I remember the first time I went to a testimony service. It was around 2005, the year God led me to surrender my heart to Him. I was 17 at the time. The pastor got up and said, it is time for testimonies. I wasn’t too sure what he meant or what was about to happen next. Over the next 20 – 25 minutes, members of our congregation began to share about their life and about the big God they serve. Stories of God’s faithfulness. Stories of hope. Stories of God coming through and providing just what they needed. Although this was a new experience for me, being there and listening was quite encouraging.
I pray often that my life will serve as a testimony of how good God is.
One of the main tenets of Transformation Church is that all of life is worship. All of life is worship; not just a few parts, but all parts of life are worship. Even in our struggles and pains that we face in life, we are to lift all of these up to God; not just a few of our struggles, but all of them. We are to sing praises to God for all of our joys; not just a few of those joys, but all of them. All of life is worship.
If you follow myself or my wife on social media, you would know by now that we recently moved from Michigan to Indian Land, South Carolina. You are probably thinking where? I know right, I thought the same thing. We usually tell people we moved to Charlotte, NC. Indian Land is a suburb of Charlotte. I know you are thinking why the big move? Well…
The Back Story:
First, let me give you some back story to this transition. I am not sure where you are in life or what season of life you may be in, one substantial thing I believe about life is this: God will put you exactly where you need to be.Where you need to be may be for a short season or a long season. Either way, the key is to be obedient where He has you, to serve Him faithfully and allow Him to use you to be a blessing to the community in which you reside.
In March of 2011, I had just finished playing semi-pro ball for the East Kentucky Energy. We made it to the final four in the ABA. To go to the final four, we had to play a team from Michigan (my home state) in the regional championship game. Of course, we won. I could not let a team from my hometown show us up 🙂
In November 2011, I decided to move to Benton Harbor, MI to continue to pursue my professional basketball career with the Lake Michigan Admirals, the team we beat in the regional championship. The Admirals had moved to a new league called the Premier Basketball League. I thought if I go there for a season, this will lead to opportunities to play ball overseas or in the NBA D-League.
The decision to head to Benton Harbor honestly was the only thing I had going for me. I wasn’t ready to give up the dream of playing basketball and work a 9-5. I just couldn’t see myself doing that again. So basketball was my only option.
As you read in my previous blog, 2011 was a valley. Little did I know, moving to Benton Harbor, the valley would continue. I was struggling playing with the Admirals. I got to a point where I was contemplating moving back home again with my Mom and starting over from scratch. At this point in my life, I had been walking with God for 6 1/2 years. I began to think to myself, maybe basketball isn’t going to work out the way I hoped it would.
Toward the end of 2011, I began to sense God calling me to go into ministry. I did not know what this meant but I was excited to begin to explore what God wanted to do with my life.
December 31, 2011 I found myself at a New Year’s Eve service with friends. The minister there was a guest from Atlanta. She was a gifted speaker. Toward the end of service, she had asked me to stand up. She begins to say to me: “Young man, there is a huge call on your life. You may not even know it, but others have been watching your walk with God. You are a leader, and God wants to use you. Continue to press in and see what God has to offer.” Wow right?
Entering into 2012 was a season of intentional prayer. My biggest prayer was this: “God, show me the way and open the door for me to walk in so that I can do the work that You’ve set out for me.”
It was March and my team and I got invited to an after school program called, School of Hope to read to elementary students from Benton Harbor. Little did I know, God had a divine appointment waiting on me. The place where we were reading was run by a non-profit organization called, Mosaic CCDA and the founder (Brian Bennett) who started the non-profit walked in while we were there. Brian is also the lead pastor of Overflow Church. He and the owner of the Admirals were having a conversation and one thing led to another, I was introduced.
Two weeks later, we were having lunch together and he offered me an internship to work with the youth in the inner city of Benton Harbor. Without ever visiting the church, I gladly accepted. I knew this opportunity was an answer to prayer. It was the door I had been praying for to pursue my call to ministry. April 30th, 2012 my journey began with Overflow.
My Journey with Overflow Church:
Beginning my journey with Overflow Church, I did not know what to expect. I was just excited to serve and begin to learn what ministry is all about. My hope was to be able to serve God, the church, minister to youth, lead and impact others along the way. I had to learn quickly that you have to be careful what you pray for. Before I knew it, I was in graduate school at Wesley Seminary, teaching as an Adjunct Instructor and a life coach at Lake Michigan College, coaching basketball for Benton Harbor High School, playing basketball for the Admirals, a youth leader, mentor and working part time for Overflow as the Young Adult Pastor. Talk about hitting the ground running for the Lord!
Life seemed to be going fast paced for me. My leadership was growing at an extremely fast pace. God was moving. Students and young adults were coming to the Lord, lives were being transformed and on top of that, I was creating life long relationships. By December 2013, after 21 days of fasting and praying, I became the youth pastor of Overflow Church and joined the staff full time.
I am truly thankful for my four years with Overflow Church and for the leadership of Pastor Brian. He truly pulled me under his wing, mentored and discipled me. I will forever be grateful for our weekly Thursday morning 9am meetings where as Proverbs 27:17 says, “iron sharpens iron.” God used those meeting times to grow my walk in the Lord and to grow me as a leader. Love ya brother!
Love and Marriage!?
In the midst of my journey in Benton Harbor, I got engaged May 24, 2013, and married a year later May 24, 2014. You can read the love story of my wife, Jasmine and I here: J Scott and Jasmine’s Love Story. It is a pretty good story if I say so myself.
How I got to Indian Land, SC:
I know you’ve been waiting for the answer to how my wife and I got to South Carolina. I thought you would be interested in the back story first.
Toward the beginning of 2015, I began to sense that my wife and I’s time in Benton Harbor was coming to an end. I did not know if we would be leaving in 2015, 2016 or in a few years. All I knew, I needed to begin to pray and process with people I trust and that had a lot more wisdom than me to help me discern what the future may look like for the Samarco’s.
Having this transition in the back of my mind, I thought God would be leading my wife and I back to the metro-Detroit area near my hometown Ypsilanti. Well, God had different plans.
Two years ago, myself and a good friend of mine went to a youth conference in California put on by UYWI. (sidenote: this is the best youth conference around). Last year, my wife and I went back out to the conference.
Prior to going to the conference, each participant that registered for the conference got drawn into a contest. The contest was this:Whoever name is drawn will have the chance to sit down with a speaker of their choice. Somehow I ended up winning! Crazy right!? So out of the 5 speakers that were listed, I knew 3 of them and the other two I’ve heard about. One of the speakers that I wanted to get to know and talk life/ministry with was, Pastor Derwin Gray. Pastor Derwin leads a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped church called, Transformation Church along with a lot of other Gospel-centered leaders.
While having an amazing lunch conversation with Pastor Derwin, I was able to meet Erick Hodge, who you do not see in this photo because he is the one holding the phone. Me and Erick got cool. I ended up attending another conference in August that Pastor Derwin and Erick were attending. Me, Erick and another friend ended up having dinner. At this time I heard of a training Transformation was doing at their church in October, called The HD Leader based off PD’s recent book on what it means to live a multi-ethnic life, and how to create a multi-ethnic, gospel-centered, mission-shaped church.
I told Erick I would be attending and he said I could crash at his place! I came down to TC in October and had such an amazing time. I was blown away by what God was doing through the church and the people there. In the midst of my time at TC, I learned that their teen director position had just opened up. Instead of jumping at the opportunity, I first wanted to pray and discern with my wife if this is something we should pursue…
After praying and talking with my wife, we went forward. I began going through the interview process. As I was going through the process, I believe God began to make it clear that this would be an amazing opportunity. Of course, God already knew the outcome. After 4 months of prayer, fasting, interviews and a visit to Transformation, God opened the door for my wife and I to have the opportunity to move to the south and for me to join on staff as the Teen Director of Transformation Church. Crazy cool God story right?
The Journey Continues…
So here we are! Excited for this next chapter. Trusting God in this process and thanking God for the journey. I know He has great things in store for us and all of the teens at Transformation Church. I am anticipating God to do some really big things!
I recently ran across Psalm 20:4 that says, “May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
My desire is to continue to serve Him wholeheartedly, passionately and faithfully. My plans are to simply share the Gospel in simplistic as well as creative ways to reach people for the Kingdom. May God’s perfect will be done in our lives.
P. S. Keep us lifted up in prayer as we get acclimated. Also, pray for my Overflow fam, all of the students and our family back home in Michigan. Thank you! Love each of you!
Throughout my life, I’ve felt the ups and downs of life. What I mean by this, I have felt what it is like to be loved, and I have felt what it is like to be hated. The hatred that I felt may have been my perspective, but it was real.
I want to invite you into a reality that I faced growing up and the reality many others have faced and are facing. This post is quite lengthy, but I guarantee you will not regret reading.
As a young kid in his teens, I faced emotional abuse.
To be transparent, it was my earthly dad who did all of the emotional abusing. As a young teenager, he shared words with me that you do not say to another human being let alone your own son. Hearing such demeaning and life sucking words created in my life fear, insecurity, a lack of confidence and a false belief in my identity.
I began to believe in the words I was hearing. Often as a teen and even as a kid I would hear, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words would never hurt.” Whoever created this rhyme and words I would like to meet them face to face and share some choice words with them (kidding but not kidding).
Words do hurt. Words are painful. When a kid, a teenager should be experiencing words of encouragement, words of love, words of comfort, words of affirmation but instead receives the opposite this creates voids, holes, and gaps.
For me, my heart sank each time I would hear such words. I remember my heart breaking over and over again. Early on when the heartbreaking words were said to me, I would share some choice words back, and that led to more harsh words being said back to me. Eventually, I would do my best to fight off and ignore the words I was hearing. I would stop saying words back, and this led to my heart becoming numb.
What I continue to see:
Now, at the age of 28, I work with a lot of inner-city teenagers. Many of these teenagers are facing and have faced the battle I faced as a teenager. Many do not have a dad in their home let alone in their life. Some do have a dad around and like me, their dad share words that are not helping and only hurting.
A Father, the role of a male figure in the home and a child’s life is so important. Sometimes I do not think dads understand how much of their presence, positivity, care, and words can affect their child’s life. If they did, maybe they would learn to become the type of Father they need to be.
I have shared my emotional abuse that I faced with others, the disconnect of not having a loving and comforting Father and I realized I am not alone. I’ve come to learn that all people have issues, baggage, deal with life’s experiences and tragedies in different ways. How a Father deals with life will either have a positive or negative effect on their child’s life.
I want to share with you some mind-blowing statistics about kids that grow up with an absent Father:
1. 5 times the average suicide rate: 2. Dramatically increased rates of depression and anxiety: 3. 32 times the average rate of incarceration: 4. Decreased education levels and increased drop-out rates: 5. Consistently lower average income levels: 6. Lower job security: 7. Increased rates of divorce and relationship issues: 8. Substantially increased rates of substance abuse: 9. Increases in social and mental behavioral issues:
Now that we know all of this information, what does a person do to overcome the emotional abuse, the lack of love from a Father and the absence of a Father?
First and probably the most important step is to forgive. As a young adult in college, I found myself on my dorm room floor crying. I was crying because I was reliving and remembering all of the words that were said to me from my dad during my childhood and teenage years. Through the pain, hurt and tears I came to a place where I knew in order to move forward from the pain, I had to let go and forgive.
I’ve learned that the longer I held on to the pain the longer I would stay in prison. Unforgiveness, carrying hate and anger is like being locked in a prison and drinking poison. You slowly begin to die inside and I was tired of dying. Maybe you are too…
Let us turn to the Gospel! Stay with me. Something good is about to be shared:
Then there came Romans 8:14-17
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
I was suffering internally. Like most with an absent dad or a dad that was emotionally abusive, I needed love, comfort and to be uplifted. I needed to believe I had a purpose, and that there was a Father that loved me for being me.
At age 17, when all felt lost and like the world was crashing down on me there was God. A Heavenly Father that opened up His arms to me, who looked at me with splendor and said, “come, my son, let me be your Abba Father, let me be your Daddy God.”
Up until 17, I called my earthly dad, “daddy” but I now had a Heavenly Father that wanted to replace all of my evil thoughts toward my earthly dad and begin to experience the unconditional love of my new Daddy!
So many people that deal with “daddy issues” view their Heavenly Father through the same lens as they do their earthly dad. I am here to share with you; our Daddy God wants to show you what real love is like. Our Daddy God wants to pour into your life and build you up. Our Daddy God wants to heal your heart and help you overcome your pain. Our Daddy God wants you to forgive your earthly dad. Our Daddy God wants to set you free from your past so that you can move on with your life.
To move forward, you have to confess the anger that is in your heart. You have to forgive. Forgiveness starts with your acknowledgment of your pain and hatred.
Pray this prayer aloud:
It is me. Your child. For so many years I have been carrying around this heavy weight in my heart. I realized today; I cannot move forward with hatred in my heart. Daddy God, I am asking You to perform surgery on my heart. I know it may take me a while to get over the absence of my earthly dad and all of the pain that he created for my life, but I am ready to move along with my life. Will you become my Daddy God? Will you show me what a real Father is like? Will you help me release all of the pain and will you fill my heart with unconditional love?
I am your child. You have adopted me. I am called to be the light of the world. I am a part of Your chosen generation. Give me purpose. Give my life meaning. Help me see others the way You see me. Help me love unconditionally like the way You love me.
I leave everything in Your hands, trusting You know what to do with my life, my mind, my spirit and my soul. I am Yours, and You are mine, and together, we are going to be just fine.
Thank You for loving me, Daddy God.
Thank you for holding me in Your arms.
P.S. I pray the love of the Heavenly Father meets you right where you are reading this. Just know you are not alone and God can do a major work in your life. He did it for me and He can do it for you.
God bless you. I love you. Please share this with others and pray for all those that are hurt from their earthy dads.
In the book of Joshua, found in the Bible, chapter 1 begins with Joshua having to step up quickly and lead a new generation of people into a land that God had promised to his fellow leader Moses. In verse 2, God says to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan into the land I am giving them.” Then God goes on to say in verse 3. “I promise you what I promised Moses: Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you.” What a promise!
Joshua immediately had to step up and lead. There wasn’t much time to be stuck in emotion, throw pity parties and wonder if he could do what God was commanding. Joshua, at this moment in time, is dealing with transition here and not all transition is easy. I am sure he was comfortable in the position He was in, as a counterpart to Moses, his right-hand man.
There comes a time in our lives where God calls us out of the comfortable zones we love to operate in. When God said, “Moses my servant is dead,” God is telling Joshua, there is no longer time for you to be comfortable.
The Land of the Unknown:
Obscurity, a word I have come to know throughout my life. Not knowing what is in the land to come but trusting that God is leading me there. This place of the unknown is an interesting place to be. A place where Joshua finds himself. In verse 5 and 6 God says, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as long as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to posses all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.” God continues to give His word, His affirmation and His promises to Joshua.
What timely words for Joshua to hear. With all of the new responsibility, his new role, people to lead and win over, God pauses Joshua in his tracks and lets Joshua know you are not in this alone. So often in The Land of the Unknown, we think we are alone as if God would abandon us the moment we step foot in an unknown land.
How foolish are we to think this way? Our thinking can be such human conditioned responses. We should know God will not set us up to fail and maybe for a moment Joshua thought this way. Then hearing the words of His Father let Joshua know, he didn’t have any business to think that His God would not be with Him in the next phase of his life.
In the Now:
This is my command: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Hallelujah! As Joshua moved forward, He walked with a sense of purpose and dignity knowing His God was in complete control. Joshua walked with an assurance that He would not fail because His creator with all power and might was on his side.
Joshua was now leading and taking people on a journey they had not been on before. With transition, new leadership and new territory there comes a birth of new excitement. Joshua knew he had to step in, affirm, speak words of encouragement and peace to the people he was now leading. He had to let the people know everything is going to work out, and they would walk into the promises of God.
I have learned in my 28 years of life; there is a great peace that God gives. I’ve also learned, when it is time for God to take someone to their next level and destination there has to be a step of faith. As we take a step of faith, we have to walk in the same peace that was given by God. As Joshua did, he had to trust God through the process of transition and the process of the land of the unknown.
God is the God of the next and the now. Wherever you find yourself today, whatever is on your plate, trust the God of the next and the right now, for He is in both and He is leading the way.
P.S. – Here are a couple of action steps and some friendly reminders:
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it will not change you.” – Urban Meyer
Can you believe a die hard Wolverine is quoting a Buckeye? If you understand sports and rivalries you will know what I am talking about. I am reading a book by Ohio State’s coach, Urban Meyer called, Above the Line. The book was referred to me by a friend. We were talking about coaching (I coach high school boys basketball) and leadership and he said it would be worth picking up despite your disliking of the boys in red.
The quote above is not just a good quote but it is a motto to life. As a former college basketball and semi-pro player I have always loved a good challenge. For instance, say I had a bad game, instead of sitting in pity at all of the things I could have done better, I take it upon myself to study the film, get back in the gym and work on how I can become better. This approach has helped me grow tremendously in life. – Taking on a challenge and allowing the challenge to help transform my life.
“Average leaders have quotes. Good leaders have a plan. Exceptional leaders have a system.” – Urban Meyer
As you may know, we are already a week into #2016. This week I have been reflecting a lot on life, my health, leadership, my many hats I wear, friendships, goals, relationships and my marriage. Here is what I need to keep in front of me in #2016: #Challenges – I look at challenges as goals I can accomplish. With each goal that is before me, the goal is a challenge that I want to accomplish in a timely matter before the year ends.
I have to be frank with you. I absolutely love where God is leading me. I am learning more and more about myself, my character, my identity, my work habits, what gets me fired up, my weaknesses and my strengths than I ever have. I find this to be a wonderful discovery gift to my life. I read more than I ever have, I ask more questions, I am more confident in who I am and in my leadership. I believe my growth is a result of my competitive drive and the hunger to be the best I can be.
What does all of this mean?
Set more S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific. Measurable. Actionable, Relevant. Timely. Goals.)
Find ways to challenge yourself.
Get some time to yourself to reflect on what you want to accomplish this year.
Know what your dreams are.
Come up with plans, systems and strategies to get you where you want to be in life.
Find a word, a phrase, a quote, maybe even a hashtag that will remind you of what you are chasing after this year. (For example: My hashtag is #BetterThanYesterday. My phrase: You are more than average, so work and act like it.)
Work hard, be consistent, build momentum and make great things happen this year!
P.S. In #2016 work on being less condemning to yourself. Instead, speak more positive life changing words. Don’t let a failed challenge discourage you. Treat a failed challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow from what didn’t go right. This is your year. So is 2017, 2018, 2019 and so on…
“You will not be successful as a leader if you are constantly changing directions.” – Urban Meyer
P.S.S. You got this!
Question: What challenges are you looking forward to this year?