Welcomed with Open Arms

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“Being a DJ and hosting parties quickly started habits of drinking and unhealthy relationships in my teenage years and into my early twenties,” said Cleeford Innocent. “My dad was a pastor in Haiti, so I grew up knowing about Christ and the truth of the gospel. My family would go on trips around Haiti, sharing the good news of Christ with others, but when I quit school to focus on my career as a DJ, my lifestyle changed, and I strayed from God.

“My parents would consistently share biblical truth and wisdom with me, but I didn’t listen. Proverbs 3:24 says, ‘If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.’ But that was not my life at all; My sleep was not ‘sweet.’ I was scared to die because I stopped believing in God. I can’t explain fully the pain I felt, but I continually knew how I was living was not glorifying to God.

“I was living a double life. With my knowledge of the Bible and the right answers, I was able to get a job at a Christian organization in Haiti as an English translator for church discipleship trips. The good news of Christ was being shared directly through me to other Haitians, but I was so deep in sin and darkness that I viewed it simply as a job. It’s how I got paid. Looking back, I think that was the biggest light in my life besides my family. It was one of the few joys I had growing up – being surrounded by so many different Christians – but nobody really knew me fully. At music gigs or in my day job, I only let people see certain parts of me.

“At the Christian organization, people from churches all over the US would come for a week and then leave, so they were very temporary friendships. I befriended a man and his family in one of those short weeks, and he asked me if I’d like to come to college in Dallas. I didn’t believe him; I thought it was just a passing comment. But within the next three months, his family and I were making plans for me to live in the US. I was accepted into a college, got my visa pretty smoothly, packed my bags, and left Haiti.

“I moved thinking it would be better for my music career. I thought I’d move for school and have a fresh start, but the Lord was working in a different way. His plans for me were bigger than I could’ve imagined. I started going to church with my host family because I wanted to please them. But as I heard God’s Word at church, He started to change everything in my heart.

“At this same time, I was invited to The Porch by a friend I met when he was on a trip in Haiti. It was a new culture experience. Everything from the sermons to how people worship was different. There was authenticity and a recognition of sin that I had never experienced before. Back home, pastors didn’t talk about their struggles. I began to see service in a new light – people served and loved others solely because of their love for Jesus. I realized every Tuesday night that I was getting a little glimpse of eternity. I couldn’t stay away!

“As I’ve grown and recommitted my life to Christ, I have learned that I’m not sin-free, but I am free from sin. It has no power over me. I’m done giving into the temptation of this world. Often, I fall short, but I am surrounded by a community group that I am transparent with daily. They are helping me to heal and pursue Christ, and they encourage me when I lose focus.

“Now I have been in Dallas almost five years and my entire life has changed. I’ve come back to the Lord and reconciled with my parents. Even if it was possible for me to do any good on my own, there is still biblical truth in my heart planted by my parents and their faith in Christ. I chose to buy into the lies the world fed me, but the truth was still there. Within my story of brokenness, if it was not for the fear of God instilled in me through my parents, I think would have strayed even further into sin.

“When my mom came to visit last year, I was fearful that conversations about faith would be difficult because I’ve learned so much from the American Christian culture, but it was clear that the Holy Spirit crosses all borders and languages. The message is the same. God is continually showing me the uniformity of His Spirit and goodness.

“Christ has saved me from lust, pride, control, pornography, and the list goes on. Even in the middle of my darkest days, I felt conviction. I have seen God’s love for me just as Christ pursues the Church. He never gave up on me. With the things I’ve done and the sins I’ve committed, my parents should have kicked me out of the house, but they didn’t. Not because they believed in me, but they believed in the power of God and regeneration (Titus 3:3-7). I was the prodigal son, welcomed back with open arms from my parents and God Himself.”