“I was involved in gang violence when I was pretty young. My older brother got me into it after his friend got him into it. I saw a lot of sh*t and I did a lot of sh*t. It sucked. I wasn’t happy, but it was the only life I knew.
When I was in high school, I got caught with a knife in my backpack. I wasn’t going to do anything with it; I only had it for protection. I faced a week’s suspension, but managed to get away with volunteer work since I was pretty quiet and never caused any trouble. I didn’t mind volunteering. It meant my “brothers” couldn’t take advantage of my free time and I got to do some good in my life.
I met Ana on my first day volunteering. She was perfect. She was the kind of girl that was so good, you didn’t want to taint her with the ugly in the world. Every day for a week she tried talking to me, but I was short with her. I’m sure I came off as a dick, but she deserved better than me.
I missed my bus one day and so she offered me a ride home. During the car ride, we talked about her parents’ divorce and how she had to hold the family together for her little brother’s sake. I opened up about the trouble my brother got us into and how I wanted out. I remember her asking if I ever prayed. I straight up told her God wasn’t my thing.
She said, “God doesn’t need to be your thing to help.”
When I left Ana that day, I felt different. I couldn’t explain it, but soon realized that what I felt was hope.
I didn’t get out of the gang after that. In fact, it took me another year and a half. But I prayed almost every night for the perfect opportunity and it finally happened a couple of months before graduating high school. Ana got accepted into a school out-of-state and after graduation, I moved with her.
The day she got her acceptance letter was when I knew God had been there all along, listening to my prayers. He was telling me to go; that this was my chance. I’ve realized that you can find God in other people. And for me, He came as Ana. I’ll always be grateful and fulfilled knowing that God gave me her.”
— Marcus, 20
2. “God gave me the strength to quit taking drugs.”
“I never believed in God. I thought he was something people made up as a crutch so they didn’t have to actually face the sh*t in their lives. I saw faith as an excuse for the weak and honestly a load of crap. Until I became an addict.
I didn’t care about anything other than the next time I could get high. I had no control over myself, my life, or who I was becoming.
And then I hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to be alive.
And then, I randomly found a pamphlet about this local church. I kid you not, I was curled up in this alley, rummaging through some trash on the ground, looking for scraps, and I saw this pamphlet. It was talking about finding redemption in Jesus and being reborn. I had nothing left, so I decided to go. The church wasn’t far, and when I stepped through the doors I was so ashamed. I looked like hell. But the woman at the front desk welcomed me with open arms. They gave me clothes; they gave me a place to stay the night. These people gave me everything they had, and then some. And they shared the gospel with me. They told me all about God’s love and how it could save me. And seeing how these strangers could love me, even at this lowest point in my life, I decided to give my life to God.
It’s been sixteen years since the day I decided to give my life to Christ. I am sixteen years and twenty-three days sober. I am an accountant with a college degree. I am the proud husband of an incredible, beautiful wife and father of two little boys. I am saved.
God gave me the strength to quit taking drugs, to turn my life around, to find happiness and purpose. Faith in Him has honestly changed my life.”
— Cal, 37
3. “God has shown me the life I deserve.”
“My wife of twenty-six years cheated on me with my best friend. Wow, writing that still blows my mind. When I found this out, I was beyond devastated. Everything that I had with my wife, the life we had created, the children, the plans–it was all destroyed in a matter of seconds. I didn’t know how to cope. I became an angry shell of a man until a colleague finally snapped me out of it by saying something snarky about my pending divorce. She said something like, ‘So much for those Christian marriage vows, huh?’ And in that moment I was so angry, but I realized I had completely ignored my faith for months. I hadn’t been to church. I hadn’t prayed. I hadn’t even thought about God. Funny how a rude comment could inspire me, but it did.
I realized that my wife’s betrayal didn’t have to define my life or my faith. I decided to lean on God instead of wallowing in pity and resentment. My wife had done something terrible, but I still had three beautiful children and a future.
Turning to faith made me regain a sense of self. Since the divorce I’ve been able to forgive and I’ve been able to actually go on a few dates. God has helped me moved on and has shown me the life I deserve. I don’t have to be angry anymore; He has given me strength.”
— Paul, 56
4. “He saved me on my darkest days.”
“When I was in college, my grandpa was diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. Doctors said treatments could prolong his life, but not save it. I turned to God. I immersed myself in prayer. I needed Him to know I trusted His plan and whatever that meant for my grandpa. Two days after Christmas, he passed away. And not long after that, I lost my grandma, too.
I tried to hold onto my faith, but I couldn’t. My hope in God and goodness was shot. I couldn’t comprehend His purpose to take them one after another. I wanted nothing to do with Him. Months went by and that void in my heart just felt like it was getting bigger. I needed to know where they were. Heaven? Are they safe? Are they in pain? I needed answers. So I prayed. I told God how mad I was. How He betrayed me.
That night I dreamt about my grandpa. I woke up crying. I didn’t understand what that dream was or what it meant. So I went on a run. I decided to run for 84 minutes in honor of the age my grandma died. I was crying during the whole thing and without planning it, I ended up in front of my grandparents’ house the second 84 minutes was up.
It was God.
No, He didn’t speak to me. But instead of punishing me for my defiance and anger, He acknowledged it. He gave me signs to help me find peace and comfort.
It was that day I decided I owe everything to Him. It was that day I realized my relationship with my grandparents can continue through Him. My life was changed forever knowing their pain was gone. My life was changed forever
Those days were the darkest of my life. Not quite sure how I am even here because I didn’t want to be. God loves me so much He allowed me my time to grieve and once that time was up, He simply set me back on His path. I will honor Him forever and I will live my life in hopes that my grandparents are proud. I will see them again. I know that and it’s all because of Him.”
— Carly, 22
5. “I have a new sense of who I am.”
“Before I found my faith, I was just living for myself; I had no foundation, sense of direction, or purpose. Now Jesus is who I am living for and my faith in His love for all people is at the center of everything I do in life. I have a new sense of who I am and I am so happy.”
— Caitlyn, 23