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.
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.
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.
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!