For most of my life, I have been bound to drug addiction and criminal behavior. Over the span of 28 years, I battled addiction, spending time in prison on three different occasions, living through countless near-death experiences, and visiting various rehabilitation centers. Nothing ever seemed to bring an end to my destructive lifestyle.
In the fall of 2013, however, I came to the end of myself. I cried out to God for help, and there was something different this time. This heart-cry to God caused something to shift. I made a change and decided to leave all my past behind. For nearly two weeks, I went through withdrawals, but God touched me. I haven’t been the same since.
After my detoxification, I enrolled in the Adult and TeenChallenge in Azle, Texas. At that point, I learned to completely surrender my life and my will to God. Shortly after coming into the program, I even experienced a miraculous healing. In 1999, my back was broken, causing lasting and extreme pain. But God healed my body, and I have no pain today! Truly, God radically changed my life.
After graduation from the program, my wife, Connie, and I sold everything we owned to respond to God’s call. We relocated to South Carolina to complete an internship at a Teen Challenge. I served for eight months, and during this time, Connie began to reach out to the wives and mothers of the other students in Teen Challenge. She played a key role in inspiring a pregnant wife of one of our guys to join a Teen Challenge in California.
After the internship, God called us back to Azle, Texas’ Teen Challenge, where I began serving as a vocational coordinator for two years. Connie served as our thrift store manager and the administrative assistant to the director on our campus. Most importantly, however, she ministered to the young men in the program as a mother figure.
From the day that God touched me (in the midst of the worst withdrawals of my life), I have chased after Him with my whole being. Since that time, God has placed a strong desire in me to preach the gospel and to point others to the blessed hope found in Christ. It is through this strong desire, coupled with a love for the broken and struggling, that In His Grip Ministries was born. Our mission and heart is to show hope to those who feel hopeless. We are blessed and honored to go where He sends us in order to bring encouragement to those He puts in our path.
I cannot help but smile as I think back to when I entered Teen Challenge. I truly just wanted to learn how to live without getting high so that I could get back to my welding truck. But through the years I’ve discovered that God had a different plan. He always does, and they’re always better than what we could ever imagine.
(Since the original writing of this article, Jeff Johnson has completed the Minister’s Study Series and was recently approved for credentials with the Pentecostal Church of God.)
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