In tandem with our sermon series on the Book of Acts, we thought it would be helpful if the leadership of the church each shared their testimony. Testimonies are powerful. They’re personal stories of what God has done in our lives. Along with the blood of Jesus, Revelation 12:11 says that we overcome the Enemy by the “word of our testimony.” Our hope is that through this series of articles, your faith will be strengthened, you’ll get to know all of us better, and you’ll see that Jesus can and does redeem all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.
It was the mid-90s in Roanoke City and I was doing what most 14-year-old boys were doing at the time; growing my hair long, listening to Sublime and Nirvana, and skateboarding. To say I was running around with the wrong crowd would be an understatement. Just like myself, most of the boys in my group came from broken homes with little or no parenting. My mother had a terrible divorce from my father when I was two. She told me that he was a very physically abusive alcoholic. Unfortunately, the man she remarried when I was five didn't need alcohol to be abusive. It came naturally to him, and I was always on the receiving end of it.
I spent every weekend and all of my summers with my grandparents on their farm in Blue Ridge or their cabin on Smith Mountain lake. I was safe there and had a solid role model in my grandfather who was a great man. Unfortunately, as I grew older, I wanted to spend more time with my “friends” and spent less time where I should have.
One summer, we were approached by our friend's dad who said their church wanted to start a Friday night youth skateboard park. He said if we would build the ramps and boxes, then they would buy all of the wood. This was a dream come true for my group.
With our friend’s dad’s help, and the money from the church, we built all the boxes and ramps that we had been dreaming of. It was a blast until we had to give them all to the church, leaving only Friday nights for us to skate on them. My friend's dad would go around in his van to pick us all up and take us there every Friday night. We would hang out and skate, and it was great until the dreaded part in the middle of all the fun. They would make us stop skating and bring us all into one place where someone would preach to us for what seemed like an eternity. I despised it. My family didn’t go to church. Not that my family was against going, we just didn’t. We never talked about Jesus or religion at all for that matter, so the whole concept was foreign to me and just felt plain weird.
One particular Friday, the youth pastor told a story of a man who loved his friends so much that he took the punishment they deserved all the way to death. The same man who I remembered from weeks past was a Shepherd that would leave all the sheep in his flock to go find that one who went missing. It was at that point that I felt a faint knock on the door of my heart. I could not explain what it was, but I wanted to be cool with my friends, so I didn’t act on it and put up a front.
The next Friday when they called us all in, I acted as if it pained me to go. The sermon this time was on a love that is unconditional. This was also a foreign concept in my house because their love was extremely conditional. This God loves me no matter what? Me, and everything I have done? Me, a boy whose own father had looked at him and walked away? It was simply unbelievable to me. I was in a tug of war between what I thought was the truth of life and what this Jesus said the truth was. At that moment I wanted it. I wanted that love. I wanted the father that would come looking for me because I was so very lost. At that moment, not caring how I looked in front of my friends, I had to make a change, I had to meet this Jesus.
At 14 years old I opened the door to my heart and was introduced to the truest friend and father I have ever known. Moving on from that point as a fourteen-year-old, I tried to do the best I could with little direction. I also tried to leave his side and go down my own path many times. When I would look up and realize how lost I had gotten, once again Jesus was there and would once again carry his lost sheep home. That is my story. At the end of the day I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about the man I proudly call my father and friend, the one who saved my soul!
Men's Ministry Leader