Maximilian Jantscher

I was a brothel owner, my wife prayed for me

I grew up as the son of a woodcutter in poor circumstances. Despite these circumstances, I can remember a wonderful childhood. Nevertheless, our financial situation soon began to trouble my youthful ego. It bothered me not to have lunch money for the canteen at school. It also bothered me that I could never go on holiday with my family. It constantly annoyed me that it was always, "No money, no money, no money!" Although we lived in a fairytale castle, we were considered the poorest family in the whole village. We didn't live upstairs in the castle; my parents and the six of us brothers and sisters lived downstairs in a  small, damp and mouldy basement flat.

Being so penniless at such a young age was to have a strong influence on the course of my life later on. From the day I saw the castle owner's brother drive up in his brand new Porsche, I said to myself confidently and firmly: "One day I'll be rich too!" No sooner said than done. After initial difficulties, I started a professional career in gastronomy. My original plan was to make a career as a hotelier in Australia. I had relatives there and the oportunities  were good. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Plan B was to open my own delightful little café in the city.

When I was 18, I met a girl whose parents ran two rather dodgy places. I quickly realised that there was a lot of money to be made in running a brothel and I started working there as a waiter. When one of these places was threatened with bankruptcy, I took the risk and took it over as a brothel. Obviously I proved to be commercially talented, because over the years a run-down place with a single waitress over 45 years old, who also prostituted herself, became the most frequented strip club in the centre of Graz.

At the same time I met my current wife, she comes from South America. It was very important to me to keep my family completely out of my professional environment. Therefore, we made an agreement at the beginning of our marriage that we would separate the professional from the private. She was responsible for the family and I was responsible for feeding that family well. We both wanted children and had three. I loved them.But Iwas leading a completely double life. If my wife wanted to know more about me, I became aggressive. We never talked about work.

If I had suffered from my poverty as a child, now I was satisfied to have money in abundance. I suddenly had prestige and could afford anything I wanted, including expensive cars, of course. I was living in complete luxury. However, since a lot of alcohol is involved in this business, I got into difficult situations more and more often, where I was increasingly worried that I would endanger my family.  It became more and more challenging to maintain the double life. But I couldn't get out of it. I had made the business big, with 30 to 40 prostitutes and with hundreds of regulars. I couldn't stop. On the one hand, I liked this life, but on the other hand, I experienced everything negative you can imagine, from alcohol excesses to bribes, fights, stabbings and even death threats. I was traumatised by some brutal experiences I had to go through. But the more I possessed, the emptier I became inside. At some point, a longing began to grow in me for something I couldn't define, my heart was desperately empty.

It  was my wife who rescued me. I did not realise for a long time what a gift I had received through her. She had come to know God in her childhood and had an intense relationship with God. She had prayed to God for me unceasingly for 16 long years. I was not aware of this for a long time. But I experienced in her that she lived her faith consistently; her goodness, her love and her mercy fascinated me. I, on the other hand, was not interested in God at all, I was interested in aliens and Nostradamus.  For me, God was more of a fairy tale character.

One day she started attending a Bible study group and then she took the children there week after week. This made me nervous and I decided to accompany her. What surprised me there was that I received answers to my critical questions that opened up completely new perspectives for me. Jesus suddenly began to interest me. After all, he had also had dealings with prostitutes and tax collectors. That was also my clientele.

So I went to this Bible course with my wife more and more often. Faith began to grow in me. I was looking for a saviour, someone to whom I could unload all my filth. But I tried to avoid a decision by thinking about how I could integrate this new faith in God into my professional life and into the brothel. I was afraid of poverty and did not want to let go of my business. So now I had started living a double life in that respect too. I probably would have actually continued like this if I hadn't had a drastic experience, which in retrospect I can describe as a battle of the powers that were fighting  over me.

One evening, I was completely sober, I went to bed and thought about my life. Suddenly I felt an incredibly strong grip on the back of my neck, squeezing with all their  might, as if someone wanted to break my neck. It was so painful, it was a force I hadn‘t experienced before. I couldn't defend myself, which I had always been able to do in the past during brawls in the brothel. But there was no one present, which frightened me a lot. Over the next few days, I kept hearing voices asking me to kill my family. If it had only been the voices, I would have been afraid of becoming schizophrenic. But this terrible physical experience showed me that it was something else, not just a mental disorder. I then realised with great clarity that I could not go on living the way I had been, that I had to give up my double life.  In the meantime, after I had experienced a lot from God, I pleaded  full of fear and despair: "God, if you help me now, I will give you my life without compromise! Lord God Almighty? Do you not hear me? If you really exist, then please show yourself to me and end these dreadful thoughts, or I will die!"

The voices disappeared and I got a deep peace; other thoughts came now. I was allowed to know God as the Love and the Saviour. Now all of a sudden came remorse, deep shame and sadness about my life, especially towards my wife who had to endure this life for 16 years. I suddenly could not bear to face my wife after all I had done in the past and how I had lived in the past. However, she forgave me. She gave me her earthly love so that I could ask for heavenly love. When I asked her how she managed to forgive me despite this past, her answer was that God gave her the strength to do so.

I let go of everything I had before, all my wealth, we started anew. I have now gained a new love, for my wife, for my children and for God.