The first time I saw him, I was afraid. He had wild hair, talked to himself in an animated way, and didn’t make eye contact. It took me repeated times to work up the courage to speak with him. But it was the beginning of something surprising.
Nick had come from Dallas and was living on the streets. He didn’t have any ID because he had left it at his previous place of residence. He kept his money in his shoes. We served him a street lunch every Friday for weeks. Unfortunately, Nick began to change. He got wilder and began using drugs. His hair grew into artful dreads, with a few ornaments inserted. On several occasions, we found him passed out or overdosed, and he went to jail many times as well.
But recently I found myself sitting in prayer time, and Nick was the only participant. I figured God had cleared our everyone else for a reason, so I kept asking questions. Soon, Nick was telling me his whole story. It started out typical for a large segment of my clients: he lived at home with his mom. After puberty, his mind began to betray him. He suffered from delusions and visions. As a 17 year old, he felt that the medications he took almost destroyed his personality, and so he stopped taking them. He learned that heroin somehow helped his mind become calmer. To mediate the heroin, he began to use cocaine. These things led to his leaving home, living with a girlfriend, various drug addictions, criminal offenses, and eventually going to prison.
In prison, Nick joined a brotherhood and learned Islam. As a young man, mostly without medication, and mostly without drugs, he survived seven years in prison. Upon his release, he lived in a halfway house in Dallas. Without help with his transition, Nick found that he couldn’t live by the rules and left one night. That’s when I met Nick in the streets of Austin.
During prayer time, Nick expressed a desire to get his life together. After hearing his whole story, I realized this would be a completely new life for him. And so, we made a plan. First step was to review his taking his medication again. Nick–typical of many of my clients as they reach brain maturity at 25–was willing to reconsider medication. He knew how to get them from MHMR. The next step was getting his disability benefits started. We agreed that, for now, Nick was in no shape to work because of his mental challenges and lack of soft skills. We hoped that eventually he will go back to work, but for now, God might provide for him through disability benefits. Nick wants a place to live, where he can do his art and music. And so again, we developed a plan. I left Nick to take the first steps, and I got his permission to follow-up regularly to see if he’s doing it.
After that, I asked Nick about his Muslim beliefs. It turns out that Nick believes in Jesus today. I explained the Gospel and asked if he understood it; he did. Then, we prayed that God would reveal himself more fully and that Nick would begin trying to live a new and grateful life as a Christian.
Since our conversation, I have seen Nick many times. He has obtained medication. He has applied for disability. He is exercising great restrain to stay away from damaging drugs and activities. And he is trying to walk closer with Jesus. According to Nick, it’s difficult. He told me the other day, “I need to take a vacation. This is hard.” And I understood him. Rebirth is not easy. Renewal is not usually immediate or occurs overnight. It requires patience, strength, endurance, and strong faith. I don’t know what the future holds for Nick, but I am so privileged to walk alongside him.
It’s a time for rebirth and renewal. I pray you see it in nature. I pray you see it in your faith, community, and even in your family. Furthermore, I pray you sense renewal in your personal life.
It’s a privilege for me to be your representative in this work! And, together on a daily basis, we can encourage people who are often ignored, invisible, and unwelcomed. Thank you for your support.
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