Then one dark night, Mike sat on a bluff in Encinitas for hours, desperately praying, “God, if you’re real, please help me.” He threw his drugs away, then as the sun rose, he walked back to his parents’ house and told his dad, “I need help.” His dad replied, “Son, we’ve heard of a place where miracles happen. It’s called Teen Challenge.” Mike agreed to give it a try At a San Diego Teen Challenge chapel service, Mike saw something he never expected—a group of hardened men kneeling around the altar with tears in their eyes, crying out to Jesus. And for the first time in years, Mike saw hope. He opened his heart and began to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. Over the next year, Mike was molded and shaped by God into a new creation. He graduated from Teen Challenge, then went on to the Ministry Institute. From there he went on to East Los Angeles College, and then transferred to Vanguard University. Even though he had never received a high school diploma, he graduated from college with good grades.
But that isn’t the end of Mike’s story. He met and married the love of his life, Sarah, and together they had three sons. At the age of 27, he felt called to the ministry and for the next 10 years, enjoyed the challenge and joy of being a pastor.
Even though he went from being “Drug Addict Mike” to “Pastor Mike,” he was still afraid of once again experiencing the brokenness and pain he had seen in his addiction. And the challenge of being a senior pastor began to take its toll. “What I didn’t realize was that God wasn’t calling me to be more of a Christian, he was calling me to a deeper place with Him. But I didn’t know how to process that.”
Mike and his wife decided to step away from the position of lead pastor in an effort to reconnect with each other and with God. But after resigning from the church position, his identity of being “Pastor Mike” was gone.
“I realized that my identity was no longer in Christ but it was in the things I had done since he had saved me. When that was gone, my life quickly began to unravel.”
He walked away from God, even returning to drugs for nearly a year. Once again, Mike found himself in jail, this time visiting with his wife and little boys through a glass window. Later, as he was trying to write a letter of apology to his family, he felt God whisper, “I love you.”