How It All Began

I was born on July 18, 1960, and was the third child in a family of 5 siblings. My family lived in Delta, Ohio until I was in kindergarten.

 Parents of Chet Swearingen: R. & C. S Wedding Picture: June 6, 1956 Delta, Ohio

Parents of Chet Swearingen: Roy & Carol Swearingen
Wedding Picture: June 6, 1956
Delta, Ohio

About half-way through my kindergarten year my father left his pastorate in Delta and took a new church in Piqua, Ohio. This only lasted for a few months and in less than a year my father moved our family to Defiance, Ohio, and then several months later we moved once again to Cecil, Ohio, where our father became the pastor of yet another church. That was four schools for us kids in just two school years!

Being a PK (pastor’s kid) did not put any additional burden on me, like what other pastor’s children say they experienced, but what was a challenge were the frequent moves and multiple schools we had to adjust to. During my elementary through High School years we lived in eight different homes. As a shy and a bit insecure child, the frequent moves were quite difficult. Not being an exceptional student to begin with, the frequent moves greatly hindered me during my developmental years.

C., Benteng, & R. S. July 1961 (circa) in Delta, OH
Chipper, Chet, & Rodney Swearingen
July 1961 (circa) in Delta, OH

My mother’s father was immersed in the Holiness Movement as a child, and after attending Emanuel College in Georgia, he preached in various churches in and around Keyser, West Virginia. Afterwards he moved into a pastoral position in Delta, Port Charlotte, Florida, and Bowling Green, Ohio. My siblings and I were brought up in the strict and legalistic form of Christianity that characterized the movement. My siblings and I greatly respected and loved our grandfather (Chester Freede), in spite of his firmness, yet I was always reluctant to attend his church because the Lord would at times reveal things to him, and I was always suspicious (and fearful) that God would show him some of the mischievous things I had been involved with.

Due to the influence of the Holiness Movement, we didn’t have a television in our home, but we did have a radio, and my siblings and I were fascinated when we would sit on the dining room floor and listen to the Pacific Garden Mission’s radio drama series, Unshackled! Those stories were very riveting and had a large impact on my life.

Benteng's Grandparents C. & M. F. November 29, 1961
Chet Swearingen’s Grandparents
Chester & Midred Freede
November 29, 1961

I remember as a young child, my mother asking my oldest brother if he wanted to receive Jesus Christ as his savior. He said he did, and then my mother had him and my next oldest brother, along with myself bow down in front of chairs in the kitchen of our Cecil home, and all three of us prayed the sinner’s prayer together. We would also do the same thing in church almost every time a visiting preacher (evangelist) would come. During their sermons there was often a dramatic and convicting power of the Holy Spirit present, and I would go forward to the altar to get saved again. My older brothers would also be found doing the same thing from time to time.

I remember one revival (scheduled services) we were having at our church in Cecil, and almost every teen in that small town was at the altar when the invitation to accept Christ was given. I still remember that Sunday when all of the teens crowded in around that altar with tears flowing down their faces. I especially remember the following day on the bus ride to school where all the teens were talking in the back of the bus about what had happened the night before, and how one of the guys had been crying so much at the altar that it saturated the lower pant leg of another teen. The teen with the wet pant leg said that by the time he got back to his home after the service, after the ¼ mile walk, his pant leg was frozen (this was during the winter).

During those early years when my brothers and sister were deeply affected by the Holy Spirit, I recall many stories and testimonies of deliverance I witnessed and heard. Even though God had demonstrated his goodness to me many times over, I still choose not to make a full-hearted commitment to Christ.

Chet's Family Back Row: Chipper, Rodney, Chet Second Row: Roy & Carol, Daphne Front: Shawn Picture taken 1972

Chet’s Family
Back Row: Chipper, Rodney, Chet
Second Row: Roy & Carol, Daphne
Front: Shawn
Picture taken 1972

Despite my rebelling against the call of God on my life, I am very thankful that my life wasn’t swallowed up in a life of crime and sins that would come back to haunt me later in life.

Numerous times during my childhood, pastors and visiting evangelists would stop in the middle of their sermon, walk over to me and share with me and with the rest of the congregation what God had revealed to them about His call on my life. There were times when these individuals would prophecy to me and something occurred similar to what John Wesley said happened to him: “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”

Benteng 1978 High School Graduation Picture

Chet Swearingen
1978 High School Graduation Picture

I knew that this was the confirmation of the Holy Spirit testifying to me that the words that person was saying to me were accurate and that it would take place, but I was still rebelling and didn’t want to submit. Probably the main reason I didn’t yield to the Holy Spirit at that time was because the churches I attended were heavily influenced by the Holiness Movement, and their legalism drained the life out of what it meant to be a Christian. I didn’t want any part of that boring and condemning lifestyle.

One week after I graduated from High School, my mother and 5 year old brother escorted me to the Greyhound bus stop in Defiance, Ohio and I headed to Orlando, FL to experience boot camp and 8 years in the United States Navy. The departure on that bus, waving goodbye to my mother and little brother, was the worst emotional pain I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. Little did I know that a much more grueling and indescribable emotional pain would be experienced 31 years later when my wife and I would say goodbye to our son and daughter as we boarded a plane to serve overseas as missionaries.

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