Anthony’s Story

May 9, 2023

I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of nine at church camp, but lived like: “I can do whatever I want since I’m already forgiven.” That’s what I thought it meant to be a Christian when I started going to ICI. I had one identity at church and one at home. I wrestled with how to live out my identity in Christ. From a young age, I felt responsible for my family. When my dad left my mom and six of us kids, he told me, “You have to be the man of the house now.” At the time, I thought that meant I had to be strong, tough, and unbreakable.

While at Camp Friedenswald, it felt like an ICI leader spoke directly to me when he said that we need to have only one identity, and that should be in Christ. I chose to rededicate my life to Christ. Starting in 8th grade, I was involved in ICI’s Leadership Development Program. The program encourages the use of every opportunity to practice leadership skills. As we went through the curriculum, I also volunteered as a student leader and worked my way into paid internships.

When I started high school, my family was living at a shelter, and I was staying with my youth pastor and his family. My perspective changed completely during that time because I had no choice but to rely on the Lord and recognize my brokenness. I realized that God had a plan and purpose for my life. Eventually, I was running Day Camp programs, managing budgets, and training other volunteers. As ICI encouraged my church involvement, I also served in Awana and as a Sunday school teacher.

Along my journey, God put humble leaders in my life. Being around those leaders made me want to imitate them, and I realized leadership isn’t about outward strength but about setting an example for others to follow. While I was a counselor at ICI’s week-long summer camp, there was one boy who was often in trouble. He began to feel guilty about it, saying, “I’m just a terrible person. I can’t stop being mean to my mom and others.” I spent a lot of time with him that week and explained that he is no worse than anyone else, but that we all need help. I explained how Christ had changed my heart, helped me deal with my anger, and most importantly, saved my life. We were both in tears as he accepted Christ.

I am living proof that Christ is with us all the time. At rock bottom and when things are going great. We can’t change people – only God can, but we can show others the change he has made in our lives and lead by example. That’s what I want to do every day!

After high school, I began putting the skills I learned at ICI to use every day in my job at Chick-fil-A. I led by example in that setting and made an impact on people there. I was promoted to a leadership training role and was waiting for the next operator training program after which I had hoped to manage a Chick-fil-A location. 

In February 2023, God began to grow my desire to be in ministry, and I wanted to work with kids like myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was also moving at ICI to open a position for an alumni to be hired. Starting in March 2023, I became the new Junior High Coordinator at the Cicero Center!

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