Meet Chris. Listen as he tells his story.
I was born in Colorado in 1986. My dad was in the military and met my mother while stationed there. Things didn’t work out between them, and while I was still a young baby, they divorced and my dad brought me back to Arkansas to live with him. Western Arkansas was where I was raised. We lived in a small town called Van Buren, right near Fort Smith. Like most small country towns there’s not much to do. People go to church, watch/play sports, hunt. That’s just what you do. And no different than today, people passionately support their views on any or all of those. I fell into the sports category. My family didn’t go to church, and they didn’t hunt. I was a bigger boy; so of course, I played football, and for all of my adolescent and young teenage years, that was my identity.
My first stepmother was abusive. I took the punishment for all the mess that her three children made and blamed on me. Despite a period of time early in my life when my first stepmother was physically abusive to me, I was like most kids. I loved sports, playing outside with friends, getting dirty.
At about the age of 14 or 15, my teenage curiosity got the best of me, and I tried marijuana. I thought I was so cool. Hanging out with the older kids, living dangerously, I was on top of the world! By the time I was 17, I had turned a teenage curiosity into a full-grown adult addiction to Methamphetamine. It took over my life. Meth was my world! It became my identity! After many small court-ordered stays in rehabs and short stays in jail, eventually my lifestyle caught up with me. The judges were tired of playing with me, and I found myself in prison. About halfway through my prison sentence, I came to a point where I just didn’t know how to go on. I had no clue who I was or what I was going to do. I knew that I didn’t want to come back to prison, but how could I avoid it? I sold drugs; I did drugs. It’s what I knew. Every choice I had made for myself had led me to prison. Out of desperation, I decided to throw a Hail Mary. I got down on my knees and to say a prayer. I had spent a considerable amount of time as a young teen chasing the girls at Wednesday night youth church meetings, so I knew that people really believed in this stuff. So…. Why not try? What did I have to lose? I was in prison. That sloppy, confusing, desperate prayer turned into a genuine cry for help for “this Jesus” to save my life, because if not, I was going to waste it and destroy it. That was the moment I dedicated my life to serve and follow the Lord of all creation.
Eventually they let me out of prison. I began going to church. Was doing the best I could as a new believer. This season was a hard lesson in discipleship. I had no one to walk with me and to pour into me. So I started slipping into what was comfortable to me and what I was used to doing before. Before I knew what happened, I was sticking needles in my arm and running the streets day in and day out. But there was a difference: Conviction. I knew what was right. I knew what was wrong. Every part of me knew that I was doing wrong, but the drugs didn’t care. They had wrapped their ugly claws around my life yet again. I was once again trying to control my life with my strength and my power. Every day was the worst day of my life. I was full of conviction. I only know that now looking back. I didn’t know what I was feeling – only that I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I felt it in my heart. By the grace of God, I didn’t catch any new charges during this time. My parole officer eventually caught up with me, and I told him the truth. No, I wasn’t doing what I was ordered to do. Yes, I was using drugs. He sent me to a parole-violators program for 60 days. As soon as I had time to remove the drugs from my body and regain use of my brain, I learned what it meant to Repent. I cried out to the Lord again and told him I had done wrong and made huge mistakes and that I was sorry and begged for forgiveness. In God’s Faithfulness, he did just that. He forgave me. He even used those 60 days back in prison to teach me a great lesson about willingness and Prayer. People started to come up to me and ask me to pray for this and that or to pray for them. I was even given the opportunity to take over a small prayer group. I learned to pray out loud in public while in prison. I was so nervous, but I never said no.
After serving my 60 days, I was released and through trying to get involved in church, a couple of guys came alongside of me to mentor and to do life with me. Discipleship isn’t an Option; it’s a commandment!
I began helping in youth ministry and became interested in missions. I wanted to help! I knew I couldn’t keep every person from making my mistakes, but I wanted them to know that when they do make mistakes (because we all do) that they were not alone. There was hope! There is a way and that there is a life outside of our mistakes. The mistakes we make do not define us. Our identity is in Christ, and He defines us; and Glory to God, it’s a great definition.
I eventually found myself in Nashville in a missions program. I met everyday with believers. I had a strong community. I grew to love Nashville for all the reason not many people think of. The nations are here. God has brought the Nations to Nashville. And I love it. I met my wife while working at a burrito joint to help pay for my organization expenses. The first thing I remember about my wife, Mary, is her asking how she could pray for me and my buddy, while we were at work, covered in burrito juice and grease. I saw her face to face three times before I asked her dad for her hand in marriage. If you put enough prayer into something, Jesus lets you know if it’s right or wrong. This August will be our third year of marriage. We have a beautiful daughter who will be turning 1 on this month. Mary and I have been involved/led many mission trips all over the place. We most recently moved back to Nashville from Wyoming where I was working in the oilfield. Our short season in Wyoming was a tough time. It negatively affected our marriage and our spiritual relationship. The Lord presented us with an opportunity to move back to Nashville, which was a display of his sovereignty because oil was on a decline, and I probably would have found myself without a job.
So through a friend of ours hearing about Joey’s story and watching a documentary about Living Hope and finding out that Joey was going to start a discipleship platform through growing food here in Nashville, we got connected.
Cul2vate is invaluable to a person like myself. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any technical training to help me find a well-paying job. Instead, I have a laundry list of felonies that follow me around. I want to work. I want to support my family financially and spiritually. I want to give money to those in need. I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to make Jesus known in the communities in Middle Tennessee that I have grown to love. I need a chance! Through Cul2vate, I will get the skills and training I need to have a chance.
I believe in what Cul2vate stands for. I believe in what they are doing and how they are doing it. Discipleship and Mentorship is a must. I want to be a part of it.