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From Goth to God
She was a Goth.  The “real thing” – not a “wannabe.”  But her aunt was praying for her.  Then in the middle of a life of crime, she had a collision with God.

She was dressed to intimidate.

Shrouded head to toe in black, half her head was shaved. The rest was dyed black and dreadlocked. She wore large rings on black gloves, skull earrings and skull buckles on mid-calf boots.

Roz, as she would have appeared while she was a Goth.

A heavy leather belt with three-inch brass bullets hung loosely around her waist, accentuating her tall, slender figure. Black lipstick and nail polish completed her look.

Roz was a Goth. That night she and her friends were on their way to a nightclub and they wanted to be noticed. They shouted obscenities and gestured defiantly at passersby. Swearing, Roz lunged at a couple in a car as if to throw herself on the hood, but they didn’t recoil or show fear.

“Something in their eyes stopped me cold,” remembers Rosalie. The couple had calmly held her gaze through the car window as the light turned green. Their gaze pierced the armour of her heart and Roz, shaken, averted her eyes. The car moved through the intersection and was gone, but the moment remained locked in her memory.

Rebellion

Rosalie’s childhood was unhappy. The fourth of eight children, she’d suffered years of neglect, hostility and abuse. She longed for love and acceptance, but sought it through negative behaviour.

“I was a self-confessed kleptomaniac and hell-raiser,” she recalls. “I was a misfit – in trouble at school and with the police.”  She hated her life, and tried to commit suicide. At 15, she ran away from her parents’ farm in Australia. In Melbourne, she connected with Goth acquaintances and for four years became one of them.

Roz, modelling.

After that night on the way to the nightclub, Roz began to re-evaluate her life. The beautiful teen modelled and worked as a store manager, but she also stole.

Her friends were burglars and many were prostitutes. Wild drug parties got out of control and someone she had been dating hung himself. “What am I doing? Who are these people?” she asked herself. “I was getting in way too deep,” she realizes now. “I had become too creepy even for me!”

Then a co-worker inadvertently challenged her. “I wonder what you would look like in a colour?” he mused. It was as if a spell was broken. She got a haircut, stripped the black from her hair and the next day wore a cream-coloured blouse to work. Her Goth friends were perplexed. Roz was no longer one of them.

How could she have changed so abruptly? “I’m sure it’s because my aunt was praying for me,” she believes.  Aunt Maureen lived in Melbourne and always shared her love of God with her niece. “She’d patiently answered the questions I had about religion and took time to be with me. No one had ever done that.”

Collision course

On the run from the law, Roz moved from Melbourne, but she still lived a life of crime. While in Queensland, she let her friends into a store to rob it.

“I got hauled in by the police and this time I knew I was going down,” she recalls. But as she surveyed the courtroom full of unsavoury individuals, her aunt’s words flooded her consciousness.  “God,” she pleaded through her tears, “if you get me out of this, I will serve you.”

“I’ll turn my life around if you let me go back to Melbourne,” Roz said to the judge.  The judge stared at the young woman for what seemed like an eternity. “I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he said at last, “but I’m letting you off on probation.”

Roz in her Goth garb.

Roz kept her word. She travelled to Melbourne and called her Aunt Maureen, who picked her up.

“That day, something amazing happened,” says Rosalie. “I felt something terrible and evil lift off me. I knew right away I had to leave Australia and go where I could start over.”

A new life

That was late in 1989. Roz, now known as Rosalie, arrived in Canada a year later. 

Prior to leaving, she had noticed the name of a Christian religious organization, Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), while browsing through some literature at her aunt’s house. It was her only Canadian contact, so she called them.

An employee from KCM’s Vancouver office met Rosalie at the airport and took her to church. Rosalie had never attended a church service before, and she was overwhelmed. She loved worship and for the first time in her life sensed God’s presence. The sermon answered questions she had had since childhood.

After the service, she was offered a place to stay and Henry Hinn, the pastor, invited her to enrol in Bible school. “I went from zero to a hundred, just like that!” she says.

Through a church youth group, Rosalie met Carsten Schwarm. “When I met him, I had so much ‘baggage’ that the whole baggage claim at the terminal was mine,” she laughs.

They soon fell in love. “Before I married him, I told Carsten about my criminal record,” says Rosalie. “In order to marry me, he would have to be my sponsor, and you can’t sponsor a criminal.”

Rosalie and Carsten married in Germany in 1991; but the Department of Immigration needed to validate their marriage and her fingerprints had to be cleared through Australia. Rosalie was apprehensive, but when the report came back, it stated: “No criminal record.”

It was a miracle that defied understanding. “I believe it’s because I trusted God and spoke the truth,” she explains.

“I knew He would help me because He gave me His word. In the Bible, God says, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God’ (Isaiah 41:10). That passage sustained me. “God says to those who don’t know Him yet, ‘I make all things new.’ He renewed me, cut off my past and gave me a new life.”

Rosalie Schwarm at Lighthouse church in Waterdown, Ontario.

Grace

Today, Rosalie is the co-founder of Lighthouse Church in Waterdown, Ontario, along with her husband and pastor, Carsten Schwarm. She travels internationally and conducts speaking engagements with youth and women’s groups, where she speaks with ease about her former life.

“I’m honoured when people tell me, ‘You don’t look like you’ve been through anything,’” she says, smiling.  “I’ve prayed to God and asked him why he saved me,” Rosalie continues. “Besides my aunt, I now think the people in the car were also Christians who prayed for me the evening I confronted them on my way to the nightclub.”

One day Rosalie asked her eight-year-old son, Josh, “Do you know what grace is?”  He contemplated the question. “I think I do. Remember when you were bad, and Jesus made you good?  Now that you’re good, you take other bad people to Jesus, who makes them good, too. That’s grace.”

Rosalie Schwarm has appeared on the Canadian television programs 100 Huntley Street, Nite Lite and Full Circle, and in the USA on TCT Television Network's program Rejoice. Rosalie's story has been featured in B.C. Christian News, Beacon Magazine, the French magazine Foi & Vie. and in Kenneth Copeland Ministries' Believer's Voice of Victory. She can be contacted through the Lighthouse Church website at www.gotlight.org.

Daina Doucet is a writer and editor based in Hamilton, Ontario, and edits The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s website, www.Christianity.ca.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, June 2008.

 

 
 
 
 

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