Criston McPhetridge is an outreach pastor for Westside Family Fellowship who turned his life around after being addicted to drugs and alcohol and who now volunteers to help the homeless and minister in the Philippines. He is gives of his time not for the recognition but for the love of it.
His story is one of inspiration, having overcome a 20-year addiction that almost destroyed him. "I started using meth at 17 and didn't stop until I was 40. I was going down a path where I was either going to end up dead or in prison."
But then he found God. "I went into a program called Teen Challenge. I was there for a year when he changed my life. Everything after has been a whirlwind since putting me in a place to be a blessing to others."
He got a job in maintenance at Westside Family Fellowship after he graduated from the program. "I knew that I wanted more of what God had to offer me, so I started to study and got my credential in ministry from the Pentecostal Church of God."
McPhetridge was on the worship team at the church, holding a celebrate recovery class when his pastor offered him the position of outreach pastor. "And then they put me on staff, and that's when I began to feel the area that God wanted me to focus on, which was outreach."
With the church, he began a once-a-month event at Westside Park to feed anyone who came and gave a short church service. "We made sack lunches once a week for about two years, and we would go and hand them out in Shafter, Wasco and Bakersfield."
"I would give them a sack lunch and tell them my testimony and witness to them about Jesus."
Then, an opportunity arose to extend his service internationally. "I met a pastor at a men's group who had a ministry, Arise Shine, based in the Philippines, and I ended up going on a mission trip with him for three months."
There, he participated in many events, preaching the Gospel, teaching and giving daily devotions at the Bible college, doing street ministry and attending meetings with Arise Shine leadership.
"I couldn't believe it, and I kept thinking that God just had to be real. I had never even flown in an airplane before, and with my background, I never thought that God would use me in another country to share my story."
"And so that lit a fire in me that I knew then that I wanted to preach. So, when I returned, I began doing that at our church. Working with my pastor, he has been mentoring me, giving me books to study, and having me do a lot more preaching."
"That's where I'm headed right now. I speak at churches around Bakersfield, McFarland and Taft, and I want to continue to do that, to share my story with people. In April, I will speak at Teen Challenge on a Friday once a month."
He said he is excited about that because that program changed his life. "If it wasn't for Teen Challenge and having somewhere to go when I worked on myself, I would probably still be addicted to drugs and alcohol."
Looking ahead, he sees a bright future, "I am going to continue to do God's work. I know that I'm going to be involved with people. I'm going to be involved with the homeless, the addicted and the broken for the rest of my life because with the compassion and the way my heart hurts when I see somebody addicted to drugs or sleeping on the street, I don't think that the kind of hurt I feel for those people is ever going to go away. I know that it's a place where I can make a little bit of a difference."