If you had told Dean Ray, Travis Latz and Kristi Lichtenberg that they would find their greatest joy in walking with Christ and serving others in His name, there’s a time when all of them would have laughed in your face. Through various trials and struggles, each one of them found nothing but emptiness in the desires they once pursued. God used different challenges to draw them to Himself, from a health crisis to the precious faces of children in a school classroom. Meet three people who all agree that the life they have found in Christ is more fulfilling than anything they have ever pursued.
“I used to live for the party and had no desire to get sober. I’d been hurt by broken relationships and felt like I could not trust anyone. Every year, my partying and drug use escalated in an effort to escape the past. When I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, I had to stop drinking. I fell into a deep depression because alcohol was my means of escape. What I see now is that this was the first step in God making me face reality.
“I found out about Watermark and decided to come here to the Porch on a Tuesday night. Eventually I also made my way to re:generation, a biblical recovery ministry at Watermark. I learned Romans 7:18 and that nothing good dwells in me apart from Christ. I had tried to white-knuckle my way through life and continued to fail. Even if I had the desire to do what was right, I did not have the ability to carry it out.
“That’s when I began to understand that what I needed was a relationship with Christ. I spent 10 years reaching for everything this world could offer – alcohol, drugs, partying and promiscuity. Once the buzz was gone, all those things left me wanting. When I trusted Christ, the void in my life was finally filled.
“Today, serving God is so much better than any buzz I ever found. I would not have believed it if you told me that 10 years ago, but serving others has been so much more fulfilling than serving myself. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now in Christ for anything. I’m amazed that God rescued me from the deep, dark pits and completely changed my life. If He can do it for me, the Lord can definitely do it for you, too.”
“There was a time in my life when I would have cursed you if you told me life would ever be good again. I’d just gone through a very bad divorce and assumed that meant I could never again be in ministry – the purpose in my life. I was always a very good rule-follower, and I had a big sense of entitlement and pride because of it. I thought of faith like a formula: I’ll pay my dues, and God will bless me with a good life. When God didn’t give me what I thought I deserved, I was bitter and decided I could do life better on my own.
“The roots of anger and unforgiveness wrapped around my heart. I wondered if it was even possible to return to the Lord after walking away from my family, friends and my relationship with Christ. I was in a place of complete hopelessness.
“Fortunately, a friend reminded me that if I turned from my sin, Jesus would be waiting there with open arms. It took me a while to come around, but when I did Christ was there. God used the little faces of the first graders I taught every day to assure me that life could have meaning again.
“Today I am a teacher at Cornerstone Crossroads Academy. CCA is a place for second chances. Many of the young people we serve have been homeless, abused and rejected. Students come here because they want a diploma. But they leave learning about the goodness and hope of Christ. This job has helped me see that sometimes we need people to show us that life can be better, not just tell us. Watching God do that every day is crazy fun. That’s why I love my life!”
“‘How can God serve and bless me?’ That was always my question. I kept the Lord in a box. Whenever I needed to perform well on the baseball field, I’d call upon Him. If God ‘blessed’ me, I said I’d pay Him back somewhere down the line.
“My plan after college was to play baseball until I was 30, then find a wife. God began changing my heart when my stepfather unexpectedly passed away. My family struggled after his death, so I moved home to help with my siblings. Serving my family forced me to wrestle with what it meant not to live for my pleasure all the time.
“I started getting involved in church and was placed in a community group with guys who are still my closest friends. The biggest change in my life came from seeing value in spending time in God’s Word. It’s like I was hungry, and I finally decided to feed myself steak and potatoes rather than dessert. I wanted more of the steak and potatoes of God’s Word! The irony here is that I love dessert, but if you eat it for a meal, you’re never fully satisfied after that moment.
“Sometimes I wonder if I should still be playing ball. But I know God has protected me from a self-inflicted, performance-driven life filled with disappointment and anger. Christ is now center stage in my life, and there is a huge blessing in living on-mission every day.”