I Love Life: Sioux Falls Pastor Recalls Childhood Abuse
Al Peratt was physically and sexually abused as a child. “I was molested by my dad’s best friend in the choir room of a church with a picture of Jesus right in front of us. I thought this was really a lot of phoniness. I was really jaded. Yet, I still went on to become the leader of the church’s youth group.”
After graduating from high school, Al enrolled in the California Baptist College to become a church music director. “The first year went pretty well. I played a lot of basketball. The second year I was introduced to drinking by some of the guys on the basketball team. “
Once he took his first drink, Al was hooked. “I had a blackout which wasn’t good because I chased that a lot. Eventually, I was kicked out of seminary because of my drinking. I decided then and there I was going to go out and discover the evils I heard about from the pulpit. I literally went on a twenty three year terror.”
The 23-year terror included using, buying and selling drugs of all kinds---regardless of the consequences. “People talk about marijuana being a gate way drug. It was really alcohol for me and most of the people I know.”
Once he left school, Al joined the U.S. Army. “When I went into the military, I continued to drink. In spite of the drinking, I managed to become the top legal clerk in my battalion. At one point in Germany, I was introduced to hash. I just went on another terror! The effect is what I loved. I grabbed hold of the stuff, started smuggling drugs and even brought explosives back to the states. I decided I would become a violent weatherman hippy!”
Once he left the army, Al started running with bike gangs in California. “They helped me sell my drugs. After these guys found out I had contacts in San Diego, I was in the middle of a major smuggling career that really blossomed. But, I never joined a motorcycle gang. I was an affiliate. In other words, I made a lot of money for the gangs. One time, we emptied out an entire gas truck and stuffed it with barrels of marijuana, trunk loads of Quaaludes and all kinds of pills. But, I finally left L.A. because there was going to be a murder and I didn’t want any part of it. It was the first time I felt the Holy Spirit was speaking to me. “
But, that wasn’t the end of Al’s obsession with drugs. “I was a heroin addict for eight years while trying to hold down construction jobs. My wife Teresa also got involved with some meth when it first came out. The addictions got so bad we decided to move to South Dakota. Someone told me there weren’t any drugs or alcohol in Rapid City. But, the first day I was here, I was drinking a beer and smoking a joint. Instead of getting away from the drugs, we started the whole crazy thing over again. I ended up getting busted and going to the South Dakota State Penitentiary.”
While serving his time, Al fell on his knees one night and asked God to come into his life. “I told Him, ’if you are God, I’ve got to have something. If this is all there is to it, I don’t want to live this way. So, please help me.’ From then on, I started building my spiritual life brick by brick. I now have a solid spiritual foundation. Other people have a big awakening. But, I had to really work for it. Still today, I still keep building it because the old addictive behavior wants to come out.”
Once he got released from the state prison, Al was a different man---a man who possessed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “First day out, I went to a meeting at Keystone Treatment Center. I also started attending the Ridgecrest Baptist Church. These wonderful people fed my family while I was locked up. After several years I was licensed to preach and went into jails to meet with the inmates.
Soon after, Al was about to get an unprecedented offer. The prison chaplain asked him to join the chaplain’s staff at the prison. “I remember telling him, they don’t let guys like me back behind the walls. He told me, ‘don’t worry about it. I work for someone bigger than all of us.’ Of course, that’s God.” The one time prison inmate now ministers to the men at the state penitentiary!
Albert Einstein once wrote, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.” Pastor Al Peratt perceives his life this way. “My life is just nothing short of a miracle. I have to turn off my phone at night because I get so many phone calls from addicts and alcoholics. I have a full time ministry for the depressed, oppressed, addicted and convicted. I’m just really blessed to do what I do today. I credit everything to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”