Alliance News Feed – Liberty for the Captives

God is working powerfully through Forge Church, a small church plant in Jefferson, Wisconsin. After only a year and a half, the congregation has outgrown two buildings and averages 80–100 people a week, many of whom are new believers. The pastor, Kevin Niebuhr, baptized 14 men and women last December who received Christ through the church’s ministry—including Sean.

During high school, Sean’s mom decided to move to Detroit to marry her boyfriend—this would be her third marriage. Because he was worried about her safety, Sean decided to go with her instead of staying with his dad. He had already moved with her multiple times because of other men, so he turned to drugs to cope with the chaos.

Downward Spiral

It was far too easy to get drugs in Detroit, where marijuana was socially acceptable and easily accessible. Once Sean started using, it wasn’t long before he turned to harder drugs, like heroin and cocaine.

Seeking to escape the temptation of drugs, Sean moved back home to Wisconsin to live with his dad, in hopes that leaving Detroit would end his addiction. “But if you want to find something bad enough, you don’t have to look very hard,” Sean says. “Within a week, I found it.” Sean’s dad was also an addict. When he found out about Sean’s drug habit, the two started using together.

Kevin Niebuhr hugs Sean after his baptism in 2018 (Photo courtesy of Jordan Christopher)

This led to a serious downward spiral for Sean. He started using $100–$200 worth of drugs daily. He couldn’t hold down a job, and his family stopped talking to him—his dad even kicked him out of his house. “I pretty much lived for drugs. If I had $10 to my name and hadn’t eaten in a week, I would still spend it on drugs. I should have been dead,” Sean says.

With nowhere to go and nothing of his own except drugs and a bag of clothes, Sean slept under a bridge and in the town’s laundromat on cold nights but was often told to leave.

A Purpose-Filled Imprisonment

One night, after being kicked out of the laundromat again, he returned to the bridge and used the last of his drugs, feeling hopeless about his life. “I finally admitted defeat,” Sean says. “I yelled, ‘Is this really what You want for me, God?’”

At that moment, a police officer walking across the bridge heard him yell. A warrant was out for Sean’s arrest, so the officer took him into custody. Sean blamed God for everything that had gone wrong in his life, but after a month of withdrawal, he felt there might be a purpose for his imprisonment.

Just to get out of his cell, Sean started attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and prison church services. Through the services, he began to feel hope for his future. Nine months later, he was released from prison and immediately found an NA group, where he met Melissa. The two started dating, and Melissa invited him to Forge Church.

“I was more than willing to go,” Sean says. “When I got out, I decided I wasn’t going to squander [my second chance]. I was going to do something with my life, and I needed to drastically change everything about it.”

Second Chances

For another nine months, Sean sat in the back of Forge Church, soaking in the teaching but without surrendering his life to Christ. Kevin stopped by to talk with him every Sunday morning but never pressed Sean to make a commitment. “Kevin just made me feel like a human,” Sean says. “I didn’t feel any expectations. He let me realize I’m there for me and my time with God.”

Kevin eventually introduced Sean to Jose, a new believer Kevin had trained in disciplemaking. Because of Jose’s discipleship, Sean started getting more involved in the church through Bible studies and Sunday night services. He loved the family he had found at Forge Church but still didn’t feel worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice. He told Jose, “After all the wrong I’ve done, why would He want to save someone like me? I definitely should be the lowest person on His totem pole.”

“But that’s what He did,” Jose responded. “He sacrificed Himself for your sins.”

After about a week of conversations with Jose, Sean surrendered his life to Christ, finally convinced that Jesus did sacrifice Himself for someone like him. “Once I did that, something just felt different in me,” Sean says. “I’m not putting Him on the back burner this time—just trusting in what He is going to do. That’s helped and gotten me through. I’m not trying to do things my way anymore.”

Much changed in his life. In the past he defined himself by the opinions of others, but after he put his trust in Christ he couldn’t help telling people about Jesus and was ready to start discipleship training with Kevin. He was also finally able to hold down a job, rent a house, pay his bills, and buy a car.

Tragically, after his baptism last year, Sean relapsed and was incarcerated again. He felt like he had ruined the second chance God had given him. But through the consistent love and ministry of his Forge Church family, Sean now knows that God still forgives him and has a plan for him.

“Even on my bad days, things aren’t so bad knowing that I have Him next to me no matter what,” Sean says. “It may not be the way I want, but He’s going to get me through.”

To learn more about Forge Church, read “God’s Tattoo” in the July/August 2019 issue of Alliance Life.

Source: Alliance News Feed – Liberty for the Captives

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