A Letter to the Addicted – From Paul

To Someone struggling,Picture 001 (1)

I know it seems hopeless with no way out, and no chance of ever coming back. You may be thinking, do I even want help because I wouldn’t know where to begin even if it were offered?

Nobody knows better than me.

I was born in Chicago to a dope-addicted alcoholic also known as my mother. I was born with brain damage while detoxing with the tremors and shakes. Life was stacked against me before I knew any better. Fortunately, I was adopted at three weeks old to a good family who truly loved me. Up until the age of 11 I had a very normal childhood. Then I found out I was adopted.

Feelings of rejection and abandonment started creeping in my life and set root. I grew to hate my family. I always felt that they took me away from the life that I was supposed to have. I became rebellious and definitely wanted to do things my way.

From 13 -17 I caught four felonies for burglary, grand larceny, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and strong-armed robbery. Even being court ordered to a one year mandated program at 15 was not enough to correct my behavior. By the time I was an adult I was shooting heroin until I realized that I could shoot cocaine through the same needle. By 26 I successfully became a six time convicted felon for theft and drugs. I knew of no other way of living. I thought it was normal to steal from my family, lie to my friends and manipulate everyone that cared about me just so I could get high.

At 28, I swallowed a handful of pills after a lethal crack binge. I found myself lying in a hospital bed confused and defeated. The attending nurse asked, “When was the last time you were happy?” For the first time in my life I had no response. I couldn’t even lie through it. That question forced me to choose: Do I continue this lifestyle or do I make a drastic change? As I recounted my past, I remembered the last time I felt happy was 10 years ago in a program called Teen Challenge.

I returned to Teen Challenge and felt an overwhelming peace and comfort in knowing that God had allowed me one more chance to change my life. For the first time in my life I was experiencing all the havoc I brought to others and myself without the numbing effect of drugs. This was a very introspective period in my life. I surrendered and allowed God to work inside me. Since then I have broken the vicious cycle of addiction and have reversed my way of thinking.

The hope I found isn’t just for me. I’m not the exception to the rule. God found me in my mess and I know He can find you in yours. Today I am a changed man and the best part of my story is when I share it with others they just can’t believe it. The scripture that sums up my testimony and has always given me hope is Matthew 11:28, “Come all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” I relate to this scripture because I myself was weary and burdened and desperately needed rest.Paul&Cara

With Love,
Paul

Change

Tonight as I began to pack my stuff (once again) so that I can move into a new house I remembered a time a few years ago that really marked me forever. I was reminded of this particular night where I was in transition and was trying to adjust to my new surroundings. I found myself in a new place where I knew absolutely no one and felt really isolated and lonely…

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That night I found myself in this church with all of these people I didn’t know and I just began to think to myself and pray things like, “God… What am I doing here???” As I was sitting there in the back of this church I suddenly had this strong thought that popped up in my head. The thought was really odd and seemed as if it weren’t my own. The words that came to mind were something like, “Even in the midst of changing faces and constantly changing places I will always be with you. I will always be the same…” The thought was so strong and so peculiar that I immediately opened up a book and in the back I did something that was really unusual. I wrote down word for word what I had been thinking.

The church service started and I forgot about what had happened. After the time of music we all sat down and the pastor got up and began to talk to us. As he was speaking he suddenly stopped and then he began to say something that really caught my attention. Immediately I noticed that what he was saying was exactly what I was just thinking! I was blown away and just after he got done speaking I checked the back of my book to make sure I was not crazy. Sure enough, the same words I had written down were said by this total stranger from the microphone.

I knew in that moment that God had actually been speaking to me! At this time I had only heard God speak to me a few other times so I immediately was overwhelmed with gratitude because I realized that when I feel alone HE sees me and deeply cares for me. This moment really showed me how intimate God is and that he is interested in the every day part of our lives. He is a good Father that deeply cares for each of us.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5

Since that moment circumstances in my life have changed over and over again. Several times I have packed up everything and moved into brand new situations where I knew absolutely no one. I have traveled and slept in more unfamiliar places than I care to remember or count. My life has been far from consistent in many ways. The only thing that really has been a constant wherever I go is that I KNOW that my Father is always with me. I know that in spite of the constantly changing places and faces that I never have to feel alone because my God is always there for me. 

Today if you are in transition once again and are frustrated because you never seem to have any stability then I want to encourage you that God is with you and that He deeply cares for your needs for intimacy. If you are feeling alone and isolated then I want to encourage you that He is closer than the air that you breath. He is so near to you and is simply waiting for you to stop and take a moment to acknowledge him.

At times we stay constantly busy so we can ignore that throbbing ache of loneliness that is deep within us that can only be satisfied by God. We all have a void that only HE can fill because we were actually created to be in relationship with God first and foremost. Maybe take a minute today to just let Him speak to you and show you that he is always near you even in the midst of change. 

Czech Trip 14′ – Unnecessary Wheelchair…

While in Prauge our team had an entire day to explore this amazing city. After getting dropped off in the town square we sat around waiting for some of our group to get back to us after finding a place to park. Our team hung around the square and eventually just began talking and praying with people. It was so fun to see God move powerfully in an environment that is completely unaccustomed to prayer and even the concept of God. We saw God’s love and the light of Jesus demonstrated in some really cool ways while we wandered the city that day. I want to talk about one short story in particular…
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After praying for a few people we noticed that a couple was walking by and a lady was in a wheelchair. My friends Gabe and Jordan went over and began to pray for the man and the woman in the wheelchair. I walked over and began to pray with them as well for the lady in the wheelchair. Afterwards the got up out of the wheelchair and began to walk around! Not only did she get out of the wheelchair but she then walked away down the road with her husband helping to push the wheelchair!

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Everyone that was in that square watched what the Lord did. They saw how she got up and walked away helping her husband push the wheelchair…

…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Acts 10:38

Jesus was anointed with the same Holy Spirit that we now can have when we choose to follow Christ and have been baptized in His Spirit. Jesus was anointed with this power which enabled him to heal all those that were under the power of the devil. When we have that same anointing upon our lives we can do things similar to what Jesus did. We were told by Jesus that we were to declare that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and also in John 14 that we would do even greater works than the things he did while on the earth.

The amazing thing about this miracle that we witnessed is that He did it in spite of us! He can use any of us to release His Kingdom and to bring healing into people’s lives. We don’t need to wait until we are a pastor to heal the sick. All we need is childlike faith in the power of Jesus Christ…

 

 

Czech Trip 14′ – Resurrected Church from 1300’s

One of the things that really impressed me about the Czech Republic was the history that was all over the place. We were in buildings everywhere that were built in the the 1300’s and 1400’s which was really unusual for someone coming from America where we have much less history.

Czech Teen Challenge Trip 2014-166During our time there a large part of our team would travel about 1.5 Miles from the Teen Challenge to a nearby village and work on an old Catholic Church that was built around the 1330’s. This church had been closed down for 40-50 years and had been vandalized for years. When we arrived it was really in a sad condition and all of the headstones from the graveyard had been knocked over.

That week we had a team who worked hard cleaning and dusting off the inside for a service that would be held in there on July 4th. We also had people working outside to re-set these massive gravestones and clean up the area around the church. My team worked hard for 3 days digging up dirt that had accumulated over the stone steps and patio at the front of the church. In the last 50 years over 6 inches of soil had accumulated over this patio and you wouldn’t know what was under it unless someone told you.

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Apparently the guy who was the keeper of the grounds there and was commissioned to take care of this church by his father knew about the stones that lied deep under the dirt and grass. We dug out dirt and slowly but surely began to uncover a beautiful stone area that was right there at the entrance. It was so exciting to see an area that was completely covered by dirt and forgotten be uncovered and made beautiful again!

Czech Teen Challenge Trip 2014-161The service on Friday night that we held that was definitely something that I will never forget. We had candles and some beautiful worship music playing in the church for the first time in probably over 50 years. This church had been long forgotten but many from the surrounding video’s came to attend the service. At the end one of the neighbors stood up and interrupted the service to speak about how much all that we had done meant to him. All of those from the villages began to stand up and clap for us because they were so blessed!

It was amazing to see an old church resurrected and brought back to life. I felt that while I was in there that God spoke to me saying that he was raising up old dead churches all over eastern Europe and that we were able to witness one of many others that he was going to bring back to life. Not only is God going to clean up the old buildings but He is going to stir up a great movement and revival in nations like the Czech Republic. It was so exciting to be a small part of all He is doing there. This was definitely something I will never forget…

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Czech Trip 14′ – 4 Guys from UK Saved in Prague

I just returned from a 10 day trip to the Czech Republic and had such an amazing time. It really is amazing how much God did in my own life and also all the things I was able to witness Him do in the lives of those we met while there. Over this next week or two I want to share a few testimonies and stories of different things that we saw God do and also share about random experiences I had while there.

Our whole team was able to spend a day in Prague which is the capitol of the Czech Republic and is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. It is the only large city that was not impacted by the bombings of WWII which allows you to still enjoy all of the ancient architecture of the city. The times I got to spend in the city I was overwhelmed by how beautiful everything was…

At one point we got lost as we were wandering around the city and this guy who spoke english overheard our conversation and offered to help us with directions. We told him where we were trying to go and he began to lead us that way. He and three other friends began to lead us and tell us about their visit to the city. They had been in the city for a few days as they were traveling through Europe during their “Holiday” that summer. He told us about all the prostitutes and drugs offered to him around their hostile and even about how you can purchase “happy endings” for just an additional 10 Euro at a massage parlor that we walked by. They painted a really vivid picture of the life of that city for us as we followed them. It was eye opening to hear what they told us…

When we reached a place where they were planning to stop and eat we offered to pray for one of his friends with an arm brace before we left them. His friend was happy to receive prayer but kept insisting, “There’s now way… There’s now way… He (God) can’t…”

We prayed for him twice and he then took of his arm brace and began to look at us all with complete shock. He kept saying, “Bloody hell!” really loud and told us that his pain was completely gone. The food vendor behind us was watching and he was smiling and clapping when he realized the guy had been healed. It was so amazing to see God heal this guy even though he didn’t believe that God would do it for him! God is so compassionate and full of love.

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After we prayed for his friend we began to talk to the three other guys about Jesus and all of them were open to Him after seeing their friend miraculously healed. We asked if they wanted to give their lives to Jesus and all of them said quickly that they were ready. One of the guys had bruises all over his face from a blackout drunk he had the previous night and looked at us with a look of desperation for something to change. You could see a desire for hope in each of their eyes.

We stood there in the street and all 4 of them ended up giving their lives to Jesus before we left. It was so amazing to see how the Holy Spirit led them to us and then opened up the door for each of them to be saved. It was an unforgettable experience and is just one of SO many testimonies of things we saw God do while in the Czech Republic.