The death of three close family members shocked Jody Pierce into taking stock of his life.
Joseph Pierce, known to friends as Jody, was introduced to drugs as a young teen by his mother.
He moved out of his drug-addicted mother's home at 14 after stopping school in eighth grade. In search of a healthier environment, he moved in with his father but his father was also an addict and the home did not provide much structure either.
Jody says he was allowed to do whatever he wanted. And he did not want to go to church.
"I had a childlike faith when I was really young, but once I got old enough to make my own decisions I dropped it," Jody says.
"Eventually, I tried to convince others that people who believed in God were fools."
Things were somewhat better, for a while. Jody moving out of home served as a wake-up call for his mother, who enrolled in a recovery program and stopped using drugs. She and Jody reconciled.
But Jody's own addiction only worsened. He enrolled in a faith-based program but left after three months to work for a travelling carnival group.
"I just wasn't ready," he says.
Then Jody's mother, father, and grandmother all died within months of each other. So he ended up living in a house with no utilities and other addicts quickly moved into the house with him.
With the drug use and poor diet, he became malnourished and unhealthy, his life seemingly going nowhere.
Then, last October, something happened.
"One Sunday morning I had a spiritual awakening," Jody says.
"It was six in the morning. I woke up and realized for the first time in my life that I had lived a sinful life. I actually thought I was going to die."
"That morning, God told me, 'You need to flee from here. Leave everything behind. Don't take anything with you.' I knew I had to get out of there."
Jody went to a nearby church and slept outside on their property for a few days. That Sunday, he attended the morning service and stayed inside the church all day.
"I was too scared to leave the property. I just knew God was real, and I knew that spiritual forces of darkness were real. I just wanted to stay close to God."
Members of the church tried to find help for Jody, eventually bringing him to a mission nearby.
His first day, Jody recalls the preacher saying he should come to God "as he was".
"Every time someone preached, it was like they were talking right to me," he says.
"When I would hear the Word [Bible] preached, I just knew it was the truth. I couldn't have been in a better place.
"One day this guy talked about God's love, and I just started crying," he continues.
"I had been dealing with a lot of self-condemnation up to that point."
"God showed me that he had always been there. The timing and everything I experienced at the Mission was all arranged by Him. "
"Since that day of responding to God, I've never looked back. I read as much as I could. I took my daily reading of my Bible and prayer very seriously. I can see now how all that time spent in the Word [Bible] is really paying off now. God was constantly communicating with me through the various pastors."
Jody is now working full-time, living on his own, and is an active member of a local church. He has also rebuilt many bridges with his family and has a desire to help other people struggling with addiction.
"Getting into ministry is now an objective I can achieve. It might not be as a pastor, but I want to be a part of helping people heal from addiction," he says.
And, he says, he can tell God is always there with him. •