I survived my childhood and teenage years, so what would God have for me next? I had no concept of what love was, thought this world was simply ‘survival of the fittest’ and was literally living from day-to-day. As a young man in my 20’s, I had more baggage than Delta, American and United combined. How could God ever love or possibly use a fool like me?
My name is Jay Buinicky. I am an Apex network elder, have been a follower of Christ for a little over 30 years now and this is my story of redemption. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.
I grew up just north of New York City in a very large, ethnic family. My father was Lithuanian, my mother Italian and I had eight siblings, one brother and seven sisters.
My parents were professing Catholics, probably because of their ethnicity, but that is where it ended. My father was not a drunk, but he was an abuser. He beat my brother and me almost daily, beat my mother with regularity and sexually abused many of my sisters. The latter part I didn't even find out until just a few years ago after my sisters confessed. My family to this day is dysfunctional at best. Many of my siblings and my mother have lingering mental and emotional issues.
When I finally grew in height and weight, the beatings stopped. I was now bigger than my father at the age of 16 or so. His cowardice was revealed. I was a smart kid, took college-prep classes in school and was an Honor student. Yet I was socially awkward, felt alone and confused and was simply surviving life. I began hanging out on the streets with some of my cronies, and that soon turned into a ‘gang’ of sorts. We drank, went looking for trouble and often found it. Racial tensions were high at that time and we took full advantage of that. Our group had no direction; we were self-serving, violent and often foolish. But now I was now a part of something that felt like a family. I invested in the group and even rose to leadership developing a reputation for being ‘crazy Johnny B.’ This of course led to trouble with law enforcement officials. They knew me well and tracked my movements. After my first arrest at the age of 18, it was evident I was on the wrong path. At that point it was actually my father that suggested I join the military to get away from NY and this path that would eventually lead to a prison cell. How’s that for irony?
I joined the United States Air Force at the age of 19, and did not look back. My first duty assignment was in Washington State where I met my lovely wife. I had baggage galore, was a psychological mess and was immature, but I knew real beauty when I saw it! We married young, had children right away and the troubles started. We didn’t have Christ; I didn’t know how to truly love or lead and we were now parents to boot. Not a recipe for success in anyone’s book.
After my marriage and our lives nearly fell apart several times, we ended up in California. Through a series of crazy events, the AF actually sent me there by mistake. It turned out there wasn't a 'critical need' for weather techs like they said. My commander welcomed me anyway after a few phone calls and raised voices from behind a closed-door. This was a pretty BIG mistake the Air Force had just made…was this a God thing?
I felt very successful from a worldly perspective, even with the marriage issues, but had this nagging feeling I was missing something. It was, of course, the Holy Spirit’s prodding. Now because I was a weather technician I had to go on the roof of the weather station to look at the sky recording weather data on an hourly basis. While assigned there I also met a strange, but funny guy in our weather flight by the name of Pat. He was an administrator for our commander, had a dry sense of humor and we hit it off pretty well. We often talked about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and sports trivia. He even threw God in the mix every now and then. I was cool with that until one specific day.
He followed me up on the roof during my hourly, and began to ask questions about God again. Eventually he asked me, “So if you were to fall off this roof right now, break your neck and die where would you go – heaven or hell?” I couldn't believe he was asking me this. Now, I believed, as any reasonable person would, that if you did more good in your life than bad – you were in. And I wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but I knew I had WAY more bad than good. But I wasn’t going to tell my new friend this though. So I enthusiastically said, “Well, it’s kind of close Pat, but I think I’m in!” He looked at me, and began to laugh. When I stared back at him, he laughed harder…so I began to laugh too! Then he ended the laugh-fest abruptly with, “Well I just want you to know that if there’s any doubt about where you think you’re going to go, you’re probably going to hell.” Then he turned around and went back down the stairs. I was confused, hurt and angry at the same time. I was completely disheveled. Now as God (or Pat) had worked it out, it was my last weather observation of the day and I was going on a two day break. When I came back down the stairs I recorded the data then went after him. He was going over a report with our commander in his office. They both looked at me, and Pat just smiled at me when our commander asked what I needed. “Nothing important,” I replied. I was fuming.
It took me the whole two days to calm down. I eventually ended up at, “What does he know that I don’t? He doesn’t even know me that well…does he?” When I came back to work, I ran into Pat...literally. It happened in the hallway of the weather station. He looked both startled and afraid, asking, “Well are you going to hit me or are do you want to talk?” We talked…for the rest of that day. He presented the Gospel to me. Several weeks later, after a few more proddings from God, a lot of hard thinking, and reading an amplified tract, I got on my knees and accepted Christ into my heart. I surrendered my life to the King of Kings. And for the first time in my life I felt truly free and not alone any more.
Life has been very interesting ever since, with many stories along the way, but those life stories are for another time. To this day, Christ continues to mold and shape me more into his image and away from my own. I praise him daily for this. I certainly have had bumps along the way, some the size of Mt. Everest, but for the second time in my life I haven’t looked back. I like to share my story, because it is a love story.
In reflection, I was truly a broken vessel in more ways than one. I was in the pit of despair and hopelessness and God pulled me out. He brought me to California, courtesy of the Air Force’s blunder, where I met Pat the unorthodox presenter of the Gospel. (Don’t worry. It’s okay if I talk about Pat like that. He’d be the first to tell you it was true. And yes, we are friends to this day.) You see, God knew just what I needed and how I needed to hear it and from whom. He miraculously brought it all together. And by the way, there are more amazing details to my redemptive story as well…just not enough time to share all of them here and now.
I wanted to simply tell you that God loves us abundantly, unconditionally and will go to great lengths to rescue us. I am a living example of this.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for ‘listening’ to my story. Each of us has one. Some are more dramatic than others, but the real beauty is that they are all love stories. I simply want to thank God for the love, grace and mercy he extends to us each and every day. I ask him for guidance,wisdom, and through him the strength to be obedient every day, not missing opportunities along the way. I look forward to spending an eternity with him…and you.
In Christ, Jay
Author: Jay Buinicky