I was born in Puerto Rico in a private clinic, because my mother was hiding her pregnancy. Shortly thereafter we moved New York City and my life of struggle truly began. At the age of 5, I was hit by a car and later molested. At 6, I was physically bullied to an inch of my life. My mother and stepfather sold drugs and neglected my sister and I, so we were shipped back to Puerto Rico to stay with my elderly grandparents, who already had custody of several of my cousins. Instead, we turned to the streets.
I caught my first case (I was arrested and prosecuted) at the age of 10. As a young teen, I’d already started having sex, smoking, drinking and doing drugs. I cursed God for abandoning me. After joining a gang and being arrested time after time, I became the most wanted fugitive of my town, and fled to the United States.
Satan had a grip on my heart and my downward spiral continued. I jumped back into gang life, drugs and guns. The arrests continued until I was facing 5 to 10 years in prison – when I was just 17 years old. In jail, a pastor brought me a Bible, telling me that all my life’s answers were inside. With anger and self-pity I challenged God to prove His love by providing me another chance at life, promising that if my prayer is answered, I would sing His praises for the rest of my life. I’m sure I’m not the only incarcerated person to try and make that deal.
Miraculously, a month later a judge granted me parole. I’m convinced it was God’s hand. On the outside my “old life” came calling right away, but I remembered my prison pastor’s words, “the moment you step outside of this place, that’s when you’ll discover if your decision for Christ is real.” God protected me in His own ways. When I was 21 years old, I started my walk with Jesus.
Now for HIS glory, I can say, I am a happily married man and the father of three wonderful kids. I have a good job, I am a teen pastor, a teacher of His word, a basketball coach, and I am involved in the I am Second movement here in NY. Take it from me, no one is beyond God’s redemption. While I do not deserve it, I happily accept His grace. My name is J.M. and “I am Second.”
What struggles do you face? Guess what – you’re not alone.
Learn what it means to become Second.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the review the I Am Second small group materials received over at SimpleChurch Journal. They have a great blog about living missionally and how the church can benefit from getting down to the basics.
Here are some excerpts:
They incorporate many of the principles that we have found key to starting healthy groups that can reach out to others to start new groups.
New believers are encouraged immediately to begin praying for their “village,” or sphere of influence, and to reach out with compassion towards them.
We appreciate the encouragement and are glad to be working toward the same goals. Be sure to share your experience with the I Am Second small group materials on their blog and here for that matter! What’s your experience been?
It’s a day like today that makes me thankful I’m Second. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of the people I’m fortunate to have in my life.
I’ve had an amazing two weeks that have been slam-packed with trainings, a staff retreat at a new part-time job, a dance competition, and deadlines on the side. Everything seemed to be great and I’ve been praying to Lord I feel like constantly to direct my steps as I’ve had information overload. Yesterday though, I felt like every time I turned a corner I was slipping up. I emailed one of my accountability partners today about my stress and learning to not over-commit and she sent me a prayer via email. Taking that time to pause and look to the Lord was exactly what I needed to get my head in the game. Do you have Christian community around you to build you up on those days that you need encouragement? Are you helping pick your friends and family up when they need to be reminded of their Savior?
I don’t know if you struggle with living your life in over-drive like I do, but if you do, then you need to hear this: A fifteen minute retreat into prayer with your Lord (Even in the middle of the day!) won’t kill you. In fact, it will give you strength for the day. Moreover, YOU NEED IT.
For everyone who isn’t living in community: Do you have friends to call when you’re down? Are you living in Biblical community with people that can remind you of truth? What’s holding you back? Who are the believers in your life that you can be intentional about doing life with?
My I am Second group is one of my greatest places of refuge because I can see my friends growing closer to the Lord.
If you’re interested in starting an I am Second Group, or want to work on your prayer life, find materials here: http://iamsecond.com/getinvolved/GroupTools.html.
We got an encouraging email from one of our I am Second group leaders today that I wanted to share with you.
This past week was by far one of the most moving and spiritually enlightening weeks we’ve had in our group. This week we ended on John Meador’s video. At first glance, it really didn’t affect people much. But after a short discussion, I posted/asked a two part question that was related to the video.
I asked “Think of something you pray to God about often to take out of your life, get rid of, or just fix it”. For example I gave my wife’s parents. She prays often for their salvation and for them to become a part of the family again, they are Jehovah Witness’.
Most people answered out loud something they wanted gone or fixed in their life.
The second part of that question was “Now if you knew that your relationship with God would not be the same, and you would not be as close to Him as you are if He took away or “fixed” the problem, would you still want it gone?” Basically would you sacrifice your relationship with God to feel better here on Earth?
This hit people hard—harder than I expected. Had a lot of tears shed , and people open up. A lot with their own personal struggles. It brought out the “I” problem we as humans have, the fact we want peace and security “NOW”, and are willing to sacrifice our relationship with God, if we can just “feel good” now.
It was great. I think people finally felt they were not alone in their struggles. A video, while touching, never really stuck me that much, but when dug deeper in ourselves, we can see just how selfish we are a lot when we don’t put ourselves “second”.
I love this story for two reasons. First of all, it really highlights the power of community. By opening up to each other, the members of this group were able to get closer to God. Second, it’s such a good question that Billy asked. Would we sacrifice our relationship with God in order to be more comfortable in this lifetime? I challenge you to ask yourself this question, and then go grab coffee with someone and ask that person this question. Thanks Billy for sharing!
If you haven’t watched John Meador’s video, you can watch it here: http://iamsecond.com/#/seconds/John_Meador/.
If you would like to start an I am Second group of your own, you find materials to do that here: http://iamsecond.com/#/getinvolved/.