My name is Jekri Sheppard let me tell you my story…
I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I was also another kid raised in the church. I knew who Jesus was and I understood the “key points”, but never really listened or cared. My parents forced me to attend service every Sunday. Man, I hated Sundays. In my late teen years my brothers and I began to rebel, not wanting to go anymore. I enlisted in the Marine Corps to get out of my home altogether and married at age 21. I have lived and experienced my fair share of the Marine culture. It is very entertaining, demanding and testing both to an individual and a marriage. But in my opinion, it is a life style where sin is welcomed and thrives almost unchallenged. The pleasures of sin…who can say no to it!?
During the early years of my marriage I felt as though it had its’ fair share of ups and downs. We always argued and never really communicated. To me love and hate competed regularly for the win. I had walked out of the house during two instances, hopped in my car, and drove around to cool off. I was sure we were both just waiting for the other to call it quits. I was always angry and needed work to escape.
Sometime in my career I was filled with the need to get back into the church. In fact I have always wanted to go to a church, but now it was not just a want. It wasn’t affected by my life, it was just a feeling I had.
Being a Marine, September 11, 2001 lit my fire to want to join the fight. My unit wasn’t ordered to deploy until the end of 2003. I saw this as my chance but my wife never engaged in the conversation. I had two options actually, deploy or receive orders to Pensacola. After two weeks, leaving work and driving home, I became so overwhelmed with anger and regret that I actually cried out to God and prayed that He would choose the path that will repair my marriage and also be in accordance with His will. I was shocked I had even done this! I don’t pray! Of course, I already knew the outcome... in a month I had orders to Pensacola, no surprise there really. Why would God send me to combat? D’oh, why did I pray! I was angry. I mean, come on, I am a Marine! You heard of them, God, right? First to Fight, Do or Die, URRAH…ring a bell?
Once while moving into my new house I stood on the lawn, I looked up at the sky and thought “well I’m here, let’s see what you’ve got”. About a year later I met my neighbor John Ramos (yes, a whole year). He had started a home church. Never heard of a home church, but I was interested. I thought, “I can go to church and not really leave my home”? Sold! So I jumped right in. Shortly after attending the church a few Sundays I began having a better understanding of Jesus and His word. It was like my mind was cleaned of all the clutter. One evening John and I had a conversation in his car. He said now is the time to change. I thought, “isn’t it enough to just be in the church for now”? But we prayed together and next thing I knew my life started changing. I was reintroduced to Jesus in a different way. I learned how to abide with Jesus, not just reading the Bible and going through the motions of it. Through Jesus I was shown what God really wants from His followers. I learned about both my role in Him and in the family. Jesus opened my eyes so wide to His kingdom that I developed a desire to be a part of it! I no longer had to be shackled to this world. He gave me strength to live in it. My coworkers saw such a change in my attitude and outward appearance they could not help but point it out. I treated my family more patiently and even enjoyed going to work. I learned how to abide and developed a heart for others, not just for friends and family. Gods’ will has been done and is still being done in my life. I never thought I could change or ever be a follower of Jesus. When it seems I am drifting He is there to help pull me back. He is there whenever I need relief from my emotions. Before, I didn’t think I could ever live with God. Now I can’t see myself without Him! Weird.