God’s grace and forgiveness shatter past hurts and provide healing to a couple looking for hope.
This is a story full of hurt, yes—but it’s really a story about hope. Hope that realizes the old ghosts of shame, fear, anger, and guilt can’t steal the hearts that God holds in his great big hands.
This is the story of Travis, Frankie, and a church named Hope. And hope is what connects them.
A rough start
Travis was born in 1970 in southern California. He was raised by his mother, who was a hippie and a drifter. “She instilled in me the idea of God and prayer, but we really did not lead a godly lifestyle. My mom was involved with Hell’s Angels, and she struggled with drugs and alcohol.”
When Travis was a young boy, his mom ran up a drug debt with the biker gang. Travis was kidnapped and held for ransom. “They kept me in a room for weeks, maybe longer, until the debt got paid. They didn’t hurt me. They played the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over and over.”
Travis and his mom got a fresh start in Oregon where Travis enrolled in school for the first time in his life, in fifth grade. After high school graduation, his girlfriend became pregnant. They married and had a daughter, Amber Rose. The marriage lasted about eight years.
Soon after Travis’ divorce, he got another woman pregnant. He married her and she gave birth to a son, Jake. But Travis admits, “That marriage didn’t work at all.”
In 2015, Travis went to California with Jake and met his birth father; they moved in with him for eight months. “I found out a bunch of stuff about my father—stuff I didn’t care to know,” says Travis. “I sent Jake back to his mom in Oregon and moved out.” Travis’ construction skills got him some work through his cousins, who were involved in a biker gang. He was invited to a ranch—an 80-acre marijuana operation. He quickly became valuable building greenhouses, taking care of the five residences on the property, and cutting into power services to steal electricity. “I was chasing money and didn’t fully realize what I was involved in,” he says.
Travis lived on the property about a year before he met Anthony, the man who owned it. “He treated me really well, and I thought we were becoming really close. It was getting where I trusted him completely.”
“I stood up, raised my hands to heaven, and asked God to deliver me. And he did.”
In time, new people, scary types, started visiting the ranch. “There was a lot of stuff going on that I was on the fringes of. It got so I couldn’t sleep at night,” he says. Travis was sent to other ranches to get them off the power grid too, including one with four greenhouses and a $40,000 monthly bill. “I took three of those greenhouses off-grid, which saved them a ton of money,” says Travis. “But stealing power is very dangerous. You’re working with thousands of volts—if you do it wrong, you don’t walk away.”
Travis started refusing those jobs and was reassured by Anthony that it was okay. “But I was stepping on people’s toes, and they were getting upset with me,” he says. “They ‘green-lighted’ me, which means there’s a hit on you; no one has your back.” Terrified, Travis reached out to Anthony, who invited him to dinner. His meal was loaded with a date-rape drug. “When I regained my senses, there were four people in the room. . . . Anthony’s hand was over my mouth, and he was sexually assaulting me. When I woke up again, I was back in my trailer. Everything was foggy in my head. . . except how I wanted revenge.”
Travis spent the next four months in a daze trying to hunt down those who abused him. “I wanted to murder them. One day I found myself along a desert road with a scope hunting rifle. I was lying in wait. But something came over me. I stood up, raised my hands to heaven, and asked God to deliver me. And he did. He guided me to a house in the middle of nowhere. The homeowner gave me water and drove me 75 miles to a bus station. I jumped on a bus and returned to Oregon.”
Surprised by hope
Even as Travis tried to start a new life, his nightmares wouldn’t go away. He obsessed over revenge, thinking it was the only way to stop his pain. Then he reached out to an old high school friend named Frankie.
Frankie was born in 1968 in western Oregon. When she was young, her mother had a mental breakdown and could no longer take care of Frankie and her siblings. Her dad was a long-haul trucker. The children were passed between church families until the state took over. “My siblings and I ended up in different foster homes for several years, from the time I was a toddler until second grade,” says Frankie. “We were all abused in one way or another.” When Frankie’s dad remarried, her new stepmom fought to gain custody of the children, and they lived on her family farm through high school.
Frankie first met Travis in high school, but they lost touch when Frankie entered the military. She moved to Washington and was in and out of relationships, some violent. She raised two daughters, Christina and Paris. She got involved in an evangelical church, helping with the children’s ministry and becoming known as “Teacher Frankie.” In 1999, Frankie moved back home to Oregon. She had two more children, Logan and Josie.
Travis and Frankie found each other on Facebook and messaged each other sporadically. In the spring of 2020, after his traumatic experience in California and subsequent move back to Oregon, Travis directly reached out to her. “We started seeing each other pretty hard core,” says Frankie. “The first time we talked about what we wanted out of life, everything he said was what I wanted. In my heart I knew I wanted to marry him.”
Frankie, gregarious and tough, was open about her own experiences with abuse and rape, and her honesty melted something in Travis. But Travis was traumatized. He couldn’t trust anyone, including Frankie. “I desperately wanted to be a good man and part of a family, but I was so toxic I scared her,” he says. “When Frankie finally told me to leave, I fell apart. I had just sabotaged my relationship with a wonderful woman who was patiently trying to love and understand me.”
Travis found himself sitting in a parking lot outside of a music store, certain he would never be happy. He cried out to God: “I’ve had enough. If you’re gonna do something, you should do it now.” Travis stumbled into the back room of the store, picked up a guitar, and started plucking on it, tears streaking down his face. That’s when a young man walked in, noticed his distress, and said, “I’m Paul. I’m a pastor. Are you okay?”
Paul Bourman graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2020 and was assigned to Gethsemane, a mission restart in Tigard, Ore. The church had its own story of struggle. Membership had dwindled since the congregation’s beginning in the 1960s. The handful of remaining members had sold the church property and started fresh. But they had a long road. They called for a pastor for two and a half years before Bourman arrived. “We began our mission work by changing our name to Hope Lutheran,” says Bourman. “But it was the middle of the pandemic, day 50 of the Portland riots, a crazy time to be doing mission work. But by God’s grace, we started worshiping in May 2021 and now average around 35 in worship.”
When Hope outgrew its rented office space, Bourman decided to upgrade his guitar for worship. He entered a music store and saw a man bent over a guitar in obvious distress. “I approached him and said, ‘How can I help you? I’m a pastor.’ At that, the man—Travis—looked up and said, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ Then he burst into tears.”
Bourman barely managed to get his phone number before Travis fled the store. A few days later, he invited Travis out to lunch and heard the whole story. Eventually Travis got up the courage to come to church, where he heard the gospel and began to dig deeper into the message of God’s grace.
“I had to recognize the trauma that Christ experienced for me—being abandoned by his Father and separated from him in suffering and death. The anger I was keeping inside was rotting me,” says Travis. “I looked at the suffering Christ did for me, and how he bore all that sin—Anthony’s and mine. I looked at how ugly and horrible our sin was and how much Christ’s mercy cost. And then forgiveness just started sprouting up in me. I forgave Anthony and the others who had been there.”
Hope that could only come from Jesus grew and was working against the old ghosts of anger and shame.
Hope finds its voice
Frankie was still part of Travis’ life, and after attending worship at Hope for about three months, Travis invited Frankie along. They both studied the Bible and became members and are now witnessing to their adult children. This past winter, Travis proposed to Frankie at church, and she said yes.
Recently, Travis learned that when he was in California plotting murder, a member in Tigard was praying that his dying church would be restored. “He was strong in his hope that God would provide a pastor and healing for the church. And God did. [At the same time], God has also put me on the path to healing. Pastor kept telling me, ‘Seek Christ and his forgiveness and love.’ So that’s my purpose now. God stopped me from committing murder. He saved my relationship with Frankie. I know I can cast my sins to God and he’ll be faithful. As filthy as I was, God still saw me as important. He saw I had a future and that I would be in heaven.”
Hope has found its voice in Travis’ life. And hope is in these lyrics he recently wrote:
Your redeeming Grace covers me
Your amazing Love shelters me.
Keep me—I’m yours and you are mine—
In your Grace for the rest of time.
Author: Sarah Habben
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022