I cannot remember a time when I was ever able to enjoy the childlike nature of youth. 

Between the verbal and sexual abuse by my peers, neighbors and family members, I never knew what it meant to be a child. I began to believe that the abuse was love and that my abusers really cared for me. I took on the mindset that if you didn’t yell at me or touch me, you truly didn’t love me. I was hurting from the inside out and didn’t know what to do.

Youth reach houston don vito testimonial

At the age of ten, I started abusing drugs like marijuana and nicotine in an attempt to gain validation from family members and to hide the pain I was feeling. Doing drugs made me feel like I was leaving the planet and going to a state of pure happiness; happiness I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

My drug addiction, my history of abuse and the absence of my father all intensified and crippled me as my mother and I moved from Indiana to Florida. My mom was running from her past and decided to take me with her, leaving my two sisters who were 17 and 19 at the time. My sisters practically raised me while my mother was out doing her best to support three kids and a few foster kids all on her own. 

When I left them, my whole world crumbled and I began breaking into cars and stealing from people for drugs, sleeping with whoever just to feel loved. Eventually, my actions caught up to me and I was detained in juvenile jail pending a court appearance. Later, I watched in court as the Operations Coordinator, now my counselor Judah Williams, fought for me to come to Youth-Reach.

Once I got here, I wasted no time in finding trouble although I wasn’t caught. As the months went on and I progressed to Stage Two, I began to feel burdened that I was lying to people who loved me. After I confessed, they walked me out to the chop yard and told me to pick the log I would be chopping. Feeling the full weight of my sin, I picked out the biggest log in the yard. Right when I was about to begin, my counselor told me I wouldn’t be doing the chop. Instead,  the staff and their families were going to do it.

The consequence still had to be paid, but someone stepped in and took it on for me. This was such a beautiful picture of the Gospel that I just began to weep as staff hacked away at this huge chop. 

Now, a year later, I still reflect on that monumental moment and remember what Christ did for me. Now I’m a Level Two resident looking at Level Three in two months. I’m excelling in the program and in my walk with Christ. I am learning what a good father is and how I can be that to my child one day so that they won’t go through what I went through as a kid.

God is moving in my life and changing me on the inside. I’m forever in debt to Curt Williams for creating Youth-Reach and to the Lord for changing my life.