Justin

Growing up, my family never stayed in one place very long. My dad was in the military, and because of the constant change, I became pretty good at fitting in. We finally settled down long enough to get plugged into a church, and I was fortunate to have good teachers pour into me and show me the love of Christ. I became a  “Christian,” at age 12, but my relationship with Jesus wasn’t personal. God was only one-seventh of my life; only relevant to me on Sunday. Because of the frequent moving, I never obtained the chance to get firmly rooted in the Word of God. I continued through the motions as I graduated high school, went on to college, and began a successful career in management. By 20 years old, I had met the love of my life and we had started a family together.

On the outside, I looked like the guy who had it all, a great career, a beautiful new home, and a wonderful family. But on the inside, I was bankrupt. Though I knew Jesus as my Savior, I had a heart full of pride for what I had accomplished and the people and things that I possessed.

In 2004, unequipped for the battle that lie before me, I gave into drugs. Only a year and a half later, I found myself in jail, contemplating suicide and looking into the eyes of a 30-year sentence. Over the next nine years I was incarcerated, my wife was alone. The husband who had vowed to support her and provide for her, could no longer pull his weight. She had to raise our children by herself, relying on family to make up for my absence. My children missed out on many opportunities because their dad was not there. Thankfully, our family rallied around my wife and kids, encouraging, and loving them along the way. However, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot replace the presence of a husband and father.

In prison, I joined JUMPSTART last minute. I saw that many of the inmates who participated in ministry programs didn’t change, so I didn’t think JUMPSTART would be any different. But there was something that attracted me to the program, and I joined the first class at Livesay Correctional Institution. In JUMPSTART, I developed an intimate relationship with Jesus. I discovered that I could not trust God unless I knew Him, and I couldn’t know God unless I spent time in Scripture, in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers.

Life did not become easier when I was released; I was suddenly entirely responsible for myself. But now, armed with a strong foundation built on the Word of God, and a loving relationship with Him, I put into practice the principles I learned through the discipleship efforts of JUMPSTART. I found a church home in my community where I was able to plug in and serve and worship the Lord I had come to love, and I grew spiritually in a way I never had as a young man.

I have experienced the Lord’s grace and mercy in ways I never imagined possible after some of the things I did in my life. He began to renew my mind, purify my heart, and restore my relationship with my wife, my children, my family, and the community. Today, I serve as JUMPSTART’s Strategic Initiatives Coordinator. My wife and I celebrated 22 years of marriage this year and my family is whole again. For a man who thought he had it all, God showed me that I had to put my pride aside in order to experience the fullness of His love. Now, His blessings overflow in every aspect of the new life He has given me.