“It wasn’t too long ago when you would have called me a pleasure-seeking, drug dealer who didn’t think about anyone but himself. I had a selfish heart and was unafraid of the consequences."
“I feel very disconnected to the guy I was years ago, and that’s only because of the transforming work Christ has done in my life,” said Jason McPhaul. “It wasn’t too long ago when you would have called me a pleasure-seeking drug dealer who didn’t think about anyone but himself. I had a selfish heart and was unafraid of the consequences. The only thing I feared was disappointing my dad.
“I was raised in Austin by my father, who is black, and my mother, who is Navajo. I learned what it meant to serve and lead by watching my father, who was a Parks and Recreation Coordinator for the city. We went to church on Sundays, and it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood knew our family. But, they didn’t; we kept our family struggles behind closed doors.
“I started using drugs and alcohol when I was around 13. By high school, my habit had become a monster and I was kicked off the football team. All my eggs were in the proverbial sports basket, and I did not have a plan B when football was taken away. So, I went further into addiction, selling drugs and moving from arrest to arrest.
“A friend and I made the reckless decision to sell drugs from the cartels, but when our operation was raided, it all came crashing down. I owed the supplier $40,000 and was facing charges for felony gun possession and violating the terms of my probation. But the judge showed me favor and gave me another eight years of probation. If I failed to complete it, I’d go to prison.
“At that point, my life was miserable. I got a job delivering mattresses and rode the bus an hour each way to work. I met my wife, Hannah, around that time, and we quickly fell in love. She had roots in the Lord, and God used that relationship to save my life. She encouraged me to go back to school, and to stop dabbling in drugs. I took care of her first request, but not the second.
“My friend, Brandon Sanchez, invited us to Watermark, and I reluctantly attended. I thought it was too big and too white for me to fit in, but I loved the direct approach the speakers had when talking about God’s Word. It became clear that masking my old hurts with drugs wasn’t working, and I was slowly coming to the end of myself.
“To appease Hannah, we joined a Foundation Group (a community group for couples married three years or less), and God used relationships with other believers to confront my sin. I had been hiding my continued cocaine use from Hannah, and the Lord showed me that it was time to come clean.
“Our Foundation Group leaders were instrumental in helping me confess my struggle with cocaine addiction to not only Hannah, but also to her parents, my parents, and our siblings. It was hard, but confession was the moment when God began changing my life. That heart-change continued when I took part in re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. I had never been willing to open up to others, but because of Christ’s love, suddenly I felt so free. That was the beginning of the most transformative year of my life.
“At the time, I was taking the train back and forth to work every day, unloading 18-wheelers all day long. I had the least I’d ever had in my life, but because I was loved and forgiven by Jesus, I had the most. I knew God put me in this place to help and serve others. Sometimes I would cry because I was so thankful that God unchained me from my struggles, and I wanted other friends to experience that freedom.
“You might not expect a felon with a long rap sheet to be on a church staff. But today, I’m a husband, a father of three beautiful kids, and a member of Watermark’s Facilities Team. God has given me a heart for the local church and a desire to bring unity to believers from all backgrounds and experiences. Over the years, the Lord has helped me walk in faith and keep my ‘mind on the things above, not the things that are on earth.’ (Colossians 3:2) I am continually reminded that my past struggles were not in vain; all of it can be used by God for my good and to help young men who might be tempted to go down the same path.
“If I were talking to a young guy like I once was, I would want him to know that God’s Word says over and over that life can’t be found apart from Him. Just ask Solomon, who had all the money and women he wanted, and he still wasn’t happy. Follow Christ, and you could skip the alcohol, the drugs, and the prison system. If you live in His wisdom your outcome will be different. Trusting Jesus has helped me to be a better father and husband, and by God’s grace, has allowed me to walk in excellence and dignity. I’ve had the opportunity to make wiser decisions because of faith in the Lord.”