Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Returning Home

Story by Valerie Morikone

Mountain View Conference member Charles Kilgore’s story involves many broken pieces, yet, throughout, God’s hand was on his life and brought about his return to the Seventh-day Adventist church of his childhood.

Growing up in Charleston, W.Va., I attended Charleston Junior Academy, an Adventist elementary school. At the age of 11, I was baptized by Pastor Kenneth Taylor of the Charleston church, following a series of meetings held by Joe Crews. School friends, loving teachers, church fellowship and the Pathfinder club positively impacted my life, yet there was no Christian influence at home.

As I transitioned to public school, I was immediately impacted by poor influences throughout middle school and one year of high school, resulting in bad substance abuse choices. By the age of 15, I was an alcoholic.

Moving to Florida with hopes of continuing high school, I dropped out after three days, took a job and partied heavily.

With poor choices deeply impacting my teenage life, and working in construction, where I was surrounded by others who also suffered from addictions, my mother brought me back to West Virginia. Several years after I returned, my atheist stepfather shot and killed himself.

I later moved to the Carolinas to work with my middle brother, Jim. I walked around with plenty of cash in my pocket but an empty heart. People around me used harder drugs, and I, a heavy drinker, was unhappy with my life. One night, sitting on my bed with a gun in my hand, I had thoughts of ending my life. I remembered my stepfather’s death and told myself, No way! There is something better.

Quitting my job and emptying my apartment, I headed to Virginia, where my older brother, Bill, was employed at Shenandoah Valley Academy in New Market, Va. Picking up a motel Bible during the trip, I read the passage, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And that’s all it took. I was brought to my knees as I cried out to God.

The Holy Spirit, combined with Bill’s prayers for my conversion, led me back to an Adventist environment, where I attended the New Market church on the academy’s campus. The next year was life-changing, as I received my GED, was rebaptized and began ministerial studies at Southern Missionary College (Tenn.). Graduating in 1993, I went to Korea as a student missionary to teach English and Bible.

Unfortunately, while I was there, I met a woman who reintroduced me to my old alcohol habits, resulting in the loss of my teaching position. Eventually I married her and taught nine years in various teaching positions at public institutions. One day I returned home from work to find my wife dead on the floor. The following year I received news that my brother Jim, the biggest mentor and influence in my life, had died. I was devasted.

I spent 17 years in Korea, and taught more than 10,000 Koreans—ages 5–72—to speak English, but Jim’s death was a major catalyst to heavier drinking. Again, I decided I had enough of this life. I told God, however, that if He would provide me with a way back to the United States, I would return to Him. In 2010 I returned permanently to West Virginia and quit drinking.

In 2019, my brother Bill contacted Pastor Joel Klimkewicz of the Charleston church, who, in turn, lovingly guided me back to church. In 2020 I celebrated 10 years of sobriety, and, by profession of faith, was re-established as a member of the Charleston family, the same church I was a member of more than 45 years earlier.

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