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HERE COMES THE COME BACK

I spent all of my time focusing my attention on playing sports. As I grew older I found that I could throw things really far and fast. I was pretty accurate with a football. This lifestyle of athletics would consume my life. I would say that playing sports, specifically football, became an idol and my entire worldview framework was centered on this very thing. I often tell folks that I went to school to play sports. I became varsity quarterback and was operating at a pretty high level but my moral life was almost completely bankrupt.

During my senior year, I had a girlfriend that I did not treat well. I was very selfish and this proved true in many areas of my life. We ended up in a crisis pregnancy situation which we (very much under my heavy pressure and persuasion) decided to terminate. From here, I didn’t know which way to go and only knew the easiest thing to do was to run. I ended up leaving her and walking away.

I left for college and eventually landed back at a Division II school in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In my first game, I was hit awkwardly and thrown to the ground. I was diagnosed with a third degree shoulder separation. I thought my life was over, with no faith foundation, nothing to ground me, a traumatic situation, and now a prescription to opioid pain relievers. I fell in love with these pills. They allowed me to not have to deal with physical pain, but far more importantly, they helped me escape reality. And escape is just what I did.

My life got out of hand to the point that I began using heroin, and I found myself in various legal challenges. I was in and out of jail and had convinced myself each time I was released that things would be different. However, I continued the same old routine every time, and I would end up back in jail. My life was a mess, and I finally accepted the fact that this was my destiny.

The last time I was in the county jail my mother sought desperately to find somewhere that would help me. She couldn’t afford to send me to many viable options at that time, until she came across a place called Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge (PAATC) in Western Pennsylvania. By the sheer grace of God, I was permitted to enter into this program at a later court date.

It was November 8, 2006 that I walked through the doors of Teen Challenge. I came in very much uninterested in the program.
I simply was willing to go because it was a better option than jail. However, the Lord had different plans. It was New Year’s Day,
after the ball had dropped, that I found myself in the small chapel in Western Pennsylvania crying out for the mercy and grace of God. My life had changed, and now I was on a path to know this God who redeemed me!

One of the many things I needed to do was apologize to the girl from high school. After completing the PAATC program, she agreed to meet. There was a lot of anxiety, but I was able to apologize for the way I treated her nine years earlier. What was amazing is that she shared with me that she too had given her life to the Lord as well. Our relationship was restored and less than a year later we were married. My beautiful wife, Toni, and I now have four wonderful children: Isaac, Ayriana, Isabella, and Kristopher, Jr. The story continues to amaze me!

Since then, God continued to take me on a journey eventually becoming the first graduate of PAATC to ever become the corporate President/CEO. The work of God is amazing, and I am very thankful for the people He has placed in my life and the many wonderful gifts He’s given me, but all of it is rooted in the gracious gift of His Son, Jesus Christ!

HOPE IN HIGH WATER

HURRICANE HARVEY made landfall into Texas, deposited up to 65.5” of water and the devastation left behind will haunt those caught in its path for years to come. In an instant, every possession, pet, article of clothing, pictures, jewelry, beds, cars, and even the safety of one’s home and family members were entirely lost or in jeopardy…in a blink of an eye. For thousands of these destitute Americans, there seemed no hope or help. And so, this is where the Church arose!

On the morning of September 9, Pastor David Richards and I arrived at the doorstep of the McGowen Elementary School in Houston, Texas, with a 26’ long box truck loaded with pallets of cleaning supplies, food, and other necessary items that the members of Christian Life Assembly donated. We were preceded by a Convoy of Hope truck and another truck filled to capacity with water. A short while later, approximately 45 volunteers arrived, along with Pastor David Hogan from nearby Spring First Church and McGowen’s Principal, Jeffrey Whitaker. God gave the leaders and the workers supernatural wisdom and compassion that day, as we were all “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2.

After setting up the distribution line in front of the school, cars pulled up and the line quickly stretched well beyond eyesight. As each car entered into the distribution area, volunteers spoke with each person, prayed with them, and provided them with cases of water, food, and supplies. Volunteers, motivated by the love of Christ, ministered to many who were filled with fear and stress. Many were exhausted and had tears streaming down their faces, but as they drove home, we could sense a new hope kindled in their hearts.

As we talked with the neighbors, the reality of their present situation set in. The smells that permeated the air were moldy and mixed with many other unpleasant aromas. Visually, the street was lined with enormous piles of garbage, sewage water tainted furniture, clothing, toys, plaster, wood fragments; essentially every item that would be found inside a person’s home, as far as one could see. All was now rubbish. 

As we moved across the neighborhoods, it became apparent that all of the things that brought about division prior to the flood were now all washed away. There was no more rich or poor; old or young; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American; the floodwater held no bias. Whether you owned a Ford or a Lexus, all were irrelevant under four feet of water. The streets continued to be lined with possessions of every type. The material things most people seem to value were littering the streets. Unfortunately, it took a storm to help people realize that what matters most are human lives, not things that will rot or crumble away. While there are so many stories to tell, there is one story in particular that demonstrates God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness.

Erica and Luis are Mexican. They have a beautiful little 5-year-old daughter whom they are raising together. Prior to the storm, many of their black neighbors ostracized them for being of Mexican decent. They were ignored and felt hated and persecuted. Then came the storm. As the floodwaters rose to life-threatening levels, people began attempting to flee.

Erica explains that as they were looking out their window, they saw a black mother holding her two 4-month old daughters above her head, while the water was directly beneath her mouth. She was yelling for help and nobody would come. Luis made a decision to go help them… some of the same people who had persecuted them. And then he went out into the water and saved, not only the mother and the twin babies, but 15 other people including the elderly and disabled.

After she told us this tremendous story, she explained that Luis is away in Austin, as this is the only place he could find work. The storm forced his employer to relocate him, since there has been no available work for them to do near their home, which is as devastated as any other homes in the neighborhood. Just then, the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for them. I told Erica that the Lord would honor and reward Luis for loving his neighbors, his enemies. I prayed that God would bring Luis home and provide a job close to his family where he could be there and help to rebuild their home. We said our goodbyes and my team left to go help another home two doors down from Erica’s.

As we began speaking to the lady at this new home, perhaps a minute after we left Erica’s house, Erica came running up to us in such a state of excitement! “I just got a call from Luis! His boss just told him that he has a job for him near his home and that he is to begin immediately!” Even as I write this I am fighting back the tears that came into the eyes of everyone that was there that day!

Jesus’s love is breaking the yolk
of racism, poverty, and hatred.
He is doing the miraculous in Houston,
Texas…and He is far from done!

Guest Contributor: Lee Hyman

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HELPING HOUSTON

When a church in Houston said that they needed help with a hard hit neighborhood, churches around the country heard the cry and stepped up to serve.  Christian Life Assembly heard the plea, CLA then jumped into action raising funds to purchase water, food, and cleaning supplies.

That’s when CLA realized that the families in Houston needed supplies now and began to receive these supplies on Sunday mornings and throughout the week. CLA was able to send three trucks with over 39 pallets piled with clothing, food, water, cleaning supplies, baby formula and diapers.

Now CLA is sending teams to help with the repair work and continued distribution of supplies to thousands of homes still in need. We will continue to take teams and will continue as long as the call of God tugs on the hearts of our congregation and community.

Pastor David Richards
Executive Pastor

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