Prodigal

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished by us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the world have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed closely to some past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:24

prodigalson.jpg

One of my pastors once spoke on the subject of a valid testimony, saying that all one needs to have in order to share the gospel is a testimony that can withstand any trial. On the first two days of my renewal, it is my aim to put into writing this testimony.

Many times in my life, I have felt this way; lost but not come home. One moment sticks out in my mind.

At the time, I had been living in New Jersey for two years. While there, I had managed to make three friends, while only being able to keep one. It was one of those on-and-off relationships that don’t really count.

I would resent going to school every day because I was bullied by what seemed like everyone—including teachers. There was one in particular: my Social Studies and History teacher. Before I had him in the classroom, I tried my best at schoolwork (not promising the same work ethic for homework). And then he came along. He would give me bad grades just because he didn’t like me. In fact, at the top of one of my papers, he once wrote “You’ll never amount to anything.” This affected me most of all because from then until a while into my college years, I didn’t try as hard on assignments from fear of failure and rejection.

Students at the school were just as cruel, if not worse. I was a short kid back then, and in fourth and fifth grade, kids feed on that sort of thing. I was called shrimp, midget, small, useless, and runt, as well as some names I choose not to say. I spent more time in the nurse’s office tan in the classroom because I was beaten up every day by the same kids. Their “leader” was named Job—the kind of guy you picture as a bully. He was kind of husky, muscular, and taller than the normal kids at that age. He would scout around the school cafeteria looking for kids like me and attack us where it hurt—physically and mentally.

Home life wasn’t paradise either. When I got home, my older brother was waiting for me. He and I couldn’t stand each other. We didn’t want anything to do with each other. We constantly bickered and fought, and he always won.

My father and I didn’t have the best relationship either. I was often yelled at and constantly tried to avoid even being in the same room. We had almost nothing in common, and I came to believe that he chose my brother as his favorite. To add to it all, my father had just been laid off and we were moving. I was afraid that when we moved the people would be even crueler.

Life just kept getting worse as the days went on and eventually, I struggled to get through the day. I fought with myself every day to remain sane enough to last all the way through to bedtime. Each night, I prayed to God. I prayed to Him to forgive me for what I had done to deserve all the pain. I thought He was mad at me. I thought I had done something that made Him stop loving me. I asked for forgiveness and I asked for help. Prayer after unanswered prayer, I became depressed. I cried each night and thoughts of suicide ran through my head more than once.

With my depression came anger—and a lot of it. I started hating life. I hated school and teachers; I resented my friend and family. I hated students. And everyone was oblivious to my pain, just like it seemed God was. I wanted to scream, yet I remained silent. I believed God wasn’t going to help me. I decided I didn’t need anyone, because the world didn’t need me. Finally, I gave up. I gave up on God and everyone else. I lost myself and I gave up on life—I just didn’t care. My mind, my faith, and my life were dead. Yet my heart continued beating.

Eventually, I decided to do the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I found a piece of rope in art class on 20 March 2002. I pocketed the rope and after lunch, I went out to the playground. I tied a noose to the jungle gym, put it around my neck, and jumped.

It was at that moment in time that I realized God was with me throughout my tribulation. When I jumped, there was no pain, no struggle. All I felt was two sets of hands catching me. I looked to see who the two people were, but all I saw was one of the school aides—just one.

When this happened, it bewildered me that there was only one person behind the two sets of hands. The only explanation I can give is that the other set of hands were those of God. He was there with me the entire time. I just didn’t look hard enough for Him; my heart wasn’t into it as much as it should have been. I blamed my problems on Him, instead of truly asking Him to fix them. I had to return home.

After all this happened, I spent some time in a psychiatric ward for suicidal patients. It was there that I gave my life completely back to Christ. Not only that, but I committed myself to fixing the relationships that were strained between my family and myself. For a while, it was pretty difficult to do, but with enough work, I accomplished the feat. My brother and I were roommates for a while during college and I was best man at his wedding. He asks me regularly if I want to watch his newborn daughter. We no longer fight and can do things together without difficulty. My father and I are still working on our relationship, but I can honestly say it has improved greatly. We don’t fight, I don’t get yelled at, and I don’t mind spending time with him. Although my life may have its ups and downs, I always give it back to God.

I mentioned earlier that what I had done was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was also the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I was lost, but now I’m found.

Haiti 2016: 1 and 2 February

This year, Church of the Savior and Valley Forge UMC are working in Village de la Grâce, one of the many tent cities in the Port-au-Prince area. Through the building of 12’x12’ tin and lumber homes, it is our hope that the people are shown God’s love in ways they could not have imagined.

When it is time for a new home to be built, the morning of the people tear down the previous tent and relocate the stuff within. Imagine having your home torn down and all of your stuff being moved out in less than 15 minutes. It certainly puts things in perspective for those of us who live in such a privileged society.

On Monday, we were able to complete nearly three homes. Greg ended up feeling under the weather and had Fanfan take him home as we did more work through the day.

In order to build the homes, we had three people on cutting wood, many on building frames and putting the tin on, as well as took turns loving on the kids and playing with them—sometimes to get them away from the work site, as it can be dangerous for little ones, sometimes because we were taking a water break. The ground is leveled, the blocks and floor are set, and work on the walls follows. Four walls, a roof, a window, a door, and two shelves replace the tent that the family previously lived in. At some point after finishing the homes, we pray a blessing for the house and family, as well as present the family with a Bib La (Haitian Bible). We did this for one of the houses.

I was able to make it 10 days in Haiti without getting a sun burn or minor injury. That’s a new record. The area in which we are working has no shade for the majority of the day, so after spending so long in the sun, you start to feel it. At one point, I was playing futbol with some of the kids and all of a sudden one of their heads met my lip, which then met with a tooth. Fat-lipped and red-armed, I was ready for the next day.

Today, we built two-and-some houses again. We were able to bless two more homes.

God moment for the past two days: After blessing the first home on the second day, we learned that it was for one of the worship leaders in the tent city’s church. In thanks, she began to sing in Kreyol ‘How Great Thou Art’. The other Haitians around us joined in as well as those of us on the work team. That moment of experiencing so many of us worshiping the same God in differnet tongues was awe-inspiring. It is a moment many of us will never forget.

Last night’s devotion involved me telling my testimony (read the following post Prodigal in order to read it if you don’t already know it). Tonight’s is coming soon, and I will post the devotion that is in the book later on.