My name is Matt East. I graduated from Youth-Reach Houston (YRH) in 1997, and this is my story…
I was raised in a Christian, religious house, but it was very contentious. At around age 14 or 15, I felt like, “If this is how God is, I want nothing to do with him.”
At about 18, I started getting into drugs and drinking. From about 18-21, I did drugs just about every day. I definitely wasn’t right in my mind; it was as if the drugs had messed up my brain.
I knew I needed healing and remember crying out to God for help. At that point, I surrendered everything to Jesus and asked the Lord to heal me. I even started going to a small, Baptist church and stopped hanging around with my druggie friends. Sadly, even the new “Christian” friends I made at the church were still going out partying and drinking; it’s like I couldn’t escape the pull of the “party lifestyle.” Fairly quickly, I started dabbling in drinking and drugs again. It wasn’t long until I completely fell away from Jesus.
This fall back into my “old ways” was worse than ever before. I started doing harder drugs. One night, after hanging out with my druggie friends and talking about God, the Lord spoke to me, saying, “Don’t mock me, son, or I will humble you.” The next day, after a full day of partying, I came to the end of myself. On my way to a club, I was severely beaten, had my ribs kicked in, and was even left with boot marks on my head.
My sister came to my rescue and shared how she believed Youth-Reach could make a difference in my life. On Sept. 7, 1996, I went into the program.
Making a Change and a Difference
For the first time, I met people who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. And for the first time, I had strict boundaries, structure, defined consequences for my actions, and chores. I also had physical, emotional and spiritual help and focus.
It’s more than a program. It’s consuming and life-transforming. A foundation was laid for my future.
In May of 1997, I completed the program, having quickly moved from the entry-level tier to the top. I was so ambitious, wanted to change, and wanted to make a difference. I was also a mile wide and an inch deep, and experience had a lot to teach me after graduating.
Over the next several years, I got married and also spent three stints working for Youth-Reach. God was still in the process of conforming me into the image of Jesus through working there. Two of my daughters were born there, Abigail and Emma.
Although I enjoyed serving at Youth-Reach, it was a very difficult time in my life. A month before leaving Youth-Reach, we found out we were pregnant with twins.
God Never Abandoned Me
At 22 weeks pregnant, my wife started having contractions, and I watched my daughters die in my hands. This was a very dark and difficult time. I felt rejected by God because I didn’t make it in ministry and my daughters died.
My wife and I had a son in 2006, but after that, she and I came to a point of disconnect, and we eventually divorced in 2010. Our marriage had died. The devil had destroyed and dismantled my life. I stopped going to church and started drinking again.
But through all these things — my wanderings, failures and sin — God never abandoned me.
In 2008, He blessed me with a good job with an oil refinery. The foundation laid through Youth-Reach continued to ground me. I kept coming back to the Lord, and in April 2016, I remarried.
God is faithful — even though I was not faithful to raise my children in the church on a regular basis and I went through seasons where I was very angry at the church. Yet, He tells us in the Bible, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
YRH Is an Instrument of Transformation
God is sovereign. He has placed these boys at Youth-Reach, taking them away from their situations. The grace and richness of God are poured over them. Youth-Reach teaches them discipline, character, consequence and endurance.
Through Youth-Reach, I can show you that there is a mentorship that never ends. There’s a reason why the boys who graduate wear shirts that say, “son.” Curt is my friend, mentor and spiritual father. I can call him today and share all of my struggles and successes.
Through life, God is conforming us into the image of Jesus. YRH is an instrument the Lord is using to accomplish this transformation. Even though my life seemed like it was over, the grace of God carried me again and again. Jesus didn’t come to save the healthy but the sick. I know personally that “those who are forgiven much, love much.”
Hurting and broken young men like Matt can come to YRH and find restoration because of the generous faithfulness of our supporters. We never charge residents or their families for the healing, 24/7, Christ-centered, residential support we offer. Please consider partnering with us to help provide more troubled boys with this life-changing opportunity. Thank you for your prayerful consideration and for taking the time to read Matt’s story!