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My name is Neal, I am 19 years old, and I grew up in Salem, Oregon. When I was a year old my dad went to prison for the first 12 years of my life. My mom left me when I was born, so my aunt and uncle took me in. I finally met my real mom, my older sister, and my two younger brothers for the first time when I turned 14. At that time I also met my older brother for the first and last time. Shortly after I met him he turned 18, and on his 18th birthday he got hit by a car and died. I held a lot of hurt and anger inside because my parents were not there for me.    

When I was 16 I started smoking marijuana with some high school friends. I still did well in school and participated in sports, such as, wrestling, football, baseball. The beginning of my junior year I started searching for a better high because I thought that smoking weed and fighting was not enough. I started smoking pills with led to smoking heroin. I continued doing this through my junior year. However, I still graduated early. Shortly after I graduated I started smoking meth to get away from heroin. I became fully addicted to meth for the next 18 months of my life.

I did whatever I had to do to get heroin. I was then put into jail for multiple charges of theft. I had also lost my family from stealing from them. I found myself facing three years in prison, but by the grace of God, the judge agreed to let me go to Teen Challenge instead. I was still in jail and was suppose to go to Teen Challenge the next morning. But my paperwork got messed up. When I woke up the guard came and got me from my cell. He told me that it was time to get transported to prison. I was in shock and told him that I was not supposed to go to prison. I was put into shackles and cuffs to be led to the prison bus. I was ten feet away from the bus when I heard the guard say “Neal, Neal, Neal” I looked up and said “yeah” the guard told me that “Bob from Teen Challenge is here to pick you up.” I was filled with joy and know that Gods hand was on me the whole time. 

Two weeks into the program I was saved and became a new creation. Five weeks into the program I was baptized by water and eight weeks into the program I was baptized by the Holy Spirit. God was standing at my door the whole time; it just took me a little while to let him in. Now I love my new life and I have finally started to fill the hole up from my past of hurting and being angry. I realize that the only way to continue to fill the hole is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to read the word of God every day. I have recently got my family back in my life and I am excited for what God will bring my way next.

A verse that I have stuck with since I came into Teen Challenge is:

“So then, my beloved brethren let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”
— James 1:19