My name is Chestie A. Carney, named after my uncle Chet, and this is the brief (actually not so brief) story of my life. I was born in a small town in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. My father, Wilbert Carney, had come to Canada from his hometown in Dickson, Tennessee to look for work in the early 1940's. He found a job as a Pullman porter for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and a few years later he met my mother, Grace Elizabeth Pengelly, a Canadian citizen. A few years later they married and had five children, one girl and four boys, my sister being the oldest and me smack in the middle. We moved from Moose Jaw soon after I was born to Winnipeg, Manitoba. There my father, who had come to know the Lord in Moose Jaw, attended a small evangelical church that greatly inspired him to preach the Gospel. In 1965, following foolowing the Lord's leading, my father quit the railroad and brought the whole family to Nashville, Tennessee, close to his own birthplace Dickson and the residence of many of his own kin.
To make a long story short it went pretty rough for us in Nashville, and by the time I turned 18 things had drastically changed. My mother had found the difficulties to hard and walked out; my father had a nervous breakdown and was in and out of a mental hospital for several years, his faith in the Lord taking a hard hit: and us children, struggling with housing, school, drugs and alcohol desperately tried to make it somehow. After graduation from high school in 1977, I wanted nothing to do with Nashville but to get out.. That chance came with the United States Navy and the September following graduation I boarded an airplane for the first time and headed to Orlando, Florida for 8 weeks of boot camp. I thought I was headed for a career on the high seas, but God had something a bit different in mind.
After a couple of years assignment in the States I was shipped off to a small island in the Pacific called Okinawa. Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan and is located in a tropical region several hundred miles south of the mainland. It's a beautiful island with great weather in the winter time but unbearably hot and humid in the summer. Naturally I would have to arrive in the middle of summer. I recall the day I arrived in Okinawa. As I stepped out of the plane door to the open air ramp, I remember the humidity running up to greet me with a big warm hug. I literally gasped for breath. My only thought at the time was to turn around, get back on the plane and convince the stewardess that I had gotten on the wrong plane.
After a few days of getting use to constant sweat I finally settled into the reality that I would be staying for awhile. I comforted myself however with the thought that just because I had to stay didn't mean I had to like it. So, I adopted the standard Navy issue 'bad attitude' and proceeded to do all of the things that people with bad attitudes do in order to justify their bad attitudes, such as drugs, getting drunk and keeping company with other people with bad attitudes.
This went on for several months, almost a year in fact, and I had pretty much thought that this is the way life would be from now on. But I was wrong.. One night while out bar hopping with some friends I happened to talk to a Christian who was passing out pamphlets. I had met Christians witnessing on the street before and usually just listened and walked away. But this night something was different. This night I prayed and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into my heart, into my life, and change me. And from that moment on He did. It seemed gradual at first but there was no mistaking that I wasn't in the Navy anymore, I was in the Lord's army.