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Reimbursing Lost Years

Have you ever felt like life has taken more from you than it has given? Have you ever wondered if there's a way to reclaim the years lost to addiction and despair? Well, my journey through the Teen Challenge program began with a powerful sermon that left me pondering these very questions. Picture it: St. Thomas, Ontario, a Pentecostal church, and a Baptist Bishop from Atlanta, Georgia, donning a Catholic-style collar. This unexpected collision of faiths would set the stage for a transformative experience in my life, as I grappled with 20 years of addiction to alcohol and drugs.

As I sat there, a cold-hearted atheist, God was working His mysterious ways to break down the walls around my heart. Little did I know, He had to break me down first so that He could rebuild me stronger than ever. How did God choose to reach me that day, through this unconventional messenger from the South? The words that Bishop shared with the congregation still echo in my mind: "God will reimburse you for your lost years, with interest!" This message, rooted in Joel 2:25-26, where God promises to "give you back what you lost to the locusts," struck a chord deep within me.

In that moment, God "punched a hole through my heart." Tears streamed down my face as I questioned if this promise could possibly be true. Little did I know that this divine reimbursement was just the beginning of a journey filled with countless blessings over the past 16 years.

At OIM, we believe that everyone we serve is redeemable and deserving of God's love, grace, and mercy. There have been times when I, too, was guilty of passing judgment on the street people we serve, doubting whether there was hope for them. In those moments, God gently tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me of the depths from which He had pulled me. You see, I'm a man who has hit "rock bottom" three separate times in my life, and, admittedly, God has had to humble me more than once.

So, if you ever find yourself on the streets, striving to be "His hands and feet," and you're tempted to be judgmental, I implore you to revisit the profound stories that teach us the gospel of grace. Look to Luke 23:39-43 and Matthew 27:38-44 and see how Jesus offered salvation to the criminal hanging next to Him on the cross. Remember that redemption knows no bounds and that God's love is immeasurable.

~Stephen Prendergast, OIM Connections Associate

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