A few days after I graduated from high school, I went to Africa on a senior mission trip with my large church youth group from First Colony Church of Christ. We went to Mbarara, Uganda, where our church supported some missionaries. While there we helped to build a church by placing the foundation of sticks and by making mud with water brought up by hand and our feet. The mud was used as the walls for the outside and inside of the church. We had many outings into the villages and met with many of the locals to hear their stories about how they found God with the help of the missionaries there. During our time there we stayed in the villages with the locals.
While in one of the villages outside of the town, I was asked to pray over a 4 year-old boy who was very sick. The very next day he died.
Two days later while we were in the same village for church, the boy’s mother came in front of the small gathering and read Isaiah 25:1. She said that although she missed her son and wished he hadn't died she knew God planned this a long time ago and that he had special plans through her son’s death. That she could take such a horrible tragedy and turn it into something so uplifting was so inspiring that it never left my mind.
During my freshman year of college at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, I began to have serious health problems. My heart was giving out and the doctors had no idea what was wrong. During this time I remembered the verse that was read in Africa: "O LORD, you are my God; / I will exalt you and praise your name, / for in perfect faithfulness / you have done marvelous things, / things planned long ago." It became a verse that I continually thought to myself while going through all my problems. I knew the Lord was using me in ways I did not understand. After going through all I did, and coming out the other end alive when chances were very slim, I knew I was alive for a reason.
In April of 2003, I got a pacemaker that changed my life. My health improved and I began to be able to start planning life again. Even though I still had some health complications, with seizures and sleep issues my life had improved tenfold.
I am not the kind of guy that can shoot out Bible verses that relate to peoples problems or be able to remember every story in the Bible that could help someone with a problem they have come to me with. I am able to tell my story, to show people that no matter what they are going through, God is there by their side. No problem is too big or small in His eyes. You stubbing your toe and me having a heart attack are equally important to Him. Through it all and everyday since then, I am reminded of that verse; that's why I had it tattooed on my back (in Arabic). I am here and alive for a reason, I went through everything I have endured for a reason, and I will praise and exalt His name no matter what. If He has kept me alive to reach one person with my story and once I do, my work here is done, I am more than ready to go home to my Father tomorrow. I am the kind of guy that can sit at the back of the bar with someone and be more than happy to tell them about the wonderful things in my life that have come from such difficult times. There is no place that is too loud or crowded to tell someone about the amazing things God has done in their life.
My life now, seven years after getting my pacemaker, is more blessed than I could ever imagine. I recently moved to Austin from Arkansas to earn my Masters as a Child Life Specialist and have made some of the most amazing friends I could ever make. I joined the WAKA kickball league and have the privilege of being on the Shady Ladies Softball Team. I have been able to share my story and other experiences of my life with people I know will be lifelong friends. Austin is an amazing place that is accepting of all people. It is nice to know that even though things still happen that show hate, there are enough good people here to prove, every day, that love out weighs hate.