It was the summer of 1989. I had just completed the worst time of my life, high school. The classes that bored me. Most of my friends went off to college to study the “craft” that they were going to do the rest of their lives. Some of my friends decided to enter the military. I had tried but the even the military didn’t want me due to a medical issue. I felt rejected and useless. Friends gone, no military, no career, no school, no success to speak of.
It was also the time when I discovered that I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I had just told the college I was supposed to attend, for Advertising Design, that I didn’t want to be there. My father was the first to graduate from college in his family. A successful electrical engineer working in the “space race”. Me, the unsuccessful son who didn’t care about anyone or anything. I didn’t even care about myself.
Questions came to mind day after day. How was life going to treat me? Was I going to be successful? Was I ever going to find someone to like me for me? What was life all about? The circular motion of question and confusion flooded the gates of my heart and soul. Why? Why was I so confused, aggravated and rebellious?
A few years earlier, when I was a sophomore in high school, I was walking to school. I am not to clear as to the circumstances surrounding my anger and frustration, but I remember, just before entering school for the day, I looked up to the sky, raised my fist (figuratively) and said, “God I don’t need you. Leave me alone and let me live this life. You haven’t done anything for me that I want so just leave me be.” Little did I realize the consequences of saying that.
I had accepted Christ when I was 10 years old. I was ready to take on the world for Christ, but over the years, I discovered, very quickly, life was not full of sweet delicious cherries. It was bitter, suffering and plain old mean. I had seen and experienced what kids do to those who they don’t like. Bullied daily, I had to physically fight to stay sane. Everyday after school, I would be jumped by several boys. Complaining didn’t do anything, so I did what I felt was right, I fought back. Sometimes winning, sometimes losing, however that set me up for my teenage years.
When I entered middle school, I wasn’t bullied as much but it was still there. I had publicly run for a school office, just to be completely humiliated by the chants of name calling and “booing’. The teachers did very little, so I learned to keep it to myself. If the majority of people were against me, then I would fight my feelings of inferiority. On one occasion, a kid decided to pick on me. He started to follow me home, taunting me and calling me names. I did what I felt was right, I fought back. I took him started beating on him, threw him into a metal garbage can, kicked the can several times then, with him in it, threw the garbage can into the bushes. I felt the rush of adrenaline cause a feeling I had never felt before, satisfaction from revenge.
Anger consumed my every thought. I had dreams of killing those who were against me. It didn’t matter if they were friends or family, if they were going to get in my way, I was going to “truck” over them. As this pattern of thought continued, my actions went in the same direction. I hated everyone and everything, including myself. Then after rejecting God’s work in my life, I became what the Bible calls a “prodigal son”. God let me live my life as I saw fit. During those high school years, I discovered weight lifting, gambling and smoking. I was going down the path of destruction slowly but steadily. This pattern continued until early 1990.
I was attending church (just because my parents forced me to) and our pastor was organizing a short-term missions trip to Haiti. We had a family that grew up in our church that became doctors and ministered in Haiti. I was asked to go on several occasions, but said, “No thanks. It’s not for me.” However, my heart was troubled. My mind was consumed with the question of “Will God ever take me back?” I was asked time and time again, “Would you go to Haiti with us?” I figured that if God wanted me to go, He would have to provide the way, not because I didn’t have the money, but because if He wanted me to go, He had to prove He was there.
Within a few short weeks everything was set up. My airline ticket, paid. Medicine, paid. Housing, done. Even the little things that we were going to bring, paid for. I even had a couple of hundred dollars for the week, even though I didn’t need it. I packed my bags and went with a bunch of people to a foreign country.
During the time we were there, many opportunities came my way. Time to spend with kids who liked me (probably because they didn’t know me). Time to discover a world outside of Queens, New York. New culture, new experiences, new foods, the world was starting to make some sense. My eyes were opened to things I never thought were real. So many things happened that it would take many blogs to write about, but at the end of that week, one of my first successes was given to me.
The missionaries were giving out awards for different things. Nothing special, no medals just homemade trophies that signified what they saw in people that week. I thought to myself, “I won’t get anything because I am not special enough.” Apparently, I was wrong. The wife said, “This next award goes to the person who acted like a missionary. One who serves.” Then she called my name. WHAT?! It must be a mistake. How could I be the most “missionary minded”? It didn’t make sense.
When I approached them about the award, I asked, “Why me? I didn’t do anything special.” They told me, “It was because you served and didn’t complain. You thought others more highly than yourself. That’s what missionaries do. No mistake, you won this one.” For the next day or so, I got to think about it. It was a two day trip back to the airport and a number of hours in flight. While I thought about this, I asked myself, “How am I going to change? What will I do differently?”
I had been a foreigner who impacted others lives, positively. God had revealed Himself to others through me, the one who didn’t care. He had shown me that I would be a success through Him alone. This was the first success of many yet to come, but that will have to be for another day.
God bless and encourage someone today.