Jack Roberts, Director of Hope Christian Center
The reason I came to Hope Center was, in essence, that I was a man whose life became absolutely hopeless. My life did not start out bad. I had good parents, although my family was a bit dysfunctional; my dad was not always around and I did not receive much guidance in my youth. I had no real “role model” in a man. My mother was left with the responsibility to raise me and my two brothers as best she could and there were not many things I lacked.
I started smoking cigarettes and experimenting with alcohol at the age of 12 and I think from that point I became very rebellious in my spirit. Although I was a polite and good student in school, my life had changed for the worse.
The company I kept came from the same background as me. I chose to be with them because I felt accepted by them. I continued experimenting, living life as I thought it should be. By the 11th grade I was smoking marijuana and drinking more but it was not enough of a “thrill” for me. I needed more of something to make me completely out of touch with reality.
Around 12th grade, I began using LSD, the ultimate way to remove oneself from reality. I thought I could be invincible and nothing really bothered me while I was on my “acid trips.” God only knows the things I did. People sometimes would tell me what I did but I had no recollection of anything.
At this point, school was no longer an option for me. I just never went. I wanted to hang out with my “friends” and do what I wanted to do, whatever seemed good at the time, which was usually something dumb. I did go work; I started working around the age of 13, cutting grass and landscaping with my neighbor Ray. In school I was enrolled in this program, CIE, where you would work one week and go to school the next, but after a while I did not go to school. I don’t know how I actually got away with that, but I did. I guess that is where I learned my “con man” skills.
I don’t remember what month it was, but in the 12th grade I was called in to see the nurse at school. My mom and dad took me to school and I was told that I was going to be removed from school (not that I went anyway) because of my addiction. My parents took me to lunch, which I thought was a little odd, and when we got there a man was there to take me to a rehab in Pennsylvania, much to my surprise. That rehab was the first of three that I would go to at the age of 17. The second rehab was at the Marlboro State Hospital, where I was remanded for injuring a roommate in the Pennsylvania rehab. I was in Marlboro for about six months. I was released because my time in the program came to an end. I came home for a while after that and was going to AA and NA, where I got someone to “sponsor me.” I quickly got tired of AA, NA and my sponsor (whom I threatened), and was forced to go to another place in Long Branch, where I continued to cause problems and caused a small uprising at the facility. I was removed due to my inability to want to straighten my life out.
Life went on for me as usual; I was still living recklessly, living with two people in an apartment above a pizza shop. This is where I started my addiction to crack cocaine, which I did for 15 years. These turned out to be the darkest days of my life. I became a “slave” to crack and lived my life around it. It consumed me; nothing mattered to me except how and when I could get my next fix. I did some very regretful things to get money for drugs; stealing and lying was now a part of my everyday life. My brother was also an addict and had a good connection with someone so always had coke, which he gave to me to sell, like giving candy to a child.
During this time, I met a woman who would become the mother of my daughter. I became a father. I loved my daughter very much but not as much as I liked doing my own thing, still drinking and using all kinds of drugs and not coming home for days. This went on for many years; my relationship with my daughter’s mother became mundane. What happened next was just very bad judgment on my part. My daughter’s mom had a friend who was married and had three children and they thought it would be kind of something different if we would switch partners. I was not really happy about someone sleeping with my girlfriend, but in any event, it happened and soon we were always trying to find a way to be with each other sexually.
After months of our lustful relationship, this woman divorced her husband and I left my daughter’s mother and moved in with her friend. My daughter and her mother moved to another state and I lived with this woman for about two years. Again, whatever I wanted to do I did, and did not care about the consequences. I was very foolish.
My drug use became even worse and by now I was completely out of my mind. The drug use and my attitude soon became too much for this person to handle and she told me to leave her home. I did not know what to do because I was obsessed with this woman and now she told me to leave. I tried to come back several times and she said no! One day after work I went there and she was with someone else. I wanted to kill that person. I was physically restrained by my co-worker or else I may have been in jail for a very long time.
During the time I was with this woman, my brother told me that he became a Christian. He told me that he had seen the Lord during a bad time in his life. He started telling me about Christ and how he would forgive my sins and I could turn my life around. I really did not want to hear him; I just wanted more drugs and sex and my way of life.
My brother convinced me to go to see a play at a church in Whippany, NJ called “Hell’s Fire and Heaven’s Gate.” It was about life without Christ and how all things in life are meaningless without him. They gave an altar call at the end of the play and I said the sinner’s prayer and received Christ as my Lord and Savior. That lasted about two days. I continued in my chaotic lifestyle and then it all fell apart, with nowhere to live, no girlfriend, no job and no daughter. I thought it would be best if I could just end my life. I managed to get a lot of cocaine and alcohol, went to a crummy motel and was just going to try to consume as many toxins into my body as I could, and die.
This is where my life started to turn around. I woke up the next day in the motel; I was not dead physically but spiritually. I know now that Christ wanted more for me than just to wind up dead, not knowing him. I came to the end of myself. I think after all those years of abuse taking a toll mentally and physically, that I needed to die to “self.” With nowhere to go, I went to my mother’s house; I did not tell her anything and got my fishing pole and went to Milton Lake to fish. Fish jumping all around my line but I could not catch one. Sitting alone with my thoughts, I told the Lord that he would not save me. I found it hard to believe that I could be forgiven for the lifestyle I lived and all the people I hurt.
I went back to my mother’s house and when I walked in, there were three people with my mom praying and interceding for me: they were from my brother’s church. Pastor Harry and the two ladies who were with him said I needed to go get some help. I told them I did not need it and I would be ok, it would all just get better. I was so thickheaded, thinking that I still could make it on my own. They told me about Hope Center in the Bronx. I told them no, I’m not going. Later that evening I was watching a baseball game with my dad and I heard a voice telling me to get up and call Hope Center. When I did they said they had no more beds available, so I said to the Lord, “See, I told you that you would not save me.”
The next morning the phone rang and my mother answered and it was Hope Center telling me they had a place for me there and that someone had left the night before. Within the next few hours I was at Hope Center; my dad and mom took me there. Now I’m here and I thought I was going to have to fight all the people in there, but that was not the case at all. Just like in the past, I was with people just like me, “broken.” These people loved on me and I could not understand what was going on.
Jack Roberts, the director, and David Mapes became father figures to me, although I was still very rebellious. They continued to love me; I had to learn to live with direction in my life and not to do my own thing. I learned how to communicate with Christ, that I could talk to him and share my thoughts, good or bad. I learned how to draw close to him. I learned the Word of God there, everyday spending time with GOD the Father. I spent my mornings writing out scriptures and becoming more familiar with the Bible and being taught the Word of God by godly men. I was taught about being accountable to people, and learned again to trust people. I was given a chance to volunteer and to be a blessing to others. Feeding the homeless, sharing my testimony with them, telling them there is hope in Christ.
I learned that I could be transparent with others and not be ashamed of my past, because it is done and over. I learned to not look back and to keep moving forward in Christ. I met many wonderful people there and continue relationships with some. I sometimes wish I were still there; it was such a safe place to be. God is using Hope Center to save men’s lives; the men who run Hope Center are willing vessels to be used of Christ at his will. These men live by faith and that is another important thing I am still learning. “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:16).
I now serve as an usher and helper at my church in Springfield, NJ, where Pastor Joe is my spiritual father. I serve under a godly man who has the same vision as Christ has for Hope Center, taking in the homeless, going to shelters, reaching out to men, feeding them, but most of all loving them. God is Love. I’m now married to my wife Christine, who is such a blessing to me, a perfect helpmate, one who supports me and prays for me and loves me for who I am. I have been with my church and my pastor for 14 years. I spent some time with the youth ministry and got to pour into some younger people the Word of God by living a godly life.
I’m accountable to Christ; my life is not hidden from him. Christ has done such work in my life that I don’t think I could even tell you everything he has done. All I know is without Christ nothing matters.
John 15:4 says,“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Thank you, Lord, for using Hope Center to save men from ourselves.
To sum it up, I was a hopeless man, and now because of Christ, I have hope!
I need to continue to die to myself daily and continue to press on in Christ for his will to be done in my life.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share what God has done in my life. I am one of many from Hope Center. Because of his grace I am able to go on; I was given a death sentence but now I’m FREE.
In his service,
~Michael J. West