At 16 years of age he sat with a gun to his head, ready to escape from all his misery. Now, looking back on that hopeless moment, Gemmel Scholz knows exactly what saved him and continues to save him
"It has been over 40 years since then but now it is easy to see the need for love which was severely lacking in my life at that point and was something only God would later fulfil in me," Gemmel explains.
Life was not easy back then. Gemmel's mother suffered a nervous breakdown after losing her third and fourth child. His parents separated when he was five and he and his sister were raised by their 60-year-old grandmother, who managed a dairy farm on her own during their high school years.
"The impact was a hard life of minimal social interaction with others outside of school, which lead to low self-esteem and a lot of emotional scarring," Gemmel recalls sadly.
Battling with the absence of his parents as a teenager, there were times when he drew close to taking his own life and found himself turning to alcohol and cigarettes for acceptance by friends.
Then, in his last year of high school, Gemmel answered an ad in the paper for a free Bible, hoping that he could find some answers to the struggles he faced in a Bible study with a local church.
He learnt that God loved him enough to come to Earth as Jesus and pay for his sins by dying on the cross. Yet Gemmel realises now that this was only head knowledge as it did not radically change his thoughts and actions because he did not genuinely surrender control of his life to God.
"I saw a downward progression away from God and I lacked direction, a sense of purpose, and fulfilment" he says.
After marrying Marjorie in 1978, Gemmel says the focus of their first seven years of marriage revolved around "partying, being entertained and having a good time".
Things changed with the birth of their first son. "God led me back to Him as I sought to bring my children up to know God," Gemmel says.
After a few months of attending church again, in the hopes of a fresh start, Gemmel says something happened to him during a Sunday evening service.
"I felt like my heart wanted to leap out of my chest. I walked forward at the end of the sermon to finally admit all of my guilt to God and confess that I was a sinner in need of God's forgiveness," he recalls.
"Since that day, God has been teaching me what it truly means for Him to be Lord over my life.
"God has given me a new life and ability to overcome those things which I struggle with personally. My life is better for not smoking, drinking alcohol or indulging in immoral behaviour and I would not have it any other way.
"I can testify to what it says in Romans chapter 8, verse 28. That even though life is easy or tough, good or bad, this promise is true: 'And we know that all things work together for good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose'."
Having made God a priority in his life, Gemmel admits that he still struggles and has had to live with the consequences of his past wrong decisions. "God gave my wife and I three sons and the consequences of our choices as parents and choices of our parents are playing out in their lives, even as we are responsible for the choices we make, God has the final say," he says.
"I am just glad that God has forgiven me for my past mistakes and the anguish and heartache of failure have helped me to understand God the Father's heart. How amazing is it that Jesus Christ is not only Creator and King, Lord and Saviour but also our very best friend."
"He continues to help me deal with sin, guilt, emotions and my mental state. No matter what happens in life I know from reading the Scriptures that God is never absent from me nor changing."
Since knowing Jesus, Gemmel says he has found an unending peace and joy in knowing that his eternal destiny is secured and that God's love for him will never end.•