God is the solution to gambling problems- Pastor
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
While health professionals are yet to find a medicinal cure for the devastating effects of ludomania, also known as gambling addiction, St Mary-based pastor Michael Beckford insists that faith in God is a perfectly viable antidote.
Beckford speaks from personal experience and suffered from this particular disorder for many years, prior to joining the Valley Ministries Sounds of Praise Pentecostal Church in Port Maria around a decade ago.
Before he gave his life to Christ, the former Ministry of Education auditor claims to have become so consumed by his gambling addiction that at least two days a week, he simply refused to eat.
Beckford told Family and Religion: "I was a person who would fast twice a week. I would not put anything in my mouth on Wednesday and Saturday because I was so engulfed in racehorse gambling. The racehorse book was my bible and the programme was my hymnal."
Nevertheless, Beckford eventually overcame his affliction and was inspired to join the Church and become a Christian after a life changing experience. He explained: "It was a Wednesday, I was at Twin Gates Plaza in Half-Way Tree, and had just won a big bet. When I stepped out to check how much I was going to collect, I saw a very low, dark cloud with lightning flashing from it.
"I heard a sound like someone talking to me and, instead of going back to the [betting] shop, I put my key in the car and headed straight home. When I arrived, I realised that throughout my journey, I'd been conversing with myself, saying: 'If this is God, then show me.'
"Nobody else was home, so I drew on my wife's slippers and went down to my wife's church where there was a crusade. When I reached the entrance, I realised it was altar call, said to myself: 'Church is over,' and decided to turn back.
"But I heard a voice say: 'It's you I'm talking,' and every step I made away from the church, it got louder. So I turned back to the church, closed my eyes, and said: 'Well, if it's God talking to me, let me find my way to the altar.'
"When I opened my eyes, I was on the top step, and started to feel something coming over me and water running from my eyes. I couldn't understand what was happening because I had never cried before anybody.
"After the pastor prayed for me, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt taller than the building, and there was no turning back from that moment. I sent someone to go and collect the bet for me, but I've never been back into a betting shop since that day."
In addition to curing his gambling addiction, Beckford believes his faith in Christ also helped eradicate a long-standing medical issue brought about by years of irregular eating patterns.
He said: "My testimony is that God took away the horse racing book and presented me with His Holy Bible, and took away my horse racing hymnal and placed a song in my heart, and that song remains.
"Once you truly surrender to the Almighty, no matter what the addiction is, you will get rid of it. The thing you love most is what hinders you, and that's what He takes away; the thing that is most burdensome."