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A changed life

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | January 10, 2022 1:08 AM

HAYDEN — Steven Hemming did not foresee the life he leads today.

“If you would have come to my jail cell door 10 years ago and said, ‘Steven, in 10 years you're going to be pastoring a church. You're going to be a faithful husband. You're going to be a dependable father to your kids,’ I would have fell over laughing, telling you that that's not my story. That must be the guy next door because that's not me."

And the 35-year-old adds this:

“But I'm truly able to see that with God, all things are possible.”

Hemming is pastor of Family Worship Center in Hayden. He arrived in September 2020 to lead the pentecostal church attended by about 140 people. It offers ministries for youth, women and men. And it has outreach programs.

Two of those recent outreaches brought condemnation on Hemming by some members of the public.

In November, a group of adults, some from Family Worship Center, rallied outside the Post Falls Library in response to the Rainbow Squad, a monthly program intended for LGBTQ+ teens and allies aged 11 to 18, which has been hosted by the Community Library Network for about three years.

They held signs stating "Flee From Sexual Immorality," "Obey God Not Men," "Sexual Immorality is an Abomination to God" and "The Solution is Jesus Christ."

In December at the Hayden Library, at another meeting of the Rainbow Squad, a group was there with signs that said, “God is love,” “You can find acceptance in Christ,” and “Merry Christmas boys and girls, free gift.”

This time, a man was arrested for trespassing after refusing orders from law enforcement to return to the group’s designated area. He was armed with a loaded handgun and a knife at the time of his arrest, according to court documents.

Both protests were initiated by Hemming and were reported in The Press. In turn, Hemming felt some wrath for committing what some believed was close to blasphemy.

“I have received a lot of negative opinions and feedback from the protest,” he said in an interview with The Press in his office. “To me and my church, it’s not a protest at all, it’s an outreach.”

Several letter writers to The Press criticized him and he received angry emails and calls.

“I have had a lot of calls people cussing me out, telling me to kill myself, emails telling me that I'm a racist bigot and that how can I do something like that?” Hemming said.

He wasn’t surprised, “due to the way that The Coeur d’Alene Press has portrayed that outreach that we had.”

In a guest commentary published Dec. 4 in The Press, Hemming wrote: "God’s Word tells us to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but to expose them. Everything that is exposed is put on display by the light of God. Though your article was very one sided and slanted news, God used you to expose the approval of immorality that is taking place in our community. So, thank you for being used by God to do so."

He said he hasn’t allowed the fury that followed to get to him.

“Because I know that God loves people, no matter what their background is, no matter how bad their sin is, no matter what they're dealing with, that he wants them to find their acceptance, their belonging, their approval in him,” he said. “And once that takes place, a person is radically changed.

“That’s what happened to me.”

Growing up

Hemming’s life, growing up in California, was fueled by alcohol, drugs and crime. It ripped his family apart.

“My parents couldn't take care of themselves, let alone me. And so they kind of pawned me off on my grandparents and I moved up here to Coeur d'Alene with them in the fourth grade,” he said.

But nothing changed.

“Because of all the abandonment in my life, I was filled with resentment and bitterness. And I started down the same path as my parents at a young age,” he said. “I started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in elementary school and started running away from home, taking out all my resentment and bitterness on my grandparents. And I got involved with the law at a very young age.”

When he was in fifth grade, he was in juvenile diversion in Kootenai County. At age 14, he was committed to the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections and sent to a corrections center in southern Idaho.

It was there he was told his mom had committed suicide.

He began to scream and beat his fists against his head. An officer told him to stop, and asked if he was going to be OK.

“I looked up at him and said, 'Am I going to be OK? Yeah, I'm going to be just fine. Send me back to my cell.' And I went back to my cell. And at that point in time, 14 years old, I got really used to those walls that are built around me. I think I settled it in my heart, that this is the life that I've been dealt.”

He was in and out of boys' homes, reform schools and institutions. He was again committed to the Department of Juvenile Corrections, and then waived to adult court at age 17 and went to prison.

“I spent my 18th birthday down on the yard, in Boise, in prison,” he said.

Hemming was released, but would spend several more years in prison and jail before turning a corner.

In 2012, he heard about the Good Samaritan rehabilitation program through The Altar Church pastored by Tim Remington.

He wanted to enter it, but didn’t have the money. Later, Remington told Hemming that two people he used to know, who also battled drugs and alcohol and went through Good Samaritan, wanted to sponsor him.

He couldn't believe it.

When Hemming heard that, he said, “My heart just broke.”

“Now I came to the realization that it was really God that loved me, God that believed in me, God that had faith that I could succeed and God that orchestrated everything together to bring me to that point where he was saying, ‘Are you ready? Choose me,'" Hemming said. "And that was the free gift type of love. That was the love push that helped me start stepping in the right direction.”

A new man

Hemming said he was done with making a mess of his life, done with destroying everything, done with hurting people, done with seeking acceptance in the wrong places.

“God took me out of that darkness and brought me into this marvelous life,” said Hemming, who is married and has two children. “And now, I want nothing more but to live my life in thanksgiving to Him, and to show others God's love, that God is for them and not against them.”

He graduated from Good Samaritan and went on to serve as associate pastor at The Altar Church before Remington asked him if he wanted to be the lead pastor of a church.

Absolutely.

“I knew that it was God that had opened this door and I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity that God was giving me,” he said.

More outreach

Hemming is soft-spoken, clean-cut and wears a suit and tie to work. He said there may be more outreach efforts like the ones that previously brought him under fire.

It's not because he wants to cast judgment and label others as sinners and yell they are going to hell.

Just the opposite, he said.

“I want nothing more but for everyone to know that God loves them. And that he has a plan and purpose for their lives,” he said.

The restless heart, Hemming said, can find rest in Jesus Christ. He added that he knows this because he lived it.

Each morning he wakes up, Hemming said he looks at what God has done with him.

“And I'm completely blown away,” he said.

photo

BILL BULEY/Press

Pastor Steven Hemming prays with children at Family Worship Center in Hayden.

photo

BILL BULEY/Press

The word "Family" rests on a windowsill at Family Worship Center.