How God Used David Berkowitz to Lead Me to Christ
I grew up in a very difficult family. I came from neglect, abuse, and maternal abandonment. My father was an alcoholic and this created a negative environment to grow up in. I basically raised myself. I believe the injuries from this early dysfunction led me to use alcohol to cope, and to become involved in punk rock bands. I was very rebellious and chaotic. Although I've forgiven myself and my whole family, the damage was done. I was a full-fledged alcoholic in my teen years. By 2000, (when Jesus reached out to me) I was deeply distressed by my disease. I tried every worldly remedy to quit. I was active in the 12-Step Program (therapy) and attended a rehabilitation center, but no matter how much I tried to arrest my addiction, I couldn't seem to do it. I gave up trying and gave into my affliction. It was terrible to give in. I figured I was destined to die on a barstool, just like my dad. So I accepted that. But Father God had better plans.
In the year 1997, I was watching a television program featuring David Berkowitz. It was about new developments in his criminal case. I loved true-crime stories and was excited about this. But as I watched it, David expressed that he was now a born-again Christian. My first thought was, Wow! This guy is a con man. He must be using this religious conversion for his benefit somehow. However, as I curiously observed him being interviewed, I noticed he looked different from when he was arrested 20 years earlier. David appeared to have a "light" in him. He actually looked like Jesus Christ HAD touched his life. What kind of God did that? I didn't think God could forgive a multiple murderer. I thought, Good for him, he needs Jesus Christ. Little did I know, how much I did, too.
In spring of 2000, after a series of events, I was prompted to write a letter to David. Now, I understand that God's hand was on this, but at the time I just thought I was doing something interesting. I had no desire for a friendship or anything, it was just a letter or two from the infamous "Son of Sam." I asked him about prison, the books that were written about him, and his correspondents. But David ignored these questions and expressed repeatedly how much Jesus Christ loved me. I pretty much rolled my eyes at this. I had often heard that Jesus loved me. It was a nice sentiment. I wasn't interested in His love. Nor did I have any understanding of it. Here I am in contact with an infamous crime figure, and he wants to chat "religion." I ended the correspondence abruptly. But a few weeks later, I believe God led me to write yet again. And God began to reach out mightily to me.
While in the midst of writing David, I had an unbelievable experience with Jesus Christ. I sensed God near me often. Once as I sat on my bed, in my room in a Detroit suburb, Jesus Christ sat down next to me. He sat at my right side. He was invisible. But I've no doubt it was him. I felt his tender embrace reach over to both my shoulders, and he comforted me. I felt Jesus hold me! I sensed him saying, “I saw it all, little one. I saw your difficult childhood, your pain, and your unhealthy coping.” I crumbled under His awesome love and became drenched in tears. This lasted perhaps 10–15 minutes. As you can imagine, my mind was blown! I knew something amazing was happening to me! I was being transported from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (John 3:3).
David and I continued to chat via the mail. I told him about how God was touching my life. I opened up to David, as I didn't feel I was writing the Son of Sam anymore, but just a Christian individual. God somehow made me feel comfortable and safe with him. David sent Scripture and encouraging words, with a continued emphasis on God's love. I had never read the Bible before, but as David sent Scriptures, I would look them up. God was using these verses to soften my hard and angry heart.
As this incredible experience occurred, I had a desire for freedom from my alcoholism. Addiction to drink is like a warm but deadly blanket. It's a prison within its self. It's powerful, and all my efforts to control or overcome it failed. My father and some precious friends died from it. Since David didn't talk about much else but Jesus Christ, I half-heartedly asked him to pray for my freedom from my chronic drinking. Although I didn't expect God to care or answer, He did mightily.
In my weak moments, I still drank. I didn't understand sin or any Christian basics. One summer day I went to a corner bar to get drunk yet again. I sat down on the bar stool and ordered a drink. Classic rock music blared through the speaker and cigarette smoke filled the air. I noticed older, weathered men on each side of me draining their glasses. It was like any other happy hour. As I sat and drank, I looked at the back shelf of the bar. It was lined with liquor bottles of every flavor. In desperation, I thought, I'll never be free of THAT! I'll be chained to this barstool, this glass, this environment, forever. There is just no hope. And as I thought this, a miracle occurred. It's as though God supernaturally shifted me out of this dimension of addiction! Whatever bound me to this affliction was supernaturally broken by the POWER and LOVE of Jesus Christ as I sat in that nightclub! I put my glass down, even though it was still half full. I shook my head in astonishment. I was confused yet aware that something powerful happened. I walked out of that bar set free. That was 19 years ago, and I've been sober of alcoholic drinking ever since! The battle with that was so fierce! Only Jesus can break impossible chains!
Even after my conversion to the faith, I've had various struggles (John 16:33) but I am so happy that God reached out to me many years ago! The Lord is my Savior, strength, hiding place, my continued hope and Healer. I searched everywhere for freedom and answers. He is the way! He's so compassionate, tender and kind. He understands us much more than we do ourselves. His love is amazing!
It's not clear why God used David Berkowitz to teach me about Himself. Perhaps it was the way David expressed God's love. Perhaps it's the way David encourages people. I was a stranger to him. He threw me the ultimate lifeline and asked nothing in return. He's never asked me for as much as a stamp. We've been dear friends almost 20 years, and I'll never forget that first letter I nervously opened in 2000 where David said, "Tracey, Jesus Christ loves you." That’s exactly what I needed! The healing love of our Savior.
David is a minister of the good news. I understand people question his authenticity, just as I did at first. However, my conversion and our long friendship prove his sincerity. God can and does forgive the worst of us. No one is beyond His boundless mercy. He broke a life-threatening illness in me! Please reach out to Jesus Christ. He can give you a new hope and eternal life. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus did for me!
Tracey Anne Leeds
Find peace with God for yourself.
Tracey Anne Leeds
Find peace with God for yourself.
If what God has done in David's life has changed yours, and you would like to share your story, please contact us and let us know.