My name is Only and I am a Senior at Manhattan Christian College. I have been visiting Cookson Hills each winter for three years to play basketball in the College Classic tournament. Coming to Cookson Hills is really special for me because of my story.
I was born in Arizona and was in and out of foster care a lot. Growing up I had no vision, no dream, and I wasn’t a good student. I didn’t know if there was a God. If there was, how could He put me in these situations and not do anything about it? Growing up I always asked myself, “Why me?” I felt shame and like I was a bad person. That’s what happens when bad things happen to kids or our parents; we go through life feeling like WE have done something wrong. It’s hard to outgrow that feeling. But still, I prayed every day. I had no parents and no place to call home. During my sophomore year of high school, I suddenly stopped receiving visits from my social worker; I left the foster home I was in, but I kept going to school. Two years later, I learned that my case files were among 50 that had gone missing. I had been completely forgotten about. The state was very apologetic, but that didn’t take away the loneliness I felt during those two, long and difficult years. However, God had his hand in all of it. I ended up getting grants from the state due to this error. Those grants, along with other scholarships, meant I could afford college, a Christian College that God would then use to change my life, my biological mom’s life, my cousin’s life… and my future.
I played basketball at the college and was told our team would be going to a children’s home for a tournament. I was really skeptical. I didn’t know if I could hold myself together and listen to someone else’s story, let alone share my own. I wasn’t ready to share my own brokenness. Truth be told, once we arrived I was amazed and a little jealous that there was this place for kids to become a part of a family, grow in Christ and learn how to process their situations. I was 5 years older than the oldest of these kids, and I had not yet healed from anything I had gone through. Before I came to College Classic that first time, I remember praying, “God give me the right words to say. Be strong in me.” I wanted the opportunity to have a conversation with someone and give a little of myself. God showed up and answered that prayer! There was a girl I met who reminded me of my younger self and carried a tough girl attitude. I was able to talk to her and encourage her. I shared that I didn’t want her to turn 22 and still be trying to figure out why nothing was working for her. At that moment I was able to look at her, with sincere understanding, and tell her, “God does amazing things! Whatever you’re going through right now, it is for a reason.” I saw that same girl the following year and it was cool to see how her life had changed.
Talking to that girl was like looking in a mirror and talking to myself. I needed to take my own advice; I wasn’t reacting to my own situations well. I wasn’t depending on God like I thought I was. I thought everything I was doing was about Him, but the reality was I was living a lie. When I lost everything, I wasn’t praising Him in the storm. It was all about me. Before this moment, I always felt like I was missing something. I was missing my centerpiece, Jesus. He changed my life around with the people he put in it. For many years, my faith wasn’t about my faith in Jesus, but it was for the people who helped me. I’ve learned that everything I have experienced in life is for a reason. The more I’ve been involved in church and kept growing, the more I kept learning about God’s plan and timing.
Coming to College Classic has allowed me to share a piece of me. I want to share that no matter what others have done or how far they still have to go, God is always going to be with them. God steps into places where others can’t. It’s amazing to know that a place like Cookson Hills exists. A place where kids can come to start over and learn things I never had the chance to learn.
Every time I come here, I grow. I know it’s only a couple of days a year but it’s a really awesome experience. This is my senior year, and I did not expect to feel so emotional about it. To me, the College Classic is not just another game. I grow from it and I am excited that I have gotten to be a part of it for 3 years. God is working in this place! Every time I come to Cookson Hills, God reveals something to me through these kids. It reminds me that God can do anything in your life!