Andy O'Reily's forehead had started to drip with sweat the second he stepped into the Frauenthal's spotlight. It wasn't just the heat of the light. He was about to confess thirty three years of addiction. He started out confessing an addiction to Ritalin. Once he tore apart a steel padlocked tackle box to drop a few extra tablets of this drug that produces brief euphoria. He in time overdosed on the childhood prescription for hyperactivity. His mother found him convulsing with Grand Mal seizures. Three days in the hospital saved his life.
Only five minutes on a single solitary chair alone on the Frauenthal stage had passed. Then, he started on his meteoric climb on the wings of rock and roll and radio, giving him unfettered access to whiskey and the life. It all crashed on the last birthday he called his birthday, his thirtieth. No one now really knows O'Reily's birthday other than Uncle Sam. He keeps an unused shotgun from his dad as a momento of that day seventeen or so years ago. But who's counting. After a brief stay in an inpatient residential facility in Grand Rapids, he's been sober for fourteen years and happily married for nine.
The man does rash business out of Gratitude. He throws an expo called Big Boy's Toys in February and throws the profits to a non-profit called No More Sidelines. Look for it at the Folkert Family Hub in Norton Shores. Tonight's conversation called The Truth raised thousands, all of which will support Nate Johnson's prisoner ministry. Buy a Positively Muskegon sticker so the guy has gas money.
O'Reily invited Nate Johnson to the stage to prove that the founder of Rebel Road had no monopoly on The Truth. Johnson came up on Mason Street, making him a soldier in the conflict between gangs on Wood and Mason Street. He came up hard. Once a bullet blasted his direction took the life of his best friend, who died in his arms, choking on blood. Muskegon judges gave him mercy until a final robbery at nineteen sent him to the state pen in Saint Louis for decades. The cocaine merchant and manufacturer he had become couldn't save him from hard time.
Doing hard time, he discovered the biblical teachings of that deacon of Dallas, T.D. Jakes. Johnson related to the idea that Noah and Moses had rap sheets just like him. He got out of jail early thanks to a sharp lawyer and a judge who listened to that sharp lawyer. A anonymous Detroiter sent him a better wardrobe than orange. He took a wife. He learned to pastor. He started a non-profit for prisoners re-entering civilian life.
Johnson turned over the microphone to Anne Donewald. Although Donewald grew up in a sound household with a father famous for his coaching of college sports, Donewald began exotic dancing and found herself drawn into the moral vacuum of Las Vegas. She discovered that the brothel had more monetary reward than the Gentleman's Club. She fueled her cocaine addiction by turning tricks. One of her regular clients served as a pastor. She conceived a second child and flubbed five appointments at the abortion clinic. She stopped making appointments and her son arrived months later. She began to have Bible verses repeat in her head, just book and chapter and verse. She started looking verses up. Then she started devouring Bible study courses. Then she started writing Bible study courses.
Recently, under the auspices of Eve's Angels, she raised half a million dollars to set aside a Grand Rapids home to house survivors of sexual trafficking. She wrote a book with a ghost writer, Dancing for the Devil. Major publisher Simon & Schuster put it on the he shelves of Barnes and Noble. In a moment of generosity, she asked Andy O'Reily to redirect her share. Nate Johnson's ministry received all of the night's fund raising efforts.
It was all kind of raw. Both Johnson and Donewald reminded me of World Wrestling Federation personalities rocking the microphone. When the two didn't make me think of Television evangelists. O'Reily claims he'll bring back the event next year. Let's hope he keeps The Truth raw and relevant in 2017.
Painting by Niagara, who paints the Truth.