I gave up on myself – but Christ Jesus never gave up on me
My name is John. I was born to two Army soldiers and spent my early years traveling the world. My dad was career Army, but my mom was not. This led to a breakup of the marriage. I first tried pot at age 5. My uncle was smoking some, fearful that I would tell on him, so threatened to beat me unless I smoked some so that I was guilty too.
I was a bright kid and skipped two grades in elementary school. Since I was younger than my classmates, I was socially isolated – plus I was a bookworm, reading constantly, which led to more isolation. By age 14, I was into pot and some occasional drinking, leading me to fail 9th grade. By the time I graduated from high school, I was into really hard drugs.
I did well for myself, graduating from college with an associate’s degree. However, at age 26 I lost control when I was introduced to meth. I went from trying meth, to eating it, to smoking, then injecting it all within 6 months; basically, I went from 0 to 60! I lost my good job, my nice truck, and became homeless. No one would help me, since I was not at all trustworthy. This was the beginning of 4 years of hell for me.
I am a very persevering, stubborn person who will die trying, but by age 30, after landing in jail on a DUI after many scrapes with the law, I gave up on myself. I figured I would only be a junkie and an addict for the rest of my life. I tattooed myself in jail, to look the part of what I thought my future held – an addict.
But Jesus hadn’t given up on me! While in jail in 2010, I attended an evening service and accepted Christ as my Savior. Two days later, when it truly hit me of the price He had paid to save me, I cried for three days. In fact, ironically, I was put on suicide watch just at the time my life was really beginning! When my stubborn self finally admitted defeat, Jesus Christ stepped in.
I knew I needed the chance to grow in my faith, and told the judge I also knew I’d go back into the drug lifestyle if released. He agreed to give me one last chance and sent me to Valley Rescue Mission’s substance abuse program. It was exactly what I needed. The mentoring and discipleship, along with a lot of soul-searching, tears, and consistent reading of the Bible, cemented me in my faith – so much so that I am now enrolled in a local Bible college. My grateful prayer is, “Lord, just let me serve others.”
I lead a weekly Bible study at the Mission now, as well as preach at an open-air service in a park on Sunday afternoons that is geared toward street people. These are people who won’t attend a typical church, as they fear being treated in a condescending manner. Many of them regularly stay at VRM, where they are impacted enough by the love of Christ that they have hope to keep looking. I’ve come to believe that I experienced all I did so I can relate to them; homeless people and addicts are the focus of the ministry for which I am preparing.
To VRM donors, I would like to say that money didn’t save me – Jesus Christ did. But if the money for me to be in the program hadn’t existed, I know that I would either be dead, or continuing in my living hell (which I define as the absence of God). I plan to keep these tattoos for the rest of my life as a reminder of that time when I gave up on myself, and that Jesus never gave up on me.