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‘Like I took a bath on the inside,’ former ‘enforcer&#821

CLEARWATER, Fla. (BP)–They had just completed their first FAITH evangelism training session and they were looking for some “action.” They would find it — but not at the home they were planning to visit that Tuesday night in mid-January.
Instead, the visitation team from Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, Fla., found that God had made a divine appointment for them elsewhere — at the Highland Springs Motel and Marina.
Tucked in next to a bait shop on Clearwater Beach, behind a blue-and-white-painted fence, the row of one-room flats was home to Eddie Vallery and his children, Chris and Crystal.
They moved there after repeatedly being turned away from other places that couldn’t accommodate two children and a wheelchair. The Highland Springs owners were willing not only to rent to the family, but to build a ramp for Vallery, who has lost one leg to diabetes.
Before setting out for the motel, the Calvary team — Herb Dudley, Peggy McDonald and Jim Lancaster — had made a call to the man they were originally assigned to visit. He answered and told them he had just gone to bed. “That was hard for us to believe; it was only 7:55 p.m.,” remarked Lancaster, Calvary Baptist’s senior adult minister.
Sensing that his comrades would be disappointed if their first night of FAITH visitation turned out to be a “dry run,” Lancaster decided to take them to Vallery’s place.
As they drove to the motel, Lancaster told them about the man he was taking them to visit. Vallery had ridden with one of the most notorious motorcycle gangs in the nation for 25 years, serving as an “enforcer,” he had told Lancaster, then Vallery had performed a similar role for an organized crime syndicate, collecting for “speakeasies” and managing slot machines.
“I was the worst of the worst of the worst,” Vallery confessed in an interview later. Raised Catholic, he had once served as an altar boy but as a teenager, he recounted, he spent most of his time in and out of jail, reformatory or prison. At age 16, just before his 17th birthday, he was sentenced to four years of hard time in prison.
As an adult, he was a man who, as he put it, “could kill you and sit here and eat pizza while I watched you die.”
Taking the team to Vallery’s flat was not something Lancaster typically would have done, he said, explaining that he usually doesn’t make a second attempt with someone who has rejected his invitation to accept Jesus Christ. Lancaster and his wife, Irma, had visited Vallery and his children the week before Thanksgiving, 1998, and Lancaster had talked with Vallery about his need for salvation. Vallery told him he was close to making a decision, that it wouldn’t be long, but he was not ready to do it that night.
“I had heard this many times before,” Lancaster said, “and felt in my heart, sure, but would it ever happen?”
Vallery recalled that first visit as well. Members of Calvary Baptist already had reached out to Chris and Crystal, involving the children in the church’s “Kid’s World” and other activities. Vallery was appreciative of that. And the Lancasters’ friendliness wasn’t altogether lost on him either. But he was not ready to be pressed about his spiritual condition. He remembered thinking, “How do I ask this nice man to get out of here?”
But when Lancaster returned, and he and Dudley began to talk with Vallery again, they found him ready to respond.
“I didn’t share [the FAITH presentation] as I had done before,” Lancaster recounted. “I asked him head on, eye to eye, ‘Would you pray the sinner’s prayer with me and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and friend?’”
This time, Vallery said, “when he asked me that question, something clicked on inside.” He answered, “Why not?”
When he said that, Lancaster recalled, “I said, ‘Ed, you follow me in the prayer. I’ll take the lead and the three of us together will begin to pray.’
“I started out by saying, ‘Dear Lord Jesus …’ then dead silence. Perhaps he did not understand what I was trying to do. Once again I began to pray, ‘Dear Lord Jesus …’ silence again.
Lancaster tried a third time, “and all of a sudden, just as one would siphon with a hose from one bottle of water to another, Ed began to pray the prayer. Inside, I was jumping for joy, shouting and rejoicing as the prayer went on to consummate Ed’s commitment to Jesus Christ.”
Coming to Christ was not easy for Vallery, who had watched his wife and mother both die of cancer, caring for them at home as their flesh gradually deteriorated and fell from their bodies. Two of his children were stillborn and another child was lost to crib death at the age of six months.
“I kind of had a grudge against God,” he acknowledged.
An orphan raised by adoptive parents, Vallery had never allowed anyone to get close to him until he met his wife. “It was the first time I ever cared about or loved anybody,” he said.
During her extended illness, he said, “I crawled into drugs and crawled into a bottle of Scotch.”
After her death, he met a woman 16 years younger than himself — the mother of Chris and Crystal.
“We lived in a bottle of Scotch and a bag of cocaine,” Vallery recounted. The woman had been abused as a child, he said, and became abusive herself as a parent. Their relationship ended, and Vallery was given custody of the two children.
Those children were the motivation for him to try to straighten out his life, he said. “Without them being born, I’d be dead right now.”
Vallery took some steps to help himself, giving up the drugs and alcohol. And he began to think more about God. Then an old friend from Pittsburgh, Pa., Jerry Weick, got involved in church and began talking to Vallery about God. It was through Weick that Calvary Baptist learned about Vallery and his children and began ministering to them.
Though he knows “it was God working on me” all that time, Vallery admitted he struggled with the decision to put his old life behind and with overcoming the fear of what people who knew him would think if he turned to religion.
“It was easier for me to go into a confrontation to shoot someone than to open my heart to God,” he said.
Now that he has accepted Christ, Vallery — who was baptized on Valentine’s Day and recently shared his testimony at Calvary’s FAITH leaders’ banquet — said he has no desire to do the things he used to do. He has experienced forgiveness and cleansing from sin.
“I feel like I took a bath on the inside,” he said.
Salvation has brought a new sense of security, he added, and his family is closer. Chris and Crystal are doing better in school. Both were led to accept Christ by Calvary’s pastor, Bill Anderson, and FAITH team members Lynda Jacobson and Marlene Ney.
Calvary has offered him fellowship with “a group of people that I never thought I had a right to be around,” Vallery said. Alluding to his past associations, he said it was a new experience for him to have “somebody being nice to me without an agenda, like wanting me to kill someone or wanting dope.”
Before being saved, “I had nothing in this world to look forward to,” Vallery said. But now, “It can’t get nothin’ but better from this point.”

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  • Shari Schubert