Finding a Home in the Kingdom of God
Finding a Home in the Kingdom of God
Storyteller: Sean Gerrity
Writer: Melissa Applebee
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Sean admits to having severe behavioral problems as a child. “The first time I played with matches was when I was 4 or 5 years old. I was drawn to the things I knew I shouldn’t do or wasn’t supposed to do,” he confesses. “I was on the path to being a sociopath.”
Sean and his family lived in Huntington Beach and attended Central Baptist Temple, the former CrossPoint, when he was about age 10. Even though he was baptized around age 12, Sean wasn’t being led by the Holy Spirit. He was kicked out of the house at age 15. His parents, using tough love, thought this was what he needed to get on the right path. What they thought would take six months, or even a year, turned into 20 years.
During those last few teenage years, Sean would be in and out of group homes, getting kicked out often for acting out. Just two months after graduating from high school he was homeless. He reflects, “I lacked any and all concept of adult responsibility and I had no life skills. I crashed and burned hard, and that first experience of homelessness was terrifying.”
Sean eventually got off the streets with the help of social service agencies. He began working a steady job with Target that allowed him to reach and achieve self-sufficiency for the first time.
“Along the way, I’d made some friends who turned me on to drugs,” he recalls. “I became an everyday pot-smoker and began selling pot to afford my habit. I also tried just about every other drug I could, although it was really just pot that I liked. I was playing with fire again. I knew I shouldn’t do drugs, so I was attracted to them all the more.”
In 2002, Sean’s roommate left abruptly. Unable to afford rent, his parents allowed him to move back in with them. His parents loved him unconditionally, doing everything they could to help him get back on his feet. They bailed him out of credit card debt and made his car payments. But, in 2005, Sean was kicked out his house yet again as a result of repeatedly not following the rules.
“I was bitter and cut off all contact with family for almost three years. I also became really depressed. I wasn't suicidal, I just didn't want to do life. Shortly thereafter I became homeless again. This time I bummed around, sleeping on couches and in friend’s garages.”
Over the next eight years, Sean found and lost several jobs. Fed up with his destructive pattern, his mother finally told him she never wanted to hear from him again. By late 2013, Sean found himself with nowhere to go but his drug dealer’s house in Riverside. “I slept on a couch at my drug dealer’s house for four months. He repeatedly told me that I was better than that and to get up off that couch and go do something with my life.”
On Super Bowl Sunday 2014, Sean returned to Orange County and was staying at the Salvation Army Hospitality House, a homeless shelter in Santa Ana. He overhead a couple guys talking about Jesus.
“I approached the guy leading the conversation to tell him that he was wrong. This guy, Jeff, listened to all my accusatory questions, skepticism and doubts about the Bible, Jesus, God, church – all of it. Then, he opened the Word of God and to the best of his ability, explained to me what the Bible actually meant. The Gospel found a home in my heart that day,” he shares.
“A couple nights later, I was laying in my bunk thinking, ‘This is my third time being homeless, where I have never wanted to be.’ I was 35 years old and knew that if I didn't change, I was going to be homeless again in the future. All my life, I only lived by my authority and my ways, and this is where I always ended up. ‘Maybe my way isn't so great after all,’ I thought. ‘I'm getting too old for this and I need a new way.’ So, I cried out to Jesus for help.”
A thought turned into a prayer: “Jesus, I need your help. I can’t do this on my own.”
He woke up the next day and knew he was different. He was still facing the same circumstances of trying to pick his life up out of the gutter and re-establish his self-sufficiency, but he was at peace.
“I had never before been at peace,” says Sean. “My life had always just been one of anger, frustration, futility and failure upon failure. All the anger, rage and cynicism that was all I had ever known was gone, replaced by this unfathomable peace. I was so blown away by how I was and more than a little scared and uncertain that it would last. It has and it will because Jesus saved me and made me new and that doesn't go away. Praise God!”
For the next eight months, Sean focused on getting back on his feet, but there were still setbacks. He was kicked out of the first shelter program because he didn’t find work in the first eight weeks, but he still attended their workshops, including one about why relationships matter.
“It took a few weeks to get up the courage to go, but I found my way back to CrossPoint in June of 2014. There were people there who had known me as a child and all of the shameful things I’d done 20 or more years before. I couldn’t help but worry about how I would be received and walked in with butterflies swarming in my stomach.”
He recalls, “From that first Sunday, I was welcomed and loved by CrossPoint, and I began to reconnect with my church family. Over the next month or so, I began to plug in and serve in the church. I still remember my first VBS and apparently, the light Jesus lit in my soul shined brightly enough for people to actually see! My mom was still a member and as I reconnected with her, she saw that I wasn't who I used to be. This is the same mom who had told me two years prior that she never wanted to hear from me again. God healed that broken relationship between us! I will never forget the day I first saw my mom cry tears of joy. My mom is home in Heaven now, and while there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her, I know I will see her again!
Today, Sean’s heart is on fire for Jesus. “I have been following Jesus for almost six years now, and life is worth living because He lives. I’m serving in as many ways as I can. I'm blessed to serve our homeless in Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa, as well as helping others who serve to better understand homelessness. I have been given a Bible study group and an usher team to lead, and I lead one Sunday per month at the Welcome Center. I also had the honor of serving in our CP Kids ministry as a counselor for summer camp at Forest Home in August 2017. I am blessed to call CrossPoint my family and love you all!”