This is the story of a dude…who cried a river and drowned the whole…yeah that song doesn't really make sense when you change the wording. Great piece of nostalgia from early 2000. But, seriously, this is MY story:
Let’s set the record straight: I've never been what the world would consider a “bad” person. Most testimonies, commentaries, and stories revolve around a person who stumbles routinely, finds God, then turns their life around. I can’t say that’s my story. If I did, it’d certainly be a lie. The point of my story is to show that yes, God turns lives around of those who are completely lost and in need of a desperate change, but He also is there for the “good kids”, too!
If not for an older lady named Ms. Griswell, I probably would not be saved, and I certainly would not have been blessed beyond belief. I was playing in the neighborhood with my friends when I was about 11. I’m sure it was either baseball in the front yard or roller hockey…I don’t recall which. Anyway, this lady was going door to door inviting people to church. (As an aside, why don’t people do this as much anymore? Not the door to door thing, but actually inviting people to church? Rant over.) She handed me a business card promoting Victory Baptist Church, mentioned the great youth group, and even said that a man named Nick Harmon would even come by in a van and pick me up. Wow, what an opportunity! Of course, my parents were hesitant, at first. However, after a month of probing and begging, I finally convinced them to let me go to church.
I was hooked. My first experience at youth church involved a “crazy man” running down the aisle with a big container of Double Bubble gum and just throwing pieces every which way. He then told a couple of clean jokes and I was keeled over in laughter. Then, he taught a story about a man who died on the cross to forgive me of the wrong that I had done in my life. He taught me about how if I believed in this dude, that I could spend my life in Heaven when I died. This was a foreign concept to me. I knew that if I was “good”, I’d go to Heaven, but I’d go to Hell if I was bad. I didn't know that if I asked a person to come into my heart, which couldn't be possible, that I could be forgiven. How could a person live in my heart? Anyway, these doubts and questions were answered, and I accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation. Brother Derick Lawrence, I will always be grateful for teaching me about Jesus. I owe most of my development as a Christian to your teaching, your love, and your passion for sharing the Gospel with young people. These traits have carried forward as the Senior Pastor. Again, thank you.
Moving into high school, I always considered myself to be in the “in” crowd. I got along with pretty much everyone, but primarily hung out with my baseball teammates. I was “on fire” for the Lord, and even witnessed to my friends during lunch. Some would call me at home and thank me for having the courage to do such a thing, while others would laugh and scoff. Somewhere along the way, probably in the middle of my senior year, something just changed. I noticed my friends that I had hung out with since I was 10 or 11 playing baseball simply weren’t there like they used to be. I wasn’t spending time outside of school or practice with them. My friends were disappearing, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I wound up holding everything in, and it’s probably something that still kills me to this day. I still struggle in meeting new people, especially women. I lack the confidence to get it done…hey, I couldn’t keep friends in high school, how can I do it now, ya know? It turns out that this was probably a blessing, as many of my teammates were heavy drinkers and involved in activities that I shouldn’t have been involved with. I loved (and still love) those guys like brothers, but did not approve of that lifestyle, at the time. Please don’t misunderstand this as judging them, but a sign that God was looking out for me when things could have taken a turn for the worse. I know that I don’t have as many close friends as I should. Christianity was never meant to be easy, and it’s a constant battle and struggle where Satan tries to get after me. It’s a battle that I’m fighting this year. I want close people in my life. I want a “best friend” again. It isn’t fun, but God’s working and stirring in that department.
While in college, I coached a little league baseball team during my freshman year. I met a fellow competitor named Jim Carpenter. There was something about that guy. He was quirky, different, active, and at the time I thought he was just plain weird. When I found out he was a pastor, I refused to believe it. How could someone that fun-loving and happy all the time be a pastor? He asked me if I had a church to attend while at school, and invited me to Compass Church. Compass has guided my life since I started school at the University of Georgia. I have met people there who have developed me into being a better person and a better follower of Christ. Men like Bryan Rose, Wesley Odum, Chase McKissick, Matt Ammons, and other leaders that I know I’m forgetting have challenged me in my actions and thoughts. Without their guidance, I’m not sure where I would be or where I would be going. I miss the old warehouse building and the atmosphere, but the memories of that place and serving under their leadership simply will never be forgotten, and probably provide a foundation for the story.
In June of 2011, I accepted the head varsity baseball coaching and middle school social studies positions in McCormick, South Carolina. God wanted me to get away and do “something different” with His calling in my life. It was different being away from “home”, to say the least. It was weird not having my Compass family around me, nevertheless my own. It was weird being a different demographic and color than the students and community I was serving. However, God did amazing things. We established the first FCA program at the middle and high school, where several students would eventually find Christ. My students scored higher on standardized tests in social studies than the school had seen. Without sounding selfish, my kids loved me. They still love me, and the feeling is mutual. There was a lot of time invested last year, and I thank God for placing those students in my life. They needed a male presence, and needed someone who actually cared about them. In many of their cases, I was probably the only adult who spoke worth and value into them. Most came from broken homes and families, with 93% of them on free or reduced lunches.
Sadly, on March 25th of last year, I found out that there simply would not be enough funding for my position. I could have stayed on, but would not have made enough money to even make anything possible. I had to let go of something I had built, and still get chills when I visualize my students crying when I broke the news. It wasn’t a fun place, and I felt extremely lonely. I eventually moved back home, where I couldn’t find a teaching or coaching gig for the 2012-2013 school year. After a short while, I wound up starting grad school with Concordia University, an online Master’s program. I can graduate in December, and God has truly blessed me with such an opportunity. It was here where I realized that God is the ultimate shoulder to lean on. Deuteronomy 31:6 says that He will never leave us or forsake us. This goes for ALL circumstances of life. I learned that He has a better plan and a better future for me. I’m still learning this process, and need accountability on this every day.
I know there’s more to my story. The pages and chapters are still to be written, and I’ve given God the pen and paper. I am willing to make my life a blank canvas, and let Him do the painting, the writing, coloring, drawing, etc.
May God Bless You!