"Who else but the God of the Bible would come looking for me in a nightclub of all places," said Derek Kelly. "Who else but the Lord would send a former Jehovah's Witness to connect me with the gospel when I was lost, broken and had no measure of goodness?
"I knew about my need for the Lord at a very young age. I trusted Christ before I was 13, but I struggled with performing to earn God's love rather than trusting in His grace. My unbiblical, performance-based understanding of God led me toward some really tragic moments on my journey.
"When I first got to high school, I saw it as my mission field, and I was outspoken about purity and my faith in Christ. But when a dating relationship got the best of me, I tried to hide and control that part of my life. I was desperate to keep that relationship going, but after my senior year it ended in rebellion, heartbreak, and ultimately an abortion. I didn't want abortion to be part of my story, but it was too late. In many ways, I made that decision months before when I tried to control my sin, manage my life, and serve myself. I was playing with fire.
"When my child was killed because of fear and convenience, something inside me died. I began to spiral downward and believed that God didn't want anything to do with me. I had an identity crisis and fell into depression, using every coping mechanism I could find.
"I started working as a bouncer at a night club. I was living a life that some people would say was awesome, getting paid to drink, fight, and meet girls who were just as lost as I was. I worked to foster an image of what other people would say was cool, but I was drowning my pain in the nightmare that was my existence. I felt nausea of the soul. I had almost grown sick of the entire atmosphere that was my life.
"It's ironic that God used a girl at the night club to point me to Christ. I noticed that there was something different about Debbie the minute I met her. As we got to know each other, she mentioned a local Bible study she was attending and invited me to go with her. It was clear that the way I was run- ning my own world wasn't doing me much good so, after blowing off the invitations for a while, I went.
"I don't remember much about the sermon, but when the pastor said that the worth I'd been looking for in myself was put there to be fulfilled by God, I heard it. I learned that God valued me, but not because of my performance. Romans 5:8 says that, 'God demonstrated His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' Through the lens of God's grace the world looked different.