The story of TJ and his WayForward experience is one of authenticity, faith, courage, and boldness despite any preparation. Read about how the Lord transformed his heart by spontaneously saying yes.
I first encountered Jesus at a church camp in Crockett, Texas, called Camp Piney Woods. Growing up I attended a youth group, but it was really just to get out of the house. I never really saw what a life with Christ looked like at home. Later I went on several mission trips, and I think this is where God began to give me a servant's heart. Even when living in bondage to sin, I always tended to serve people around me.
It was a day before my birthday and my senior year of high school when my good friend died in a car wreck. At this point I threw God the bird and began smoking weed and using cocaine, which continued all through my twenties. I began to date a girl, and soon I began to worship her. To be honest, at the root, I thought she could save me. I began going to a mens group from her church, where I began to build some great relationships with some older men.
I went through an out patient program where I would do good for a couple months, but the drugs and alcohol always tended to find its way back into my life. After a pretty good bender, I found myself sitting in the living room of my apartment. I opened the bible to Romans 1, and began to start reading. None of it made sense, which made me frustrated, and I stood up and threw my bible across the room. And THIS is when I cried out to God. And I begged and pleaded with him to show me what it all meant. I wanted to become a man of God and I needed Him to change me! The next few days were probably the hardest of my life. I was hearing voices and seeing shadows. Looking back the enemy was showing himself to me. The few days are kind of a blur, but it ended with me getting a 1/4 ounce of coke, bottle of gin, bottle of jager, and an 18-pack of miller light. I locked the door with the intentions of never walking out that door again. I wanted it to end. The next day some guys from AA came to check on me. I wouldn't open the door and they called the police to get into my apartment. Long story short, I was given the option to get in the ambulance, or the back of the cop car. At this point I was placed in handcuffs and placed in the back of the cop car!
We stopped at a red light and the lady cop turned around, looked at me and said "I’m going to pull up, take the cuffs off and I need you to get some help." She dropped me off at the hospital. While in the hospital, I called the guy whose house I was working on, and told him "I can’t finish your house, I have to go somewhere or I'm going to die." Shortly after our conversation he called my parents and told them about a place he had taken his brother, and hoped it could help me. The next day I was driven to Houston and dropped off at Victory Family Ministries.
After three days of being there, I was sitting in prayer and realized that God had answered my prayer from a few days ago. He began to show me when I first encountered him, and when I had accepted him as savior, but I had never asked Him to be my Lord. So I stood up and cried and told Him to be my Lord, and at this moment I felt all of the evil spirits leave me.
Over the course of the next seven months, I met Jesus. Between bible studies, prayer, praise and worship, I began to change. When I finished the program I was on fire. I came home and expected that relationship to be roses, and it wasn't. However, shortly after that, I was in church service, mind you, in a pretty big church. A girl stood up all by herself with her eyes closed and her hands in the air worshiping our Father. She was the only standing in the whole place, which I couldn't believe. Immediately I thought to myself, "now that's the one I want!!!!" Before you know it, a little over a year later we got married! She is such an amazing women in whom I experience God's grace daily. Firs year was tough, but we made it. We began to talk about having a child, and we became pregnant. It was a boy. Timothy Wyatt. We were so excited.
We had planned a little trip to Galveston, for the weekend with some friends of ours. Casey had one last doctors appointment before we were supposed to meet Wyatt. My wife Casey called me crying and said they could not find Wyatt's heartbeat. He was dead. I rushed to the doctor's office and was in shock. Wyatt was supposed to enter into this world in about a week... How could this happen. The first few months where tough, but we got through, and we were given the go-ahead from the doctor and we began trying to have another baby. It didn't take long and we were pregnant again! Welcome to the world Piper Grace! This is where things get a little rocky. I can’t say if this was from anger or hurt, but is was taking a toll on our marriage.
I had quit going to church, and pretty much went into depression mode. I quit meeting with my mentors, and all but given up a life with God leading the way. Even with our new baby girl, I found myself in a state of just going to work and going home, not wanting to interact with anyone (especially if they had any ties to God). I began drinking again and it was crazy, I would get drunk and talk about God. Of course we know the hound of heaven doesn’t let us get off that easily. One day I just snapped out of it and said to myself, "this is not who I want to be again, I was once free from this life of depression." I began seeking a way out, but really I was seeking a way back in. I needed community in my life. During my time away from the church, a lot of things had changed and a lot of people had left. I tried going back but was just met with frustration in my heart. I needed a way to reconnect with God and His children. Therefore, I began to look into going back to Zimbabwe and just getting away and clearing my head and spending some time alone with God. After reaching out to the missionaries over there I began to really pray God would open a door. Didn’t really know what that door was, I just needed a door. After about four to six weeks, I really thought I was going to over to Zimbabwe.
That's when I got a call from a friend and he said they had a last minute opening on a hiking trip, wondering if I would be interested in going. Thing was, the group left on Sunday, and this was Tuesday. I thought "man that's crazy, I can’t just go that last minute." After talking with my wife, she looked at me and said "weren’t you going to go to Zimbabwe for a couple weeks, I think this may be what we have been praying for." So I called my buddy and said I was in.
The hike was very difficult, mentally and physically. I was about 300lbs and couldn’t tell you the last time I walked a mile (let alone 13 miles), but I had a great group of guys around me to push me. On the first day of the hiking when we made it to camp, we were given a piece of paper with some questions to think about. I couldn’t tell you what it said, but I sat there thinking "God answered my prayer in a mighty way. Here I am in the mountains, away from the world, with a group of guys who love the Lord." I began to pray “Father, thank you for answering my prayer! I know you brought me out here to do work in my heart. Please take the band-aid of the wound of losing Wyatt, take a scalpel to this wound and heal it.”
Now I would love to tell you the bush in front of me lit on fire and a voice from heaven rang out and announced “Be healed, my son”. That would have been pretty cool! But I can tell you that I built some relationships on that hike with some guys who began to walk with me during the healing process. I began taking my family to Church again, joined a community group, even began a discipleship class. Those things are all good things, but they are only fruit. At the root God had begun to heal my relationship with Him. It has been a struggle, and the flesh doesn’t give up that easily, but we are getting there. I can say God used the hike to continue the work he had begun in me. I know he loves me and will never give up on me.