By STEVIE FRANKS
How I found Christ in a coloring book
I was born in Grenada, Mississippi, and grew up in the small town of Charleston, Mississippi, for the first seven years of my life. My parents divorced when I was only 2 years old and my father took me with him. He lived a rough life and worked as a bouncer, truck driver, and even as a drug dealer at times. I was exposed to many horrible things that children should never be subjected to. However, from a very young age, the Lord showed His grace in my life by giving me His wisdom to know that I did not want to live my life the way that my father and his friends were living theirs.
There were nights that we were homeless, nights that I watched my father get into bar fights and have guns drawn on him, nights when we slept in random people’s homes. Even still, God’s grace was bigger than all of it and continuously kept us safe.
When I was in second grade, my father went to jail, and I went to live with my aunt and uncle for a brief period of time in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was while living with them that I attended church for the first time and started hearing stories about God. I was, it seemed like, the only person in the church under the age of 40, so during Sunday school I would go back into the kitchen and color in a Bible coloring book. It was through coloring images from David and Goliath or Daniel in the lion’s den that I began to learn about the Bible and who God was. I started to ask questions and realized I was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness and grace. I then surrendered my life to follow Jesus and was baptized.
My father was released from jail and I went back to live with him, but still attended church. I grew up and was involved in the youth group at Trinity Baptist Church in Philadelphia. At the age of 16, while I was attending a FUGE camp at Mississippi College, God called me to surrender my life to vocational ministry, and it absolutely terrified me. I wanted to follow my own path and play college football, get a nice job and have all the nice things that I did not have growing up. God continued to pursue my fearful heart, and eventually the next summer, I surrendered to follow Him wherever He wanted me.
I felt called to attend Mississippi College and pursue a degree in biblical studies. My freshman year, the Lord revealed to me how little I truly knew about Him, and I realized I had never been discipled as a teenager. I loved Jesus and wanted to follow Him, but no one ever really sat down with me and poured into me until college. Through the MC Baptist Student Union and male and female leaders in my life, God began to mold me into who He was calling me to be. Through my college years, God was faithful in showing me who He was, even when I lost sight and either tried to conform to the ways of the world or thought way too highly of myself.
Today, God continues to prove His Word true, and through my life circumstances, struggles and shortcomings, He shows me that all things can work together for good because He is good (Romans 8:28). As I look back at my childhood and sometimes feel ashamed or even feel envious of how others were raised, the Lord reminds me that He is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). We all have a story full of mistakes, hardships and pain, and it is only our good and gracious God that can take those and use those for good. We serve a good God.
Stevie Franks is the student pastor at Grace City Church in Jackson. He is married to Haley, a dental hygienist for Dr. Susan Fortenberry at Pediatric Dentistry, and they recently had their first child, Judah, in December.