I grew up in strict foster homes and group homes, where people tried to beat religion into me. As a result, I hated religion and I hated God. I wanted nothing to do with them.
Later on, I was living in Toronto. I used to go to a place called Evergreen in the Yonge Street Mission to listen to the rock bands. One day, I was sitting there, enjoying the music—not even aware that they were singing Christian lyrics. I was pretty hammered. Then a lady came up to me with a cup of coffee. “Hi,” she said, “I want to tell you about Jesus.”
I shouted, “Jesus! Get out of here! You and Jesus!” I smacked the hot coffee into her face, got up, and left.
About a week later, I went back to Evergreen to listen to the music. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the same lady behind a coffee bar. I thought, Oh, yeah, she’s not coming near me; she learned her lesson. So I’m sitting there, bopping to the music, when all of a sudden I hear my name: “James.” I look up and see the lady with a cup of coffee. She said, “You may knock this coffee into my face again; but I have to tell you that Jesus loves you, and so do I.”
I said, “Lady, either you’re nuts or you really believe what you’re telling me. And if you believe what you’re telling me, sit down and tell me about this Jesus.”
And she did!
Well, I didn’t become a Christian that day. No, it took me awhile—maybe because I’m stubborn. But God already knew that; and I guess God figured that if I was stubborn for the devil, I could be just as stubborn for God. I know it sounds weird since I was an alcoholic, but even when I was drinking, I would talk to people about God and Christ. Over time, I started going to church and reading the Bible more often. And as the years went by, I got closer to God. Eventually, I realized I didn’t need alcohol any more.
It had taken me almost thirty-three years to quit drinking, because I had suffered so much pain and sorrow in my life. As a kid, I had been physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused. I felt as if no one had ever loved me. So when Ruth, the lady at Evergreen, said to me, “James, Jesus loves you and so do I,” I heard love from another person for the first time.
I hadn’t realized that I was seeking to fill an empty void in my life, but Ruth started me thinking. Maybe her words took awhile to sink in because I was trying to escape all she was saying to me, trying to escape from God. But God had a different plan. When I finally gave my life to the Lord, I knew that God loved me, I found what would fulfill my life, and I understood why Ruth had felt compelled to tell others, “Jesus loves you, and so do I!”
James Peters is a First Nations writer from the Caldwell Band (Chippewas) of Pelee Island in Ontario, Canada.
NEXT DAY STRETCH
When you get up the nerve to tell others about your faith, don’t give up if they don’t welcome your words and actions. God may be working through you to soften their hearts enough to open up to God, even if you never see it happen.