My friends and I staggered from the disco. We were young and rebellious; we thought we were so cool. We stumbled to the car that my friend had taken without his father’s permission. The engine roared to life, and we squealed away from the disco. It was late at night, and we were tired.
When the car drifted into the opposite lane, my friend laughed and jerked the wheel. Suddenly a blinding crash shattered the night.
Stunned, I struggled out of the mangled car. I turned to help my friends, but even in my drunken stupor I realized that they were dead. My mind went numb, and I barely remember getting home.
The house was quiet when I entered, and I slumped onto the sofa. I turned on the television to keep my mind off what had happened. I flipped through the channels looking for something to distract me from the scenes that kept flashing inside my head: our drunken foolishness, the explosive crash and crumpled metal, and worst of all my friends’ bodies lying motionless in the night. I blinked away the images and forced myself to look at the television.
On the screen a man was talking—preaching, I realized. What did it matter? I sunk lower into the sofa and tried to relax my clenched fists. Somehow, the man’s words pierced the darkness that enveloped me. I sat up and listened. I don’t know how long I sat there staring at the man, but gradually I realized that my muscles were no longer tied in knots. I felt myself softening.
The pastor on the screen urged his listeners to give themselves to God before it was too late. My heart quickened. Too late. It was too late for my friends, and almost too late for me. I could have been crumpled inside the car with my friends. I had come so close.
I remembered my parents’ warnings that I was making wrong choices, choosing friends who were not a good influence on me. But I had refused to listen. It was too late for my friends, but it wasn’t too late for me!
As the speaker on the television began praying, a sudden sob escaped my lips. My heart cried out to God, Please take me, change me!
Morning dawned, but I still couldn’t shake the realization that I had come so close to death and yet survived. I knew my parents were right, and I decided to change. I wanted to stop drinking, stop wasting time and money at discos.
I told my mother what had happened the night before. Then I told her that I’d given my life to God and wanted Him to change me. Relief flooded her face, but I could see the concern. I knew that my parents knew that I wouldn’t be able to change without God.
A few weeks later my mother told me that she’d met a young man who had really impressed her. He was from an Adventist university in Cameroon, several hours away from my home and my former friends. “This young man told me that the university also has a secondary school,” Mother said. “If you attend that school you will be surrounded by Christian influence.” I knew she was right. I needed to start over. I agreed to enroll in the secondary school at Cosendai [koh-SEN-dai].
My life changed immediately after I arrived at the school. We have worship every morning, which makes faith grow stronger. And we have lots of rules. Once I would have rebelled against these rules, but now I understand that they are for my own good and help me focus on my studies and become the person God wants me to be.
School never used to be important, but now I want to study to show God how thankful I am that He gave me a second chance to live a life worth living. When I return home on vacation, I want to find my old friends and tell them what God has done for me. I’m not sure how they will respond, but I want them to know that I’m not the person they once knew, that God has made me a new person. I hope they will allow God to change their lives as well. He is always willing and is all-powerful and able. My life is proof of this. ⎭
Crescent Assana, 17, is from Central African Republic. He is studying at Cosendai Adventist Secondary School in Cameroon.