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For his 14th birthday, Steve N. Crino’s sister bought him a bag of nickel pot, just enough to start him down a foggy road as a weekend heavy drug and alcohol abuser. Although he never became a drug addict, the Rhode Island native stole and flipped a car at age 15. The accident threw him against the windshield and Crino had to undergo facial surgery.
Despite scrapes with the law ranging from vandalism to credit card fraud, Crino never went to jail. he managed to be elected class president during his freshman year of high school. Yet he still felt empty. The suicide of a classmate and the violent death of another following a motorcycle accident have rocked Crino, who still sports sword and snake tattoos from his teenage years as a long haired biker.
“It made me think that life isn’t just about chasing girls, getting high and making money,” says Crino, now 62. “I had no goal or direction.”
Crino believed in God and the Bible, although he never read it. He asked God to show him his purpose in life.
Shortly after, Wayne Deion, the brother of a friend, shared with Crino how Jesus had changed his life and he led Crino to make a saving decision. Matthew 5:28 turned out to be a key passage condemning Crino – then a daily consumer of pornography – of his sinful state.
“A God-fearing terror came over me,” Crino recalled. “I felt I had issues and needed to address them because I looked at women with lust in my heart.”
Crino began attending Gospel Temple, an Assemblies of God church in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. He stayed for 13 years, working in youth ministry and earning ministerial titles through Global University. He met his wife Theresa, a pharmacist trained at Rutgers University, at the church. The couple have been married for nearly 32 years and have three sons. Steve has been an ordained minister since 1998.
At the age of 36, Crino decided to continue his ministerial training and enrolled at Central Bible College (CBC) in Springfield, Missouri. Thereafter, he pastored Marshfield Assembly of God in Missouri for eight years and was on staff three times at Seaport Community Church in Groton, Connecticut, under the direction of Brad Whipple. His second stint in Seaport ended when a church team helped the Crinos plant the Ocean Community Christian Church in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Whipple, who founded Seaport Community Church in 1989, has known Crino for more than 35 years, including the combined decade he was on staff.
“Steve is conscientious, a hard worker, loyal to the core and passionate about serving people well,” says Whipple, 65. “He was someone I could trust completely.”
In 2013, Crino became a chaplain, serving for seven years at Community Care Alliance, a nonprofit mental health organization in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In this role, he shared his testimony with more than 10,000 people – psychiatric patients, halfway house residents, people with behavioral disorders. In 2015, he became an official chaplain of health care/institutional AG.
He then moved to Tennessee to serve as a chaplain at the Whiteville Correctional Facility and later as a psychiatric chaplain at the maximum-security Riverbend Institution in Nashville.
“I knew I might have ended up in jail,” says Crino, who earned her master of arts degree from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2019. “The Lord showed me in a vision that without him, I would be in a prison yard. ”
Earlier this year, Crino began working as a chaplain at Alive Hospice in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He takes care of an average of 45 to 50 palliative care patients and their families. Part of the call to chaplaincy for Crino is the opportunity to tell people about the Lord. He regularly met inmates and patients who had never been to church.
“I am always on the lookout for evangelistic opportunities,” says Crino, whose book, Church! Who needs it? ! will appear in a second edition this year. “When people have just lost a loved one, their hearts are tender. Opportunities naturally arise to share the gospel in such situations.
COMPASSION AT HOME
His roles as chaplain have a touch of compassion running through them. Crino also needed a lot of compassion on the home front when dealing with youngest son Ezra, who has special needs.
Ezra, now 24, defied odds and survived a traumatic few hours after birth. He is blind in his right eye, part of his Lenz microphthalmia syndrome condition. Even though Ezra couldn’t sit up as a baby, he is now able to walk.
Yet Ezra suffers from other medical disabilities. He had the Pierre Robin sequence and had previously presented with cyclic vomiting syndrome, which was essentially cured by medication. In addition to being mentally ill, Ezra suffers from three behavioral disorders: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Clearly, the disruptive behaviors put a strain on Steve and Theresa (now a pharmacist at TriStar Summit Medical Center in Nashville), as well as their eldest sons, Seth and Caleb. Ezra constantly interrupts conversations and utters words to provoke and annoy.
“It was a tough trip, even trying to have a conversation with my wife,” Crino says. “We love Ezra in pieces, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”
While such trying circumstances led to the downfall of many marriages and ministry careers, Whipple believes Theresa’s calm temper and calm demeanor helped keep the couple stable.
“Steve and Theresa have stayed together because they’re 100 percent committed to the Lord and to each other,” says Whipple, a CBC and Northpoint Bible College and Seminary graduate.
Whipple also thinks Crino – who cared for his elderly father and mother before they died – is the right person to handle a hospice situation.
“Chaplaincy is a good fit for Steve to do effective ministry where he can excel,” Whipple says. “He has a passion for making sure people know the Lord authentically.”
Main picture: Steve Crino (left) and his wife, Theresa, have faced many challenges with their son Ezra (right) who has special needs.