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

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Testimony – Drug Dealer Saved

Our team was doing a street outreach in a rather new area this past friday night and we saw some really amazing things happen! So many people encountered God’s love in a various number of ways. There was one encounter that I will always remember that happened late into the night.
We were in a parking lot of a gas station and were ministering to people as they walked around the city. It was surprising how many people came our way! I was with the group and we were talking and hanging out as some people were being ministered to. I then noticed a guy come out of the gas station that I had seen earlier but not talked to. I went over and asked him what his name was and then introduced myself.
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I began sharing with him some things the Lord was telling me about him. I started saying that the things that his mother spoke over him are still true when she said he could do anything he set his mind to and that he had a great destiny. I just encouraged him and shared that God had huge plans for him. He then started telling me that he has been selling drugs on this street since he was 15 years old and knew that there had to be more to life than this. He said that he just didn’t know how to change. I then told him my testimony of how God had delivered me from drugs 4 years earlier and that I used to run drugs all over the city. I shared that when I surrendered to Christ, He changed my heart and desires and made me a totally new person (2 Cor 5:17).
I could feel the presence of God so strongly as we talked. It was as if my words didn’t even seem to matter because the Holy Spirit was speaking to him so loudly. I asked him, “Do you feel that? Do you feel God, like his presence?” He then looked down and said, “Yes, I feel it.”
I then told him that that was the Holy Spirit and declared to him that where the spirit of the Lord is that there is freedom.
Then I asked him if he wanted to pray after me to ask Jesus to change his heart, his life and save him. He said yes and I just led him in a simple prayer of repentance that reminded me of what I first said to God when turning to him. I  gave him a hug and encouraged him some more to continue to seek the Lord and to come to church when he can.
Watching a drug dealer on the street come to Christ made John 6:63 so evident to me. My human effort couldn’t possibly accomplish anything like this but thankfully the Spirit can grant eternal life to a drug dealer! I have seen miracles of healing and other beautiful things of the Lord but nothing compares to seeing the miracle of salvation.
63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 6:63

Thankful for a New Life

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This week I am not only thankful just because it is Thanksgiving but also because it is when I celebrate 3 years since my life was drastically changed. This time in 2009 I found myself at the lowest point I ever could have imagined myself to be. I had ended up sleeping outside with a few belongings just south of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. I was not allowed to see my then 2 year old son and I thought I would never stop doing drugs. I had really given up all hope.

It was this same week three years ago that I was offered a chance to change and by God’s grace I took that chance. I have a clear picture of God reaching his hand down and pulling me out of that neighborhood where I found myself. When I finally gave my life to Christ and allowed Him he changed everything. He took my apathy and gave me a heart that now cares. He took my depression and gave me a joy that nothing can quench. He took my addiction to drugs and gave me a new zeal for Real life. He gave me a new heart. He even gave me my son back.

These verses in Psalms really remind me of what God has done in my life:

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”

 The Lord is gracious and righteous;our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Psalm 116:3-6

Its so amazing to look back this week and just spend some extra time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for. My hope is that I will never forget where God has brought me from and all the miracles He has already done. Its amazing that there was a time where I saw no future and no hope and now God has restored everything.

I am so thankful for God’s unrelenting love for me. I am thankful for my family and for their forgiveness and patience with me. I am thankful for my 5 year old son and the relationship that I now have with him. I am thankful for all my friends who support me and pray for me. I am thankful for my Job, my car (even though its broken right now) and all the opportunities that I have to do ministry. It has truly been a blessing to look back this week and reflect on all I am thankful for!

What are you thankful for today? Where were you 3 years ago?