My youth was comprised with plague of circumstances that would not have been very suitable to a young audience such as myself.  Growing up, my family situation was a harrowing mix of family members with broken relationships, brought about by illicit unions and a bondage to alcohol, cigarette, and worse, drug addiction.

My parents, coming from relationships and families of their own, lived together having born me but it was a relationship far from orderly. I remember always having to witness quarrels turn into fights, and fights turn into exits—with me constantly torn in having to choose between my father and mother.

Having an absence of parental guidance at our household, I was left alone to myself. It wasn’t long before people were aware of this fact and thus would lead to one of many experiences that have constantly tormented me for the most part of my life. Out of the numerous memories I have from my childhood, one is always there to haunt me in stark contrast to all the others I have. You see, one of my earliest childhood memories is having been molested and sexually abused by our household helper and her son. At that time, I did not know what to do or how to react, or even who to reach out to.  I was utterly lost. Never having told anyone this, I moved on and shrugged it off. I thought, if I could just forget all these things that were happening to me, ignore all these occurrences that I had gone through, then I’d be alright.

It wasn’t long before all the wayward effects of the constant conflict, bad habits, and addictive dependence took a toll on my family and for the most part, my parents. They finally separated during my adolescent years and this left me relieved but at the same time devastated. My school and private life suffered:  being a consistent honor student, my grades gradually dwindled and finally plunged.   I became a self-obsessed glutton thus becoming overweight.  I became a bully who would not only pick on people but on my friends as well.   I developed a snide arrogance and an attitude of entitlement knowing that out of all the things that were happening to me, the world somehow ‘owed’ me a lot. I was slowly becoming the very thing I had despised in my youth: I became a relationship-monger playing with several girls’ hearts and abusing their bodies; I became an expert in the way of drinking and getting drunk.  I became the life of the party purely living for pleasure, and soon found myself in the same bondages as my family had: alcoholism, drug-abuse, and sexual immorality.

In the midst of all of these things, my brother sponsored me to a youth retreat in 2004 and I begrudgingly went. It was my first ever retreat and I was uncomfortable with all the people singing songs and lifting their hands up in praise till the wee hours of the morning to this ‘Messiah’ of theirs who died on a cross and lived to be exalted.

It was bewildering but somehow left a lasting impression on me and that was the first time ever that I had felt the Holy Spirit’s touch in my life. Still,  I chose to go on my own path and got into a relationship that lasted six years.   During this period, I was regularly attending worship services but sans any change in my life.   In fact, I was slowly getting worse and slipping deeper into my wretched sins. I was so stubborn and hard-hearted that I had several close calls of unwanted pregnancies. I would get stoned to the point of passing out, and would get drunk for continuous days on end–each night being a total blur with me not even knowing what I had done or how I got home the night before. Literally, I was living in total darkness—depraved, given to my lusts and pride, a wandering aimless tormented soul.

On my twenty-first birthday, fresh from my break-up, I decided to have a birthday bash and as was a custom to me, celebrated my party to the best of my abilities. Little did I know that God had something else planned that would revolutionize my life.

The following day was another retreat to which my brother sponsored me to attend.  I had no intentions of attending. I was asleep and still hung over when I was jolted into waking up.  For reasons I could not explain, I couldn’t sleep anymore and found myself going to the retreat to appease my brother. Inspite of the splitting headache that first day, I somehow managed to take in all the messages.

To this day I am still amazed by my discipler and small group mates were able to be patient with me during that whole time in the retreat—must have been the fruit of the Spirit. I experienced the real love from people who accepted me for who I am.   Most of all, for Christ who despite knowing the darkness of my soul still gave himself for me and shed His blood to cleanse me. He took away my sin on the Cross but He did something more.  He took away my shame; He shattered the shame that I wouldn’t be chained to my past anymore and that I can live as He rose and lives onto this day.

This was the very first time that I took God seriously and made a commitment to follow Him and abide in Him. I had been living life all on my own for all of my life and it led me to shambles; this time, I chose to live by God’s way. I remember writing down all my sins on a piece of paper, as if to say, ‘Lord, I don’t want these anymore, take my life and use it for your Name and I nailed it on the Cross to signify that I was leaving my old ways and my old self, and was now living for Christ as Galatians 2:20 echoes,

‘For I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I but Christ.’

That birthday, I received the best gift I could ever accept, the gift of Christ and eternity with Him.  I went back from the retreat and immediately knew what God wanted me to do. He pruned me right then and there and allowed me to flush all my drug-stashes and since then has empowered me to clean-living. He enabled me to no longer drink alcohol when I felt the desire to do so but blessed me with self-control. He has been allowing me to restore my relationships with those whom I have previously hurt and mend broken relationships especially with my parents and family. It has not been smooth sailing for I still face my fair share of trials but God has been faithful in refining my faith, leading my life, and teaching me how to love.

I’ve celebrated many birthdays since then.  It’s only by grace that God that has kept me abiding in Him all this time, allowing me to bear much fruit.  He has allowed me to become a servant in various retreats, blessed me with the opportunity to take part in different ministries. More than these, the Lord has blessed me abundantly in an opportunity to spearhead and lead a team of young individuals who share the same burden for those who are lost in the dark, enchained to addictions, heart-broken by conflicts, and weary by circumstances—even those who are stagnant in their faith, Sunday Christians, and young individuals who are at a most crucial time in their lives to be making life-altering decisions.

Jesus allowed a conviction and a burden deep within me to start this ministry movement in my community, to spark a change in the area and inspire a revival that would create waves and resonate in the country.   Never in my wildest imagination did I envision speaking in front of young individuals and leading them to a saving knowledge of Christ who came to save the lost, just as He did in me.  We gather weekly and go by the name Friday Night Light signifying the True Light that is Jesus who leads the way, and surprisingly enough, people from all backgrounds, ages, and locations come each week for the first time and are drawn to this Light.

Pre-Christ, I had become the very thing that had plagued me, living desolately for nothing–chasing after the wind and worthless whims.  Today, in-Christ, I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22); rooted and planted in the one True Vine, chosen and appointed by God, I seek to bear much fruit that will last for all eternity and look forward to a bountiful harvest by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  All renown, acclaim, and fame be to God alone!

 

*Kenneth Thompson is a pseudonym upon request of the author.