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They say that everyone has a salvation story, that even those who have “been a Christian their whole lives” still have a point where they answered God’s call. A moment in time where they said yes God, I choose you, I choose to walk with you and dedicate my life to you and align my free will with yours. Some people would argue that someone in their youth or even a child 6, 7, or 8 can’t grasp the magnitude or even comprehend that decision at such a young age. I believe just about anything is possible when it comes to God, especially when God has a calling on that person’s life. This is the story of my salvation because for me that calling didn’t come until I was an adult, but despite my age God had and still has big plans for my life.

Well, I would have to say it started sometime in 1999, my senior year of high school. I was one of the most popular kids in high school, my nickname was Mase because many thought I resembled the rapper. I remember that the previous year my school had implemented a dress code. (I guess the pants sagging and doo-rags just became too unbearable for the faculty at New Hanover High in Wilmington NC) I remember being disappointed because a lot of my wardrobe was against our schools  dress code policy, but since it was in effect I had no choice but to adhere. As I look back at this moment, a seemingly insignificant one, I think that God was beginning to show me something. You see because of the dress code I began to care less and less about what I wore to school. In Matthew 6:25 Jesus states “therefore do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on, is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” I felt like God was using this situation to show me not to care so much about my clothes. I don’t feel like there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting to look nice or dressing to impress, but for me especially in years prior, I was extremely wrapped up in myself and how I looked. I remember at one point even writing up a schedule of my outfits so I didn’t wear the same piece of clothing twice in a two week period. It was a very prideful mindset.

During the latter part of my senior year I began to care less and less about my physical appearance and felt more and more like there was an empty void missing from my life. Around this time I really began to develop a love for basketball which God would ultimately use to bring me full circle and accept my calling. Once the pride of my wardrobe and appearance began to fade I transitioned into having pride on the basketball court. I felt like I had to be the best and be confident in my ability, which is true in any sport, but it turned into me looking down on my competition, and I was also very aggressive and angry when I would lose. With every missed shot would come a barrage of curse words. 2 Timothy 2:16 states “shun all profane babblings which lead to more ungodliness”. I couldn’t enjoy the game of basketball for what it was as I was so wrapped up in winning and extremely distraught whenever I lost a game. I honestly remember crying after losing a pick up game. I was extremely passionate indeed but God had something else for me to be passionate about….His Word.

I finished High School and did not play a single game of basketball on my high school team, as I was cut pretty early on in tryouts. I was a late bloomer so I lacked many essential basketball fundamentals. I kept playing though. There was a basketball court on 9th and Wooster street that everyone in the neighborhood called “New Court”. I had heard stories that it got the name because it was the newest court to be constructed in sometime. However it didn’t look new and I had always remembered it being there, nevertheless it was known as New Court. It was on this court I would practice, day and night, good weather, bad weather, cold weather, rain, it really didn’t matter. I was determined to get better!! The court became my place of solitude. I would think about my life’s problems,( like I had any real problems at 18, but when your a kid everything seems like a earth shattering dilemma-the new Jordan’s are sold out, oh no!!!!) shooting free throws was extremely therapeutic. It was on this basketball court that I met Eric Winn. He was short in stature and had a deep southern accent, deeper than most people I knew from Wilmington, or he could have been from Goldsboro, I’m not really sure. He was akin to a street preacher, someone who was on fire for the Lord but talked like he was one of the homies from the block. Almost every time I saw him he was depositing the Word into my spirit. At first I would only see him at the basketball court. He had an old blue truck, probably 1970 something Ford. Eric was a painter by trade but his job was evangelism.

It was probably over a 1 or 2 year period that me and Eric would play ball and talk God. Sometimes it would be during a shootaround, sometimes we’d be playing 21. One memorable moment, we were at Empie park, me and Eric were at one end of the court and some other guys I knew at the other. This one big guy yelled out named Twin, said “leave the man alone, he don’t wanna hear all that preaching” referring to me. Eric yelled back ” man be quiet this ain’t got nothing to do with you!” Then he jokingly said “see they going to hell, they don’t know God, they don’t understand what we talking about”. He also said “ain’t nobody keeping him here, he wants to listen” again, referring to me. And he was right, I did want to listen and I was intrigued. A lot of the things Eric shared with me, in terms of pride, fornication, lack of respect for God, a lot of it I was unaware of and I thought, can the world really be this messed up? Does the Bible really say that God is jealous, and wrathful towards sin? I had always viewed God as all loving and forgive everybody, and as long as you’re a good person doing the best you can that everything was okay. I didn’t know that just not knowing God or not having a relationship with Him is bad enough. Eric became known as “preacher man” and he was very harsh on the entertainment industry. He would talk about Beyonce being scantly clad in videos and how much sex is glorified in the world and how basketball players, who at the time I idolized were selling their souls for millions of dollars. Eric would give me scriptures on the dangers of riches and wealth, about lust and a whole slew of other things. One thing I took away after all these years is he had all this in his head, he never whipped out a Bible, he just knew the Word. That’s why it’s important to have the word written in your heart, you never know when God will present you with an opportunity to reach someone.  At the time I thought he was just being extreme but here it is now 16 years later and I am so glad he spoke to me the way he did, not sugar coating anything.

Finally one day, as a matter of fact it was at night, me and Eric were on the court talking. By this time we had built a relationship, it wasn’t all Bible talk, but at this point we felt sort of close to one another. He asked me if I was saved. I replied I’m not sure I think so. He said, No if you are saved than you know you’re saved. He looked me in the eyes and said do you want to get saved, you can be a part of God’s family, walking in the protection of God living Holy and in righteousness. Do you want it? I said yes. So we went to the other end of the court, kneeled down and I believe he either said a prayer of intercession on my behalf which I agreed to or he said a salvation prayer and I repeated his words. Either way it was a prayer of me accepting Christ as my personal Lord and savior and acknowledging His Death, Burial, and Resurrection, and dedicating my life to God. After that we stood up, did a hug and a pound (a pound is sort of like a fist bump for those unaware) and he said that’s it man now you saved. He said get a Bible and start reading in Matthew and God will do the rest. After 16 years I can honestly 100% say my life has never been the same since that moment in time…..

Peace and Love

-Sym