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Dark Road
"Kevin, guess what? You're dead. You just died," the voice said. Kevin Philp thought he had it all, till one Halloween night changed him forever.

Seventeen-year-old Kevin Philp lay bruised, bleeding and terrified, abandoned on a dark and deserted country road. “As my so-called friends drove off without me,” he relates, “I had no one to turn to—except God.”

Fateful party

“God cut through the junk in my life and said, ‘Hey, here I am.’”

Sucked into the world of drugs at age 12, Kevin “Kip” Philp was dealing at 13. “By 14, I was using cocaine, speed, LSD—anything I could get my hands on,” he says. At 17, he was supplying dealers with large quantities of LSD bought directly from a chemist. “I was living a great life,” he reflects. “I had money, friends and a pick-up truck. I thought I had it all but I still had an incredible emptiness inside.”

Things were great until that year. Then came a turning point. Kip was invited to a Halloween party. Shaggy long hair, a deerskin outfit and a plastic “club” completed his caveman costume. He went to the party carrying an assortment of drugs, planning to sell some and give the rest away.

By the time Kip arrived, some at the party were drunk and others were high. “I remember standing there looking at the scene,” he recalls. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but I decided to take all the drugs myself.

“I realized people can overdose,” continues Kip, “but like so many teenagers, I thought it couldn’t happen to me. I felt indestructible.”

“Save me, God!”

He is not sure how to explain what happened next. As he sat on a couch after taking the drugs, somebody sat down next to him and said, “Kevin, guess what? You're dead. You just died.”

At that moment the room changed. Sounds and smells changed. “I saw flames and heard screams. I saw demons. It was a very, very terrifying experience. It’s beyond words to explain how terrifying. For years I blocked it out and forgot what happened.”

Outwardly, convulsing with terror, he became a crazed madman. “I freaked out thinking I was in hell. I screamed and cried out to God, 'Have mercy on me! God, forgive me! Save me! I don’t want to be here!' I felt so trapped, helpless and alone.”

His friends grabbed him and dragged him outside. Filled with visions and voices of another dimension, Kip screamed and flailed, fighting the guys who were hauling him away.

They took his truck keys and tossed him in the back. Two or three held him down. ”They burned down the dirt road with me terrified out of my mind," says Kip. Thrashing and kicking, he managed to struggle free. “I jumped head-first over the side of my truck and landed on the dirt road, my bare skin skidding along the gravel.”

Second chance

Kip's friend drove off leaving him to die on the road, alone in the darkness. “I felt utterly worthless,” he recalls.

He knew he needed God but had no idea how to reach Him. “I did the only thing I knew how. I sang  a Christmas carol - Away in a Manger.”

Kip marvels how through this simple song, God met him. A sense of peace flooded him. “As I lay bleeding in the dirt, I knew I would live. God cut through the junk in my life and said, ‘Hey, here I am.’”

Just before daybreak, police officers found him and took him home. The next evening Kip was at it again, partying and using drugs, trying to forget what had happened, when he was caught short by a similar experience to the previous night.

"I just blew a second chance," Kip realized.

Overwhelmed with repentance, he knew he needed to change. In the morning, he called some churchgoing relatives, who brought him to Bethel Church in Huntsville, Ontario. “I remember walking into Bethel desperate to get right with God,” Kip notes. “The pastor talked to me about God’s love and explained grace and forgiveness, and how Jesus died to pay the price for my sins. When I prayed to invite Jesus into my life, I suddenly felt alive and released of all guilt.”

From that day, Kip’s urge to do drugs disappeared. He began visiting schools to talk about the dangers of addiction, and by age 19 had become a youth pastor. Since then, he has started the church called 24/7 in a renovated nightclub in Burlington, Ontario. “I minister to young people who would never think of attending a conventional church,” he explains. “They’re looking for salvation as they travel a dark road—a road I know very well.”

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

Originally published in Faith & Friends, October 2009. Revised for Christianity.ca, October 2010.

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