Charles Freitag, of Hutchinson, was asked to go into ministry work at the age of 17, but it wasn’t until he saw the light and turned 68 that he accepted the calling to become a pastor. It wasn’t easy for Freitag because, according to Freitag, God wanted him to see the other side — the dark side — first. The dark side included a rough upbringing, smoking habit, alcoholism, pornography, health issues and four marriages.
“I finally came into an agreement because I couldn’t run no more. It took him (God) from the time I was 17 until I turned 60 that he caught up to me,” Freitag noted. “I ran from God, but he said, “I had to teach you what was on the other side because you wouldn’t have believed me.” I had to go through hell. My first wife divorced me, and I felt rejected. My second wife died and then the third one rejected me too. Then I sit there and say to myself when will this ever end? Is there something wrong with me? If I had taken that first call when I was 17, I would probably be a normal preacher somewhere around here. My calling was more spiritual than anything I could have gone through,” said Freitag.
He entered the military in 1967, a year after his dad passed away. His mom wanted him to take over as head of the household because he was the oldest boy. But he wasn’t ready to take on that responsibility of taking care of his younger brother and older sister. “My idea of getting away from it all was to join the military,” Freitag recalled. He took basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. Unfortunately it taught him how to drink, swear and smoke. “I learned after the first year that I really didn’t belong there.” He got orders to go to Vietnam and flew to Oakland Air Force Base in California. He didn’t want to go to Vietnam and in a prayer to God said, “If I go over there, they will bring me back in a box. If that is what you have planned for my life then that is what I am going to do.”
The night before he was to take off for Vietnam he got a call to go to the main office. The commander told him and seven others that they would not be sending them to Vietnam. His prayer was answered. It came down the night before, that the entire country of Vietnam was changing so he didn’t have to go to Vietnam the next morning.
“I always thought that was the luckiest thing in my life until later when God came back into my life on a full time basis,” Freitag said. He saw it as an act of God when God said to him, “Remember when you said you were going to go to Vietnam and die? You weren’t supposed to. So I just had to change the entire government so you didn’t have to go.”
It proved to Freitag that he had a destiny of something better going on than what he was doing. He got out of the service in 1970 but after six months decided to reenlist for another six years.
His first marriage lasted 10 years; he was 25 years old at the time. When the marriage turned sour, Freitag turned to alcohol and that led to a divorce. “I thought I wanted to kill myself, and I almost did. My sister and my mom called me and said I was incoherent, and they couldn’t understand me. I went into the mental health unit to detoxify. I had a nervous breakdown. While I was in the mental health unit, one of the workers that assisted me felt special to me. Her name was Bonnie. I remember talking to her. I was supposed to stay in the unit, but I kept sneaking out to talk to her because I felt something about her. After I got out I came back to talk to her. We got to know each other real good and ended up getting married. She was diabetic. She would not go out with me until I gave my life to the Lord. She took me to a church I never heard of before. It was Holy Spirit filled. It wasn’t long after I started going there that I saw a male figure up on the wall. Now I know it was a picture of Jesus smiling at me. We had a good marriage. She was working, I was working.”
“I rejoined the National Guard and was called to go to a training camp, but I didn’t want to go because of my wife’s issue with diabetes. There were many times when she would have attacks, and I wanted to be there to help her get through it. I thought it wasn’t right for me to go. She said you are going to go. Don’t worry about me. I went to camp on a Friday, and on Sunday I got a call and the post pastor told me that she had passed away. They drove me back, and they tried to soothe my nerves. They told me that she had put the baby down to sleep and was doing some laundry. One lady said she saw her take some clothes up to the laundry room and that was the last time they saw her. In the morning her work tried to get a hold of her, and she wasn’t answering the phone. They went to the apartment and knocked but couldn’t get in. When they did get in they found her in the bed. She had one of her seizures and rolled over. It was five days later we had the funeral for her. She was the one person in this world I loved more than anyone else. She was only 27 years old with a baby girl only a year and a half old.”
Freitag moved out of the apartment and went to live with his mom so she could help raise the baby because he was in no shape to do it by himself.
“I just came off from being an alcoholic and got my life back together and was suddenly shot down because of the death of my wife from diabetes. About a week or two after the funeral, I was sleeping on the couch; I woke up in the middle of the night and sat on the couch. Standing in front of me was Bonnie. She asked me how come I was not at my National Guard practice. She was smiling at me, and I said, ‘You know we just buried you a little over a week ago because you passed away.’ She looked at me kind of funny and said ‘no wonder I feel funny.’ She didn’t say another word. She just “poof,” she was gone. It was a strange dream for me but just another indication God had some plan for me in this world. When that happened I knew that she was there watching over me.
There was another incident in which Freitag felt Bonnie was watching over him. He was driving to the VA in St. Cloud and didn’t feel comfortable driving in the stormy weather. He asked God to send somebody to help him out because he was scared of this drive. It wasn’t long after that he got this strong smell of perfume in the car. It smelled like Bonnie’s favorite perfume, and it permeated all through the vehicle. “I looked over at the seat and said is that you sitting there? I didn’t hear anything, see anything, didn’t do anything, but I had such a comfort come over me that I was fine and kept going. He sent her to be by me. I couldn’t see her, but I could smell her from the flowery perfume. So God has been working on me in strange ways.”
“After Bonnie passed away, I had a lot of things with God that I talked about and finally got to the point where I had to get back to living my own life again. I went out and found another lady, a born-again Christian.” Their work schedules led to the demise of this marriage, and they moved on.
“Now I had gotten out of the military because my back had gone out on me. I got three herniated disks in my back. I have degenerative bone disease in my lower back and upper neck.”
“After my third wife left, my whole body started going downhill. I was in a wheelchair. I was sick. Could hardly breathe anymore. People said I looked like I was on my last breath. I went over to Riverside Assembly of God to pray nonstop. I ended up getting a miracle right there. I had no more thoughts about hurting myself. I had trouble with my eyes crossing but that stopped that very same day. I stopped using the wheel chair a month later. I didn’t use a cane anymore. I got color back in my skin. I felt like God had called me at that time. But I didn’t know where to go. I talked to my pastor. I hadn’t been going to church. He said ‘let God lead you on.’ I walked into a prayer group one Sunday morning and was ready to sit down and looked across the table and this word ‘gotcha’ came in. Across from me was this lady who had just recently become a minister herself, and we became friends.”
“After two weeks of attending class with the Full Gospel Evangelistic Association (FGEA) at Willmar, I realized what God put into my heart was the beginning of my ministry. God had been leading me up this, giving me visions of things. I got a license to preach, and I want to get ordained yet. I want to do evangelism, but I want to do it in the United States. I would like to do Bible study wherever people want to do Bible study. We’re praying to get an RV that I can travel around and go from place to place.”
“I ran from Jesus when people said I should go into ministry. I went in to the military instead. I ended up messing up my back and my feet.” He went through several marriages, a death of a spouse, alcoholism, and other health issues before he saw the light and turned to God to preach and help others. “My calling was more spiritual than anything I could have gone through,” said Freitag.