When I was born, my mother was about sixteen years of age and I think my father was in his early twenties. As I understand the story, they were both into drugs and not nearly ready to have a child.
They eventually decided that I should be given into the care of my father's sister and her husband to give me a better chance. It was the best decision they could have made.
I was given everything I could have ever wanted as a child. I still have pictures of myself on my first Christmas with a house full of toys. Although I had all the material things I wanted, my foster parents had difficulty communicating love to me on an emotional level.
I really appreciate that they did the best they knew how for me, but our lack of personal intimacy created problems for us as I grew and matured as a young child, and especially during my teenage years.
I grew up in a fairly religious family. I loved to study religion and the Bible especially, and I always felt somehow God was near to me, watching over me and protecting me. I would not really understand just how true that was until after I had become a Christian.
The Lord in His sovereign mercy preserved my life by placing me in a good home and rescuing me from disaster on several occasions.
What was misdiagnosed as anything from dyslexia to an acute learning disability in me as a child turned into mischief and rebellion as I made the transition from elementary into Jr. high school.
I was coming of age and felt an increased need for belonging and emotional support. Because I wasn't receiving this at home, I began to search for acceptance at school among my friends.
Unfortunately at this time in my life, I was more of a follower than a leader, and I ended up hanging out with and following some pretty negative influences that led me into trouble.
By the 7th grade, the school system determined that I was a gifted student and put me in special classes. I guess they figured that maybe if they gave me more challenging schoolwork to do I would be less likely to get bored and get into trouble.
My friends and I were smoking and drinking, and by the 8th grade we were stealing from our parents and from kids lockers to buy pills and weed. A teacher caught a group of us one day with pills and the police were called in just to scare us real good, but we were never really punished for having drugs at school.
Although I still attended church and religion classes regularly, I was also into all kinds of spiritual weirdness and continued to abuse drugs. My girlfriend in the 9th grade was heavily into drugs as well as witchcraft, and I was dragged down even further into these things the more I hung around with her.
We ran away together in a car stolen from my foster parents that summer, and spent a short time in juvenile detention as a result.
My custody was taken from my foster parents and awarded to the state until my eighteenth birthday, even though they allowed me to continue living at home. My girlfriend and I were ordered not to communicate with each other as a condition of our probation.
By this time, I began to realize that I really did have a problem with drugs and signed myself into a local rehab facility. Six weeks and $10,000 later, the doctors were not able to make any real progress with me, and I was released against medical advice. Two weeks later I was smoking and drinking again.
My girlfriend and I continued to communicate all the while, and we still tried to see each other. During the next school term I found out she had been sleeping with several of my friends behind my back, and she even began dating one of my very best friends. Not long after this, she brought a gun to school and was expelled.
Her story was that she was trading it with someone for something, but a lot of people thought she was planning to shoot my new girlfriend. She was sent away to a high security juvenile facility and we wrote to each other on several occasions. We continued to communicate until she eventually moved out of state. I'm not sure exactly what happened to her after that.
Meanwhile, I had a close friend who had become a Christian and began to pray for my salvation. She had been in trouble with the law before and had been taken away from her mother and placed in several different girls' homes, but after awhile she was back home and back in school with us.
I began to notice that she was now altogether a different person than she was before. It took three years for me to finally agree to go to church with her. She never gave up on me and never stopped praying for me the whole time.
Just a few months before my eighteenth birthday, I went to check out a youth service at my friend's church. I had never seen anything like it. Young people were singing, clapping and raising their hands in worship.
I thought this was all kind of weird because I had been raised in a very different religious environment and had never been to a charismatic or pentecostal-type church before. At the same time, I had an undeniable impression that night in my spirit that what these young people had was real. I went back to that youth service the very next week to find out more of what it was all about.
The things the Youth Pastor said that night seemed to speak directly to me. When he called for people who felt like they needed prayer to come up to the front, I knew I was one of them.
The Youth Pastor explained to me that if I confessed my past mistakes to God, He would forgive me for my failings and accept me as His own. He said that if I believed in my heart that God had sent His Son Jesus to die for my sins, and that if I confessed with my mouth that God had raised Jesus from the dead to give me a new start in life, that I would be changed into a brand new person and be able to start all over again with a clean slate.
The change that I was never quite able to attain for myself, the help that always seemed just out of my reach, was finally realized that night. What the doctors could not do in six weeks, Jesus was able to accomplish in about twenty minutes. I was set free and delivered from drugs in that instant.
The Bible says that if anyone belongs to Christ, he has become a new person. Old things are passed away and everything is new again. That's exactly what happened to me that night. I would never be the same ever again forever!
I began to attend the youth meetings there regularly, and even got involved in music ministry and sound engineering. Eventually I would begin to grow and desire more, and was led to a larger church a year later just as they were starting up a new discipleship program for their youth group.
God's timing is perfect. He brought me to exactly the place I needed to be at just the right time. I received the exact kind of spiritual teaching I had been looking for and continued to grow as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I soon began to realize that because of my turbulent adolescence, God wanted to use me to reach out to other young people who were going through some of the same things I had passed through. I began talking to some of my younger friends, letting them know that they could save themselves a world of trouble by listening to the advice of someone who had already been where they were.
Some other Christian friends and I started going out to the mall on Friday nights to talk to young people about their spiritual condition. It was an exciting time. Several young men came to Jesus through our outreach there and are themselves involved in ministry to this day.
As the years went by, I began to develop a burden not only to evangelize young people, but also to help disciple them and equip them with the things they need for their entire lifetime as Christians.
I am currently working to develop a teaching curriculum for discipleship and leadership based on the wisdom passed down to me by my spiritual mentors. The Lord has given me a vision to raise up young world-changers who will go out and reap a harvest of souls among the next generation.
I have a responsibility to God to be a mentor and spiritual father to young disciples, helping them to become mature believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. To whom much is given, of him much will be required.