Thursday, 05 March 2015 00:38

Testimony of a Recovered Gambling Addict

Written by  Rev. Roger Olson, Cedarwood Community Church
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Rev. Roger Olsen is the pastor of Cedarwood Community Church in Wetumpka, Alabama.  Rev. Olsen is also the Resource Development Coordinator for the Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and we took the opportunity to sit down with the Pastor for a conversation.

Q: You were born in Southern California?


A: I like the fact you emphasized “Southern” California. Yes, I was born in Long Beach and then I spent the bulk of my time growing up in a town outside of Los Angeles called San Gabriel. When I was seven years old I dedicated my life to the Lord at the First Baptist Church in Rosemead. Later, I  attended Mayflower Congregational Church in San Gabriel and I was president of the High School Youth Group for my junior and senior years of high school.



Q: Tell us about your call to ministry.


A: I had what I would call a supernatural experience that was so profound I went to my youth pastor and told him, “I think God is calling me into the ministry!” My youth pastor was 50 years old and from that moment on he personally mentored me for ministry. His name was Dr. John Eichorn, and his nickname was “Doc”. I became a licensed lay preacher in 1983 and I was ordained in 1986. God called me to pastor a small church in Monrovia, California where I served for 10 years.



Q: You once allowed gambling to take hold of your life. Would you share that with us?


A: In 1990 I took my wife and three children to the town of Laughlin, Nevada where I understood the rooms and meals were very inexpensive. I had never been in a casino before, and my wife and I spent about an hour playing slot machines. We won more money in that hour than what we had started out with on our vacation. I immediately got hooked on gambling. I started making regular trips to Las Vegas and State Line and I began losing more money that I could not afford to lose.

One day, in 1993 I woke up bankrupt in every single area of my life. I had become a gambling addict. I thought I could control the activity, but the devil comes with one kill steal and destroy. The goal of any addiction is to kill the host. The devil came close. Other people can gamble responsibly. I’m not one of those people. I was like David when he wrote Psalm 51. I was told, “You will never preach the gospel again!” Then one day, out of nowhere, I got a call from my mentor, Doc. He reminded me that God was not finished with me yet, and that no one in the Bible was ever used by God until that person was broken.



Q: Was he right?


A: Absolutely! The Blood of Jesus is all about redemption. Jesus restored my family, my faith and healed me from my addiction. In 2010 Cedarwood called me to be their pastor, and in 2012 I was asked to be the Resource Development Coordinator for the Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling. Now, in addition to preaching, I train others to help gambling addicts here in Alabama. 

On March 4th, I celebrate 20 years of freedom from my addiction, and on March 13th my wife Kim and I celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary. My life is so much better now that I serve the Lord. I find myself saying, “Devil, you should have killed me when you had the chance!” 



Q: This is Problem Gambling Awareness Month in Alabama. Do you have a comment on that?


A: If a person needs help because their gambling has become a problem, then help is available for them. Just dial the United Way’s 2-1-1 phone number and tell the operator you need help for possible gambling addiction. We have already trained more than 30 counselors in Alabama and we also have Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Montgomery and Wetumpka.



Q: Do you have anything new on the horizon?


A: Beginning in late April, I’ll be training pastors on how to help others in the area of problem gambling. Call 334-277-5100 if you are interested.  Thank you again for letting me share.



If you would like to contact Rev. Roger Olsen you can do so by calling Cedarwood Community Church at 334-567-0476 or the Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling at 334-277-5100. See our support groups page in this month’s issue for local gambling addiction meetings.





Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 00:40
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