Despite being raised by a family who considered themselves Christians, James never had any desire to follow suit. As a 7-year-old, James was molested by a self-professed Christian man. “My whole family was Christian, but I didn’t want to be a Christian because I found out that the person who molested me was able to get into heaven and I’d have to be there with him.
“I struggled my whole life from this molestation,” added James, who said the shame he felt was unbearable. “It was a battle. It caused my drinking to spiral out of control. That one (trauma) just went through my whole life. I struggled with trying to find my identity.”
So James started studying the Bible. “I did it to prove that God did not exist and if he did, he was a horrible person,” James said. “What kind of God would sit there and watch a 7-year-old kid who can’t protect himself get pulled into a car and get molested by a man time and time again. How could I trust a God like that?”
But as James’ knowledge grew more and more, something surprising happened. “Learning about God, I started to love him and who he was,” James said. “I don’t know how it happened, but something in me changed.”
James said he even started pitying the man who molested him, and wondering whether he had been abused as a child. “God gave me the answer to why these things occurred,” said James, who referenced Deuteronomy 30:15. “See, I have set before you today life, good, death and evil,’ which means God set choices in this man’s life and this man chose to do evil. It wasn’t God’s fault.”
When James first started reading the Bible, he studied it in Greek and in old Hebrew. “You start to see how God’s there even when He’s not there. The whole time I was out there drinking, He was there strengthening me and carrying me through. He knew I was going to come to him eventually.”
Once James was able to break the cycle and quit drinking, he knew he needed help for lasting change. “I needed to get into a program and stay focused,” he said.
When he came to Central Coast Rescue Mission, there was a shift. “It’s been a very hard struggle, but I can say I don’t want to drink or use in order to hide the shame anymore,” he said. “I’m just moving forward with the God that I have. I don’t know how to describe how things started to transform, but the minute I started to let go and started to love God, he started to rebuild me.”
James said he’s very thankful for the program. “Everything you need is here—the time you need to not pay the bills and focus on yourself and on God,” he said. “But you have to want it. I’ve seen people come and go, but the ones who want to change and follow God, they are still here. If you want God, you’re going to find him here.”
James studies the Bible and is involved in his church. “A lot of people want me to evangelize,” he said. “Do I want to be a pastor? Probably not. Do I want to go evangelize to the people sleeping out by the river? Yes. Because I was there. I don’t want to be in the church where people are already saved. I want to be somewhere where my testimony matters.
“Nobody wants to hear from somebody who hasn’t been where you’ve been. A lot of pastors go to school, but I can say, ‘Brother, I was right where you are.’ I’ve walked miles in their shoes.”