ODESSA Justin Setzer was 17 years old and said his soul was at stake in a battle between God and Satan, and Satan had the lead.
Setzer, who attended Leto High School at the time, was sporting long hair, multiple piercings, and had been thrown out of his house. He was also interested in various activities that weren't looked upon kindly by police.
He likes to tell his parishioners at the Impact Church of Keystone the story of looking at a numerical clock one day as he started to ponder his own direction. The time was 11:34. Why is that significant? If you write 11:34 on a clear piece of paper, and turn it upside down, it reads, "hell'' – and shows insight into Setzer's way of thinking.
"That's where I was at that time,'' Setzer. "It was around that time that I realized that, if God is telling you something, I would suggest you do it.''
Setzer found a new life even though his former buddies were telling him it was just a phase he was going through. In fact, all his former friends said he'd be right back to where he was before the transformation.
But they were wrong.
Still, Setzer hasn't forgotten where he came from. He still stays in touch with his old friends and, while he has seen some of them make a change for the better, he doesn't condemn the friends who are still up to their old ways. That puts Setzer into some potentially nervous situations, but he said he has always been there for his friends and anytime they want to talk, he will listen.
"I like sharing my old stories from the pulpit,'' Setzer said. "God is loving and graceful and he understands forgiveness. I didn't grow up in church and didn't understand it until I was 18 and then I couldn't believe the change that came over me. It helps that I have done so many things and I can understand what other people deal with in their everyday lives.''
Setzer leads a modern service at his church on Tarpon Springs Road at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. He also offers a children's church and a nursery.
He also makes things interesting at times. Just ask him about numbers. Setzer doubles as a human calculator. He is closing in on a world record in speed math – yes, there are such contests – and regularly challenges the congregation to stump him.
For instance, he will ask members of the congregation to pick any number between one and 100,000, then ask for another number to be divided into 100,000. He can give the answer to any problem in less than five seconds, right down to the decimal points.
Another trick is to take any number and continue to repeatedly multiply it by itself. It's an ability he is quite proud of, but not quite as proud as he is of changing his ways starting at 11:34 – when his life became better by at least 10 square.