This week's High's Hero recognizing people who are making an eternal difference is my lifelong friend Ryan Kennedy. Ryan and I grew up together playing baseball, backyard football, and sharing numerous memories in the Brentwood Hills youth group and at church camp.
Ryan is a modern day Saul-to-Paul story. His testimony is one of the most amazing, faith-building stories you will ever hear. If you're ever looking for an incredible, impactful speaker for your church - especially your youth group - you need to invite Ryan.
Here's a little bit of Ryan's testimony from the 180 Degrees Ministries website:
It seemed like it was going to be just another day. On August 19, 2001, I woke up thinking the same old miserable thoughts that I did every other miserable day. Iím 27 years old and my life is going nowhere. I am so messed up. God hates me, the world hates me; heck- I even hate me! I wish I could be somebody different. I wish I could go back in time and start my life all over again! Yeah right- thatís not gonna happen! Iím just stuck in this constant state of misery; itís like a bad dream. I canít seem to find a way to escape the painful reality of me!
What can I do to change this? I think for a second. But, nothing is coming to mind! All of a sudden, the pain sets in! I realize that I had these same thoughts yesterday. What, I canít change this? Thereís no hope for me? This canít be! What do I do? Iíve got to escape and the truth is too much to handle! What about suicide? NoÖ I canít do that! Iím probably going to hell and hell is much worse than this place! What about money? If I had a lot of money, I would be happy. Right? With a lot of money, I could do whatever I want to do! I wouldnít have to work this dead end job. I wouldnít have to scrape by to make ends meet. And, I wouldnít keep feeling like some good for nothing white trash junkie! I knowÖ I can rob a bank or a jewelry store! I know, stealing the money might be wrong, but Iím desperate! If I could get my hands on that money, all my problems would just disappear!
Wait a minuteÖ Iíve been in jail before. That place is much worse than this. If I get caught, Iíll be even more miserable! Dang, I am so stuck! I feel like a condemned man, cursed by God and forced to live a life of never ending torture! Itís like I had these same thoughts yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that. I am so broken and desperate! Will someone please help me? Will someone please save me from my miserable life?
As reality sets in, I walk into the living room, sprawl out on the couch, turn on the television, and begin flipping through channels- hoping to find something that can help distract me from the truth. All of a sudden, I come across this guy who was speaking to a large crowd of people. He was telling stories about all the partying he did as a kid and how badly he screwed his life up. This got my attention because his stories were very similar to mine! At the time, I didnít know that he was a Christian, and I didnít know he was speaking to a church. I got completely sucked into his stories about his life and the more he talked, the more I could relate! I could tell that he was referring to his stories in a past tense sort of way, and I was curious to find out how he changed his life! It was obvious that something had taken him from a place of pain and misery to a place of peace and comfort! Just when I felt like I was going to get the answer, a sign popped on the screen with a place and time that said, "If you want to hear the end of this story, you'll need to be at this church address at 9:15 am.Ē Well, that was in one hour and the church was only five minutes away. I had a hard decision to make because I really hated going to church!
For the first time in over two years, I made a decision to walk back into a church, just to catch the end of a story. Ultimately, I got the answer I came looking for and the end of that story became the beginning of mine. It became the story of my salvation! In that moment, God showed me that He was the only one that could help me! He said, ďSon, I know your life is messed up, and I know you wish you could start all over again, and you can.Ē All you have to do is repent, surrender, and trust in me!
Six years later, I look back and remember the place where I first met Jesus! I remember the first time I heard His voice and received His grace and forgiveness! I praise God alone for who I am today! Because of Him, the fighter has become the lover; the taker has become the giver; the destroyer has become the builder; and the sinister has become a minister! Hallelujah!
Ryan currently serves as program manager for 180 Degrees Ministries in Murfreesboro. 180 Degrees Ministries is a non-profit ministry committed to helping people through the transformation process of being liberated from the power of addiction and be filled with the power of God.
Ryan is happily married to a wonderful woman named Brandi and is a great dad to his son Sean. Ryan's brother Brandon is another warrior for the Lord and a great friend. Ryan's mom and dad, Jerry & Diane, are amazing people and are so proud of their sons as they should be.
Click here to find out more about how you can support Ryan and 180 Degrees Ministries.
Click here to email Ryan.
Ryan, I love you. Thank you for helping me be a better person.