Young and Craving for Freedom»I, Jayson T. Belleza, was a captive to drugs for more than 10 years. I had my first taste of marijuana when I was 11 years old. I gave in because of peer pressure. At first, I did not like it because it made me dizzy, but I eventually liked it because it made me numb and gave me temporary satisfaction. In high school, I smoked regularly, sniffed glue, was introduced to shabu, and then got addicted. I finished high school and enrolled at a college, but my addiction grew worse. I dropped out of college. This made me happy because I wanted to enjoy FREEDOM. I wanted to be free to do everything I wanted!
Enslaved and LostI grew up in in a family of five in Lilo-an, Cebu, as the eldest of two brothers. My mother was a school teacher and my father did not have a regular job. My father was a drug addict. I saw in him the bad effects of drugs like being irritable, violent, irresponsible, selfish; plus, he was stealing and manipulating the people around him.
I ended up just like him. »Naging totoo nga ang kasabihan« »Like father like son.«
I sold drugs with my father and my brother. Both of them were in and out of prison except me. At home, there were always fights and shouting, causing shame to our family. Despite having all the reasons to leave us, my mother never left. She was such a blessing!
My life revolved around drug addiction and its lifestyle. Every day, I was looking forward to my next hit, forgetting the dreams I once had in my life. When I was a child, I dreamt to become a Catholic priest. I also wanted to become a teacher, but this evolved to wanting to become a seaman so I could earn money, buy more drugs, and have women. »Ang dami kong pangarap!« »I had a lot of dreams!«
Addiction had a full grip on me, so much so that I ended up lying and hurting my friends and my family. I stole and cheated from many people. I engaged in immoral sexual relationships with homosexuals, prostitutes, and even a married woman. I was depressed. I had low self-esteem, and no one trusted me anymore. I was also hooked on gambling (Kara Krus), and it made my life worse.
I still believed in God. I sometimes prayed when I was drunk and high on drugs. I was asking God to give me a chance. I was praying to have my life back, but I felt like it was all in vain. Thoughts of committing suicide were normal. One incident happened when I was alone in my room. I was high, drunk, hopeless, and lonely. I had a gun under my pillow and was thinking of killing myself to end the emptiness I felt. It just so happened that I had some reservations. Was dying painful? I thought to myself. Would my death create a scandal for my family? My physical and mental states were deteriorating. I was so skinny. I started hearing voices. But praise God, I did not snap!
Waking UpThe turning point in my life came when my father was shot and murdered on October 20, 2012, at nine in the evening. As my father was buying cigarettes and smoking beside a basketball court, an unknown gunman fired at him using a .45 caliber pistol. When I heard the gunshot, I went out of our house and saw our neighbor carrying my father.
My father was shot in the stomach. I thought he would live because in the movies, people shot in the stomach often survived. As we were carrying him, my father asked us to stop. He looked at the sky and said, »Lord, forgive me for my sins.«
Looking back at that moment, I believe my father made his peace with God.
The reason behind the murder was drug-related as we were involved in selling drugs. I was extremely scared and afraid, confused, and angry at the same time. I was with my father in the hospital during his last moments. I turned to God and prayed, asking Him to give my father another chance to live. But I also said to God that if my father wasn’t going to make it, I’d rather He take him away peacefully.
While my father lay dying, I promised him that I would change and be a good example to my siblings. I didn’t know why I said that. It was God’s grace that I had the chance to say sorry to my father for all my failures. It was my father’s dream that I would NOT end up like him. It was also the first and only time that I said, “I love you” to him. I wish I had told him that more often.
The Road to RecoveryAfter my father’s death, my family agreed to send me to a rehabilitation center. I said yes. I thought I was going to Cebu for this, but I ended up in Antipolo. My family booked round trip tickets for themselves, not for me. I felt they really wanted to get rid of me! But I understood since I had caused them so much trouble and pain.
I was admitted to the Set Free Center of Help International Philippines, a Christ-centered institution that helped people with addiction problems. It was November 9, 2012, when I arrived. The house leader met me and took my luggage. He welcomed me and gave me a tight embrace, uttering the words I would never forget: »Welcome Home.« It was like the voice of God the Father Himself telling me, »Welcome Home.« At that moment, I felt peace that I had never felt before. It was a homecoming. I had been running away from God for a long time, but it was now time to give CHANGE a CHANCE.
Giving CHANGE a CHANCEAt the Set Free Center, I met Christians who told me that Jesus loved me and that it wasn’t an accident that I was there. I had an idea about rehab centers because of my father’s stories, but this place was different. Something was out of the ordinary! Later on, I discovered that these people at the center loved Jesus so much that they laid down the agenda of their lives for His purposes. I learned to trust them because I felt their authenticity in helping me. They always told me that Jesus loved me, and that God had plans for my life. They listened and treated me as part of their family, not as a sick person.
After 3 days of setting foot in the center, I surrendered my life to Jesus.
The Set Free family also celebrated my personhood. In my junkie life, I did not celebrate my birthday, although my parents and siblings would prepare something special because I shared the same birthday as my Lola (grandmother). At the Set Free Center, I was given sweets, birthday cards, and a simple celebration. This touched my heart so deeply.
My Set Free family
My initial plan had been to stay for 3 months in the rehab, gain weight, go back to Cebu, and then sell drugs again. I had wanted to take revenge on those who killed my father. But the 3 month plan was ruined as Jesus encountered me in a deep way that it changed my perspective. I had a change of heart and mind. I experienced repentance.
My cravings for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes were gone in my first month at the rehab center. The environment played a big role in that. At Set Free, we talked about Jesus every day and we had worship. The atmosphere was so different!
It’s really true: when Jesus is in the room, everything changes! When I arrived at the center, the folks there gave me a pen, a notebook, and a Bible.
In the beginning, I was just reading the Bible out of boredom (and also to make me sleepy!). But eventually, it created a hunger inside me to know Jesus. The Word became alive and active, leading me to confess my sins and repent.
Experiencing the Father’s LoveI experienced repentance because of God’s goodness manifesting through the people around me. His goodness led me to repentance. In many of our morning devotions, the Holy Spirit would convict me of my sins, and it always brought me to tears.
But there was one moment I would never forget: In my sixth month at the rehab center, our morning devotion was about the »Father Heart of God.« This was a sensitive topic for me, and it always made me cry because I lost my father in a tragic way.
During the worship and ministry time, I was sobbing. I sensed that God wanted to move inside me and do »heart surgery.« He wanted to give me a new heart— a heart of flesh. Abba Father wanted to release me from my unforgiveness and hatred. He wanted to give me my true identity in Him as His child. As I felt His love pour over me, I started screaming and crying intensely as the staff held me. They prayed over me, and after that, I felt so much peace and lightness in my body. It was the time I made a firm decision that I would go »ALL IN« for Jesus! As I was delivered from the demons inside me, I was filled with Jesus’ Presence.
I was a new creation. I was born again!
Little did I know that God was only beginning to change my life for the better. He was about to surprise me with His plans for my life.
My life for the better. Again, with my Set Free Family
Dreaming for my FamilyI started to dream of a life free from strife, violence, and hopelessness. I was able to release forgiveness to those who killed my father, and I started to dream good things for my family back in Cebu. I wanted them to know and receive Jesus, too.
During my rehabilitation, I prayed for my family, especially for my brother who was in prison. I declared Acts 16:31 over my family, which says, »Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.«
My brother eventually came to the Set Free Center for rehabilitation, and he was set free from his drug addiction. And at this moment of writing, my whole family has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!
Dreaming to Serve GodAs I surrendered my life to God, many new things happened to me, just as He promised in Revelations 21:5: »I am making everything new!« When I received Jesus, my appetite for drugs disappeared, while my appetite for His Presence increased! I discovered that I was a worshipper!
There’s so much freedom in worshiping God. I realized that I could spend hours in worship without getting bored. As I cultivated this lifestyle of worship, I started to dream of serving God. When I was a child, I had wanted to be a priest. Not that I was older, and with a better understanding of God, perhaps I could do something actively for Him?
I could feel God calling me to be a light for people with addiction problems. Hence, after my rehabilitation, I decided to volunteer at the Set Free Center.
Going to Germany with GodAfter a year of volunteering, I became a regular staff-member at the Set Free Center. An amazing opportunity came. The leadership asked me, if I wanted to go to HELP International’s Revival School in Germany.
I wanted to go! I wanted to learn and be equipped, but I had to raise my own funds for school fees and for my flight. I was able to get a passport and a VISA. Afterwards, I prayed hard and asked Daddy God for His provision. He touched the hearts of random people, friends, and family to give generously to me. I wrote a newsletter about my desire to go to Germany, and many people responded. God provided for me through them! Before I flew to Germany, the money needed for Revival school was complete!
My Daddy God is indeed rich. I’m a rich kid! Me, a former drunken, drug addict and a glue sniffer, granted a VISA, about to enter school in a foreign country, and about to travel to a different nation? Yes!
Back in my old life, I never could imagine that I would own a passport and travel. The only thing that I expected before was a warrant of arrest.
This could only be God. He made the impossible possible! Our God is full of surprises!
Serving to Save the LostAfter three years of being a staff-member, I am now co-leading the Set Free Center. God has brought me to my destiny and my calling, as written in Isaiah 61. God has led me to preach the Good News in streets and in prison. I have also been given the opportunity to minister to a jail facility in Cainta.
I witness hope rise in the midst of hopelessness. I’ve seen God’s light shining in the darkness!
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God has opened doors for me in the Body of Christ. I now have a lot of friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, around the world. One of the best things that happened to me was that I became a part of the UPRISING family where I got to know wonderful people. God has also blessed me with someone who can be a future wife, and she is beyond what I prayed for. To have a wife and eventually a family, is also a dream of mine.
I used to say that I don’t deserve all these things, but now I can say that I can claim God’s goodness because God has made me His child! We have a good, good Father. He wants to give us only the best.
If change and goodness happened to me, they can happen to you, too!
All glory to the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit!«
Jayson T. Belleza