The 24 To 30: #24 – God

by Just Juan

Ahhh…it’s October 24th and I’ve arrived at the venerable age of 30. It’s been a great rollercoaster ride through life to this point. I feel so blessed to have gotten to this point in life. For the first 23 days of this month, I’ve acknowledged some special people who’ve helped me along the way getting here but arriving here was ultimately the work of one person. In this final post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the story of God…

THE BACKGROUND. My history with God goes back to my youth…to the days where me and my sister would join my mom and great-grandmother at church. We went to a Baptist church in the Titusville neighborhood of Birmingham. Back then, I did what just about every other 4 and 5-year-old does at church: play with the other children. I do remember the Easter speeches I had to memorize. I kinda fell off going to church around age 9, opting to stay at home. That was pretty much my deal until the Fall of 1996. In order to exploit the strict curfew my mother enforced upon me, I started going to church with one of the guys from my neighborhood crew. He attended a church in the West End neighborhood called Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. I joined my friend on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for choir practice and Bible study as well as 3 Sunday services. I was 11…it wasn’t like I had much else to do. It was around this time that I learned about God and Jesus for the first time. I ended up joining the church shortly after my 12th birthday for 2 reasons: (1) I had a crush on the pastor’s daughter and (2) my friend was already a member. A couple of months later—on December 15, 1996—I got baptized. For the first few months after I got baptized, I was really into learning about God and being a Christian. I was one of the top students for my age bracket in the youth program but all of that changed when I got dissed by the pastor’s daughter…in front of the entire class. My feelings were hurt and I felt humiliated…ended up leaving and never going back. For the remainder of my teen years, I only stepped into a church once more—a Sunday I attended with my great-grandmother—and I don’t recall opening up a Bible. In 2006, I got myself caught up in quite the lusty relationship and as it deteriorated, I ended up attending a church service with her at Faith Christian Center of Jacksonville in an effort to save the relationship. As a visitor that day, I was given a bag of goodies which included a CD of a sermon called “Healer of the Brokenhearted”. I listened to it and the way that the pastor—Bishop George Davis—broke down everything got me really interested. I started attended the church a bit more to learn more…made the drive down from Valdosta and everything. As 2006 closed out, I started feeling more and more that I needed a major change in my life. Though I was going through the drama of that horrible relationship and the breakups-to-makeups involved with it, there was a burning feeling inside of me. On December 17th—just over 10 years to the day that I got baptized—I joined the church. I pushed through to the end of 2006, ending the year with a written prayer asking God to bring the right people into my life at the right time. On January 14, 2007, I got baptized for a 2nd time. This time around—as a 22-year-old—I knew the true meaning of baptism and what it represented. Getting baptized and going through the new member and Pre-Encounter classes at FCC rejuvenated my spirit. It brought out the excitement that I once had as a 12-year-old over a decade earlier. After finally breaking away from my ex-girlfriend, I linked up with a couple of different groups in the church: one was headed up by an older gentleman named Greg and another by a guy in his 30s named Eugene. In Greg’s group, I learned a lot about Jesus and the testimonies of the other singles in the group allowed me to open up. Eugene’s group was all about teaching the Word through sports. We played basketball and during the breaks in between our games, we had study sessions. When I left for Japan in May 2007, I was unsure what was ahead of me as far as my walk with the Lord was concerned. Luckily for me, God was faithful to the prayer I wrote down months earlier and he put some great people in my path like Latisha, AJay, Alonzo, Mama Sanders, and Pastor Shawn. Over my 3 years in Japan, I grew exponentially in my knowledge of the Word and I became a far better Christian…my relationship with God took off. During my deployment to Iraq, I received a birthday gift from a woman I had befriended shortly before I left for Japan. She sent me a CD sermon entitled “Issachar Man”. Using 1 Chronicles 12:32 as the baseline, I learned about the story of Issachar and what it meant to be an Issachar man. My life was forever changed. Even when I moved to the DC area, my relationship with God didn’t suffer. For my 2 years there, I was blessed to learn even more through the study sessions I sat on at the Church of the Great Commission. That brings me up to now. Today, I’m like really tight with God. I often refer to myself as one of his greatest free agent steals…a play on me being on the other side for so much of my life before committing to seriously becoming a Christian and a man of God.

THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. To be honest, every moment with God has been an impact moment. But if I had to pick one, I’d go with that summer test from 2011. It all started on April 13, 2011. That’s when I was awaken early in the morning and God showed me a vision in which I saw myself down and dejected in what appeared to be the summer season and cheering happily in what appeared to be the autumn. He basically told me that I’d go through a horrible summer but if I got through it, I’d get to rejoice in the fall. It was a difficult summer. I did a lot of fasting, a lot of praying. I listened to a lot of sermons I had saved from my days at Faith Christian Center in Jacksonville and Faith Christian Fellowship in Japan. I remember even running more every day…listening to the Bible on my iPod Touch and interceding for others while I ran laps around my apartment community. In August, things got so tough for me and I had labored through 2 months of bad times already. I felt like giving up…I was growing weary. Then, God did something amazing. He showed me a glimpse of the future He had for me when I ended up getting a top secret facility manager assignment in Korea as well as an interview for admission into Stanford University. Though it was a great interview out in Palo Alto, it wasn’t enough to get into their graduate program but I did qualify for the top secret position, cementing the fact that God provided me with a win-win situation in the end…a James 1:12 moment. A month later, in Tokyo, I presented the 1st Just Juan Building Blocks Scholarship and my summer test was over. It left me with a lifelong testimony.

HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. Simply put, there is absolutely no way I make it to this moment, this day without God. He’s been there for me the entire way even when I turned my back on Him and entered into a life of sin. But God’s a cool dude. He welcomed me back and we’ve been tight ever since.

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