I’m from a family of 7. Two brothers, two sisters, and a Mom and Dad. Big family for the small households that we stayed in. We grew up in poverty. Food stamps, welfare, getting clothes and food from the Salvation Army. I remember year after year not having Christmas like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood and the kids from school. Having to lie to everyone about what I didn’t get and telling them that I will get it when income tax came for my Mom, but around that time is when she would catch up to all of her late bills. We would be satisfied whenever we received the chance to have a new pair of shoes, a new shirt and pair of jeans.
Life for the Samarco’s hasn’t been the easiest, that I do know. One Christmas I remember receiving one gift. Some Christians from a church bought my family and I all some gifts. For some reason I receive a red wings hoody and that was it. I was grateful for the gift I received, until I went with my Mom over her friends house. One of the kids there stole my hoody. Here I was, the only gift I receive for Christmas, now stolen. Oh, was I ever heart broken. I cried at night for days.
Don’t let me get started with school shopping for the new school year. Ha! That was a joke right. All the parents would go out and splurge on their kids when we would always hope for our Mom to hit the lotto to get us something. We would cherish what we had in the summer and keep our shoes clean the best we could. We would borrow clothes and shoes from our friends in the neighborhood. I use to feel dirty and ashamed wearing the same shoes and clothes from the past school year into the new school year. I never got my hopes up. I knew eventually the time would come around to get new clothes. I would take the $100 my Mom would give my brothers and sisters and I and make it stretch. I would come out of TJ Maxx or Marshalls with about 6 items feeling like I was on top of the world and people at school wouldn’t be ready for my fly! 🙂
In our household there were two to three people in a bed room. Girls in one room, the boys in the other. Man, were we happy when we moved into a house with a basement and 4 rooms. We didn’t know how to act. The basement was like a magical theatre to us. From making houses (using sheets as tents), to wrestling matches, basketball games, video games, hide and seek, dancing, screaming, fighting; you name it we did it in the basement. We were some fun, bad, active kids. We made the best out of that basement, even though we fought each with other everyday. I guess this was our way of showing love. We didn’t know any better but we probably fought more than any regular family. Someone from the outside looking in would probably think we hated each other.
Another area in our household that was a struggle for us was keeping food in the refrigerator. When the government cut our family off food stamps we were struggling from check to check to buy food. It’s hard to keep a fridge stacked with food when you have 7 people in a house hold and on welfare and all these bills to pay. I use to hate not having any food. We relied on making bologna and egg sandwiches, toast with butter and syrup, noodles, corn flakes with tons of sugar to make it taste like frosted flakes, beans and hot dogs. We had to make it work with what we had and we survived off of these food items.
Being a Samarco you have to have a tough mentality. I saw my Mother work her butt off for years and years providing for her family. I remember, waking up in the middle of the night to hear my Mother crying because of how tired she was, or how depress she was to work 2 weeks straight, plus double shifts to see her check evaporate on the same day; Having to pay all the bills and thinking about how we were going to eat as a family. My Mom use to always make it work some how. I remember my Mom waking me out of my bed on plenty of nights to a hot meal. I don’t know how she did it but when it was time to find a way to feed us, she did. She made sure we ate on every holiday. She always found a way to cook for us around those times. She would go down to the Salvation Army or to a church if she had to, just so we can try and be a normal family. We might not had meals every night but we did have meals around the holidays.
My Mom is my motivation. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have made it this far in. She is the strongest person I know. She could have been gave up providing for us but she continues to have an unconditional love that is not seen in many people on this earth. Her passion for her children drives me to be the best that I can be in life.
The Game of Basketball:
What saved me from a lot of trouble growing up and brought joy into my life is the game of basketball. People don’t know how much or how far a basketball can take a person in life. From my Dad putting the ball in my hands, to me receiving a full scholarship to play basketball in college, basketball has allowed me to make lifelong friends, travel the country and pay for my undergraduate degree.
At first, basketball started off fun and games but then it became my life. If it wasn’t for the game of basketball I would not have been overlooked for being poor. I look back and reflect on how people looked at me differently because I could shoot a basketball into a hoop. People weren’t quick to judge, well maybe your skills but not me as a person. The fact I can play the game of basketball well, people gave me money, bought me things, such as shoes and clothes, and even food when I needed it.
I didn’t start being known and popular until I got to high school and started showing others what I could do on the basketball court. I remember being cut from a few travel basketball teams and looking back now out of all the people that made the teams over me I made it the farthest in my basketball career. I realized, not making those teams made me stronger and made me work harder to become better. Once I realized I could go to school for free from playing the game of basketball I knew it was time to take my game to another level.
Earning a scholarship to college to play basketball didn’t happen overnight. In high school I was not heavily recruited. I receive some letters from schools but they were all NAIA and Division 3 schools. I received one Division 1 letter my senior year. They had let me know they were interested in me and that was the only time I heard from them. After my senior year of high school I was not offered a scholarship to play basketball in college. I ended up going to school about a hour away from home. My tuition was covered by grants and loans.
At the college I was able to red shirt. Meaning, I practiced with the team every day but did not travel nor play in games. Sitting out my freshman year was a great decision for me. It allowed me to work hard on my weaknesses, adapt to the collegiate level style of play and learn the ins and out of college.
After one year at the University ,a good friend of mine, my assistant coach from high school, slash my mentor got a job at a junior college close to my hometown. When he got the job he gave me a call and offered me a full scholarship to come and play. Prior to the season at the new school I worked extremely hard to elevate my game. Playing at a junior college, a player can only play there a maximum of two years since it is a community college. I knew I had a lot of improvements to make if I planned on transferring to another college. Improving on my game, working on my weaknesses, gaining confidence was something I was able to do at the community college.
The biggest blessing came when I received a call from Perry Watson from the University of Detroit. He offered me a Division 1 scholarship. I would have never thought in a million years I would play Division 1 basketball. Hard work, determination, sacrifice and the desire to become the best basketball player I could be opened a major door for me.
After playing a year at the University of Detroit I ended up transferring to Pikeville College. My basketball career at U of D came to a one year end. Perry Watson, the coach that offered me a scholarship to play at Detroit had resigned and retired. The college hired a new coach. During the course of the summer of 2008, the new coach decided to not grant me my scholarship for the following year. This led me to continuing my education and basketball career at Pikeville College. Now, known as the University of Pikeville. Pikeville College is located in Pikeville, Kentucky. A beautiful small town in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. At Pikeville College, I was able to excel in athletics. I went on to becoming an All American and achieving many goals I set for myself as a basketball player.
While living in Pikeville, Pikeville became a place where I both lost my identity and also came into my identity. What I mean is this: I became the person I always wanted to be on the basketball court but I also became the person I did not want to be as far as living for God. God placed a calling on my life at a young age. For many years I ran from the calling out of fear and confusion. I didn’t know what to do with the call God had placed on my life. It was hard for me to understand. I didn’t know who to talk to so I kept it to myself and fought against it. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I brought a lot of headaches, heartaches and heart breaks upon myself and those closest to me.
Living in Pikeville, Kentucky made me realize God was in control and He was not done with me regarding the call He placed on my life. The most important aspect of my life is that I am able to serve the Creator of the Universe and live a life for Him. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not been for God’s grace and mercy upon my life. I didn’t always understand this way of thinking but I do now.
My Spiritual Journey:
Around the age of 6 my Dad began taking my family and I to church. We began attending a Baptist church along with a few of my aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side of the family. About a year or so after we began attending this Baptist church, myself and my brothers and sisters and I all got baptized. The only one in my immediate family who did not get baptized was my Mom.
I remember being in the front row before the whole church responding to the pastor’s questions about Jesus. I didn’t truly understand what we were doing but I knew it was a good thing. I thought that’s what people did to join church and go to Heaven. This experience was my first personal encounter with God.
My second encounter with God came around the age of 12 at a Vacation Bible School. One of my friends from the neighborhood invited me to go with him. I had no intentions on going until he said on the last day of the VBS, the church was giving away a free bike. That captured me. I didn’t have a bike at the time so I thought of my chances to win to be high. Little did I know, God had different plans for me.
The minister there had all the kids engaged daily in the Bible and in his teaching. After going home the first night, I told myself I have to go back the next day. Thursday came. At the end of the night, the minister asked all of the youth to come around the altar. He began to speak on who Jesus was, why God sent Him to the earth and the power He wants to give to us. He said Jesus wants to give us a power to help us live a life for Him. The minister told us to draw a door around our hearts. He told us to ask for forgiveness; ask for God to forgive us for all of our sins and to ask God to enter into our hearts. Then he taught on repentance and led us to repent of our sins. He then told us to shut the door, lock it and throw away the key.
The minister then begin to talk about this great power and gift called the Holy Spirit. He explained what it was and that we can receive it too. He then talked about the gift of speaking in tongues, that once you receive the Holy Spirit, if it is God’s will something new will be birthed in you. He sounded out how it would sound and said he was going to come around and lay hands on us and once he laid hands on us we will receive this gift of God’s power if it was God’s will for us.
If you could imagine a 11 year old boy excited and nervous all at the same time, that was me. I truly didn’t know what was going on or what to expect but I believed God so I stayed in line and waited for him to come to me. I remember as he started to come down the line. I started to hear different voices and sounds to utter throughout the room. He continued to come down the line and my heart continued to beat faster. My friend who invited me was to the left of me so once the minister got to him and I heard him begin to speak I now knew it was my time to receive what God had for me.
He got to me and told me to close my eyes. He laid his hands on me and instantly a fire stirred up in me and something overtook me and I began to speak in a new dialect. I remember trying to stop it and speak in English but I could not. I was astonished that God was doing something new in me.
After this encounter and leaving from this wonderful experience on this day I truly knew that Jesus was powerful and real. Even though I didn’t win the bike, I had received the best gift anyone could ever ask for. I had Jesus power living inside of me!
After this experience and venturing off to high school is where this gift/power that I had living within me died down. The church I grew up in never spoke about the gift of tongues and the power of the Holy Spirit. The people that I shared my encounter with God with didn’t believe what I experienced to be true. For many years I though that maybe I indulged in something crazy. I knew what was birthed and I knew how real the experience was but I didn’t know what to truly think of it because I didn’t have proper understanding.
During high school is where life and the enemy got the best of me. I began to smoke weed everyday, drink alcohol, fornicate, lie, cuss, disobey my parents, skip school, etc.. I was far off from living a life for God. Around the age of 16 is where life got the hardest for me. I knew the life I was living wasn’t right. I grew up and went to church every Sunday. I knew the teachings of God. God was requiring me to live Holy, so every time I would sin there was a conviction some where letting me know this isn’t the way God wants me to live.
Going into my senior year I remember crying out to God all of the time, asking Him to help me or to send someone my way to lead me to Him. My senior year of high school came. I was a varsity basketball player and we had received a new assistant basketball coach. One of the first conversations I had with our new assistant coach was about God, the gifts of tongues, the Holy Spirit and his church. I couldn’t believe that I ran into someone that had spoken in tongues before. I knew He has to be an answer to prayer.
Senior year, I continued to wrestle and fight with God. As bad as my life was, as depressed as I was, I still did not want to let go of the life I was living. I was 17 and I felt I would be missing out on life if I walked away from the way I was living. I continued to drink, fornicate, smoke and live a life of sin. God continued to beat on my door. It got to the point where I said enough is enough. I was tired of crying and I was definitely tired of running from Him! I couldn’t do it my way anymore. I gave up and I gave in. I was tired!
After the basketball season on March 8th, 2005 I gave my life, my everything over to God and totally surrendered! Everything that I was searching for in the world, I knew I had now found in Jesus. All of my sins were washed away. I felt peace, joy, and happiness. I knew the decision I made was the right thing to do because I was tired of letting the enemy win and get the best of me. God had been drawing me since I was 6 years old and finally I gave up fighting.
It’s been over 9 and one half years now I have been walking this walk with God. It hasn’t been the easiest walk but by God’s grace He has kept me.
My Journey to Ministry:
Going into the year 2012 God placed a heavy burden on my heart for God’s people and ministry. I began to pray, fast, to read His word daily and search Him for the direction He was leading me in. In the first few months in 2012 I found myself praying for others more than I ever have. I found myself witnessing to people with boldness and not caring who was around. Something had changed in me. I suddenly came alive for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of this new beginning I was faced with some tough trials and tribulations. Playing in my third year of basketball professionally, I was faced with walking away from the team. I couldn’t understand why things were not working out for me on the team. I had worked so hard to become the best I could be as a basketball player. For the first time in my life I found myself not receiving any playing time on the basketball court. I know this may not sound like a big deal but for a person who is use to having the “green light” this was a big deal to me.
After spending time one night in my prayer closet God revealed to me, that my walk with Him was now bigger than basketball. He had called me to be an example of the Kingdom of God, to be a witness for Him and to share the Gospel. I continued to pray for the burden for God’s people and ministry.
In March, by God’s divine path I bumped into a Pastor. We set a meeting to hear each others’ story. I shared my life story and testimony and he shared his. He shared his vision for the church he was leading and the story of the church. We both knew that the meeting was a “God moment.” He offered me an internship at the church he was leading. The church is called Overflow Church and it is located in Benton Harbor, MI.
I began my internship May 1, 2012. Since starting my internship I have seen the move of God in a number of different ways. After 7 months as an intern, on January 1, 2013 I joined on staff at Overflow as the Young Adult Director. I went to Honduras on a mission trip for the first time as well as preach my first sermon during the course of the first year.These are just tidbits of the works God has done and is doing.
I am currently the Youth and Young Adult Pastor. I lead a young adult ministry called Untitled Lounge. I am in seminary at Wesley Seminary pursuing the Master’s of Divinity degree. God willing, I will be finished with the degree in 2016. I am an Adjunct Instructor at Lake Michigan Community College. I am going on my third year as an instructor.
Since devoting my life to the local church, God has allowed me to grow in tremendous ways. I still have so much room to grow. In fact, I will never stop growing and it excites me to know I am going to grow and learn to be the best I can be for Him. I am blessed to say ministry is a beautiful thing. I never knew how God would open the door to ministry but He did. It took for me to learn the hard way but through all of the hardships they were all lessons to help me grow and see Him in new ways.
My Love Story:
One of my greatest joys in life outside of my relationship with Jesus Christ is my wife Jasmine Samarco. On May 24, 2014 I had the amazing opportunity to join hand to hand with Jasmine and become one. I’ll just say this: It is truly a blessing to have a help meet. Someone that compliments you, makes you better, loves you and cares for you. There is nothing like the love of God coming together to be shared between two individuals who’s hearts are set on loving Christ and people. Its a beautiful thing!
Let me throw this out there. Our love story is imperfect. It is full of pride, hurt, selfishness, immaturity, lack of communication, miscommunication, jealousy, envy, lust and pain. Let me explain to you why…
We first started dating in 2007. We were in a relationship from 2007-2009. On and off from 2009-2011. Apart from each other from 2011-2012. Got back in a relationship January 1, 2013. Engaged May 24, 2013. Broke up in August of 2013, back engaged November 2, 2013 and married May 24, 2014. Quite impressive right? 🙂
People are messy. I know I am. Whenever two sinful people with sin nature come together to try and be in relation with each other, there has to be death to each others way of doing life. It took us a long time to figure this out. We are still learning this and walking it out. God is so good though. He knew our hearts, what we wanted and where they desired to be and that was with each other. He allowed us to receive counseling, a lot of prayer and work out our problems one step at a time. This was not easy at all but God’s grace is so powerful.
Love was never meant to be complicated. It’s the people that make love complicated. Love is kind, gentle, patient, sweet, strong, passionate, caring, understanding, selfless, unconditional and every other adjective slash description that can describe love. Most importantly, love is God. If two people hearts are set on God, then they can work through their mess. Jasmine and I are living testaments of this. We are walking out our mess and sharing it as a message! Now look at that! 🙂
I am truly thankful for this journey God has me on. I am looking forward to sharing so much more with you. I pray my life and walk with God can be an encouragement to you. If you ever need prayer, someone to talk to, someone to cry with, laugh with, please feel free to reach out. I will do my best to make myself available to you. God bless you. I love you and I am praying for you!
Thank You For Reading!
Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”