“Considering the life I led and the mistakes I made, I should be in prison or still on drugs,” said Bryce Nguyen. “At 15 years old, I was drinking five days a week. I couldn’t function, and my lack of participation in school led me to an alternative high school my sophomore year. There, I found a lot of kids like me, and my use of drugs and alcohol only increased.”
“After my parents’ divorce and a physical altercation with my father, I moved to live with my mom. I was given a lot of freedom to make my own decisions and choices at an early age. I didn’t have a moral compass, so I felt like I was raising myself. I started drinking to numb the pain and the feeling of instability from a broken family. My substance abuse quickly spiraled into finding comfort in pills, drugs, pornography, and relationships with girls. I had no purpose and no place to be. I didn’t see any other way of life, and my feelings of loneliness and pain became very normal.
“When I went back to my regular high school, a friend invited me to a high school Christian ministry. The students seemed different than typical teenagers – comfortable in their skin and so welcoming. I felt a sense of belonging with them, so I continued to go back as my curiosity about Jesus grew.
“Eventually, I went to a Christian youth camp, and I distinctly remember praying one morning, ‘Lord, this has been the best week of my life and I haven’t had alcohol, drugs, or sex – things I thought brought comfort and happiness. If this is what life with You is like, I want all in.’ I accepted God’s free gift of grace by trusting in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior who offers me eternal life with Him (Romans 6:23).
“From then, God changed my heart and desires, but I had to make hard decisions to avoid returning to my old ways. I knew Jesus saved me, but going into college, I was a Christ-follower without active community or discipleship in my life. I had one foot in the world and the other with the Lord, trying to learn how to follow Christ while still succumbing to old sin patterns in my new college atmosphere. I ended up living in a house with some other college students I knew from high school. While we did our best to follow Jesus, without any direction or discipleship, my life didn’t look drastically different from before.
“In my junior year of college, I fell in love with God’s Word. I realized that the direction and instruction I was looking for was in Scripture, which was given to us as a gift from God. The Bible is so practical and teaches us all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As I continually learned more, I realized that God doesn’t just save us and say, ‘See you in Heaven!’ He gives us instruction that leads to freedom and life right now and teaches us that we can’t overcome sin on our own (Romans 7:18). We need Him to work in and through us.
“I wanted to dedicate my life to sharing the Good News of Christ with others and eventually applied to The Institute at Watermark. At the beginning of this 10-month biblical discipleship and training ministry, the disciplines of confession, intensive Bible study, and living in community felt like drinking from a fire hose. But as I grew, I learned that the local church is a gift from God, and He puts people in place to shepherd and disciple each other for His honor and glory. For so long, I missed having mature Christians modeling what it looked like to walk in the way of Christ. God’s provisions of community, mentors, re:generation recovery, and my time in the Institute taught me that Christ didn’t just save me in the past, He is saving me now, and He will continue to save me in my future failures.
“God’s redemptive power in my life still amazes me, especially as I remember that just six years ago, I was standing in an alleyway at an alternative school, high, contemplating selling drugs, and worrying if my girlfriend was pregnant. The boldness that I once used to fuel sinful and harmful behaviors is now being used to proclaim that sin leads to death. The only freedom, joy, and life that I have ever found is in Christ. If I could talk to my younger self or anyone who feels like their life is purposeless, I would say, ‘Open your eyes to what Jesus has for you. There is an answer to the big questions you have about life and love, and that answer is only found in Jesus.’”