I was born and raised in Benton Harbor MI, I was raised by grandmother from an early age, due to the lost of my mom. My mom struggled with drugs and alcohol and Alcoholic Hep finally took her life at the age of 28. I wish I have got to know her better. Well my dad lived around the corner from us but really had no dealing with me or my sister for the most part. He got a new family when I was around 5 and well lets just say she wasn’t to fond of us. My grandmother did all she could to raise us. She could be verbally abusive at times, but she always provided for us and gave us all she could with minimal resources. Life started to change for me at around 11 years old. My sister who is 3 years older than me, started to experience inner city teenage life and well I followed right along.
It wasn’t long before I was drinking, smoking, and having sex (I was 12 when I experienced all of these). Right before the age of 13, I got involved with the neighborhood drug dealer and well lets just say I liked what he had to offer me. I started to sale crack at the young age of 12. Though I was only doing small numbers, a package here or there, it gave me a taste of the fast life and fast money. I started to mess with a few older girls and life started to move even faster. By the time I was 14, I was helping a guy I had known for years chop up 8th of Kilos and the money got even better. By the time I was 15 school wasn’t a concern and by this time I had already moved out of my grandmothers house twice, I was actually sleeping over a cousin house in which I could hustle with more liberty.
Blunts, sex, partying, drinking and hustling became the norm and well, I was headed for hell in a hand basket. By the end of my 15th year, I had become what the streets could make out of a young men. I met a young girl and shortly after my 16thbirthday she was pregnant with my son Lionel Jr. Lets rewind some. I was raised in a pseudo-religious home. My grandmother was heavilyinvolved in church, but as for now I still don’t believe she is regenerate. I got involved in Jr. Ushering when I was about 10 years old but by the age 11 I wanted nothing to do with church. I think something had happened when I was around 8 or 9 though. I was reading Revelation while the pastor was hooping and hollering and after coming across the last couple of chapters, this story about the lake of fire thing scared me senseless. I couldn’t wait to go and ask how to escape such a judgement and they baptized me, gave me a certificate and well that was it. Over the next few years nothing changed, I had another experience when I was around 11 but once again my behavior only got worse. As I look back I believe God was working in my heart. But back to age 16.
Right before my son was born my best friend was shot to death over gang affiliations. His name was Sam Maryweather. And I miss him greatly. He was loyal and talented and funny. He would give you the shirt off of his back and would scrap with anybody. How this went down was ironic. My cousin Toney would come by my house every Wed and Sunday. He would be dressed up and talking about this Jesus stuff. I would laugh or ignore him, but to get him off of my back I decided to go one night. Well that night, God started to deal with my heart in a special way. Though I wrestle with my salvation because of the fruit afterwards, I do believe that God was beginning to set me apart. I spoke in tongues was immediately baptized in Jesus name (this was an Oneness Pentecostal Church) and my life was turned upside down. I threw away my CD’s and told Sam and the fellows I could hang out with them anymore “I had found Jesus”.
That weekend Sam and Mitchell went to a party on the wrong side of town. David and Dre was there and they had a shot gun. They blew a hole in his side with the sawed off shot gun, same died a week or so later (maybe two weeks). I think it was September. I cried like a baby, at the funeral and for the next couple of weeks. I couldn’t get over the fact that I should have been there. Well my son was born and I decided I wanted to do something different. I got focused on school, preached the gospel to everyone I could, wore dress clothes to school and was a straight cornball dude. People would laugh and shortly there after I fell back into the same lifestyle. The problem was that I didn’t feel as good as I did before, I tried to come back to church and only lasted a week. Well I got my GPA up to a 1.9 and passed the ASVAB test and joined the Army.
The Army was good to me. I got away from the environment and started to see positive black folks. I started to read and just live my life. You know club on the weekends, work during the weeks, had a girlfriend and you know the rest. One day in California I met a guy name Gary McCall. He was an older man on fire for God. He spoke with boldness and was very knowledgeable of the scriptures. He too was a Oneness Pentecostal but even worse they were Seventh Day Adventist also. It was very legalistic church but I excelled because I needed holiness! I worked hard, I was the first one at church and the last one to leave. I became a deacon at age 19 and I was on fire for God.
Until, the pastor took all of the money and left the church broke. He took the car, left the house we were paying for and all the money from the bank. He just disappeared. He straight ran game on us. Well, I was furious withGod and this church and if that was the way church was I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I ran across some 5 percentersand started to build withthem. I loved East Coast music and Wu was my favorite. I started to talk east cost and knowledge 120 (the Lessons). I called myself Born Divine Allah. During this time I went to Kuwait and when I got back about 6 months later I had read and learned more. I visited Austin withsome of the dudes I was kicking it with and another major event in my life was about to take place. I met my now wife, Charity. We met at a mall and I fell head over hills in love. I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Well things moved fast and we were married, 6 months later. She moved to Ft. Hood with me and we embarked on life. I ran into some legal trouble and was facing serious charges. A guy in jail with me told me to pray and God would let me out. I listened to him and I was released a day before Christmas (I was in for 30 days). The Army stood by me and eventually I took a plea that allowed me to not have criminal record. Well I ran back to my old church and my wife hated it. Eventually after they told me to divorce her we left. We went from church to church and eventually I got out of the Army after serving 6 years, my wife convinced me to move to Dallas and go to college. This begins the next chapter.
I went to college and excelled. I excelled at work and life was good. Spiritually I was lost though. I played church, went clubbing on the weekends. Just the typical 24/25 year old black dude. Faithful to my wife and a hard worker. However things changed on December 23 2003. After a night of drinking with a relative, the Lord woke me out of my sleep and I could here Him say as clear as day “choose ye this day” that verse would not leave my head and it tormented me until the wee hours of the morning. I eventually went in the other room and started to pray. I told God that I was tired of religion and that I couldn’t figure out which was true. I told God that they all say they are true so I don’t want either of them. Then the sweetest words were whispered to me by the Spirit. Those words were grace. I didn’t have a clue what biblical grace was, but I knew it was a church word, so I went back to church. I joined a church in Lewisville called RLWC, there I blossomed. Though they are a word of faith church the Lord was working in my life mightily.
One day at college a guy name B.J Thompson came and sat down at the table I was at. He was a Christian Hood Dude. He didn’t look like the typical Christian, with Timbs and baggy jeans on and when I met him he had Christian rap in his car. We became friends and he found out my church situation. I told him that the sermons were always about name it and claim, but it was the best church I could find. He did the greatest thing for me. He gave me a McArthur CD and folks my life was changed. Later I graduated and started to work at Blockbuster Corporate and there I met a guy name Shannon Neffendorf (he just married Jennie a couple of weeks ago and I am so excited). He led a bible study and gave me all of Piper Romans series and Tom Nelson CD’s. I fell in love folks. I started to listen to Hank Hannegraf and after a few months, I was bashing every word of faith pastor I could.
I stated to mature and the Lord opened his word to me. I was introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, and then Reformed Theology. Christianity became very real to me and I understood the Sovereign work of God. I started to read commentaries and different theological books. I listened to sermons on the way to work at work and on the way home. I listened to Sproul, Duncan, Piper, Mahaney, and others. They made the Gospel plain to me and I was even more bitter at the Jakes, Dollars, Prices and Whites. But over the last year God has been maturing me. I stopped debating with people and the love of Christ began to overflow. The cross has become so real to me. As I looked back it was always about earning God’s love, versus free grace. Election changed me from arrogant to humbled. I realized that it was God’s unmerited favor and that I was a product of Unconditional Election. I am free because another one bore my sins and I love Him for that. My works became more about gratitude and less and less that of a debtor. During the last year or so, I started to look into the different systems of theology and decided recently to embrace New Covenant. I pray that this testimony is heart warming and edifying. God bless.