Growing Up Fine
For a long time I convinced myself that my relationship with God was fine. I grew up in the Catholic Church so I would show up to mass a handful of times a year, say my amens and just walk away. I didn’t take my faith seriously; it was just something I would do when it was convenient for me.
When I entered the Marine Corps after high school, I was exposed to other religions, but by then I felt like any church was just full of fake people and that was incredibly frustrating to me. I got so tired of it that I became agnostic.
I believed there was a God, but I didn’t want anything to do with him.
When Fine Fell Apart
A little over a year ago I lost everything: my marriage, my family and my job. It wasn’t due to some tragedy, but life just slowly fell apart, and it felt like there was nothing I could do about it.
My whole life I did what I wanted and I thought I was doing just fine. I dated a woman off and on for 8 years and we had one of those really volatile relationships where things were always either really bad or really good. Early on in our relationship I would run the streets, I’d go off and do my own thing and there were always other women I was with behind her back.
I always felt like our relationship was destined to end because of the way it started.
We ended up getting pregnant and when my daughter was born, I knew I needed to be better. I finally decided to do the right thing and marry her. We got married, but at that point, the damage was already done. My wife was too hurt by all my past decisions and our relationship was not working, so a few years later I left her and we got a divorce.
Around the same time, I lost my job in the mortgage industry and was unemployed for 9 months.
A Daughter’s Prayer
In the midst of my life coming undone, my ex-wife and daughter had been attending Sandals Church. My daughter loved it! When the summer Sports Camp came along she begged me every day to volunteer. I kept putting her off and telling her, “I may get a new job, I just can’t do it.”
I still never wanted to go to church. But I found out that my daughter was praying for me, and specifically praying that I would attend church. I finally decided to give in to make my daughter happy. I ended up attending a few services and heard Pastor Matt speak. He was so honest and loving, I knew I had to keep coming back. It was then that I was approached about serving with the Real Adventure Team, the Wednesday night classes and activities to help kids learn about God and the Bible. This time, I said yes.
I knew I wanted to make my daughter happy, but I had no idea the profound impact serving kids through Real Adventure Team would make on my life.
Watching children play, laugh and speak on God's word completely changed me.
An Unexpected Change
Being a U.S. Marine means that I’m a protector, and that made me good at serving these kids. I loved them and I wanted to make sure they did well. But I was also so scared. I was questioning myself so much. I kept thinking “these are kids, they need a good future,” or “Who am I to lead them?” I knew I wasn’t who I should be to be leading these kids. But I kept saying “yes” and I kept coming, to the point where I started planning everything around church and I started bringing my friends.
I started to grow. The more and more I came and served, the more I felt this scream inside of me. I knew I was being changed.
The idea of being “reborn” sounded so strange until it happened…
I remember sitting in the Christmas service at Sandals Church this past year and listening to the words of the old songs they were singing. It was then that I felt like I finally understood what they were talking about. I realized I was reborn. I felt like a child; everything was new to me. Everything was different about my lifestyle too; attending church and serving became priorities, not options of convenience. I noticed that I started forgiving people and being more patient.
Eventually, God spoke to my heart and told me I had to be baptized. I knew I had to commit my life fully to Jesus and publicly declare my faith, so I was baptized on Easter weekend here at Sandals Church.
A New Life
I realized I didn’t want “fine” anymore. I wanted amazing. And, there was nothing more amazing than hearing kids learn God's word and keep it in their heart. I continued to say yes and serve more and more within children's ministries.
I can tell that my daughter is proud of me for serving on the Real Adventure Team. A few months after I was baptized, there was a superhero themed series in children’s ministry. One week we went around the circle and asked the kids who their superheroes were; my daughter said me.
My daughter said I was her superhero.
I am still in awe of God’s love and the gifts he gives us everyday. I know I have a lot of spiritual growth still to do, but I am beyond excited to see where the next “yes,” and the ones after that, will take me.
Want to be a part of changing lives?
Consider saying “yes” to volunteering with kids at Real Adventure TeamSign Up to Volunteer