What comes to mind when you think of your childhood?
Perhaps you remember playing with friends or special times with family. For Nick, his childhood wasn’t always pleasant. “My dad did drugs and stuff when I was a kid,” he says. “And my uncles were affiliated with a motorcycle gang, so I was around violence and drugs all my life.”
In school, he became friends with other troubled kids. “Next thing you know, we were fighting and involved with some of the biggest gangs in Denver—getting shot at and things.” From age 15 to 21, Nick used and sold various drugs and was in and out of jail regularly.
When the police finally picked him up on a felony warrant, he tried to hide several grams of methamphetamine by swallowing them. “It nearly killed me,” he says, explaining how he was taken to the hospital and then to jail, facing five to twelve years in prison.
“I knew about the Gospel, but I thought Christians were hypocrites,” he says. Regardless, church services offered a way to break the monotony of being in jail, so when a preacher arrived one Sunday in early October 2005, Nick reluctantly participated.
But something was different. “He started preaching about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins,” Nick says. “For a moment, I believe God let me feel the weight of my sin and the fact that I was destroying people’s lives and turning them into addicts.” For the first time in nearly a decade, he broke down in tears as he began to understand how much God loved him and what Jesus did for him on the cross.
But after a relative posted his bail, he ended up back in the same environment that led him into drugs in the first place. He even got high again, but this time he hated it. “I had this huge conflict in my soul,” he says. “I didn’t know how to live a life that didn’t revolve around crime and drugs, and I had no idea how to live as a Christian. So I went to the Mission to figure that out.”
Nick’s father knew all too well the struggle his son was going through. He loved his son and wanted to help. He had even tried to get clean and sober a few times, using new business ventures as a distraction. But Nick knew he wouldn’t make it through the program if something happened to his dad, so they joined the New Life Program together—father and son on a journey to recovery.
Their unique story gained a lot of attention from newspapers and magazines as they participated in distance-running benefit events together. After graduating the New Life Program in 2007, Nick went on to earn a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Ministry and Bible from Barclay College in Kansas before moving to California to attend seminary.
Today, Nick is the Senior Pastor at Hillview Baptist Church in Union City, California, and his father is a successful race director in Denver, managing races like the Lucky Laces 5 and 10K and the popular Christmas Carol Classic. But this Father’s Day, both of them have a new reason to celebrate as Nick and his wife, Michelle, recently welcomed their first child, Genesis, into the world.
“God’s love for us came alive in a whole new way the moment she was born,” Nick says, explaining how powerful God’s love has been in changing his life. “It makes me grateful for my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father.”
And we’re grateful for you this month as we celebrate the change that has happened in Nick’s life and in his father’s life. But it’s not just about them. Because of the support of donors like you, Nick’s daughter will have the loving and encouraging father and grandfather she needs as she grows up. Thank you for changing lives and entire families by supporting Denver Rescue Mission.
5 Important Life Lessons from a Former Drug Dealer
1. Faith is about relationship, not rituals
I want to live as an example of how to have a thriving relationship with God. It’s not about building the American dream or living a certain lifestyle.
There are a lot of people who would say “I was born and raised in the church. So yes, I’m a Christian.” But I would say, if you think attending church makes you automatically a Christian—then I think Jesus has something different to say to you.
2. Live like the world is watching
When we were in the program, my father and I ended up on the front of newspapers and magazines because of our passion for running and the way we joined the program together.
Anytime you get that much publicity, you’re naturally looked at more closely. I take it very seriously when people are looking up to me, so God used that to help keep me going in the program even though I hated the publicity. Now, having my daughter looking up to me makes me want to keep living better.
But I do have to be careful to live my life in a way before God where I am seeking to please Him and not other people.
3. Trust God for the details
I always figured I would church plant after Bible college, and when a friend told me about this little church in the middle of the “hood” in Union City, I didn’t think much of it. Every time he prayed for the church, I would come to his mind.
He asked me to help preach for him one Sunday, so I showed up in jeans, tennis shoes, a button-up shirt with my sleeves rolled up, and just preached the gospel. I figured they’d see my tattoos and the way I carry myself and wouldn’t want me back. I thought I’d kill this notion before it ever started, but I knew if this is where God wanted me, none of that would matter.
The next weekend, my friend told me they wanted me to submit a resume, so here we are.
4. Be the kind of person you want your kids to be
I’ve got one goal in mind when it comes to raising my daughter, and that is to be the type of man that I would be okay with her marrying in the future.
The girls I dated before I was a Christian didn’t have a father figure in their lives. That’s what drove them to guys like the man I used to be. I want to be a father who loves my daughter in a way that shows her there is something better for her. I want her to know how much I love her and how much God loves her.
5. Remember that none of it is pointless
I believe God is using everything to shape you and form you into the person he wants you to be. Everything you encounter in your life, whether it makes sense or not, and regardless of how dark and painful it might be, is allowed by God for a reason. And he will bring the best out of it if you let him.
None of it is pointless.
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Nick's story was featured in the June 2016 issue of Changing Lives titled "The Power of a Father's Love."
Also in this issue:
- 5 Important Life Lessons from a Former Drug Dealer
- Letter from the CEO
- Hit a Homerun Against Hunger
- Break the Cycle III