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.
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)
The message of I Am Second is to put Christ first in everything. When we do that, He often gives us amazing ways to demonstrate His love for others. Laura Klock, whose story is shared in her I Am Second film, is getting to do just that.
She and the company she and her husband Brian own, Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, are participating in a program called “Helping with Horsepower.” She teaches teenage girls how to restore a motorcycle. But these young women are not your average teens. They’ve dealt with difficult family circumstances and are learning to overcome life obstacles. How can fixing a beat up bike help? Watch the whole story here- Helping With Horsepower.
Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who suffered a shark attack that left her with only one arm, is having a very busy 2011. She travelled to Dallas at the beginning of the year and filmed her I Am Second film about her faith journey as she was injured and then recovered and returned to the world of competitive surfing. Her story is both shocking and inspiring, as her relationship with God gave her the resolve to not only recover, but to return to the sport she loves.
My big sister just got a haircut. Big news, I know. “Stop the presses,” right? Really though, it is kind of big news. She cut off all of her hair (think Duran Duran circa 1981) and bleached it so that she could dye it. She dyed it pink because she wanted to do something dramatic before it all falls out. It’s all going to start falling out any day now since she just had her first round of chemotherapy this past Friday.
See, for the past few months my oldest sister has been walking down the path of a breast cancer patient. Since her diagnosis she has been to doctors, getting scans, having surgeries, and now she’s in the treatment phase. She’s relatively young, in good health, and we have absolutely no family history of cancer, much less breast cancer. This was completely out of the blue. She has three young daughters whom she home schools, a husband who has faithfully been by her side every step of the process (even when he has to take off work to make it to a doctor’s appointment with her), and, well, a life. She’s a busy woman, but her cancer doesn’t seem to care. Cancer has a distinct way of messing with your plans and flipping your life on its head.
As I was watching Nicole’s video, one thing really hit me. When she was thirteen, something that she had known all of her life changed. She was no longer the child of a man who had simply passed away, she was the child of a man who had committed suicide. Shock, depression and even anger accompanies a revelation like that. Worse than that was the new found added fear that because of his suicide, she now would only find rejection from God and from the community. Too often, we find this stigma attached to people that have been through tough times. Perfection holds the highest esteem in the public’s eye, but that is quite the opposite with God. God can do nothing with someone who thinks himself perfect. It is usually only when we experience anguish, rejection, fear do we turn to God, and His open arms. We should be thankful that God does not ask us to be perfect before we approach Him, rather that He will perfect us.
When I was younger, my parents went through some very rough times financially. It was even to the point that we had no house, and lived in the back of a shop my dad owned. How do you think I felt going to school, not being able to invite friends over to my house to play, and couldn’t ride the bus like I had up until then, because the bus doesn’t stop at shopping centers. It was devastating. However, as I grew older, I came to realize that even if people that I went to school with looked down on me because of it, God never did. God didn’t care that we had to live in those conditions. God’s love isn’t held back from someone because they are socially unacceptable. Jesus proved that when he talked with the woman at the well. Paul wrote in Romans 8, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” This is something that we can always focus on when going through a rough transition in life, and be reassured that God’s love will never be held back.
How many people have been rejected by the social community because of circumstances that shouted “imperfection” on them? How many times has this happened to you? What can you do to make sure others always feel God’s love?
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.
I just want to start out by thanking you all for trying to change the word with this ministry, you may not have changed the word yet but you have changed so many already! I know God has done a work in me, I have seen most of these videos more than once but if I feel down and need a pick me up I know where I can go to hear strength and wisdom from people who have been there before me! I am 21 years old, I have 2 beautiful little girls. One is 3 years old and my youngest will be 2 in December. I have been through a lot of trials and tribulations in my short life, and by looking at me you would not be able to tell. I look like I am about 18…That is why I believe that I have a gift! I know that my story needs to be shared so that other young girls, mothers, and daughters know that they don’t have to settle for rock bottom! I have been abused, neglected, pregnant when I didn’t need to be, married for the wrong reasons, abused some more, divorced, custody of my kids were taken from me, I got admitted into rehab against my will…and in my first three days there, God opened my eyes! I saw that the only way I was going to make it in this life was to stop being so self-centered and believe that “I am second!” Today that is my motto. My God is first, I start every day with prayer and I end every day with prayer! Ever since I have made the decision to put God first, my life is totally different. I have joy in my life for once! My girls are happy, my family trusts me, I have a relationship with my sister, I got out of an abusive marriage that I didn’t think I would ever have to courage to do! God gives me that strength, and if it were not for God opening my heart and my eyes to see the bigger picture, what had been right in front of me all along…My family would probably be laying flowers at my gave site today, because the road I was headed down was leading right there and I was not walking I was running there! So today I am grateful, for so many things that God has given me, because I know I could be dead right now…but I am not! God has a bigger plan and purpose for me than I ever did, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for my life!