Nov 17, 2009

Dr. Daryl Pitts shares about Lou Gehrig’s disease

by Camille Smith

In 1971, he was a $50-a-day cocaine addict working for the rock band Glass Harp, traveling across the country. Daryl Pitts found himself in a bar on a Wednesday night in February praying with Phil Keaggy to receive Christ as savior.

“I don’t think God was up in heaven thinking, ‘Boy I never thought Daryl would get saved,’” Pitts said, remembering the night.

Pitts doesn’t believe that God leaves anything to chance, and backs up this conclusion with the first part of Romans 8:29, which reads, “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined.”

“You have to come to the conclusion that there are a couple things that God cannot be, one is mistaken and the other is surprised,” Pitts said.

Now clean for 38 years, Pitts is an adjunct professor at Liberty University and the counseling and recovery pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC). Pitts holds four degrees from Liberty in ministry and counseling. He leads Freedom Ministries, which are groups that provide Christ-centered counseling for addicts and recovering addicts at TRBC.

In June, Pitts was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is a terminal, progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy, according to the ALS Association.

“I know that I am going to be increasingly more disabled,” Pitts said. “Right now I don’t have much use of my arms anymore. Fortunately, my legs are still working, but I know that will diminish over time. I have a terminal disease — I’m dying.”

Fifty percent of people diagnosed with ALS die in two to five years, 20 percent live 10 years and 10 percent live 20 years, according to national statistics from Now five months into his diagnosis, surrounded by his wife of almost 30 years and two sons, Pitts takes his condition day by day.

“For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son,” Pitts said, quoting again from Romans. “This tells me that God has no commitment to our comfort. His commitment is to conform us to the image of Christ, and he uses a lot of tools to do that. The only thing I can come away with is that somehow this disease is designed to conform me to be like Jesus. I don’t like it. Somehow this disease is going to work to conform my wife and children to be like Jesus. I don’t like it a bit. It’s not the tool I would have chosen, but it’s the tool that is being used.”

Cindy Phillips, a trained counselor with Freedom Ministries, has worked with Pitts since fall of 2000 and said he is “incredible to work with.” She counseled with Pitts before her 18-month training to be a Freedom Groups small group leader.

“He has never given up on anyone,” Phillips said. “He has the heart of Dr. Falwell and believes that everybody is worth redeeming.”

Melanie Lewis, another Freedom Ministries small group leader who has also worked with Pitts since 2000, shares Pitts’ passion for Freedom Groups and the impact they can have on an individual.

“Freedom Ministries is already making a huge impact,” Lewis said. “There are so many hurting people out there, and they need to know that it’s OK to say, ‘I’m hurting.’ I’ve learned the truth doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to be painful.”

Freedom Ministries meet at TRBC for two hours on Monday nights. There are 18 different topics and 25 groups lead by people who have successful long-term recovery experiences in the area that they are leading. This ministry is Pitts’ passion, one that he intends to stay involved in as long as physically possible.

“We’ve had four to five thousand people come through our program, and we ask people to make a one year commitment,” Pitts said. “The promise that I make to people is if they will give us one year in that program, at the end of that year, they will have significantly improved their ability to deal with the garbage of life. They will learn to be overcomers.”

Contact Camille Smith at  

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