Joseph’s Testimony: Foster Child Journey

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18

On December 5th, 1991 a child was born that brought joy to many and pain to others. When I was born I was born addicted to Heroin, Cocaine and other intoxicants. My biological father, was struggling with alcohol while my mother, was addicted to Heroin. At the time of my birth my older brother, was living in a foster family. In the state of Illinois, if a newborn’s sibling is living in a foster family, the newborn is immediately placed into a foster family as well. The state however did not place me with the family that was fostering my brother, but separated us into different families, and so begins my story.

The married couple that took me home, was a couple that were unable to have a child of their own. On June 4th 1994, my mother passed away from a heroin overdose. I do not have any memories of her appearance or voice or her existence on this earth except through videos and photographs but in my heart she lives. Childhood for me wasn’t easy, there was a constant battle between my biological family and the foster family. Through this battle I was often dragged into the middle. My biological family was granted visitation by the courts, on these visits my biological family would feed negative comments to me about my foster family. When I would return, I would have mixed emotions and have the foster family talk negatively about my biological family. This went on for years.

As one could imagine, having two families put a child into the middle of their simple dislike of each other isn’t easy on a child. I had outbursts, fits, refused to go home or to visits, and to the foster family who never had raised a child thought such behavior was not normal, not looking into what was the cause of it. They took me to doctors and had me placed on medication to control my behavior instead of controlling what they were doing. Outside of making that irrational mistake that has impacted much of my childhood the foster family did the best they could raising me, and still continue to be a huge part of my life.

Growing up my foster father had taught me how to play baseball, hockey, football, golf, tennis and a variety of sports which have in turn taught me a lot of things that I use to this day such as teamwork, leadership, being a positive role model, and so much more. As I turned my life more into sports and into school, the medication that I was placed on started having more and more side effects. I gained weight, had tremors, drooled, and was placed into mental hospitals starting at age 8. To this it phases me how a medical professional can drug a child and keep him locked up in a mental hospital, simply because of how he was nurtured, not because of chemical imbalance in the brain.

Throughout being in and out of numerous hospitals and used as a test dummy for multiple medications, I lost close friends, was bullied in school, my grades dropped, and out of which I started to hate life. I grew resentment with the foster mother because the foster father was often on business trips and she was often the one taking me to the hospitals and taking me to the Doctors. I blamed her and grew a hate, maybe some of that hate was also because I lost my biological mother at an age I where I couldn’t retain a memory, that question of why I grew a dislike for her still wanders my head at times but through finding God, I have been able to forgive her and have started to try to repair the relationship between us.

After all of the hospitals, medications, loss of friends, and being bullied and made fun of I decided to make a move at age 14, to live with my biological father. As any child would have thought that after being away for so long from his father that he would be greeted with unconditional love and be overwhelmed with happiness and affection, but that was not the case. I am by no means saying my father neglected me or did not love me but the expectation that I had for him was not fulfilled. My father didn’t change the way he lived his life nor did my brother. Maybe I was too selfish thinking they would want to spend more time with me, I don’t know. After a month of living with my father, there was one Friday night where he didn’t return home. That same night my brother didn’t come home. I didn’t have any idea what was going on and after a while I started to worry. I called their phones repeatedly, no answer. Come Saturday they still were not home. I then started to call hospitals, police stations, and I couldn’t find them. Later that night my brother came home. Sunday night my father finally came home after spending the weekend with his new girlfriend, and when I expressed myself, it didn’t seem like he cared at all that I was worried. My father now lives with his girlfriend. A little later on I decided to move back in with the foster family. The day I went back they placed me into another hospital.

I stayed with the foster family for another year than the depression grew so bad that I attempted to take my life and started to cut myself. I than decided to make another life change and decided to live with my biological mothers side of the family, in hopes it would be better. When I was 15 my biological Grandmother took guardianship over me. My Grandmother was one of those tough love Grandmothers, she didn’t take anything. My Grandmother loves to collect items, and therefore my bedroom consisted of Barbie’s and Beanie Babies which I wasn’t allowed to take out. Closet was all her clothes, and I was a 16 year old guy living in a little girl’s room for the most part. I wasn’t allowed to get my license, and my Grandmother never wanted me in the house and I only having one job wasn’t enough, so I had to get another. While living with her was the first time I was introduced to a Christian Church, the foster parents are Catholic. In the mist of all of this I made the Varsity baseball team. After the season was over and prom came around, my Grandmother refused to let me go to prom. Through all of that I decided to run away.

October 15th, 2009 I was a passenger in a car accident. As a result of the accident I was airlifted from the scene, was in critical condition with death being a matter of minutes away. My brain started bleeding and swelling and I was placed on life support. A craniotomy (part of the skull is removed) was preformed to reduce the swelling and bleeding. I woke up five days later not knowing what had happened. A day or two later a detective came into my room. I was informed that the driver of the vehicle, a guy who I thought to be a friend, was actually wanted by the police for raping, beating, and using a stun gun on a young boy and leaving him duct taped and left for dead in a hotel room. I was in the car with this guy, and I was 17. Too this day I am thankful that he didn’t do that to me even when I was alone with him. As a result of the accident I was left with sixty-four staples in my head, screws in my head, and the left side of my face paralyzed. I was flown back to my grandmother being a run-away and all. When I returned my high school gave me the option to stay back another year to make up for the missed days or get a General Education Diploma. I wanted to stay another year, however my grandmother had the authority over me and wouldn’t allow me to stay in high school and made me get the GED.

After all of that I was arrested for disorderly conduct against my grandmother for simply yelling, note, I didn’t swear, or have any physical contact with her. So there I am sitting in jail at 17 years old with a week before my 18th birthday. I had court and my grandmother told the judge she wanted me to stay in jail on my 18th birthday, so that is what happened. When I got out I was thrown out of the house and was homeless. On March 30th, 2010 I received a settlement of $56,000 from the car accident. At 18 years old I finally got my license, was able to find an apartment, and bought myself a car and furniture for the home. Having a little over $20,000 left over I wanted to be that cool guy that had a lot of cash. The same day I withdrew $17,000, my home was broken into and it was all gone. The investigation is still open.

After my home was broken into the money that I had left was becoming less and less and after a while I was forced to sell my car to receive cash back so I could keep my bills paid. After a while I ended up moving to save money. I went on a vacation for a weekend shortly after and my roommate at the time had a friend over while I was gone. During that time my roommate gave his friend permission to drive my vehicle and he winded up totaling it. I had nothing left at that time and decided to pack up and move down south to Naples, Florida, where my foster parents were currently living.

When I got into Florida I was able to use my foster parents extra car. Soon after my arrival I found a job working at an animal hospital. After a month or so I moved out of my foster parents and moved into a home with a roommate. A few months later I ended up meeting a girl and we started a relationship together. A month later I lost my job and got a different job at another animal hospital. A month after that I was given the opportunity to work for a real estate brokerage, as a property manager. I left the job and the animal hospital and took the job for the brokerage. I moved out of my roommate’s home and got a place of my own with my girlfriend at the time. It was at this time I stumbled across one of the best churches I have been a part of, Life Christian Church in Naples. It was at Life where my faith really started to grow, but I was still caught up in a rough place with Marijuana, my relationship started to head south, and at that time I couldn’t fully give my life to the Lord. At this time my girlfriend and I were currently engaged and trying to start a family when one day she didn’t come home and she winded up sleeping with a guy she worked with. I was a mess and my life went south faster than ever. I turned to marijuana and alcohol to bury the pain. Within 5 days, a Mustang I recently purchased was totaled, the brokerage went bankrupt and closed, the life I had pictured was gone, and then I received a reckless driving and lost my license. Again I was left with nothing.

Following the reckless driving, I boarded a plane and flew back to my hometown in Bartlett, Illinois. I moved into a friend’s home and while I was there I was so unmotivated to do much of anything that 80% of my time was spent either laying down or drinking. I didn’t look for a job for 6 months. Within that time I was in another relationship with a girl whom helped me out a lot and was a true blessing at the time. Tension grew with my friend and I ended up finding a job in Chicago working for Aflac. Things were good for a while but with Aflac being a 100% commission job an income was very limited. I was still struggling with alcohol and I decided to move to live with my biological aunt, who recently became married, in an attempt to seek help.

While living with my aunt I was able to finish my driving classes, I was able to start accomplishing things, and started college for Fire Science. Although my relationship ended I was still getting on a better road than the rocky one I was on before. Being new to the area and not having a license or a car I was limited on where I could apply for work. I ended up working for a small family restaurant within walking distance and soon after that I received a job working at Lonestar Steakhouse, where I currently work. After a few months of living with my aunt, my aunt started to have marital problems which at times I was thrown into the middle of. While I was working at Lonestar I came across a few individuals who were my age whom I found out were also Christians. I started going to a local Christian Church called The Chapel. It was there that I truly started to give my life to the Lord.

Now, some people think that giving your life to the Lord means that your life will become magically better, one’s problems will go away, but that is not the case. After I gave my life to the Lord my life was still faced with more troubles. My aunt’s husband ended up getting physical with my aunt and police were involved however no one was arrested. The police decided to leave it up to the States Attorney. The next morning her husband went to the courthouse where he took out orders of protection against both my aunt and myself. Even when we were both the victims the judge granted his order of protection. I was forced out of the house and was on the streets again.

Being on the streets again, I didn’t turn to alcohol or depression, I turned to the Lord and boy did the Lord help me. A little background is my job a few months ago started a new policy where credit card tips aren’t given out at the end of the shift but on the following week’s paycheck so the only money I walk away with at the end of the day is the actual cash tips. In our modern day society most people will pay on their credit cards. Each day I went into work praying to help me get through the day. I was living in a hotel which was costing me $45.00 a night. For two weeks straight each day I went into work I walked out with just enough cash to cover the room for that night. That is not a common occurrence and I thank God for that. Normally most servers will write down “Thank you” on the bottom of the bill but for me I write “God Bless”. I only have the Lord to thank for getting me through this current struggle that I am facing with each day.

While living at the hotel, a woman came into my life who gave me a promise of helping me by allowing me to stay in her spare room. When I left the hotel the spare room was being occupied by her ex boyfriend who is also the father of her daughter. I slept on the couch. Even though it was a couch I was grateful for it and I asked her what I could do in return. Her answer to me was that I could attend a seminar she goes to called Life Leadership. I had to pay $120 dollars to go for the weekend and had to take off of work which cost me about $300 dollars. While I was there I started to see her true colors come out. The following week I started to notice how she was living her life, which was by using people for her benefit and taking money from people. Sunday comes around and she comes into my work with a note and a receipt to a hotel. This woman took most, not all of my belongings, keeping some, to a hotel room, paid for one night (over double what I was paying for before) and left in her car. And so my testimony begins.

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”

Ephesians 5:8

My testimony isn’t a short story or a story based off of one event, however it is how after giving my life to the lord how my eyes have opened up and that I am no longer living within darkness. God has created us within our mother’s womb, hand formed us, and has created us in his image. That is something that after giving my life to the Lord that I am now able to acknowledge from my past and am able to recognize that in the present. Before I was saved I blamed God for the bad occurrences that have happened in my life, I kept asking why did you put me into this horrible situation full of hurt and loneliness… I was unable to see God’s plan that he has had in place for me ever since I was being created in my mother’s womb.

As you have read in my autobiography my life hasn’t been picture perfect, I was faced with a lot of hardships and struggles, and pain. I do not want you to think that my life was filled only with hurt and rough times because that would not be accurate. I have great memories of my childhood, mostly associated with sports but also with the friends that I have had and things I have witnessed. Understanding the hardships I have faced however brings a greater impact onto my testimony, how far I have come, and how God has worked throughout my life.

Since I have been saved I look back and I am able to understand that God was not hurting my life but putting me through things because he gave me the strength to get through it. I have gone through rough times but I can now look at the negative and see it as positive. I’m sure some people are asking; How is having your mother pass at such a young age a good thing? How is the family tension a positive thing? How is being bullied positive? How is being a victim of a car accident a good thing?

With my mother passing away at such a young age and having the cause be from a Heroin overdose, I carry the wisdom to know better and to never take a drug that could kill me. If my mother didn’t pass away who knows maybe I would have ended up doing heroin and becoming addicted. Maybe I would have tried it and it would have taken my life. My mother although I have no memories nor can remember her voice has taught me to not make the same choice that she did. I have had a past involving drugs and I am so grateful that my mother has left a positive impact on my life, but before I became saved I was never able to see what happened in that kind of light. There were many times where I grew hate in my heart and blamed family for her passing, or I would have so much rage build up in me that I wanted to kill the person who sold my mother the heroin that took her life, but I am now able to forgive whomever that may have been. Maybe that person is no longer living or has had a world of hurt brought onto him or maybe that person found God and became saved. I don’t know who that person was or what has happened in his/her life but I am now able to be a peace and able to forgive.

Without a doubt growing up and having to go through the tension and heartache the foster family and biological family has been hard. It has given me so much that I am now able to see for myself living out God’s plan for me. If I didn’t go through all of that pain I would not have the current mentality that I do have. To me the biggest thing in life I can do is become an amazing father, and amazing husband, raise a wonderful family, and to do good onto others. I do not want my child to have to go through what I went through as a kid. Going through what I have has given me the wisdom to not allow that to happen. Having a family strong in faith, loving God, and focused on building a successful future for my children is something that might not have happened if I didn’t go through what I did as a child.

Growing up I have been placed into countless situations that have winded up teaching me a valuable lesson in life that if one single thing didn’t happen that has happened I may have never been placed into that situation that thought me a valuable life lesson. I often will tell people when they ask me what can I do, I answer with there is not a single thing that I can not do. God has blessed me with an amazing intelligence to be able to absorb things that I see and be able to learn from them. From the things that I learn I am able to do. It is with that knowledge that I can do anything I set myself out to do while Christ gives me the strength.

There have been countless times God has shown up into my life and made his presence clear. The best example I can provide you with is my car accident. Having to be airlifted, having a part of my skull taken out, having sixty-four staples in my head leaving the left side of my face paralyzed and still being alive is a miracle alone. What is even greater than that is the fact that paralyzation healed, and I do not have a single effect from that accident. I have personally seen individuals who have been in that same situation that are left in a wheelchair for the rest of their life, or are unable to do daily functions, or are left in vegetative state or even death. I am so blessed and so thankful that God saw what could have happened to me and had intervened and hand placed individuals to be exactly where they were, that were able to assist me in getting to a hospital as quick as I did. If I was a few minutes later the blood that was swelling in my brain could have caused that permanent damage or death. Another personal witness that God did for me with that accident was that after the accident I didn’t have anyone there at the hospital with me. Nobody came to see me, no one was there to take me home. My grandmother had bought me a plane ticket to get back home and I was forced to go through the airport without any pain medication. Throughout the eight hour trip, I did not have a single ounce of pain. If that car accident didn’t happen I know for a fact I would not be where I am at in my life right now. God saw that I wasn’t doing the right thing and he stopped that car dead in the tracks and showed up into my life and left that huge impact which was the first part of many things that has led me to surrendering myself and giving my life to Him. It has taken me years to fully understand what the Lord did and I carried around that same question of why did that happen to me, until I was able to see what God has been doing in my life.

The night the girl left my belongings in the hotel room I called my old youth pastor, whom I met in Wisconsin while living with my Grandmother. I called him asking for help, but aware of his situation and being a new father and not living in a large home I knew that I couldn’t stay with him. I asked him if he knew people who would be able to help me and he informed me that he was going to be leaving at 5pm the next day for 10 days going to a Chrisitan Music Festival called Audiofeed located in Champagne-Urbana. I asked him what time he wanted me to be at the train station. Upon arrival within a few hours Shaun and I along with a few friends went to a church up in Rochelle, IL where I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and Fire. During the baptism I was becoming drenched with sweat and had an overwhelming sense of peace come over me, the Holy Spirit.

When we arrived at Audiofeed the first night we were hit with one of the worst storms of the year. We were all praying and holding the 40’x70′ tent together and after the storm passed we were left with large puddles where we were all on our hands and knees building trenches to drain the water from the tent. Throughout the festival I have encountered numerous miracles and numerous blessings. During the Storm we prayed that no one would be taken and that the storm would pass, after checking news articles and social media I failed to find a story of anyone being hurt or killed. There was a young man who has been homeless for six years recently had a incident at the festival through dancing where he chipped his tooth and misaligned his jaw and was having financial problems, I prayed over him and the next day he comes up to me telling me that a stranger went and paid off all of his fines, he found a doctor on the first phone call and the Dr. is going to fix his tooth for free and that he has also found a place to stay. That day I went and got baptized by water.

After the festival ended I found myself again back on the streets. I was able to scrape by enough money to get a motel room for the week so I can get community service that has been needed to get done however it is over five miles away. I have been jogging those five miles and working in the sun thanking God every moment for giving me the strength to do so.

3 Comments

  1. Delta 7/15/2014
  2. Annie Luke 7/23/2014
  3. cozofgod30 7/2/2015

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