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Pastor overcomes life of drinking and drugs to proclaim words of Jesus Christ (Aug. 4, 2004)

Pastor overcomes life of drinking and drugs to proclaim words of Jesus Christ (Aug. 4, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Pastor overcomes life of drinking and drugs to proclaim words of Jesus Christ

Aug. 4, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0130}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

MIAMI — The Rev. Jeffrey Ice is not a gambling man, but he beat the odds a life of crime and drugs would predict for any man or woman.

DAYTONA BEACH — The Rev. Jeffrey Ice (kneeling), pastor of Poinciana United Methodist Church, Miami, is ordained at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event by Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. Ice began drinking at age 12 and eventually became a functioning alcoholic, but he turned his life around and committed it to Christ in 1994. He graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus in 2000. Also pictured from right to left are the Rev. Bob Bushong and retired Bishop J. Lloyd Knox. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #04-0054.

The pastor at Poinciana United Methodist Church here is a former alcoholic and crack addict who found himself breaking and entering a business on Christmas in 1993 to get money to buy drugs. One year later he was clean and sober and on the path to recovery, thanks to pastors who reached out to a hurting soul who began a life of drinking when he was just 12 years old.

Ice began drinking in Lorraine, an industrial town just outside of Cleveland, where he grew up the son of an alcoholic father. Ice became a functioning alcoholic and was able to join the Army, but never advanced beyond the rank of private because he was always in trouble.

Once out of the Army, Ice bounced from city to city and job to job. He decided to work for himself as an indoor plant salesman so he could halt the repeated firings and eventually landed in the Miami area. He continued his life of binge drinking, even after he and his friend were involved in a drunk driving accident in which his friend, the driver, was killed.

Ice continued excessive drinking and added crack to his drugs of choice. He would have continued on that path had a retired Lutheran pastor not reached out to him in 1994, the day before Thanksgiving, in a south Miami trailer park.

"I remember asking him if my friend was in heaven or hell," Ice said. "He said he didn't know, but that he trusted God, and I could tell just by looking at him that he really believed that, and it totally blew me away. That day I gave my life to the Lord."

The Lord continues to work with Ice, who says he still experiences pangs of guilt over his past.

"There are a couple of things I'm guilt-ridden over, but I know God has forgiven me," he said. "God reaches out to all of us. We just need to be grateful and go with it. I know from day one God called me, but I never listened."

With a new lease on life, Ice checked into a half-way house and began another relationship with a pastor and started going to church for the first time since he lived at home with his parents. He began ministering to his housemates, who off-handedly suggested he become a preacher. Ice took their advice and enrolled in Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando campus in 1998 after receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology. He graduated in 2000.

DAYTONA BEACH — The Rev. Jeffrey Ice (center) stands outside the Bethune-Cookman College Performing Arts Center here with his daughter, Danielle, his wife, Laura, and the Rev. Roberto Perez after being ordained at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event. Ice credits Perez as one of the people who encouraged and supported him in leaving his days of drinking and taking drugs behind. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #04-0055.

Now, Ice has something a life of crime and drugs could never give him—a wife, a 3-year-old daughter and another child on the way.

"I know there's nothing else in this world I can do," he said. "I was put here on this earth to be a preacher. God has been sending me people all my life to show me this, but I never listened."

Ice is not only listening now, but talking about his storied past, as well. He shared his story his second Sunday at Poinciana United Methodist Church, and what was once his hidden secret, riddled with guilt and shame, has now almost become a blessing for Ice. He said he's better able to relate to someone who is struggling and more sensitive to people's needs.

Although he is once again living in Miami, the people or places Ice used to visit are no longer tempting now that he's clean and sober. He lived in Miami for six years before going to seminary, the longest he's ever lived anywhere in his nomadic life, but he said life is different for him now.

"There's an old expression that you play the tape through," he said. "Whenever I think of having a beer I think of where it would lead me—broke in the streets with no family. I don't miss the drugs at all, but sometimes I think it would be nice to be on the beach with a beer, but it's not overwhelming or daily."

Ice said he experiences the unconditional love of Jesus Christ every day of his life and feels in his heart God isn't done with him yet.

"I think there's so much more to my life," he said. "I feel that something special is really going to happen. It could be something really small that no one else in the world but me would notice. I know it's going to happen."


This article relates to Personal Faith and Spiritual Development.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.