I was raised in Atlanta by my step-grandmother. She was a very spiritual woman who had a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. She took me to church as a little boy, where I faithfully attended the children’s Sunday school service and learned to play the flute in the choir. I loved to sing the “Jesus Loves Me” song. My Granny led me in the Prayer of Repentance where I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior and asked his Holy Spirit to live in me. She even had me water baptized, which unfortunately I don’t remember. I recall reading the Children’s Bible Stories book where I learned about Noah’s Ark, Moses and the 10 Plagues on Egypt and Jonah and the Big Fish. My Granny taught me how to pray to God through Jesus. She was basically raising me up in “The Faith,” or in the way that I should go.
But my step-father (her son), on the other hand, had become a Muslim and converted to Islam while in prison. So he began to send me some Moorish Science Literature to read, which was inspired by the Quran. I learned about this religion’s founder, Noble Prophet Drew Ali, and I was taught how to pray to and submit to Allah. So I not only prayed to Jesus, but I also prayed to Allah faithfully every night before I went to sleep.
After the 6th grade, when I was about 13, I moved back to my birth-town, Miami, where I fell off from “The Faith” and eventually stopped going to church all together. I got distracted and caught up in the things of this world. Whenever I did go to church, though, it was because my mom asked me to come with her, not because I wanted to go. In the Baptist church, I remember spending most of my time laughing at how foolish I thought the church mothers looked wearing those big top hats or how funny the deacons and elders sounded when they sang those old boring hymns. I never felt like I fit in at church, and I felt lame and isolated with no one who could relate to me because I seemed to be the only teenager there. The only thing I remember hearing the preacher talk about was how God would bless the congregation with a new house, a car or money to pay the bills. I remember hearing sermons directed towards parents about how God was going to save their children and how they should never lose faith. I never heard a sermon about repentance…
My mom would oftentimes tell me to read my Bible (and she had an open Bible placed in each room of the house), but I don’t remember ever doing so because I didn’t understand what the Bible was talking about and the Old English dialect of the King James Version threw me off as well. Abraham begot Isaac and Isaac begot Jacob? Who are these people?! And what does their genealogy mean to me?
Though my Granny taught me how to say my morning and nighttime prayers, the prayers were unfortunately traditional and recited. I didn’t know how to personalize my prayers. I felt like I was in a dead religion and was growing tired of the routine.
Now, my grandma on my mother’s side was a Jehovah Witness. So whenever I visited her house, she would try to get me to read the Watchtower magazine with her and she would try to teach me about Jehovah. But I didn’t want to hear about any other religion. I felt like it was being forced on me. So I tried to avoid hearing about religion as best as I could.
During this entire time, I always believed there was something out there in the universe watching over me, guiding me, convicting me and protecting me, especially when I was doing wrong or was in trouble. But I was ignorant to the fact of that “something” actually being God himself.
But one day, as I was sitting in my mom’s car, in the parking lot of a Chinese food restaurant, while she went inside to place an order, I remember listening to the radio. This song by Shekinah Glory Ministries called “Yes” came on the air, and as the chorus was singing: “Will your heart and soul say yes,” I heard a small whisper in my ear tell me to say “YES.” Curious as to what would happen if I did so, I said “Yes.” Then suddenly, my heart began to flutter, my arms began to get weak and I got chills up and down my spine. My eyes began to tear up uncontrollably, and I saw a bright white light flash before me. I had a breathtaking experience. After that short moment in time, I knew for a fact that there was a God. For the first time in my life, at the age of 18, I had a supernatural encounter with the Divine and I actually heard and recognized his voice!! My faith was immediately turned on and I felt spiritually awakened. I quickly told my mom, and then called my Granny from Atlanta and told her about my encounter, since she was the one who started me off with my spirituality.
After my encounter, I became more “God-conscious” in everything I did. But I still did not fully commit myself to him until a while later, when he revealed himself to me again in college.