Pulled from the Pit


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

Trust and Obey


It won't always be easy and being a follower of Jesus doesn't mean I am problem free. I have made so much progress over the last year, but I still struggle. The difference now is I am learning to turn to Him when I have my hard days.

There was a hymn I grew up singing in church called Trust and Obey. The chorus goes, "Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  Sounds easy enough. Yet as I look back at what has happened in my life over the last eight years, the words have such a different meaning for me now. Now I really understand what they mean. Sometimes trusting and obeying can be easy. Sometimes it's hard and painful and tiresome.  We live in a society where you can have just about anything that our heart desires, but what if what our heart’s desire is not what God desires for us?  What happens then? Do we still trust? Do we still obey?

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In May of 2008, in a span of four days, my father passed away suddenly with no warning, and my mother-in-law who was suffering from terminal cancer also passed away. Their funerals were three days apart. Everything was different; our lives had been shattered and I started to spiral out of control. My mom had died when I was 21, just two months shy of my first wedding anniversary and now this. God had taken away too much and I was mad.  There was no more trust; all I felt was anger and despair. I tried to put on a brave face, but inside I was a mess.  Depression, anxiety and anger -so much anger.  I was on so much medication to cope with my emotions I could barely function. Did I still trust? Did I still believe in the things I had learned growing up in a Christian family and in the church?  Did I still want to obey?  That frame of mind caused me to be addicted to some of the medications I had been prescribed to help me deal with all that was going on in my life. I just wanted to stop hurting. I was a mess and all the medications only made things worse.  I could only focus on my pain and how I felt.

I had been attending Apex for a while. Even though I was mad at God, I knew deep down in my heart  I needed to be there. I would come and sit in the balcony, listen to the sermons, feel convicted for a while and then fall back into living a life filled with fear and anxiety and anger. Despite not knowing what I really believed, something kept drawing me there. I even got involved in a house church and got to the point where I managed to stop taking the medications on a full time basis. I just used them as a crutch when I felt like I really needed it. Why deal with all of the pain and hurt, if you can just pop a pill and forget about it.

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Early last year I learned about a summer mission trip to Cancun that Apex was leading. I had spoken with Rita Haworth and soon my daughter and I were signed up to go on the trip. After we paid our deposits, I started to panic.  What had I done? How would I manage my anxiety? What if I had a total meltdown in front of people I didn't know?  I didn't want anyone to know what was going on in my life. I decided it was not such a good idea to go on the trip and I told this to Rita. She looked at me and smiled and said, "Well you already paid your deposit, so it's too late. Guess you will just have to go."  I didn't know how to respond. I said, “OK” and walked away. Looking back, I now know Rita was the push that I needed.  She believed in me, but most importantly God believed in me and knew what I needed.

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We left for Mexico on July 19th and I didn't know Rita well at all, but we soon became great friends. She was such an encouragement to me when I would get nervous or wonder what the heck I had gotten myself into. It was hard and painful and emotionally draining being there, but the difference was I was crying about the things I was seeing and experiencing. It wasn't about me and my pain, I was thinking about something other than myself.  At the end of the week, I was so thankful for the experience and through God's grace and mercy, I not only made it through the week in Cancun, but my daughter and I ended up going the very next week to Monterrey because of some spots on that trip opening up at the last minute.  When I got home, I realized I had been able to do something I thought was impossible.  I spent two weeks way out of my comfort zone and I had done it without medication. My heart was beginning to heal. I came back with such an appreciation for all the things God had given me, instead of what had been taken away.

This summer I served in India and went back to serve another week in Cancun.  I know there will always be challenges and struggles, but I feel I am finally going in the right direction. Now, when I sing Trust and Obey, I know I have to trust God’s plan for my life. I must continually trust God’s plan is what's best for me. It won't always be easy and being a follower of Jesus doesn't mean I am problem free.  I have made so much progress over the last year, but I still struggle.  The difference now is I am learning to turn to Him when I have my hard days. With God's help I have learned to deal with things for the most part without any medication.

I would trade all the hard times for the life I have now, because I know it's my story; it's how things are supposed to be and I'm ok with it.



Story Collaboration by  Joanie Wolfe, Emily Ogden, and Jennifer Ward

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

In a Child's Eyes


This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived.

It was four years before I re-entered clinical medicine. I had graduated medical school and entered a family medicine residency program all while being a part of the Air Force. Over the span of two years my world was rocked by severe depression and while I knew that God was the reason I was still alive, my perspective was wholeheartedly focused on my little kingdom rather than His much larger one. I completed 32 months of the 36 month residency before the depression incapacitated me. I eventually went through an Air Force medical board, and was medically retired from the Air Force. Recovery was a long and tedious process for both my husband and me.

 After I was able to take up the mantle of clinical medicine again, I realized that I needed a change. I had grown weary of reading in the New England Journal of Medicine about the 60- or 70-something year old person with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. I thought to myself, “I want to try to prevent these diseases.”  So I found myself drawn to pediatrics. God used this time to do instrumental work on my heart. Before I restarted residency, I was blessed to be part of a Bible-believing church in Centerville, and was involved in a wonderful ministry called Grace Works—a ministry for children with special needs. It was here where God softened a spot in my heart for these children and their families. My favorite program was Date Nite, a night held once a month to take care of special needs kids so their parents could have a night out for themselves.

 When applying for pediatric residency, I listed Dayton Children’s Medical Center at the top of my list, because my husband and I already lived in the area, and they have a tremendous program. I had mixed feelings when I learned on “Match Day,” when Residency Match released its results, that I had matched at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. It was not an unfamiliar place—32 years prior, I was born there. My family still lived nearby. I would be going “home” to live for the first time in 15 years; but my husband could not go with me. He still had one more year in his Air Force emergency medicine residency at the Wright-Patterson Base. We believed that God had this in His hands and had a plan for me in Illinois. True trust in the Lord was starting to take permanent residence in our hearts.

God gave me a clear vision to start a Date Nite program in Oak Lawn. He provided the means and opened door after door to achieve this hope. By the time I graduated the residency program, the Date Nite Respite Project was supporting up to 30 special needs children at each event, allowing their parents and caregivers a night out knowing their children were in good hands. God provided enough volunteers every time. The joy of serving God’s precious children and their families in this capacity was indescribable. I began to see how God wanted me to use my gifts as a pediatrician to work for His Kingdom. While working in private practice in Springfield, I had many opportunities to show God’s love and compassion to families who were in need, whether that need was financial, emotional or spiritual. I was able to pray with teenagers, moms of small children, and my staff. This was not the mission field of Guatemalan villages or some remote, third world country. But this was where God placed me, and where He gave me opportunities to show the love of Christ to His hurting and needy people.

This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived. My husband is still in the Air Force and received an assignment to be the commander of a medical squadron in Japan.  I planned to go with him and minister to the people in Japan. We were very excited about the opportunity and felt God’s hand moving in it. I gave notice that May 31, 2014 would be my last day at the Springfield office. I had to prepare to move overseas. But God had a different plan in mind. Because of my history with depression the Air Force denied me clearance as a dependent in Japan. So we stayed in Dayton. Perhaps for another year or only a few months. Wherever God opens doors we will gladly go.

While I find myself without a typical job, but with plenty to do. God gave me a husband in 2001, and we have been through quite a bit already, but now I can focus on serving him for the glory of God.  I can also put more efforts into serving at Kiser Public School in Old North Dayton with my pediatric skills. When I first stepped foot into the building, it was love at first sight. Randy Chestnut, pastor of Hope Community Church, partnered with Apex to serve there, and he jokes that I caught the Kiser fever. Right now, only God knows if I will re-enter the “traditional” workforce as a pediatrician. Perhaps that is where He will have me. Or perhaps not. I may work for His Kingdom in a less traditional way, from the American cultural perspective. I now am beginning to understand and obey God’s call to surrender it all to Him: my marriage, my job, my skills, my free time, my soul, my everything.


Author: Leanne Mihata as told by Robin Zastrow

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