“Without Him, I Have Nothing.”
As a young man, raised by his grandmother in Chicago, J.B. understood the bleak outlook for kids in the inner city where gangs, substance abuse and violent crime were prevalent and often the only means of survival. But J.B. saw another alternative: service to his country. “I left Chicago in order to have a productive life in the military,” he says. “I wanted to escape and build a successful future.”
But sadly, it wasn’t to be. While his decision on the surface seemed wise and well advised, it took him down a path of self-destruction.
Homesick and often with too much time on their hands, J.B. and others in his platoon began abusing alcohol. When he learned his grandmother was dying and he wasn’t allowed to go home, his grief and anger, fueled by his growing addiction, resulted in behavior that led him to being compelled to leave the military.
“My life spiraled into disarray.” He returned to Chicago. While he was fortunate to find work, the jobs were seasonal. Once again, he began filling idle time with self-destructive behaviors that, for more than two decades, resulted in broken family relationships, spotty employment and bouts of homelessness. He was filled with regret and self-contempt.
“I constantly thought about my life and my failures. I couldn’t blame anybody for my downfalls. I didn’t want to listen or adhere to the rules of society. I felt incomplete – I had no peace.”
Finally, severe health challenges nearly cost him his life, and he knew he had to change his ways and his environment. He’d heard how the Mission helps men like him build new lives in Christ. So he traveled to Jacksonville and surrendered to the Lord.
“I couldn’t take care of myself any longer. I was tired of the unsustainability and loneliness. I didn’t want my kids to say, ‘My dad didn’t love us because all he thought about was drinking and drugging and running the streets.’ I thought I was hurting myself, but I was hurting my loved ones.”
That was 10 years ago. Today, an alumni of our LifeBuilders Program, J.B. is nine years sober, married, healthy and at peace with the Lord. Now as then, our holistic outreach continues to address the long-term emotional, spiritual, medical and educational needs of those with life-dominating issues. Most important for J.B., our counselors encouraged him to accept God’s forgiveness and place his trust in Him.
“That was what I needed, because without God I have nothing. I’m in constant prayer, especially when I face adversity.”
If not for the Mission, J.B. says he would still be lost and without those in his life who mean so much to him- his wife and children and the students in our program for whom he serves as a mentor and godly role model. When he finds himself with free time, he embraces it to share God’s life-transforming Word with others.
“If I can mentor others, I don’t mind, because somebody did it for me. And once I let God take the wheel, I never looked back.”