From Drug Dealer to Adventist Youth Leader in Poland
One night as I read “The Great Controversy,” I asked myself, “Am I gaining light from reading this book?”
Maciek and Martin were my best friends in high school. If a fight broke out at school, the same three teens were always to blame: Maciek, Martin, and me.
Today Maciek is dead. Martin is an ex-convict after seven years in prison. I am a former drug dealer who serves as youth leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland.
I grew up in an average Sunday-keeping family in Katowice, a city of about 300,000 people in southwest Poland.
My home life fell apart at the age of 16 when I went from being the only child to having a baby sister. My solution: I fell in love. To be honest, it was not a mature love, and the relationship lasted for two years. When it ended, I really wanted to die. I stayed at home for two weeks, lying in bed, crying, and writing poems. My parents kept coming to me and saying: “You’re not going to school? It will be fine. Don’t worry.”
As a Christian, I thought, “OK, let’s try to pray.” I prayed, “God, I want her back.” That didn’t work. Then I prayed, “God, I don't want to wake up anymore because it’s so painful.” That didn't work either.
After a while, I thought, “God isn’t answering, so let's try the other side.”
In Poland, we have a popular story about a man who sells his soul to Satan. So I thought: “I don't know if I have a soul, but I don't want to cry anymore. So I'm ready to sell it. I want to be happy.” But nothing happened.
Swapping Prayer for Fun
I gave up on prayer as not a real thing and became an atheist. But now I understand that Satan actually answered my prayer. Friends began to invite me to parties.
“Come and see,” they said. “Let's have fun.”
I started using drugs without restraint. Drugs are fun. You smile. You have a lot of energy. You like to talk to people. You have great ideas. You want to learn, and you are ready to do your homework. And I stopped crying.
But after a while you use drugs more than once a week. Then you use them every day. You ask yourself, “Why not?” Drugs aren’t overly expensive in Poland, but after a while you need money.
My friend Martin said, “I'm going to sell some drugs, and it will be good fun.”
I didn’t want to get involved at first, but eventually I followed Martin’s example. I quickly became a successful drug seller and drug user. I thought: “This is great. You have lots of money in your pocket and people come to you. You get to party all the time. This really is life at the top!”
I didn't want to live a long life. I thought life was boring. Old people struck me as sick and spent from a lifetime of hard work. I didn’t want to live any longer than 40 years. My motto was: Take as much as you can because tomorrow might be too late.
My parents knew that I was taking and selling drugs. It was impossible to hide. I didn’t care. I told my parents: “If you don't like it, I can move out. No problem.”
So my parents left me alone. But my grandmother didn’t. My grandmother was very special because she was only person who really loved me and treated me with grace. If I left home for several days, she would call my cell phone and say: “Where are you Marek? Come back home. I made some good soup. Come!”
Voice Speaks on New Year
So when New Year 2000 rolled around, I decided to celebrate it with her. I actually wanted to go out for a big party, but no one wanted to join me. So I went to my grandparents’ home across town.
That night, I found myself standing in front of a picture of Jesus on the wall of my grandparents’ home.
I looked at Him and thought: “Even if I don't believe in God, Jesus was real. He was there. We are celebrating 2,000 years from His birth.”
Childhood memories returned to me. I used to read the Bible as a boy. I remembered that Jesus was a really good Guy who treated people well. I thought: “He was nice. He was good Guy. Am I good in my life?”
At that moment as I asked myself whether I was good, I heard a voice. It was a real voice, and it said: “Yes, you are good. You are as good as Me.”
To this day I don’t know who spoke. Some people have tried to tell me that I was hallucinating under drugs. But I had been using drugs for three years, so I could tell the difference between a high and reality. And this was a real voice. It was so real that I became excited and scared. It could be Satan trying to tell me: “You are good. Your own way is the good way, so try harder.” Or it could have been God's voice, telling me, “You belong to Me.”
The next day, I began to ask all my drug-using friends: “Do you believe in God?”
All my thoughts revolved around the supernatural. After several days, a girl took me a woman who promised to reveal my future. She did not sit in a nice room with a glass ball. She was an old woman in an old house with cats everywhere. She had rings on every finger and two watches on each hand. She looked like she had arrived from another planet.
She shuffled cards in her hands and started to talk about the end of the world.
“It will come one day,” she said. “Some will scream, and all people will run. But it will be too late. Yes, this world is coming to an end. People have to pray. People have to convert.”
I sat on a chair, listening to her. Finally I asked her when the end would come. She said the cards kept giving her the same year: 2001. This was January 2000. I believed we only had a year left on Earth.
Just imagine a 21-year-old drug dealer running to his friends, saying, “The end of the world is coming. We have to pray. We have to convert!” My friends thought that I had lost my mind.
Digging Into the Bible
Around that time I felt convicted to read the Bible. I started at the end because I figured all the details would be in Revelation. I read it three times but understood nothing. So I turned to the Gospels. I discovered that Jesus said He has a kingdom and His people are happy and live forever. I wanted to be in that perfect kingdom. I began to search how to get that kingdom.
At the same time, I grew afraid that I was being followed all the time and would be caught by the police, so I stopped selling drugs. But I still went to parties if friends invited me.
One night after a party we decided to go to McDonald’s. As we ate in the car, I saw a bookstore called Signs of the Times. The Adventist Church used to have two of these stories in Poland, one in Warsaw and the other in my hometown.
The words “Signs of the Times” caught my attention. I had read about that in the Bible. It was connected to the end of the world.
I returned the next day and asked, “Do you have some books about Nostradamus?” The woman behind the counter said, “No, but if you are interested in prophecy we have ‘The Great Controversy.’” I bought the thick book about prophecy.
What I read stunned me. I read about how the Catholic Church had changed the second and fourth commandments. “How could it be?” I thought. “I had been cheated all my life.” I checked the Bible. I checked on the Internet. The book was correct.
One night as I read “The Great Controversy” in bed, I asked myself, “Am I gaining light from reading this book?” I had read that Martin Luther gained light from God. Was I gaining light, too?
Exactly at that moment the lightbulb in the lamp by my head began to blink and make a buzzing sound. Normally this goes on for half a second and the lightbulb burns out. But the bulb blinked and buzzed for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds. I grew quite nervous.
Then I suddenly noticed a reflection of myself in furniture on the other side of the room. All I could see was my head and the lightbulb right above it. Exactly at that moment, the bulb stopped sputtering and shone brightly again.
It was a clear answer for me. “Yes, I have light like this bulb above my head,” I thought.
This was the first time in my life that I found God is so close and ready to answer even a nobody like me with such a bad story. That night, I knelt and said, “God, if You are like this, I want to serve You.”
Convictions on Sabbath and Smoking
In that book I read about the Sabbath, so I decided to keep the Sabbath. The easiest way would have been to return to the bookstore and ask which church had released the book. But I didn’t think about that.
I read in “The Great Controversy” that smoking is bad, so I decided to quit. But I couldn’t.
A few days later, I passed a poster on the street that offered five-day stop smoking classes. I knew that was for me. I saw that the address was for a Seventh-day Adventist church. I had never heard of the denomination before, even after reading “The Great Controversy.”
The church building looked like a normal building, and a woman came out asking what I wanted when I rang the buzzer. Then I saw a leaflet for “The Great Controversy” on a bulletin board outside.
I asked the woman, “Do you know this book?” She said, “Yes! We are selling that book!” I told her how I had learned about the Sabbath from the book.
This all happened at 2 p.m. on a Sabbath afternoon. Normally no one would have been at the church at that hour, but it so happened that a group of literature evangelists were living there for a month. We got to talking, and they invited me to return the next Sabbath morning to worship.
The next week, the preacher gave a great sermon about Jesus from the Bible. I was really amazed. The people at the church were really nice. They told me that they were going to another city the next Sabbath for a large meeting of young people and invited me to join them.
I needed money to make the trip, so I began to call my friends who owed me money. Everyone said they had no money, and finally one girl offered to pay her debt with mushrooms — and I am not talking about the kind of mushrooms that you eat for breakfast.
I still didn’t fully understand the Bible, and I had read in the book of Timothy that we are supposed to use everything that God created with thanksgiving. So I used half the mushrooms the next Friday and went for a walk in a field. For the first time in my life I noticed the beauty of creation. I saw God everywhere: the music of the birds, the green of the plants. I was delighted and thought, “God, You are great!”
On Sabbath morning, I used the rest of the mushrooms.
Now I am not condoning the use of drugs. Today I am absolutely sure that drugs are Satan's tool to deceive people and he was still trying to deceive me. But God works even when we make mistakes.
An Unforgettable Sabbath
On that Sabbath, I waited for the Adventists to pick me up alongside a highway. They seemed to have forgotten me. It was a quarter to eight, and I heard two voices. One voice said: “Don't worry. Go back to the field and enjoy the nice weather.” It was a hot day, and I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. The other voice said: “Stay here because it is really important that you go to this meeting.”
After a while the Adventists showed up and took me to a big meeting of 1,000 people. I was overjoyed. I was smiling at everyone and greeting everyone.
Then the service started. Every word was meaningful to me. The preacher, Nigel David, a British pastor from London, spoke until noon and said, “I know that I suppose to end now, but I know somebody's here who needs Jesus.”
I thought, “Who told him about me?”
The pastor then shared his personal story. He was born into a religious family but had left the church. He used drugs and drank. His life got worse and worse. He was really down. He said his church stopped praying for him and even his mother stopped praying.
“Then I met Jesus,” he said. “He took me up from the bottom where I was, and now I'm here to tell you about His power. And that He can change your life.”
The pastor started his appeal. I had never heard an appeal before. He said: “If you want Jesus to change your life, just come here to the front.”
I saw 1,000 people in the crowd and cringed at the thought of standing in front of them.
With the very next sentence, the pastor addressed my doubts.
“Don't think about others looking at you,” he said. “Just come here. Come to the front. It’s between you and God.”
Answering the Call
Finally I stood up. I was one of the first people to stand up. I really couldn't sit anymore. My heart was beating wildly as I went up to the front. Some other people joined me. As the pastor prayed, the picture could not have been clearer to me. Jesus took my place because of my bad life. He took my place on the cross, and He released me. He told me, “You are free. You are free to have a place in My kingdom.”
I began to cry, and nobody could stop me. There were a lot of tears. But I was so excited and so joyful.
The pastor said: “As you go now for lunch, tell everyone what Jesus has done for you.”
When we left the meeting, the literature evangelists and I walked down the city’s main street. I ran from bench to bench and person to person. I even spoke with some drunken people. “I have met Jesus,” I told everyone. “He has changed my life, and I will be in His kingdom.”
From that day when Jesus changed my life, I have wanted to engage in a work that changes other people’s lives. With my youth ministry today, I really feel that God has saved my life not only for His kingdom but also from physical death. While I was studying at the Adventist seminary, I learned that my best friend Maciek was found dead with a knife in his heart. He had been using a lot of drugs, and no one knows what happened. He was only 23.
I really want to help young people find their purpose in life sooner than I did. Maybe they will live better lives after hearing my story. I'm really thankful to God. He saved me from everything, and He gave me everything. So I have given everything to Him.