Coffee and change

Prostitute turned pastor earns invite to Washington, D.C.

Posted: Monday, February 14, 2005

 

  Verissa Walber, pastor of Ministries of the Living Stones in Sterling, recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where she attended the president's prayer breakfast and other events. Photo by Phil Hermanek

Verissa Walber, pastor of Ministries of the Living Stones in Sterling, recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where she attended the president's prayer breakfast and other events.

Photo by Phil Hermanek

At one time she was a prostitute. She was an alcoholic and a junkie, too.

Twenty-three years ago, Verissa Walber had a spiritual experience that turned her life around, however, and last week, she was among the many U.S. ministers invited to President George W. Bush's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Pastor of the Ministries of the Living Stones in Sterling today, Walber says her hope in ministering is that one person also will be given hope much the same way she was.

Having suffered through a childhood and early marriage marred with physical, mental and sexual abuse, Walber was driven to a life laden with drugs and alcohol.

She came to Alaska in 1972 to open the Booby Trap and the Wild Cherry nightclubs in Anchorage for organized crime, she says.

She also opened the first Great Alaska Bush Company, then a business of ill repute, and became part owner of the Red Garter Saloon.

The rough lifestyle and an $800-a-day cocaine habit eventually led her to the not-so-glamorous profession working at Eadie's brothel in North Kenai.

"When you do the things I did — the shame, the guilt, the remorse, the torment — you have no self-worth," Walber said.

"I proceeded to tell this so-called God what I thought of him. I was so loud, from room number one at Eadie's, I cleared the bar out," she said.

"Drunk and high, I took my .357 (pistol) to my mouth.

"The room filled with what I thought was smoke.

"Today I know it was the glory of God," she said.

"I knew it was real."

Suddenly, Walber was unable to pull the trigger. She said she believes she was delivered, and from that day forward, she has never again thirsted, never again had a grand mal seizure, typical of people coming down from alcohol or drug addictions.

She said she never knew anything about God, but she knew in an instant her life was completely wrong.

Having reached a turning point, Walber began to read from the Bible. She had quit school in eighth grade but now worked toward receiving a high school diploma from the Academy of Higher Learning in Sterling, and eventually earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and theology from Calvary Theological Seminary in Florida.

As founder and senior pastor of Ministries of the Living Stones, she has traveled to 37 foreign countries preaching the Gospel.

She's been to most countries in Central and South America, to the Philippines, Korea and Israel.

In her travels, she met Julie Morris, who she describes as "an incredible woman from Juneau who also was teaching."

Morris, who now heads the Governor's Prayer Breakfast in Juneau, submitted Walber's name as a candidate to be invited to the national breakfast, and in December, Walber got her invitation.

"With my past, I never thought I'd get cleared (through a security check)," she said.

"Julie told me she prayed for me for months.

"I told her if it's at all possible, I would be so humbled," Walber said.

Everything lined up and Walber was in fact able to attend the breakfast Feb. 3, along with nearly 3,000 other ministers from around the country and from foreign countries, as well.

"When that man (President Bush) bowed his head to pray, in front of 3,000 people from 163 nations, I began to shake," she said.

She said she was so overwhelmed by the event, she does not recall what was served for breakfast.

"I couldn't eat. I was too nervous. I know I drank a couple cups of coffee," she said.

During her five days in the nation's capital, Walber also attended the Pacific Northwest dinner, the Pastors' Seminar and the closing dinner during the week of events for ministers.

Now that she's back on the Kenai Peninsula, Walber said she wants people to know there's hope.

"You don't have to be good to go to church. Everybody's welcome," she said.

Sunday services at Ministries of the Living Stones begin at 10:30 a.m. at the church off Otter Trail.

"People should know we're loud," she said.

"We're nondenominational and we don't dress up," she said.

"We look up."



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