In 17 months, five of my close family members passed away. In addition, my husband and I both went through challenging job changes. As we prepared for employment transition I was fighting a respiratory infection and found a bump on my neck. I sensed God instructing me to get an ultrasound, so I made an appointment.
The night before the ultrasound I attended a women’s event at our church. I prayed silently at the altar, “God, you know what’s going on and what I’m concerned about. Please speak to me tonight.” Right there, a woman placed her hand on my neck and prayed for me.
After the ultrasound I heard from my physician: “It looks like an enlarged thyroid. We need to get you in to see an Endocrinologist. Let me make a call to schedule an appointment for you.” Within minutes the assistant called back and marveled, “I’ve never been able to get someone in so quickly. There’s an appointment for 2 o’clock this afternoon. I highly recommend you take it.”
Recently my husband and I headed out for some dinner and conversation. On a “whim” we chose to go somewhere we’d never been before. It was a cool place – part bar, part restaurant.
A few minutes after we arrived and were seated, an older gentleman came in and sat a few seats away from my husband at the bar. We continued our conversation while the gentleman sat by himself.
Then, clear as day, I heard: “talk to him.” My husband heard it too, “talk to him.”
I fought it, but the message on my heart was insistent. “Talk to him.” Finally, my husband reached over and introduced himself to the man. He was receptive and mentioned that he was a former helicopter pilot for the Marines. We had a nice chat, but it didn’t seem important, yet. Then, the elder man’s son and daughter-in-law arrived. The son had waist-length, jet-black hair and wore shades indoors. The woman was dressed in a suit, but also had wild hair, piercings and tattoos. They sat next to us and we exchanged introductions.
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.
Like many young married couples, David and Bria Bickerstaff were going through life distracted by the daily needs of their blended family. With two young children and one teenager, life was full of activity but meandering in meaning. Up until two years ago something was clearly missing.Then they both attended I am Second’s 2nd birthday celebration, at which they encountered uplifting stories of how God had and was continuing to work in the lives of people through I am Second’s outreach. From the music of Matthew West to the appearances of 32 “seconds” from the website, the Bickerstaff’s hearts were drawn towards the movement. What’s more, at that event, Bria began a relationship with Jesus with night by accepting Him as her Lord and Savior.
From that point on Bria’s life reflected a major change. She radiated joy, filled with a passion for God and the desire to share him with others whenever she had the opportunity. The couple attended more I am Second events and began to bring its principles into their family.
Never was this more evident than throughout 2011. One tragedy after another came about- loss of family members, accidents, other near-death experiences. Yet their faith held. And became even stronger as Bria battled breast cancer. In February, 2012 Bria lost the physical battle, but entered heaven for her eternal reward.
At her memorial service her pastor said, “The most comforting thing we know for sure is where she is right now. When Bria took her last breath, she didn’t leave home, she went home because of her personal relationship with Christ.”
In her final years Bria encouraged everyone to know Him and become Second. Today, she continues to serve as an example. What a blessing she decided to follow Jesus in time.
Don’t delay. Learn what it means to become Second.
“I devoured the stories in about two days. The thing is, when I got to the last few pages where it talks about Jesus dying for us – I didn’t expect what was coming next. On Easter Sunday, right there and then I opened my heart and ask God to come in and be with me.
Holy smokes, Batman – what a feeling! I have been truly blessed. He sure works in mysterious ways. Now to live it the rest of my days. My life is changed.”
Chaplain Albert started an I am Second group in one of the pods (dorm rooms) at the Dawson State Jail in downtown Dallas, Texas. We were privileged and inspired to join them as he presented certificates to more than 25 brothers in Christ who had participated in 10 group sessions. In his humble orange jumper, one young inmate revealed, “Finally, I have something that my kids can be proud of their Dad for.” Tears welled in his eyes and his voice cracked with emotion. Hard time. Hard life. Hardened hearts penetrated by the grace of God.
Prison missionaries? Yes! Each is challenged to start their own I am Second groups as they are moved to other pods, and some to other prisons around Texas. The Spirit of the Lord will not be kept outside walls made by men. Pray for God to “grow them in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)
Newlyweds Sarah and Hugo attended Bible college together in Argentina. There, they learned of God’s love and character, growing closer to Him and to each other. With passion for the Lord and reaching others for Christ, the Liborio family became missionaries abroad in the Dominican Republic.
Hugo found the I am Second movement to be a powerful tool for sharing his faith and wore the wristband everyday. Though a young and healthy man, while home on leave he suffered an aneurysm during a pickup basketball game.
Unconscious and in critical condition, his wife fished out a simple black bracelet beneath the many hospital bands on Hugo’s wrist. In white writing was his lasting statement: “I am Second.” Wrought with grief Sarah thought,“maybe it was God speaking to me in a voice that I could be comforted by.” As her husband’s earthly body slipped away, she felt him reassure her, “If God needs my life… it’s O.K. because I am Second.”
The inside of Hugo’s wedding band is engraved with “I am Second.” Today Sarah shares what she calls “the I am Second night I had with Hugo.” Her loss becomes a legacy of gain as Jesus Christ is glorified and others are inspired to share, to connect – to become Second.
As she says, “No matter what the cost, I will serve God.”
In life, the One who is First gives purpose. In death, the One who is First gives comfort.
Sarah and Hugo’s story and his legacy of Second is celebrated in her book and website.
I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed the messages that I am Second and the 22-Day Challenge sends to the lost and saved world.
Approximately one year ago, someone shared the website with me and I have passed it on to others. The videos are so powerful and heartfelt.
While all of the speakers in the videos are diverse, I can see a glimpse of myself in them all. We all have a story and the main character is God.
Thank goodness for His Mercy and Grace.
Your ministry is a blessing and I pray God continues to bless others through your service.
Erica’s story is an amazing story of grace and love, redemption, and hope. Her eyes were opened by God to truly see the life she was living, and the life He intended her to live. There is a story of a blind man whose eyes were opened in John 9. Just like with Erica, the man was allowed to be blind for a portion of his life, but when their paths crossed, Jesus opened his eyes.
One thing that always struck me about having “eyes opened” by Jesus is that in most stories that we hear and share, it is a story of how God completely changed a person. They make uplifting and powerful testimonies, sharing how someone went through a completely radical transformation. The problem is, it doesn’t happen with everyone. Not everyone will have to leave a life of begging, because they never had to beg in the first place. Not everyone will have to go through rehab because not everyone will have a drug or alcohol problem. The one thing in this that unites every person is the need to life up Christ, and to lower our own self-importance. Erica knew that God could and would change her life, and the blind man knew that Jesus had changed his forever.
Erica knows her life was lived in darkness, and Jesus came to open her eyes. Once her eyes were opened like the blind man’s, she too believed and worshiped Jesus. That is part of what being Second is about. Worship cannot happen if God is not elevated first. Her life is now directed by her position to God. She is Second.
In what ways have your eyes been opened? How can you lift up Christ in your life so that others can see Him?