God, faith and the power of prayer are truly remarkable. My unwavering relationship with our Heavenly Father has kept me going during my lowest of lows, and has emboldened my hope of brighter days ahead.
The story of my family perfectly captures the essence of how powerful the presence of God, hope, and a strong mother and mentor can be in defining someone’s future.
I would be remiss not to begin my story by talking about my grandfather, who left school in the third grade to pick cotton in South Carolina.
He toiled day in and day out to provide for his family. My mother went on to share the same work ethic. I remember her working 16-hour days to be able to keep food on the table for my brother and me. It was there, in our small house in North Charleston, where I learned the importance of faith, hard work, and the simple, but sometimes forgotten, concept of living within your means.
I often look to Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” He has always been by my side, even when I was drifting in the wrong direction. In my freshman year, I found myself on the verge of flunking out of high school. I failed English, Spanish, world geography and civics. I was a poor kid, living in a poor neighborhood, with low self-esteem and no expectations that this world would unfold in such a brilliant way. As always, God was watching over me and put someone in my path who would change my life forever.
While working a part-time job at a movie theater, I befriended the owner of a local Chick-fil-A franchise, and he became my mentor. John Moniz taught me I was the only one who was in control of my future. “If you don’t like where you are, change it. It’s not your mother’s fault because she’s working. It’s not your father’s fault because he’s not around. If you are the problem, you are also the promise.” He taught me to embrace personal accountability. I woke up to a new future, a new reality and new opportunity.
Regrettably, John died a few years later. The night before his funeral, at the age of 19, I wrote my personal mission statement to honor his life. I committed myself to impacting a billion people throughout my lifetime with the notion of hope. I redefined the way I looked at success. I started to live by the words in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
My motivations did not lie in material items. My happiness was not tied to a job title. My worth was not measured by how much money I had. Instead, I was committed to serving God. I wanted to be a good person who would dedicate myself to positively impacting the lives of others. It was then that life seemed clearer, simpler and more focused.
I also came to learn the importance of setting goals and having personal confidence in my potential. I wrote down my dreams, goals, aspirations, and then doubled them. I believe more often than not kids live down to the lowest level of expectations. My mother would tell me growing up, “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.” Her words could not have been more accurate, and I urge everyone to take the time to create a personal path.
Our nation certainly faces challenges. We have nearly 48 million Americans who are living in poverty. My family’s story shows what is possible in America. We have gone from “Cotton to Congress” in one lifetime.
I can’t promise you the path will be easy, and at times it may seem downright impossible. But when you think you can’t go on, I ask you to consider Hebrews 12:1, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Set goals, work hard and if you trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, anything is possible.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in “Faith at Work: Economic Flourishing, Freedom to Create and Innovate,” a special report released by IFWE and The Washington Times (reprinted with permission). You can download a pdf copy of the full report, or visit The Washington Times’ website.