ALGONA - At 25, Christopher Buscher is a missionary and evangelist with his own organization. He's gone to Colombia and Brazil, and later this month he'll hold a Christian rally in Pakistan.
But when Buscher, of Algona, was 19, he was a drug addict and self-described satanist. He tried to kill himself.
There is a world of difference in those six intervening years.
Chris Buscher, center, poses with some kids in a small remote school in the northeast of Brazil. Buscher said he was the first North American they had ever seen, and 30 days before he arrived was the first time they had ever heard about Jesus.
His problems began at an early age, he said.
"From the ages of 3 to 5, I had a babysitter who would abuse me. That's where I lost all sense of security," he said.
His parents were devout Catholics. They poured resources into trying to help him, but without much success.
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At 12, he was self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.
"Finally, I started to gain things I never had, like friends, power, fun. It seemed good, so I dove into that lifestyle, and started dealing," he confessed. "When I was 16, I got arrested, so that took out the fun."
He spent time in jails and rehab, but they didn't help.
"Every rehab I went to, the message was the same: I'm a drug addict. I will be a a drug addict forever. The best thing I could hope for is to try to stay sober one day at a time. I couldn't accept that," he said. "I started thinking if doctors can't help me, if no one can, I might as well end it."
Buscher went on a suicide bender, using Coricidin, an over-the-counter cold medication.
"I would take 100 pills three times a day, for several weeks," he said. "I had a couple guys in this studio apartment I was crashing at. Every morning, they'd kick me to make sure I was still alive; I would just be lying in a pool of blood and vomit. I'd try to get the strength to reach over and get more pills."
After about four weeks of this, on Jan 23, 2006, Buscher stumbled over to his dad's shop, only 100 yards from where he had been crashing.
"He was all strung out," said Sandy Buscher, Chris Buscher's mother. "I said, What did you take? There's something wrong with you Christopher. He said, 'I need help.'"
Sandy Buscher took her son to the emergency room of Mercy North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City. The doctors said there was no hope. Chris Buscher's organs were shutting down. If he survived, the doctors said, he would be mentally impaired.
As they tried to make him comfortable, he dropped into a coma.
Tom Buscher, his father, said the family thought Buscher would die.
"As much as we'd gone through with him, I was almost relieved it was going to be over. It's sad to say that, but I was to that point," Tom Buscher said.
Sandy Buscher stayed at the hospital, praying hard.
"Never underestimate the the power of a praying mother," Chris Buscher said. "During that comatose state, my life changed forever. I felt the Holy Spirit's presence."
Before, Chris Buscher saw faith as just another support system that couldn't live up to its promises.
"My parents were very devout Catholics. I went to Catholic school and to church every Sunday, all through grammar school. They always told me how God was supposed to love me and protect me. I saw from the precedent of child abuse that this obviously can't be true. After what happened to me, either God was not loving and wasn't with me, or he didn't exist. I hated it whenever I'd hear something good about God."
But in the hospital, Buscher thought about the Bible studies he'd attended in jail with the Rev. Kevin Hollinger. Hollinger and Buscher met weekly for almost two years. The only thing that stuck with Buscher was Hollinger saying if you turn to Jesus, you can be saved.
He had identified himself as a Satanist, and assumed there was no hope.
Still, Buscher eventually turned to God.
"I just said, Jesus, save me. My organs started healing, and I felt peace," Buscher said. "For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to feel loved. It was weird that I'd found it from the one I'd hated so many years."
His organs started working again. Then his mental acuity returned.
"Just overnight, there was a complete change," said Tom Buscher.
His physical body was reviving, but Chris Buscher still had a lot of work to do.
Eventually, Buscher spent 17 1/2 months in Teen Challenge, a faith-based residential treatment program with facilities throughout the United States. He then worked on staff at two of its centers, and went on its mission trips.
In 2011, Buscher said he felt God leading him to start his own ministry. He calls it Lay Me Down Inc.
"It's about laying down your life, denying your flesh to advance the kingdom," Buscher said.
Lay Me Down has held events in Brazil and Colombia. This year, Buscher has five trips planned, including taking part in a healing and revival event in Pakistan.
Buscher said his experiences help him in his ministry; since he's been through so much, he can speak about the grace and power of God.
"It helps when I go to churches to speak," he said, "because people want to hear my story."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org