Fear of death and hurt from broken relationships with his fathers caused Daron Crothers to turn back to his roots.
"Dad left when I was only four and he thought that the best way to help the situation was to sever communication altogether and all connection to us," Daron recalls sadly. "I felt completely abandoned."
Another man soon entered his mom's life and eventually became his step-father.
"Like many other ex-Vietnam veterans, he'd come back from the war suffering from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome which caused many challenges to our family," Daron explains.
"Things could change for my step-dad in an instant. Things would be kind of normal and then, all of a sudden, it would be like a war zone."
These experiences soon challenged Daron's own relationships with people and his perception of God.
"I'd grown up with some experience in a traditional church but I always thought God was an angry father like my step-dad," Daron confesses. "I thought if I slipped up God would be out to get me."
Despite counselling, when he turned 18 his life began to spiral out of control.
"I had so many fears. I had fears about relationships and a lot of fear about death."
By the age of 22, he knew things had to change and after a bad break-up he was prompted to take action.
"It set me on a course of trying to work out what to do and, the funny thing was, I turned back to my roots to search for God again," he says.
Daron started attending a local church and was introduced to a friendly Christian couple who offered to lead him through a six-week Christianity Explained course.
"By the end of week five of the course I had begun to consume the Word of God and read more and more of it. I could see there was something very true about this," he recalls.
At that point Daron knew it was not just enough to know about God but that he needed to make his own personal decision and commitment to following Jesus.
"There was a moment where I realized exactly what Jesus had done for me by dying on the cross and then rising from the dead and I thought, if He has done that then I better commit my life to Him in response," he says.
He came back for the last session eager to pray with his friends, asking God for forgiveness for his past mistakes and accepting God's undeserved love which is offered through Jesus.
"Afterwards the guy said to me, 'You know, now that you follow Jesus and have given your life to him, you can say quite confidently that you have eternal life'," Daron recalls.
"In that moment God did something in me. There's that scripture in 1 John chapter 4, verse 18, which says, 'There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear' and that describes my experience exactly. I went from fearing death in one moment and then in the next I didn't because of God's love."
Over the following six months Daron says God began addressing the things he knew were messed up in his life and he started relating to people better.
After reading Jesus' parable of the lost son from Luke chapter 15, Daron says God showed him that his past perception of God as an angry father was far from the truth.
"When I read that, it was like God was saying 'you're the son, but I'm the Father'," he says.
"He was showing me that this is how it has always been – the father waits at the gate and then runs to his child and lovingly embraces him when he returns, despite his rebellion."
"This understanding actually helped to restore my relationships with my two fathers. And for me as a father today, I am now writing a new legacy for my children that has God first and has God as the Father."
Since discovering the power of God's love, Daron has been motivated in sharing his faith with others through the role of a mission and church planting pastor.
"I have a real passion for taking the good news that we have a great Father, a loving Father in heaven, to as many people as I can." •