What do you do when the Lord completely interrupts your life?
“THIS YEAR THE THEME OF THE BIBLE INSTITUTE IS IDENTITY, WHICH IS SOMETHING THAT SPEAKS TO ME A LOT BECAUSE I SEARCHED FOR THAT IN A LOT OF PLACES BEFORE I FOUND IT IN CHRIST. REALLY, IT’S ALMOST AS IF I DIDN’T FIND CHRIST, HE FOUND ME.”
Paul grew up in New Hampshire, where “everyone goes to catholic church but no one knows what’s going on”. From a young age, he became very cynical of God and Christianity, and when he was 10 years old, his parents stopped making him go to church. Growing up, Paul had whatever he wanted, and his family lived very comfortably. No matter how many things he had, he still felt empty at the end of the day. This was a pattern he noticed in his parents’ lives as well; nothing ever satisfied. After Paul’s mother lost her job, his parents began fighting and drinking. When their comfortable lifestyle began to change and he could no longer find his identity in “stuff”, he searched for it elsewhere: in science.
“In 6th grade, I quickly read through my entire textbook. I was bored of my teacher. I’d often go to the library and check out quantum physics and astrophysics textbooks. I remember doing things like finding a college psychology textbook and sitting down and reading it as an 8th grader. I had this lust for knowledge that no matter what I read, no matter how many hours I spent pouring over these books, I could never be filled. And ultimately, it didn’t matter when my cousin died and I was staring at her body at her Wake, and it didn’t matter when my mother grabbed a bottle of pills and tried to kill herself in the bathroom above my room. Nothing I knew about the structure of an atom really mattered that day.
After my parents got divorced, I felt hopeless. Nothing I read in a psychology textbook made any difference. My Mom started making some bad decisions, which involved having some abusive
boyfriends. So the next place I tried to find my identity was in fighting. I would spend around 15 hours a week in the ring or on the mat. Fighting totally consumed my life. I remember that no matter how hard I fought I could never beat this rage that was building in my heart about what was happening. It got to the point where I just hated everybody. 1 John 3:15 says ‘Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer’, and [by that standard] I murdered the world. I would walk through the hallways at school and all I could think about was just killing everybody I saw. There was such a dark and scary murder in my heart and I had no answer from science for why that was wrong- it was just a hundred billion neurons, trillion synapses, and electrons, why does it matter? But eventually, it hit me that something about this is wrong, and it scared me. A lot of anger and hatred that I had started turning inward, and I ended up in hospitals.
“THERE WAS SUCH A DARK AND SCARY MURDER IN MY HEART AND I HAD NO ANSWER FROM SCIENCE FOR WHY THAT WAS WRONG- IT WAS JUST A HUNDRED BILLION NEURONS, TRILLION SYNAPSES, AND ELECTRONS, WHY DOES IT MATTER?”
The beginning of hope
I remember the first time I was hospitalized, I was in Boston Children’s hospital sitting next to a man named Lloyd. I remember this guy really well because he was the first person that I remember reaching out to me and telling me that Jesus was more than just some guy and that the Bible was more than just some book. And I didn’t really understand it then and wasn’t ready to accept it, but I couldn’t really argue with this guy, even with everything I thought I knew, because his job was to sit there with me and make sure I didn’t kill myself or anyone else. And after that, God started reaching out into my life in a crazy way. It was like everywhere I went, these crazy Christians were everywhere sharing the gospel with me.”
“I lived across the street from a family of believers. One man was an engineer that had a stack of Answers in Genesis videos. This was very helpful for me to see that there’s this real logic and order to God. I also saw the love and joy of this family that I knew I did not have. I eventually started reading a historic book about the Da Vinci code, written by a Christian author, and I didn’t realize that until I got to the back. It talked about church history and all of a sudden the author just decided to include this very clear gospel message, right out of Romans 3:23. Reading Romans 6:23 just hit me. This is the beginning and the end of everything I’ve searched for, God just continually pursuing and loving me. God really loved me, Jesus really died for me, and it was out of that weird little book that I trusted Christ. Things didn’t get easier after that; I’ve
seen some weird and really terrible things since then. But God provided a local church and they would give me rides, and as I would pursue Him in the Word I grew in prayer and in faith, I realized when I would get crazy phone calls like my mother’s walking around the street with knife, or some crazy thing like that, I had this peace that I couldn’t explain in any other way than that it had been given to me by Christ. The grace that God has shown me really blows me away.”
Paul heard about the Bible Institute through that same family that lived across the street. They had numerous connections to Word of Life and invited Paul to check out the school during a Campus Preview weekend. He enrolled the following year.
The next step
“I had no idea how much I had to learn. I came here already having a lot of knowledge about things like theology, and academically I didn’t find it too difficult, but I had to grow a lot in personal discipline. [Before coming to Christ] I was the cynic making fun of people going out and evangelizing. I was the person who hated God and everybody, so the love that He’s shown me, the grace that He’s shown me, I don’t even know how to describe it. The opportunities here that He’s presenting me with now are crazy. If you’re still trying to figure out where it is exactly that God is leading you and your not sure what’s next, which is where I was, Word of Life presents you with so many opportunities to figure that out, but also learn what the will of God actually means in your life every day.”
“I WAS THE CYNIC MAKING FUN OF PEOPLE GOING OUT AND EVANGELIZING. I WAS THE PERSON WHO HATED GOD AND EVERYBODY, SO THE LOVE THAT HE’S SHOWN ME, THE GRACE THAT HE’S SHOWN ME, I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT. ”
Paul is now in his sophomore year at the Bible Institute, where he has been involved in numerous ministry opportunities, which include starting a Portuguese church ministry with campers that he connected with while working as a counselor on Word of Life Island. He will be pursuing a missions internship in Brazil after this year. “God’s just been blowing doors open for this, so I keep walking through them.”
There’s incredible power in a story, and Paul continues to use his
story of how the gospel has changed his life to impact lives around the world for God. Though it hasn’t been an easy road, he is committed to following Christ for the rest of his life.“This life of following Christ – there are many days that it’s hard, and I think it’s important to realize that it’s not going to be easy, even here where it can be very fun. But it’s so worth it- the ministry I’ve gotten to be involved in, and seeing the love of Christ really show up in people’s lives..it’s so worth it.”