The Lord’s Pursuit

At the end of July, Peter and Victoria Thebeau will move with their kids to Ambridge, Pennsylvania for Peter to begin seminary at Trinity School for Ministry. His goal is to become a chaplain in the United States Air Force. Peter grew up as a “preacher’s kid,” the son of COK’s rector, Rev. Dr. Chuck Thebeau, but he found himself caught in rebellion against his parents and the Lord. Despite the addiction that consumed him, the Lord remained faithful and not only brought Peter to sobriety and redemption, but now to a high calling in the Lord’s service. This is a story of the Lord’s pursuit:
Tell me a brief synopsis of your conversion testimony. 
We don’t have all day so I’ll try to keep this short and will continue to answer in the following questions as well. My conversion story, I believe, began at birth and at my baptism as an infant, when I was sealed by the cross of Christ. But when I first started to own the faith for myself was in my junior year of High School. It was April 22, 2001 when my brother, Andrew, took me to youth group and I finally gave my life to Christ. My journey was far from over, however, and even though I made the commitment I soon turned away from it. I wanted to walk away from the Lord completely and the better part of the next decade is all but a foggy memory filled with drugs and debauchery. I spent my entire adolescence and early adulthood under the influence; my drug of choice was alcohol. I had my first drink at 14, and began binge drinking at 17; I wouldn’t be sober until 28 years old. My true commitment to the Lord wouldn’t occur until after a few near-death experiences and hitting rock bottom. I tried to commit suicide by drinking myself to death, and nearly succeeded. Hitting bottom led me to seek help. Through my Dad’s love, he connected me with Restoring the Foundations, a healing and deliverance ministry that gave me the chance to encounter the Lord and receive His healing. The rest is history yet to be written, but it is certain the Lord was faithful to my baptism and pursued me even when I had turned my back on Him.
What was it like to grow up as a “preacher’s kid” (PK)?
For me, it was incredibly difficult. I didn’t grow up in a tight-knit community where church was a family tradition and being a Christian was normal. I grew up in a liberal state and a community where I was ridiculed for my father’s career and our beliefs, and I blamed God for that. I was tormented throughout my childhood and adolescence because I was a PK and I faced a lot of unfair ridicule and exclusion because of it. This treatment really shattered me and made me rebel against everything. That’s what I told myself anyway. The reality is, I used a lot of my own selfish anger to point the finger. Looking back, my life wasn’t all that difficult. I made it a lot harder than it needed to be and I isolated myself. So, short answer is, it was hard. But the long-winded answer is that a lot of my troubles had little to do with my dad’s career and were mostly my own doing. It would have been the same if he was a banker.
What would you say was the root of your rebellion/drinking?
This is a question I still struggle to answer, honestly, because the truth is it was my selfishness and need to be accepted due to low self-esteem. The reasons for this are simple: I blamed God, therefore I turned away and shunned a relationship with him…thus, informing my decisions to include drowning my self-made sorrows and celebrating my own pity party. I turned to alcohol and partying because I hated who my parents wanted me to be and I felt like getting drunk was the only way I could be who I wanted to be…popular. So out of my own self-hatred I decided to be that person that was the polar opposite of who my parents knew that I was. After sobriety, it took me a couple of years and much anxiety to figure out who I was in Christ. So, you ask me, the root of my rebellion, the cause of my addictions, was because I turned away from God to create my own persona opposite to the man the Lord had called me to be.
What did the Lord use to bring you out of that and how did that relate to the root?
The Lord’s primary tool was the use of the Holy Spirit through a program called Restoring the Foundations (RTF), a deliverance program offered at COK. It took a lot of forgiveness – to myself, to my family, to my self-perceived enemies, etc. Further, it took the Holy Spirit rooting out the root cause and eliminating all the curses and ties that were binding me to the addiction. He replaced those things with love for Him which allowed me to love myself, a new found confidence in who I am in Christ, and a relationship with Him I longed for for so long.
You found sobriety and transformation in the Lord at age 28. Now, at the end of this month, at 35, you’ll be moving to Ambridge, Pennsylvania to begin seminary at Trinity School for Ministry. Tell me about the Lord’s leading you to seminary.
For the past several years, maybe even a decade I’ve consistently felt a call to ministry, but each time I came close to committing, I turned my back on it. Each time, I felt as though I was getting ahead in my career and life on my own, but the Lord had a way to knock me back a few steps to get my attention. Finally, after years of ignoring Him, I was able to start to put the pieces together and hear His call. Any time I was asked what I wanted to do for a living, the only thing that would come to mind was preaching from the pulpit. Of course, I would say something else, but in my mind that was always what came up. I pushed this aside out of fear and feeling unworthy for the call which led to me feeling lost for so many years. I knew deep down that I was called to ministry, because I live to serve others and every other job I have had has been unfulfilling. Despite the fear, the Lord has shown me over the past year how my spiritual gifts fit a particular ministry calling: military chaplaincy. It also didn’t hurt that the Lord kept putting people in my life, randomly introducing to Airmen and Soldiers who would all say the same things: “You would make a terrific Chaplain;” “we need people like you in the service.” If it wasn’t that exactly, it was pretty close, and when close to 40 maybe 50 strangers tell you the same thing, you tend to listen. So, after a year of putting it off, I finally decided to take a leap of faith and answer the call. To be honest though, had my wife not encouraged me and suggest we go, I probably would not have. He’s been preparing me for this for years, and I just missed it until now.
What are your feelings about seminary and the Lord’s call to chaplaincy?
My call to seminary and the Chaplaincy is a certainty and I know with every fiber of my being that this is the Lord’s call on my life. My feelings are those of relief, adulation, celebration, and I could go on. I truly believe I have finally found what I’ve been searching for my entire life…my purpose.
For chaplaincy, you could choose any number of denominational affiliations. Why are you choosing Anglicanism?
Great question. I wish I had an answer for myself. The only thing I can say about this is that it’s the only denomination I’ve really ever known and the Catechism is on point with my theology already, so it fits.
How has COK affected your life and this decision? 
Unequivocally I can say that without COK I would not be the man I am today. It starts with my dad, or the Rector of COK, the Rev. Dr. Charles Thebeau. The way he leads from behind and encourages his congregation to give and always be on mission is second to none and a tremendous blessing to me and my family. The people of COK have helped me grow into the man I am today. They’ve helped shape me as a dad and a husband and have been instrumental in growing my faith. To say that COK has had a positive effect on my life would be an understatement to what COK has truly meant to my life. Words cannot describe what the people of COK have done for me. I’m sober, going on 8 years now, and I’m firm in that decision because of the people of COK and their kindness and willingness to accept a fallen, broken, and flawed individual. They accepted me, they encouraged me, and have shown me what it means to be a follower of Christ, a man of faith, and a godly husband. If it weren’t for COK, I wouldn’t have the courage to answer this call.
What relationship do you hope to have with COK throughout this process?
It is my deepest heart’s desire, the most intimate prayer, that my relationship and my family’s relationship with the people of COK will remain as it has for nearly two decades! These people have had a such a profound impact on my life I can’t imagine them not being a part of it. Whether I’m stationed nearby or overseas, I pray that we can remain within a prayer’s distance. I love COK. It’s my home away from home.
Please keep Peter and his family in your prayers as they head into the mission field. If you would like to support Peter and his family in their call to seminary, you can give via COK with a specified gift online or with cash or check notated “Seminarian Fund.”
If you struggle with addiction and/or questions about your purpose in life and who you are, please contact us. We would love to listen to you, love on you, and serve you!
Catch more of what the Lord’s doing at COK in our May and June testimonies.