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Wrecked Life Given New Purpose

“You look at a condemned building, you say, ‘It is of no use.’ You put a bulldozer and you wreck it, you know. That’s kind of what I felt like my life was like.”

James grew up in a drug and crime-infested neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina called “The Grove”. He was six when his father abandoned his wife and four children.

“I didn’t understand why he left. The parents, the older people, they could’ve had their differences or whatever, but what does it mean to a six or seven-year-old child that you really can’t explain that to? All I know is that he was gone. And it was devastating. It was devastating.”

That left James on his own to find what he needed most.
“Identity. Identity is what you’re looking for as a child. Because as a young man, you want to see what does a man look like, what does a man do? What is his role? What is his responsibilities? You’re trying to find identification.”

So James took his cues about manhood from the gang members and drug dealers in his neighborhood.

“Now I’m going to become it. Now I’m going to become what I’m seeing. Because now I need somebody to identify with, so now I’m getting a little bit more understanding of my environment. I began smoking marijuana. And that graduated to drinking alcohol and partying and everything else. I mean, it just kind of went progressive from there. Using drugs was an escape from the reality that I was faced with every day.”

James grew up going to church with his mother, so he never doubted the existence of God.

“The question was, ‘Did He exist for me?’ Because in my mind, if He existed for me, then why is my condition the way that it is? I know that He’s there, but why am I coming back to a neighborhood that’s impoverished, a neighborhood where I’m seeing people’s lives get cut short, that type of thing.”

By 13 he was dealing and using drugs, and at 16 he was addicted to cocaine. But James was no closer to finding out who he was. During the 10th grade, he dropped out of school.

“I was just at a place of hopelessness. I just didn’t think that there was anything else. Not to mention the drug activity. At that time, it started to get so bad that I really just lost focus.”
Dealing drugs became his only source of income.  One night, James tried to sell flour to one of his clients, telling him it was cocaine. It didn’t take long for the client and his girlfriend to realize what James had done.

“He came back with a gun. And he put the gun to my head. And he cocked back the hammer. And he was going to shoot me and she begged him not to shoot me, begged him not to kill me. But at that time, I was so out of it, I was so at a loss for life, for a zest for life, for even living, I was at a point that I didn’t even care. I almost wish he would’ve pulled the trigger at that time.”

The man let James go, but his brush with death only made him feel worse about himself.

“I felt condemned, felt guilty, felt ashamed. There’s nothing like walking down a street of people knowing what you did last night or people knowing what you’re about to go and do or people speaking about you, like writing you off like you have no existence. There’s nothing else for you to do in life. He’ll be washed up somewhere. His life will be over.”

Over the next nine years, the drug abuse got worse, and crack cocaine nearly killed him. James knew something had to change, so he started going back to church. During one service, the pastor said something he felt was for him.

James remembers what the pastor said that day. “‘God has been calling you, he’s been calling you for a long time.’ And I knew that it was me. And I said God, ‘It’s going to be You and me. I don’t care what else happens, I’m selling—I’m giving you everything from this point on.’ And I came to that point, where I said, ‘God, You really can have me and whatever You want to do with this life you called for me to live, I give You full permission to do it.’”

James gave his heart to Jesus Christ that day, and he says he finally found the identity that he’d been searching for.

“He made me new because He wiped away everything, see. I was walking around with all of this past on me, no matter where I was. Because see, people move from place to place. It doesn’t matter where you move, you’re still going to take you with you. So I had to have my nature truly changed. So yes, Christ made me a new man. He gave me a new identity. That means that things that were in the past could not hold me any longer. That’s how I got to it. And so Christ gave me that identity. He gave me the identity that I so longed for and hoped for.”

James has been drug-free and alcohol-free for 20 years. In 2007, James met Jackie, and they married in 2008.

“He is an awesome husband,” says Jackie. “His heart is devoted to his family. He loves his family, he loves his children. He just loves the Lord. He expresses His love for the Lord like never before. And that’s just who James is.”

“When you accept Christ, He is a God that lives inside of you,” says James. “So a lot of people may say that He doesn’t, but when He comes into you, it’s another individual that comes to live inside of you. And that individual ain’t addicted to drugs, He’s not promiscuous, He doesn’t steal, He doesn’t – He is a Person. And that’s why it’s a personal relationship.”

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