin knew the only way he could save his children was to try to rescue them from the other side of the house.
“I opened the door to go around to the kitchen so I could come in from behind my boys and get them. And when I opened the door, the flames pushed through the hallway and exploded and pushed me out the door and threw my wife Debbie and my son back into the bedroom,” he said.
Kevin made several more attempts to get back in the house, but he was blocked at every turn.
“A couple of people had stopped and they were yelling,” Kevin said. “I turned around and yelled to them that my family was in the trailer and I needed help to get them out. And I tried going back into the trailer and I opened the door to the kitchen and I started to run in and they grabbed me and pulled me out. They put me in a car. I fought with them, trying to get away from them; but they put me in a car, and they started to drive me away to the hospital. As they drove me away, I looked back and I saw the trailer falling. I saw the walls falling in on the trailer.”
With the only people in the world that he loved now gone, Kevin lost the will to live.
“I was so angry with God that I just wanted to die. That was my primary thought,” he said. “Seconds into it, I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I went back into the trailer. I wanted to go back into the trailer. I wanted to die.”
After he buried his family, Kevin got on his motorcycle and began riding.
“I tried drinking. I tried drugs. I tried sex. I tried riding my motorcycle all hours of the day. And I tried making God so angry with me that He would kill me,” Kevin said. “I used to be able to vent my anger by hitting things. We grew up hitting things. I would hit on walls until I realized that I had to fix the walls. Then I decided to go out to the woods and beat on trees.”
When nothing else satisfied him, Kevin became a workaholic. One day one of his customers caught his eye.
“I went into Borders Bookstore and saw him walking towards me. He had a name tag on, so I knew he worked there,” Judi said. “And as he got near me, he looked at me and he just said, ‘Hi there,’ and just kept right on walking. But it was like something passed between me and him; and my heart said, ‘Oh, my, that’s the one.’”
Although he tried to push her away, Kevin and Judi fell in love and were married. They moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. At the insistence of Judi’s father, Kevin began attending church, but his heart wasn’t in it.
“The more He put His arms around me, the more I fought and the more I hated Him,” Kevin said.
One cold evening in February of 2006, Kevin was stoking a fire in his back yard. He realized the next day was the 20th anniversary of the fire, and memories of that day flooded in. Only this time, instead of shaking his fist at God, he bowed his head and asked God to take the pain away and to forgive him of his past.
“He put His arms around me and I felt that hug that He’d been giving me for so many years. I felt that love that He’d tried giving me,” Kevin said. “I felt Jesus. And I said, ‘I will give you my life. I will give you my life – everything I have, I will give to you.’ I was looking out at my yard and my wife and my dogs and the view that I had. And I saw a beauty in everything. I saw a presence of God in everything around me. I felt a peace so deep inside of me that I never thought that I would experience.”
Today, Kevin spends time talking to people on the streets of Eureka Springs. He is also involved with the Jericho Riders motorcycle ministry; they travel the country sharing the gospel. Kevin remembers the years he spent angry at God.
“In my trying to cause Him pain, I didn’t recognize that I had already caused Him pain. He had already felt every pain that I ever knew. He knew, before I knew, the pain that would be there from losing my family,” Kevin said. “He gave me that peace and the recognition that I needed to ask for forgiveness and say I’m sorry. And when God put his arms around me and I felt that peace, I knew that He would never take it away.” Can God change your life?
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