The following is my story.
Chapter 1 - Ernie (uh r n ee)
I’m a communicator. I speak, preach and I write. In fact sometimes I never shut up! Although I like to think of it as I’m making up for lost time. I’m getting my moneys worth from the six surgeries I had on my ears and the years I spent in speech therapy. I’m now enjoying speaking, because for years I hated it!
Try this. Imagine your best friend/brother’s name is Ricky and your best attempt is pronounced “Otti.” Picture speech therapy rooms with only child sized chairs and sesame street flash cards. Practice growling; Grr! Followed by your mom pleading “one more time.” Think of hating the letter “R” and “Ernie” (uh r n ee) from Sesame Street. Trust me, it was miserable.
So what do you do when you struggle with speaking? I chose basketball and partying. For as long as you keep running there’s no time for conversations. Not to mention if you’re good, people begin to like you. Plus if you’re drunk or high, everyone sounds ridiculous. Making the party scene a perfect fit for me. And as partying became my crutch, basketball became my ticket. Landing me a full ride scholarship out of high school.
Did I also mention, when you and your friends are ghetto fabulous, you can disguise your poor speech with slang and ebonics?
Chapter 2 - Class Act
Enter college CJ. And now in addition to partying and basketball, I now make my own rules, professors are just giving me grades, I have money in my pocket and even better steroids in my blood. In other words I was a class act. Although when the act expired and I hit rock bottom weeks after my return from spring break in Florida something had to change. I needed to change. I needed Jesus. Which then resulted in the decision to transfer to a small private school in Minnesota, walking away from my basketball dreams, scholarship and friends.
Funny Story: The following year my parents found a video tape, “CJ Gone Wild” volume 1. Leading to perhaps the awkwardest conversation I've ever had.
Chapter 3 - Culture Shock
“Welcome to Bible College! Here we pray 11 times a day, learn about God in every class, attend daily chapel services, participate in prayer groups every night and just wait until this weekend. We’re going to church!” - I’m paraphrasing.
The point is transferring from Illinois to Minnesota was rough. Each day I battled the urge to return to my former poor way of living. At the same time I had never felt so isolated and judged by those around me. Not to mention I was now paying 16k/year for school, rather than going for free. And once again if it wasn’t for basketball, I would have went nuts! I remember thinking to myself, “what did I do?” “What am I doing here?” Which then led to, “it’s time to transfer again.”
Fast forward a week or two; I’m now sitting in another chapel service, weeding through every negative thought and frustration I have with God and this Christian university. Saying to God “if I’m surrounded by the future of your church I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Till this day God has never spoke more clearly to me than he did during that chapel service. Saying, “You can’t complain if you’re not going to play your part and do something about it.” That day I decided not to transfer, but instead to become a pastor rather than a teacher.
Chapter 4 - Big Decisions
You know the part in scripture where it says “blessed is the man who finds a wife?” I believe we misinterpret this idea of finding that special someone. For many this verse suggest that we should be searching for that significant other, while I believe it’s more like walking down the side walk and finding a 100 dollar bill. That’s at least how it worked in my life, because it wasn’t until I became consumed with simply living my life for God that I met Kristin. So I did what any other guy would have done in my situation. I asked her to marry me; and she said yes! Making August 19th the day I joined the prestigious club “Men Who Married in Over Their Heads.”
Around this same time, I was nearing graduation and the end of my college basketball career when I was asked to attend a try out for the BBL (Germany’s version of the NBA). A week later I received a call to play ball overseas. And once again it was time to make a big decision. I could continue playing basketball, make good money and live in Germany. Or I could accept a youth pastor position of a youth group of 9 kids. The decision was easy; become a youth pastor.
Chapter 5 - Living the Dream
The past 6 years have been incredible! I've had the opportunity to share the gospel with thousands of people and something tells me we're only getting started. I guess you could say we're living the dream.