When I met Jeff for the first time, he had this contagious and jaw-dropping presence about him. I could tell right away that he loved serving people. Jeff is currently studying social work and has worked with diverse groups of people, in many settings. His ability to meet people where they are, without judgment, allows him to connect with an array of people. He is passionate about cultivating peace in the South Bend community, but most importantly he has found peace and forgiveness in himself. His story and heart of service is legendary. –Megan Murphy, interviewer
Growing up as a child and adolescent in a severely dysfunctional family, the outward expression of love was virtually non-existent. The verbal and emotional abuse from both parents and older siblings was intolerable. In addition, the molestation I experienced at age 12 and 13, paved the way for a rebellious and introverted life. Although I attended church on a weekly basis, I did not understand any of the religious terminology, or the importance of Jesus Christ. By the time I was 13, my family quit attending church. Three years later, I submerged myself into a life of alcohol and drugs, which included everything from marijuana to LSD (and everything in between) to eventually shooting up.
The subculture of the ‘70s provided me with a sense of acceptance, purpose, and a family, which I so desperately desired. However, the lack of moral principles, combined with illegal activities, produced many personal and legal repercussions. Eventually, this led to a stint in a detoxification center and halfway house for alcohol and drug rehabilitation. In addition, the economic hardship, which followed, resulted in three stints with a homeless shelter, since the skeletons of my past remained deeply buried and unattended. Consequently, the verbal and emotional abuse, in conjunction with the molestation, eventually manifested itself in the form of bitterness, resentment, hatred, and several broken relationships/marriages, which lasted well into my forties.
It was one such broken relationship, which sent me spiraling out of control emotionally. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, experiencing extreme anxiety attacks, some coworkers began talking to me about God. Although I had never doubted His existence, my life was far from that of a decent person. As they shared with me that regardless of the life I lived, God was willing to meet me right where I am. I then agreed to attend church with them, since my life had become unbearable. From the very first moment that I heard the pastor speaking, I could feel this indescribable tug upon my heart. Although I was not sure about what was happening, there was no doubt in my mind that the message was for me, or so it appeared.
After approximately 3 weeks of listening to the pastor, experiencing the same results as the first, I began sharing this with my coworkers. As they explained that my experience was the Holy Spirit speaking to me, I felt a peace come over me; the kind of peace that brings reassurance. The following Sunday, I went forward during the altar call, and accepted Jesus Christ into my life.
Although my life has by no means been a bed of roses, I now know that Jesus is with me, no matter how tough life gets. I still experience bad times (which I call valleys) and great times (which are the mountaintops). Through it all, I have found peace and comfort in knowing that Jesus is walking along side me. And, when I go through my daily routine of work and play, I can now sense God’s Spirit speaking to me; guiding me in the way I should go, and the decisions I should make. I still have good days and bad days just as before, but now peace goes with me. The indescribable tug upon my heart has turned into an indescribable peace that no human being can define. –Jeff
If we can build peace within ourselves, we can then influence others around us. Sometimes this means taking a leap of faith and stepping outside of familiarity.