This is Kevyn.
I met Kevyn about a year ago right before going to our first BLØCK Friday hang. I was with Ace, one of my best friends, and we were meeting up with our connect group leader we had just met the week before while first attending Hillsong NYC. He had told us to meet at this coffee shop in midtown, and that we were also meeting with another guy around our age at this shop. I remember Ace and I seeing Kevyn walk in and not talking to him for about fifteen minutes. We had no idea who he was or what he looked like. Then Phil walked in and introduced us to him. Later that night, we went to City Kitchen on 8th Avenue. We met plenty of people and we actually gave each other nicknames. I called Kevyn "K-Luff" and he called me "G-Shock". I was wearing a G-Shock that night and he mentioned that he liked it.
Over the past year, our relationship as friends had always been quite interesting because I always wondered where anything landed between us. I didn't know much about him other than that he was extremely busy a lot of the time and could only make it to church every other week. I always wanted to see him get more involved with me and my friends any way possible. And in recent weeks, that's just what happened. He and I have gotten closer and we've both gotten to share quite a bit of our testimony with each other.
I was fortunate enough for him to want to share his story on how he's made NYC his home among many other Christians who came here dreaming big and doing what God has called them to do, even though what He's called them to isn't very clear.
I grew up in a single parent home as the youngest of three in a small trailer park in Arlington, TN. This is where my story begins. I don't remember too much about the early years of my life. My father left when I was 2, so that pretty much left me and my older siblings, Lindsey and Bryan to well… fend for ourselves. My mother had Fibromyalgia. And to make a very complicated disease less complicated, she was very sick. Living in that trailer made us closer as a family and not just because we all slept in the same room (that’s right I'm talking double bunk beds!), but because we had to rely on each other so much and as a kid, it forced me to grow up a little faster than normal.
Having an absentee father presented a lot of challenges for me growing up, aside from the usual questions. Like, why didn't he love me? And was I the reason he left? There I was, a young boy trying to figure out what it meant to be a man without the one person that I believed was supposed to teach me. I would hear in church that God is our Heavenly father, but I didn't even know what a father was, how was I supposed to believe in this “heavenly father” when my earthly father clearly wanted nothing to do with me. It led to a lot of pent up resentment towards not only my father, but God.
We lived in that trailer park until I was about 8 years old and then we moved into a real house! Just kidding, trailers are real houses too, but I digress. Like many, I grew up going to church, but for me church was a little different because it was kind of like school, and not because I was forced to go or because I hated it, but because I was homeschooled my entire childhood. Pre-K, kindergarten, middle school, high school, all of it. Not once did I attend a public/private school. So church is where I got all of my social interaction. All of my friends were from church. I played on the church sports teams, I was really involved with the youth group.You name it I did it when it came to church. All this led to a decent amount of insecurities as teenager. My friends would introduce me to people as their homeschooled friend. People would tell me, “...well, you didn't go to school so you don't understand.” I believed them. I thought because I was homeschooled that I was somehow less than everyone else, that I was less intelligent. Not only did I really struggle in school, I also had a strong reading disability to the point where doctors told me that I would never learn to read or write. So I honestly believed the things people would say. I thought that maybe had I gone to school, I would be smarter than I was. I felt like there was this whole other part of life that I had totally missed out on and it made me angry. So what does one do when they are an angry teenager? They get arrested.
Oh wait, that’s not what everyone does–oops. Well, it’s what I did. Yep. Vandalism and breaking-and-entering was how I chose to express my anger. To be honest, it’s one of the dumbest/smartest things I have ever done. It forced me to realize that there was a lot of undealt with hurt in my heart that I had suppressed and that I needed to deal with it sooner rather than later. I did not come to this realization on my own, however. I had a little help (thanks mom). She suggested that I go to this program that she happened to be running (coincidence? I think not) called “LHGH,” Life Hurts God Heals. It had a very simple premise. I mean the name of the class says it all–Life hurts, but God heals. The class was not about fixing me or trying to make me feel bad for the poor choices I had made, it was simply a safe place for me to talk about what was really going on in not only my life but my heart, and what God’s word has to say about it. I feel so often when we talk about life, we only scratch the surface of what’s really going on, we hardly talk about the real issues in our hearts. And for me, how could I accept God’s grace and forgiveness in areas of my life if I didn’t know what those areas were? It wasn't until I was able to say out loud what I was feeling, really truly feeling, that I was able to understand what I needed God to heal in my life. And so began my continuing journey to healing. It’s not an overnight thing.
Thankfully I had amazing people in my life. Men that helped show me what it meant to be a Godly man, and a mother that – holy crap – is hands down the greatest human being alive. Once I was old enough to really understand forgiveness, the process of forgiving my dad became really easy. It wasn't something that I struggled with. I knew we all make bad decisions and we have to live with the consequences. Unfortunately my father never tried to fix the decision he made. I can’t blame him. I knew very early on that I could either use the absence of my dad as a crutch to justify poor decisions for the rest of my life or I could use it as the foundation for the man I was never going to be. One day I would be the father and husband he never was, I would strive to be a man that never used the past as an excuse, I would be better than he was. But not in a negative way, he is not an awful person. He is simply a man who made a mistake. Forgiveness always starts out as an inward decision. However, depending on the circumstances, I don't think it can be complete until you outwardly express that forgiveness. For me, that meant getting in touch with a man I had not seen or spoken to in 17 years. So that’s what I did. I reached out to some people and got a hold of his phone number. I called him, we had a very brief conversation, and arranged to have lunch. We had lunch at Huey’s a popular burger place in Memphis. We talked for quite a while—probably 2 or 3 hours. It was like having lunch with a complete stranger that just happened to be my dad. I was able to tell him that I had forgiven him and I still loved him. As far as I'm concerned, it went really well. Now our relationship wasn't fixed after that. In fact nothing changed. I never heard from or saw him again. But that was all outwardly stuff, I got a chance that many people don’t, I was able to look him in the eyes and say what I needed to say so regardless of anything else, my heart was at peace, and I was able to fully move on knowing that I had done my part.
For a while life was good, God miraculously healed my mom’s fibromyalgia, I had a good job, I took a trip to NY to help my sister move into her new apartment and I absolutely fell in love with the city. I visited her every chance I got over the next few years. When I turned 20, I was asked to be a deacon at my church. Things were good. Then as life tends to do, it threw me a curveball. I had this good job for about a year and a half and then one day I went in and was told that in two days we would be closing. But there was another job working in a warehouse should I want it. So of course I took the job. It even payed more money. So I thought all was still good, until I showed up to the warehouse the next day ––aaaaaand it was the worst job ever! I hated it, I worked there for three days until I quit. So there I was a 20 year old with no job, I wasn't going to school, in fact I hadn't even finished high school. Needless to say, I felt incredibly hopeless. This hopelessness turned into depression, there were a few weeks where I hardly got out of bed. I couldn't see the point to it. I knew my life was going nowhere. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, nor did I think there was anything I could do. I felt worthless. This went on for about 3 months and in that time I talked to my sister who was living in Brooklyn, and asked her to keep an eye out for any jobs. I applied for whatever job I could find, went to a few interviews but nothing panned out. So at this point all I wanted to do was get out of Memphis. I didn't know where I wanted to go or for how long, all I knew was that I felt God telling me to go. I had a really good friend whose mom ran a camp in Indiana, and I reached out to her about working over the summer. She had a few spots open, so that was my plan. I was going to Indiana for the summer. But it turned out God had different plans.
I was sitting having breakfast with my brother, who is a cop, at this donut shop (I know there are so many jokes in there about cops and donuts but I'm going to leave that one alone) when I got a call from my sister asking if I would be interested in being a live-in manny for a 3 and a half year old little boy in NYC. She told me it wasn't a for sure thing, but if I was interested she would pass my information along to the family. By the end of our conversation, I told her yes.
A few weeks went by and I didn't hear anything so I just assumed that it wasn't going to happen. Then one Friday, I was on my way to my best friends house when I got a call from my sister saying that the mother of the little boy wanted to talk to me. She called and we talk for a bit. The reception was so bad in the area where I was that I had no idea what she was saying. All I know was that she asked when I could come to NYC and meet her. I told her whatever was best for her and we set to meet that following Tuesday. So when I got to my friends house I booked a one way ticket to New York for the next day, and I left. I stayed with my sister for that next week as I met with the family and by the end of that week they offered me the job!
And so my adventure in NYC started. I’ve been here for almost two years and I’m deeply in love with this city. A lot has happened in two years. I have found a church home at Hillsong NYC, I've got an absolutely incredible group of friends, I'm still living with this beautiful family and their now 5 year old, not so little boy. I'm no longer a full time manny. I now have 3 crazy different jobs. I’ve found a new passion for photography, and God has taught me so much and continues to teach me. About a month ago my dad passed away. It broke my heart regardless of our relationship. He was my father, and whether it be good or bad, he taught me so much about being a man. This is part of my story that God is still writing. I don't know how he is going to use it, but I know when he does it will be for his glory. Here’s the thing, we don't need to have our lives together or have all the answers. The beautiful thing about God is that He doesn't need perfect people, just people willing to be used by a perfect God.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
– Ephesians 3:20