Paul Holway’s Testimony
A Life Of Redemption
I was born and raised in a Christian home in Gunnison, Colorado. I was the middle child of three. We attended church every Sunday and I learned about God and read all the stories in children’s church, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus and didn’t truly know Him as my Savior.
I had what on the outside looked like a normal childhood. I had two parents at home, an older sibling and a younger sister. There was something broken inside me that caused me to see things and feel things in the extreme. My dad was very involved at church being a devout Christian. I would see him praying a lot in the mornings when I got up. He was very devoted to God. In my mind, it seemed like he was gone a lot…either at work or at church. I had this off belief that God was taking his time away from his family and I began to resent God for that. Even though my dad raised us the best he knew and loved us, for whatever reason, the bad things are what I held on to.
My mom would take us out a lot. If my dad was working on a weekend, she would load us all up and take us shopping or hiking or some kind of activity. She was also the disciplinarian in the home. At the ages of 10-12 or so, I felt like I was always in trouble. When we got spanked, there were times that it left bruises or welts. Because of those times and my over exaggerated view of things and emotions, a fear of my mom grew in me. Even though it wasn't that bad when I look back now, at the time, I was really scared. I don't know to this day what was wrong inside of me that caused me so much fear and anger and somewhere in there, a disconnect mentally and emotionally from my family. I know now that both parents loved us the same and did the best they knew how.
On the outside, I appeared to be a part of a happy family that looked like we “had it all together”. On the inside, I was crying out for help! I started acting out in school and getting sent to the principal’s office. When I was around 10 yrs old, I was small kid. I got bullied a lot and pushed around in school. I turned everything inward... all the hurt, anger, and frustrations of not being able to defend myself. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to, so I stuffed all those feelings inside. My way of feeling any kind of power and control was to be very abusive to animals. They couldn’t defend themselves any more than I could. I chose to hurt and sometimes kill animals out of pure rage!
There were many times that I cursed God! I felt like He divided our family. I hated Him for taking so much of my dad's time. I didn’t really understand or know who God was. As the middle child, I felt left out. My older sibling could do more because he was older and my sister got away with more and got all the attention because she was the baby. What about me… where do I belong??? How do I fit in this family??? I began to see myself as a looser. I was short and fat. I didn’t have very many friends. I always seemed to be in trouble even though I knew what the consequences would be.
My self-hatred became stronger and stronger. I began to think about ways I could kill myself. When the school bus dropped us off, I would think about lying under the tire so it would run me over or we would go rock climbing, I would stand at the edge of the cliff and think about jumping and just ending it all. I had no sense of God or that he had His hand on me the entire time protecting me. He put enough fear of death in me that I never attempted suicide. I didn’t know, but God had plans for me…it wasn’t my time to go.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before
one of them came to be.
On November, 17th 1988, I was 12 years old. I had become so dark and cold inside. I looked at people as objects, no longer as human beings. I had been in a lot of trouble at school that day and knew I would be in so much trouble when my mom got home. On the bus ride home, I thought about any way possible to avoid the punishment I had coming. Whatever it was inside that was messed up was causing so much fear and anxiety about facing my mom. I thought about running away, but I had nowhere to go. My conclusion was to shoot my little sister. In my mind, that would keep everyone from punishing me anymore. They'd all be afraid of me then. I loaded my dad’s hunting rifle and went into my sister’s room. She was playing and when she saw me, she asked what I was doing and I didn’t say anything. She didn’t even see the gun. I pointed it at her and pulled the trigger and shot her. My mom and I followed the ambulance and all she kept saying was “why did you do it?” and to pray that she lives. She died on the way to the hospital. She was 8 years old.
That night I was put in county jail. My dad spent the night in my cell with me so I wouldn’t be alone. I was sentenced to juvenile life (5 years). From that moment on, my heart hardened more and my hate for life grew. Later on, my mom told me that on that day when she looked me in the eye, there was something evil there…it wasn’t her son. The next time she saw me, it was gone. My parents never stopped praying for me. Our church never stopped praying for me and my family. Even in confinement, God was there with me. I was sent to the state hospital in Pueblo, Co which was about three hours away from my family. One day a woman showed up to visit me that I had never seen before. She gave me a bible and would pray with me. She visited a couple times a month. God was beginning to plant that seed in me that would eventually mature and change my life.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be
with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
As I continued growing up in jail, I faced a lot of trials. I was 12 years old locked up with 14-17 year old kids. I had to mentally grow up fast. I learned to keep to myself and stay quiet. If I blended into the background, I wouldn’t be noticed. I had no parents in lockup, so I had to figure things out on my own. I was being raised by staff that could care less, and a bunch of delinquent kids. I had so much counseling that I couldn’t stand it anymore. I quickly learned to say what the counselors wanted to hear and they’d be easier on me.
I still had so many things stirring inside of me un-dealt with. I began to hurt myself by hitting walls and making eraser burns on my hands and arms. I had so much pain, grief, and hatred inside. I felt better temporarily when I punished myself. I deserved to hurt. God still never left me. He continually had people I didn’t know visit me and share their faith.
When I was 16, I had one year left to serve. I was allowed to have a guitar and I started teaching myself how to play. This was the last place I was moved to while serving my sentence. My plan when I got out was to become a biker, hang out in bars, and get into fights. That’s all I wanted. I still had no regard for human life. There was a group of bikers (Christian Motorcyclist Association) that came to the jail once a month for bible studies. God used these men and women to continue watering that seed He had planted earlier on.
Once I got out, I went back home to start 12th grade in high school. It was a very difficult transition. I moved back into the house with my parents that I killed my sister in. I didn’t feel like I belonged there. They were my parents, but I didn’t know them as my parents. Before school started, I had to meet with the school counselor and they were setting up a game plan for me to succeed. Right away, I got hooked up with some of my old friends. I started drinking and smoking weed with them because they were the people that accepted me. I didn’t belong in any other groups of people. I started taking speed at the same time I was getting high so I wouldn’t crash. I would wake up the next day with my heart just pounding in my chest like it was going to explode. We lived 7 miles outside of town and there were so many nights I didn’t know how I made it home without getting into an accident. God kept my car on the road every time. God and God alone got me home safely. There is no other way that could’ve happened. There were a lot of corners with snow and ice packed roads a lot of times. People have died on that road, but beyond my understanding at the time, God protected me.
I attempted to venture into witchcraft…I tried using a Ouija board. God kept me from being able to use it. I tried using it with friends…it didn’t work. Tried it by myself…still didn’t work. Even my own brother couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t work when I touched it. Even though my life was drenched in sin, God continued to protect me. At the time, I couldn’t see it. I still hated myself. I would cut my arms with knives and burn myself with lighters. Even though I served my time as far as society was concerned, I felt like I still needed to be punished. I cut my left wrist deep enough that I cut the nerve and tendon. I lost the feeling in two of my fingers because of the cut nerve.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not
your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with
The wakeup call from God came after I had stolen a pistol from a hotel room where I worked. I was facing a felony for possession of weapon by previous offender. The district attorney wanted to throw me in prison for a long time. By the grace of God, my attorney got me three years’ probation and no jail time. God began to show me that something has got to change or I’m done! I left town and moved in with a woman who is now my wife. I needed a fresh start with new friends. I started to get off drugs. I still smoked weed and drank, but I quit using speed. There was a woman that I worked with and she and her husband were both bikers. I started talking with her and found out that they were Christians. God, time and time again, has placed people in my life that I needed at just the right times. After getting to know her better, she invited me to church one night. By that time, I was married, but my wife didn’t want to go.
That night ended up being a prayer night. I wasn’t too impressed. As the pastor was saying a closing prayer, all of a sudden this rush of emotion just hit me like a ton of bricks! All the feelings I’d held in for so long, all the people I hurt, the lives I’ve messed up…all of it began to surface. I got up to leave and my friend asked me where I was going. I just started crying and couldn’t stop. She called the pastor over and I confessed to him that I had killed my little sister. I had nothing left to hide. He led me in a prayer that has changed my life forever. I gave my life to Jesus that night! From that moment on, I was forgiven.
I was forgiven, but that didn’t keep me from troubles or miraculously heal me from my past. I began to read the bible and attend church. My wife joined me soon after when she gave her life to God. We got involved in a bible study and began to learn more about Jesus. Our marriage was beginning to fall apart. We just didn’t see things the same. Anger that I still had inside began to surface again. It just wasn’t working. We were close to our second wedding anniversary and with all the struggles and fights we had in our marriage, I decided to leave her and go back home.
The thief comes to steal and kill
and destroy; I have come that they
may have life, and have it to the full.
I began to drink again. I had a friend who invited me to a youth group that had live worship music and gave a message. God began to direct me back to Him. I started to share my past and my decision to walk out of my marriage and God started giving me a very strong desire to get my marriage back. We were separated for about four months. During our separation, I had gotten together with an ex-girlfriend and my wife got together with a friend of mine. We had a lot of trash to work through, but God is so faithful! We began to talk again and I moved back into our home with my wife. Our marriage had its ups and downs, but God never allowed the enemy to take what does not belong to him. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but through the grace of God, we have now just passed our fifteenth anniversary.
God has been so good! Despite me cutting through my tendon and nerve on my left wrist, I’m playing the guitar the best I’ve ever played and getting better. I currently play lead guitar on our worship team at church praising God! Our marriage is healed and getting stronger. We have a nine year old son who is growing up knowing the Lord. I thank God every day for my wife and my son! They are truly gifts from God.
God took a broken, beat down soul with no purpose or reason to go on and gave me the love that I so desperately needed. He gave me life, a purpose, and a reason to go on. When God got a hold of my heart, as painful and hard as it was, I began to be transformed into a child of the King! He began to show me how to love by the love He gave me. When I felt God wrap His arms around me that first time, I finally knew, this is what true unconditional love is. The chains satan kept me captive with have been absolutely shattered! My life has been REDEEMED!!!!!!
I quit smoking cigarettes six years ago this November. God brought a man into my life to be a mentor and through that friendship, a year after I quit smoking, he led a group of us on a 24 mile rim2rim hike across the Grand Canyon in a single day. We ran three half marathons and I completed a full marathon, just God and I. Now I’ve led a group this year across the Grand Canyon and putting together another group for next year’s rim2rim. God has used these endurance events to bring so much growth in me. It has really built my confidence. It’s helped me to stop being a quitter and to complete what I start. It’s essentially brought not only good health to my body and emotions, but God’s brought healing as well.
Sept. 2012, I was watching a movie (The Genesis Code). My wife was out of town and my son was already in bed. After the movie, I felt it deep down inside that I needed to get on my knees and talk to God. Well, long story short, He broke me down to tears. He broke me the way I needed to be broken. I felt so deep in my heart that I needed to start working on and sharing my testimony. God showed me that I still harbored unforgiveness towards myself for the precious life I took when I was 12 years old. I still had a lot of garbage to let go of from 25 years ago. I surrendered to God that night and told Him “whatever doors You open, I’m walking through”. This is where the last year begins my new journey.
The first thing I felt God leading me to do was to step down from the worship team at church. That would allow me time in the evenings to work on writing my testimony and whatever else God had in store for me. I spoke with leadership at church and after everything, I began to feel blackballed from church. At the time, I felt like since I stepped down, the church leadership didn’t want to help me when I needed help and direction. I was hurt from that and became angry with my church. I felt like an outcast and wanted to change churches. God knew the entire time what He was doing and through my wife being persistant, we never left the church. That was my initial thoughts and feelings which I’ll talk more about later.
God brought a wonderful woman and Christian music artist into our lives, named Mia. I saw that she had posted on her website that she had been redeemed from a life of sin. I continued to talk with her via Facebook about how she goes about sharing her testimony. She sent me a copy to read so I could see how she had written it. After I finished writing my story, I sent it to her. She then forwarded it to her mentor and another wonderful woman of God, Trish. Trish has been heavily involved with Celebrate Recovery and has had a lot of experience with testimonies. She spent about a month praying over my story and seeking God on how to best present it. The first time we spoke over the phone, she spent 2 hours with me going over every sentence of my testimony offering suggestions along the way. The following week, I spent time changing and adding things to my story that Trish had suggested. I emailed the changed version to her and God spoke to her telling her it was complete. She then asked me if I would share my testimony with her Celebrate Recovery group and I agreed. That was the first time I’ve ever spoken in public about my life and how God has changed me.
Next, God brought a man named Ryan, who is also a Christian music artist, into our lives. Through Ryan, I met his wonderful wife, Jennifer. I found out that she is an author and public speaker. She had written out her testimony in book form. Through several conversations with her and Ryan both, I started to learn more about public speaking. They both were such an encouragement to me on during this new journey. Jennifer has given me so much great advice and help through this whole ordeal. They also came to one of the CR groups that I shared my story with to support me. God was continuing to put the right people in my path at just the right time.
As I continued to obey God, more doors and opportunity was becoming available for me to share my story. Through a series of events, I met some musicians that had started a band. The next man God brought is named Bruce. He wrote, recorded, and produced a Christian rock cd under the band name, Bruised Machine. Bruce found out that I played guitar and owned a bass guitar. He asked me if I would like to join the band as the bass player. I had almost zero to no experience on bass, which he was fully aware of. I said sure, I’ll try it! I then learned that a very talented musician named Rhonda that plays keys for our church teaches music as well. I began to take bass lessons from Rhonda. After a month or so, I started feeling really overwhelmed. I worked full time, was working on learning all this music from the band, and taking music lessons. I started to feel like my family was being pushed aside and God told me I needed to step down from the band. So I did.
I continued taking music lessons from Rhonda and our coaching sessions became so much more relaxed and I started to learn so much more about music in a couple months than I have over the past several years playing. God then gave me the desire to not only have Rhonda teach me bass/music, but to have her teach me to sing as well. The desire was to be able to lead worship wherever I go to share my story without “needing” to find a lead singer. That is what I’ve been pursuing and working towards.
God still opened doors for me to speak. Not just to adults, but with youth as well. After several months of following God’s leading, I was approached by an old friend/new worship leader at church, Gary. He asked me if I would be interested in joining the worship team again. I felt in my heart that this invitation was initiated by God, so I re-joined the team switching between lead guitar and bass guitar. Gary has been a continual support to me with my speaking opportunities.
Even through all this growth and stretching God has done this past year, there was still something inside of me from my past that was hindering my walk and relationship with Jesus. I continued to search around and ask questions. Finally, I spoke with one of our pastors and he told me about a Freedom Ministry class that was going to be starting up. It was invitation only, so my wife and I were able to start attending this group. The very first class, we were in Oregon so had to miss it. We met at the group leaders (Bronson and Kendra) house the following Saturday. God intentionally had us miss that first class so we could be at their house on this particular day. By the end of the evening, them along with my wife and I were sitting in a circle praying. God used our friends to walk me through an exercise that allowed me to finally release the person I stole their life from to God. For 25 years, I had kept this burden buried so deep inside my heart and refused to let go. How could I? I took something that I could never, ever give back! The wonderful thing about this night is that God made it so real to me that 15 years ago when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, His blood that He shed cleansed me of all my sin. Not just most, but ALL my sins! I needed to realize that. I had been forgiven by my creator 15 years ago, who am I to not forgive…even if that means myself? Kendra had me ask God how he sees me. What I heard in my heart is Him telling me that I’m special. She then had me ask God what He thought when I play guitar. I heard Him say that He smiles. Not only did I hear those words in my heart, I felt the Holy Spirit inside of me, loving me. I have never felt His presence so strongly before! That night at the Webb’s, I left my old, dead self chained and nailed to the cross with Jesus. I am a new creation and the old is passed away!
After thinking over all the events of this past year, God told me some things. When I felt kicked to the curb by my church, God told me that it was never meant for them to help me at that time. God brought people into my life that had real life experience in the areas that I needed help and guidance in. Those people that God brought into my life were placed there by God at exactly the perfect time and in the right order that they needed to be there. God knows what He’s doing far better than I could ever imagine. Because of my obedience to Him, He has grown and stretched me more in one year than the past 15 years I’ve been saved. All I had to do was surrender and say, “okay God, I give up. I will follow you no matter where you lead and through any door that you open”. I share all this with you because I want to be transparent and real with what God has done. God is faithful and will never leave you! I pray that as you finish reading this, you find encouragement and hope in Christ! Ephesians 1:7
There is and has not been a single day gone by that I don’t think about my sister. Even as far as God has brought me, there are still days that are very difficult to get through. The enemy doesn’t want healing with what I’ve done…but God already has the victory!!! Yes I’m a murderer, a liar, a thief, an adulterer, I’ve had idols before God, cursed His name, and degraded my parents. BUT………God has the victory!!! Jesus died on the cross for my sins and now I stand spotless before my King! Satan has no authority or power to take that from me. Jesus has forgiven me for ALL of my sin and is my guarantee of spending eternity in heaven praising my heavenly Father! And then………I will be reunited with my sister!
This is my story and I pray that whoever reads this will see and know that no matter how bad or messed up our lives may be, there is hope! It doesn’t matter how many crimes we’ve committed, or how many people we’ve hurt in the process, Jesus is our hope and our salvation! He loves us unconditionally regardless of our messed up lives. Jesus died that we may have eternal life. There is no better sacrifice than that. We just need to ask for forgiveness of our sin, believe in our hearts that Jesus died and God raised Him from the dead, and acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Your life will never be the same! Welcome to the greatest adventure of your life!
In Loving memory:
Bethany Linn Holway
Dear Paul, Tears are pouring down my face from reading your testimony. I feel so sorry for all the pain you endured. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Yours is truly a testimony that will touch whoever reads it. I will be praying that it is read many times over and you lead others to Christ through it. Marla