Death, drugs, violence, and poverty. That’s the beginning of my story.
Liquor, weed, then pills and powder. Lies, manipulation, and robbery were the means by which I got it. I dropped out of the 7th grade and spent my days getting as high as I could… Passing out on friends couches, cars, stoops, and waking up in pools of vomit was a regular thing. It was ugly. The things I did were disgraceful… shameful. I burned every bridge. Took advantage of family. And was the cause of much pain and sadness. So many things contributed to my brokenness. The death of my mother at an early age. Being uprooted from the friends and family i loved so dearly in Brooklyn, NY. I fit the MO completely, I was a high-risk youth who would most definitely end up in lock down. And the truth is i was enslaved to sin,mi found pleasure in that sin, and it was destroying me.
As a juvenile delinquent I was self-destructing real quick. My addictions were getting stronger and my life was spiraling out of control when i was asked to go to church. I didn’t care to. Nevertheless, i got high, i got ready, and I went. If i remember correctly, i sat in the very back, put my fitted hat low, and slept. I woke up for may be the last 10 min. and when i woke up, I really woke up. Pastor Quique, as we call him lovingly was preaching out of 1 Cor. 1:18-31 and preached on how God chooses the foolish things in this world…
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
That was me! A nobody, foolish, the lowest of the low… And yet Jesus Christ, God in the flesh allowed himself to be beaten, crucified, and killed for me.
You have to understand, I was a real dirtbag, a young thug who did things not only to strangers but to the people closest to me that were disgusting. I hurt people. I was a criminal. An addict. There was nothing good in me. Yet, this preacher proclaimed that it was for people like me for whom Christ came and saves. It didn’t make sense logically but it was the realist thing I’d ever heard. I believed it in faith. And at that moment the gospel was for me the power of God and Jesus was my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption. In an instant I had believed the gospel and in that instant my life was changed. The chains of addiction, sadness, and sin were broken and I was freed.
That day I responded to the gospel and immediate transformation occurred but the process by which that would be fully realized continues to this day and will not be realized completely until I meet Jesus. Real talk, from that moment forward I’ve never used another drug. For the next 8-12 months I believe God put me through a time of detox and rewiring. In that time, I disconnected from the world. My days were spent studying the bible, praying, and being completely immersed in the life of my local church. The family i had burned every bridge with and hurt stood by my side… even though I still didn’t know how to live. They put up with a lot of crap in those days but never gave up on me which gave me the room to grow into this new man I was becoming.
The journey hasn’t been easy. Life would get tough. I’d go through various times of stupidity and distance from God as I grew up and matured but he never let me go too far and by his love he has kept me.
Today, I’m a husband, father, and full-time minister. Every month I get the privilege to share the hope that is in Christ and I’ve experienced with hundreds of people including incarcerated and high- risk youth, addicts, homeless folk, criminals, and all the rest. By next year I will graduate with a master’s degree and in the next couple of years I will be planting churches in South Florida because Christ died and rose for me the dirtbag.
Where then is the wise men? The folk who have written us off, said that we won’t never amount to anything, and that we might as well throw in the towel? We’re never too broken, filthy, or screwed up so that God can’t clean us up. Jesus saves regardless of our mess.
What’s your story? Who are you? Why can’t it be turned around?
If you’re a young person going through it… I had reasons too… Those same reasons were what qualified me as a perfect candidate for salvation.
If you’re an addict… So was I… The message of the Christ is the power of God to those who believe. There’s more than enough power there to free you. Transformation doesn’t always happen the way it did for me but salvation is free your struggle doesn’t have the power to condemn you.
If you’re frustrated and don’t know the way forward… neither did I… He does, trust Him.
This month is the National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Myself and other inner-city ministry practitioners will be putting out information regarding the state of our Juvenile Justice system and ways for you to get involved in bringing Justice to bear in the lives of high-risk youth. Like, share, and spread the word. Below are some other ways you can get involved.
If you’re a member of SRC check out our in house Juvenile Justice Ministry and sign up today!