Feature

God’s Tattoo

By

After years of abusing drugs and stealing money from the federal government, Kevin Niebuhr lost everything—he even nearly lost custody of his daughter. In desperation, he cried out, “Lord, if you do something decent with my life, you can have every day from here on out.”

Kevin and Tim first met at Tim's tattoo shop. Photo by Jord Christopher

Hearing Kevin’s heartfelt cry, God is making good on Kevin’s promise—developing a desire in him to create a place where men like him can be reached with the gospel. He started learning to cope using body building workouts instead of drugs and decided he wanted to open a gym and plant a church through the connections he made.

And that’s exactly what he did. Kevin opened a Metroflex gym in his town, Jefferson, Wisconsin, in November 2016. Soon after, it became the meeting place for Forge Church, a group of 30–40 new believers, all unchurched. Five months later, Forge Church had outgrown the gym and moved into a new building that it’s already outgrowing.

On December 9, 2018, more than 100 people packed into a building meant for 80 to celebrate the baptisms of 14 men and women. By God’s grace, the lives of people from all backgrounds are being changed through this ministry, including Tim’s.

When Nothing Satisfies

Shortly after Kevin became a Christian, he met Tim. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Tim wasn’t allowed to salute the flag or attend birthday parties—even if they were during class time at school. This led to significant isolation for him and his sister, and he was picked on constantly by the other kids. It didn’t take long for Tim to start acting out in violence against his peers and even his father.

Kevin opened Metroflex gym to reach the broken in his community and now ministers to them through Forge Church. Photo by Jord Christopher

The older he got, the more Tim felt like he didn’t belong anywhere—in or outside his family’s faith. Tim finally felt he belonged when he met a Satanist in high school and started practicing the religion even though he didn’t believe in it. “I just wanted to be accepted and feel loved,” Tim says.

Tim started smoking marijuana around this time. He eventually started abusing alcohol and drugs daily—overdosing multiple times. “I had a suicidal drug habit,” Tim says. “Death seemed like a release to me. There was an insane darkness in me, and it followed me wherever I went.”

Nothing satisfied Tim. He had a decent career as a tattoo artist, a wife and daughter, and lived a life of material abundance—yet he could not overcome his habits of promiscuity, drug abuse, and violence. “The first thing I would do if there was any sort of quarrel was assert dominance over them,” Tim says. “I was very quick to start a fight.”

He was jailed multiple times and faced five felonies. When all the charges against him were inexplicably dropped and he was released from prison, Tim decided he wasn’t going to go back to his old way of life. But as soon as he finished his probation, he started selling drugs to supplement his income.

A Seven-Layer Burrito of Bad

Soon after his release, Tim went back to using a variety of drugs, spending roughly $4,000 a month on a toxic mix of cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, steroids, and more. He worked nonstop, often going 40–50 hours without sleep. He and his wife were on and off. They were emotionally and physically abusing each other, and Tim continued cheating on her with multiple women.

“Everything was about consuming things, about being angry,” Tim says. “I was like a seven-layer burrito of bad.”

Sean, one of the 14 baptized at Forge Church in 2018, was saved by Jesus from addiction and homelessness. Read his story at cmalliance.org/lfc. Photo by Jord Christopher

Throughout this difficult time in Tim’s life, Kevin and his wife, Sam, reached out to Tim, inviting him over for dinner, working out with him, getting tattoos from him, talking to him about Jesus, and taking care of any needs he had. “God kept putting him in my life at pivotal points,” Tim says. “Anytime I cried out, Kevin was there.”

“But the more Tim was presented with the gospel,” Kevin says, “the worse this guy became.”

Tim was still heavily involved in the occult, and it significantly affected the way he related to people, including Kevin. After five years, Kevin couldn’t handle being around Tim anymore. “Tim wasn’t simply immersed in the world—he was immersed in spiritual darkness,” Kevin says. “I walked away, thinking I failed.”

From Death to Life

Tim fell so deep into despair that he was ready to kill himself. He thought he heard his recently deceased grandfather tell him, “It’s not so bad—just die.” This scared him and gave him a desire to seek after spiritual things, though he was still turned off by religion.

Tim's tattoos have continually given him the ability to talk about Jesus to people who might never enter a church. Photo by Jord Christopher

One day, while he and his wife were high together, they started talking about a Satanist song he loved that referenced Revelation. His wife had never read the Bible. So Tim looked up Revelation in his Bible, and they read almost the entire book together that night.

That moment began a turning point for Tim. He started listening to Bible apps on and off while he was tattooing. “I thought Scripture was really angry, but I learned it’s a love story between a father and his children,” Tim says. He started giving his clients a discount if they read the Psalms to him while he gave them tattoos.

Slowly but surely, Tim began to change. He realized that the more he talked about Jesus and the more he prayed, the less he had a desire for violence, drugs, and women—in fact, he was growing repulsed by everything from his old life.

He soon felt convicted to stop selling drugs and get rid of all drug paraphernalia and everything he bought with his drug money. Tim filled the dumpster behind his house to the brim four times with nearly all his possessions.

After some time, Tim called Kevin—“Will you come down to my shop and read me the Bible? I want to receive the Holy Spirit.”

Kevin and his wife, Sam, at Metroflex gym. Photo by Jord Christopher

“Bro, you’re high,” Kevin replied. “This is a joke.”

“No, I’m serious. I’ve been reading the Bible,” Tim said. “If you tell me about Jesus and pray with me, I’ll tattoo you for free.”

Kevin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. But he went down to Tim’s tattoo shop to talk. “Cognitively, I knew God could save anyone, but there’s often a disconnect between our heads and our hearts,” Kevin says. “I knew in my head, ‘God, You can do this.’ I just didn’t think it was possible.”

However, as soon as Kevin saw Tim, he knew that something was different. As he lay in Tim’s tattoo chair, Kevin asked him questions. They talked about the gospel for hours. Once he realized that Tim was truly repentant and understood salvation, the two prayed together.

“We were sitting there and I just broke,” Kevin says. “Man, I didn’t even cry that hard when my dad died. I was bawling as I was praying for this guy because it’s something I couldn’t believe would ever happen.”

Tim was baptized at Forge Church shortly after and has continued to grow in his faith. He tells everyone he can about Jesus. “I don’t know where God’s going to take Tim,” Kevin says. “But God knows what He’s done in Tim’s life, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

The Forge Church is truly a family. The members have vastly different backgrounds, ranging from those like Tim who are completely unchurched to others who have attended church since infancy. But their shared, passionate love of Christ makes everyone who enters Forge’s doors feel like they’ve come home.

Watch this story: cmalliance.org/43675

1 response to God’s Tattoo

  1. Sin divides, but Christ unifies us. First with him, then to ourselves and to one another. What a beautiful testimony of the power of Jesus’ blood! Thank you to believers like Kevin, who believe without seeing. The Lord claims those who are His. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Past Alliance Life Issues


Share

Get Involved...

Pray.

We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »

Serve.

Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »

Give.

Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »