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Bikers Discover Transforming Power of God
God's love and forgiveness has a way of multiplying. Here's the story of a man who forgave the way he had been forgiven, and experienced a miracle as a result.

On August 23, 1984, Doug Stadnyk went for a motorcycle ride in the countryside around Saskatoon, wanting to pray and meditate. With his wedding just two days away, he thought, "What could go wrong on this beautiful day?"

Stadnyk says he recalls praying.

At that moment, a car with two people inside wearing black ski masks, pulled up beside him. Five shots rang out. Stadnyk was hit three times in the stomach, once in the leg, and once in the arm.

Amazingly, despite his injuries, Stadnyk says, "I felt a peace like I'd never felt before." As he lay near death on the street, Stadnyk prayed not for himself, but for his assassin. "God forgive him, he doesn't know what he's doing. Track him down and save him like you did me," Stadnyk says he recalls praying.

Stadnyk grew up in St. Catherines, Ontario, a victim of sexual abuse. At the age of five he was breaking into houses. "I didn't know how to talk about feelings, so I acted them out," Stadnyk explains.

At the age of eight a judge sent him to a Catholic reform school, hoping it would straighten out the wayward boy. Unfortunately, while there, Stadnyk says he endured both physical and mental abuse.

When he was ten, Stadnyk and a friend became altar boys to gain access to the communion wine. "I didn't like the smell of it; I didn't like the taste of it," says Stadnyk. But the young boy fell in love with the "warm feeling" it left in his belly. Stadnyk say he continued drinking in an attempt to bury his pain.

Hatred and anger, however, were growing inside.

"I blamed God, I blamed my parents," he says, "I blamed everyone but me."

Stadnyk in his biking days.

Stadnyk ended up living on the street and using drugs at 16. One day, several members of a motorcycle gang told him, "Come join us and you can be free." The rough and tough life of a biker provided Stadnyk with an outlet for his pent-up rage.

One night after getting high, Stadnyk was nearly killed when a car slammed into his motorcycle. He lost his left leg below the knee and spent a year recovering in hospital.

"I started hating more and more because I lost my leg," he says. "I hated myself inside so much, I started to neglect my outside." Stadnyk went months without bathing and slicked his hair with engine oil. Neglect caused his weight to top 500 pounds.

Deeply depressed, Stadnyk put a gun in his mouth, thinking the only way he could change his life was to pull the trigger. "But my finger wouldn't bend (around the trigger)," he says.

In August 1980, police arrested Stadnyk in Saskatoon. Eleven years of daily consumption of drugs and alcohol left him in severe withdrawal. Fortunately, a kindly prison guard named Al Ryan helped Stadnyk to get clean and sober.

Ryan also helped him to leave his biker lifestyle behind. At the age of 35, Stadnyk got his first job. He was attending 13 AA meetings a week at the time. Soon he began working as an addictions counsellor.

While going through the 12-Step program, Stadnyk went to a pastor to talk about the "Higher Power" focused on in Step Three. That Higher Power, the pastor told him, was a loving God who had sent His Son to die for Stadnyk's sins.

Recognizing his need for forgiveness, Stadnyk knelt in the pastor's office and gave "his life and will" over to Jesus. "I cried for two and a half hours," admits Stadnyk.

It was a year later that the former biker found himself laying in a pool of blood. At the hospital Stadnyk refused all pain relief, saying, "I'll just pray." The doctors were perplexed, but agreed. When he walked out just three days later, the hospital staff called it a miracle.

Stadnyk and Peters

Meanwhile, Stadnyk's shooter—a man named Bill Peters—had raced from the scene, satisfied he had killed the enemy. Peters had spent the better part of a year tracking down the former rival bike gang leader. He'd heard that Stadnyk had "gone religious." But as he gunned him down early that morning, he thought, "What's this punk doing hiding behind God?" As Stadnyk lay bleeding on the pavement, Peters thought, "God can't help him."

Despite a good upbringing, Peters had been in and out of jail since the age of 17. Getting high and drunk seemed fun at first, but soon he found himself running from the law. At 25, when three of his closest friends joined the Hell's Angels, Peters signed up as well. "I wanted to belong to something big and powerful," says Peters.

For the next ten years Peters racked up charges ranging from assault to drug trafficking. After skipping bail in California, Peters headed to British Columbia to find Stadnyk. He fled to the States after thinking his assignment was complete.

On the run, Peters recalled an ex-Hells Angel, Tommy Doyle, who had been living in Northern California, growing marijuana. Peters, who hadn't seen Doyle for seven years, says, "I decided to look him up to hide out from the FBI and make some money."

When Peters found Doyle he discovered he was now a Christian working in prison ministry. "[Doyle] began to explain how I was guilty before God for living my life without Him," says Peters, "but God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us and take our punishment."

In 1986, Peters asked God to forgive his sins and accepted Jesus as his Saviour. "Being forgiven was something new for me," Peters notes. "I had never asked for forgiveness of anyone, nor expected it. To be forgiven by God is an indescribable feeling, something like a thousand pounds of weight coming off of me—a load I didn't realize I was carrying." He adds, "I felt new and restored."

After he was baptized, all desire for drugs and alcohol left him. "I also began going back to those I had hurt or stole from and asked their forgiveness," Peters says.

One of those people was Stadnyk. From jail, Peters sent him a card asking for his forgiveness. Stadnyk was out of town when his wife called to tell him about it. "Are you standing or sitting?" she asked him.

"Standing," he replied. "Well, you better sit down," she said, proceeding to read the card from Peters. Stadnyk readily forgave Peters, remembering the forgiveness that he had received from God.

Several years later the two met. Peters was nervous—even wondering if Stadnyk planned to turn him over to the police, since he had never been charged for the crime. Instead, the two men travelled together to schools, prisons, and churches, sharing the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Now retired at 59, Stadnyk spent many years helping others in substance abuse recovery and also ran Impact House, a successful rescue home for prostitutes in Saskatoon.

Peters, 53, travels full-time with his wife Carmen, a former club dancer who also came to know Christ, telling others about the transforming power of Christ.

Years of trying to fill the emptiness in their lives has brought the two former bikers to the same conclusion: only Jesus can bring true fulfilment. "Drugs, alcohol, food, sex—they ain't gonna fill that spot," declares Stadnyk.

Both men pray that others will find the love and forgiveness Jesus offers to all those who seek Him.

"It doesn't matter your past," explains Peters. "God will forgive anybody simply by asking Him."

Originally published in Living Light News, September/October 2003.




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