[Ask a young man to present this first-person report.]
My name is Josef [Yo-sef]. I was an angry troublemaker in my teens. My dad insisted that my brother and I go to church. I didn’t want to be there, and I let others know. I didn’t pay attention and sometimes argued with members.
Outside of church I hated people for no good reason and picked fights with people on the streets, people I didn’t even know.
Two years ago the church had a youth camp, and my brother and I were expected to go. I made no secret that I didn’t want to be there, though I hoped to meet some girls. I had trouble talking to girls, but I still wanted to be friends.
At camp we had three meetings a day. The pastor talked about people who had met God and whose lives had been changed. I didn’t want to admit it, but his stories had an impact on me. I wondered if my problems with girls would clear up if I gave God a chance. Frustrated, I left the meeting and walked to the bathroom. I locked the door and prayed. I apologized to God for all the trouble I had caused and asked Him to help me. I surprised even myself. Suddenly I was so overwhelmed with a sense of forgiveness that I cried. Imagine, Mr. Tough Guy crying!
The next afternoon as I walked along the beach, I met a girl I knew a little. We had never really talked before. But before I knew it, we had talked for four hours!
My friends recognized that something had happened to me, something big. I didn’t say much, but I knew that God had answered my prayers. He had turned my life around.
When we returned home from camp, I didn’t want to lose what I had found with God. I continued to pray and read the Bible. When I met people whom I had once picked fights with, I felt different toward them. I smiled and waved. But God took me a step further, and urged me to tell them I loved them. So I did. I had asked God to forgive me for what I’d done to them, but now I asked them for forgiveness. At first they didn’t believe me, but as they saw I had truly changed, they responded.
I apologized to my teachers for my disrespect in class, and to my classmates, my friends, my brother, and my parents. They all could see that I was different.
A couple of angry teens in our town threatened me one day. In the old days I would have fought with them. But I just smiled and told them, “You think you are losers, but in God’s eyes you are precious.” The guys seemed shocked, so I kept talking. I invited them to our youth program at church. One of them came.
My brother and I and two other guys organized a series of youth meetings for young people in church. We invited our friends on Facebook and other social media. We planned the meetings to appeal to young people our age and with some of the same challenges we face.
Our church rarely has more than 25 people in it, and most of them are older folk. But thanks to God and prayer, we had some 70 people, mostly young people, attending our meetings. Some of the youth who came wanted to talk about their problems—problems with their families, with drugs, and even with thoughts of suicide. I counseled as many as I could—I, who had needed counseling just a year earlier!
I had to stop counseling and even speaking in the meetings as my senior high exams approached. These exams determine not only whether we graduate, but also whether we get into a college or university. I had never been a great student, but I was determined that, with God’s help, I’d do my best to honor Him. I graduated and dedicated my life to God to help others. I am now studying at the Adventist seminary to prepare to serve God in whatever way He sees fit. I have seen the power of God to change lives, and I have felt His hand in my life. I want to share that power with everyone.
You know, the seminary I attend in Czech Republic was started with funds from a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering several years ago. So thank you for offerings and for your prayers. They’re working.