How this student got saved at Gauntlet and led his family to a fresh start
Anthony Hart had experienced more heartache than any 16-year-old should.
When he left for Gauntlet in 2016, he was bitter and broken.
All he had was questions.
Why did his father choose to deport himself to Mexico after an immigration bust and leave his family behind?
Why was his mom barely around, working two jobs while he took care of his little brother and sister — and still they were short on food and money?
Why did he get bullied at school and beaten and verbally abused by one of his mom’s boyfriends at home?
Why was his family forced to move so much and then live with his godparents because they couldn’t afford their own place to stay?
His life was a cascade of crises and troubles, one rolling into another, with no end in sight.
There were so many things wrong with me - Anthony
Anthony Hart, and Gauntlet leader Jamison McClam, near the band shell at Daytona Beach. Anthony's trip was made possible by a financial scholarship.
No More Labels
Anthony felt lots of things he couldn’t understand or even name.
He tried to shut down his emotions, to where he didn’t feel them or show them. He couldn’t express his pain, and that left only anger — or tears.
“There were so many things wrong with me,” Anthony says. “I was slowly losing myself piece by piece. At the time, I was just really angry with everyone.”
Anthony had connected with NewSpring Fuse through a cousin, who dragged him to his first visit. The service made him think — a lot — but transportation issues made it difficult for Anthony to attend regularly on Wednesday nights.
But with his cousin’s persistence and encouragement, Anthony was able to make it to NewSpring’s week-long student summer camp at Daytona Beach, Florida, with the help of a financial scholarship.
This was his second year at Gauntlet, and on the second day, something shifted in his heart.
He was listening to a message about how people are labeled, by society, by others, or by themselves.
In his head, he remembered all the painful words that cut him to his core. Your father didn’t want you. You’re never going to amount to anything.
Those labels, he heard the speaker say, aren’t how God feels about you.
Suddenly, Anthony was struck by the possibility that God loved him. Really loved him.
Up till then, he felt like one big disappointment.
“I didn’t really think He could love me until that Gauntlet,” Anthony says.
Anthony pictured with Jamison and the rest of the boys from his Gauntlet room.
Threatened With Homelessness
His room leader that week, Jamison McClam, walked with Anthony to the back of the arena, where they talked, and he prayed with Anthony to ask Jesus into his life.
Two days later, Jamison was also there on the beach watching Anthony get baptized in the cold, early morning Atlantic surf.
“I felt brand new,” Anthony says. “I still feel the same today.”
That week forged a special bond between them.
Jamison promised Anthony he’d be his leader if Anthony wanted to attend a Fuse group, even though Jamison had never done that before.
Jamison also assured Anthony and the other boys in his Gauntlet room, “Anytime you need anything, I am here for you.” And Anthony knew he meant it.
No sooner had Anthony returned home, bursting with excitement, than his circumstances closed in on him again.
The owner of the land where his mom, brother, sister and godparents all shared a trailer wanted the whole family to leave in one week.
And they had nowhere to go.
So Anthony did the only thing he could: He got in touch with Jamison.
There was a church out there that really does mean what it says - Anthony.
NewSpring Columbia volunteers lent their help and generosity on ForSC day in 2016 so the Torrez family could live in a home of their own.
An Outpouring of Generosity
What happened next confirmed Anthony’s fledgling faith and was crucial in transforming his family.
Jamison got to work quickly to see what could be done to rescue the family from homelessness. Within hours, God had come through.
A couple owned a home damaged in the 2015 flood, which had been renovated but not rented or sold, and they were willing to let Anthony’s family live there rent free until they could get back up on their feet.
The staff at NewSpring Columbia also tweaked plans for an upcoming ForSC day, so volunteers could team up to provide beds, furniture, appliances, and everyday utensils and home supplies.
“We were in the yard saying, “What in the world. This doesn’t happen!” Jamison says about the response from volunteers.
Anthony and his mother couldn’t believe it, either.
In a life lived mostly on the poverty line, marked with constant moves, they’d reached out to churches for help, only to be turned away.
“We were used to churches saying they would help, but they don’t help,” Anthony says. “When we saw what the people of NewSpring did for us, we saw that there was a church out there that really does mean what it says.”
Anthony's Mom, Laura Torrez, gets baptized at NewSpring Columbia. Anthony and his mom share the special moment.
Out Of The Darkness
Anthony’s mom was overwhelmed by the love and generosity, but even more amazing was the change in her son she began to notice in the weeks that followed Gauntlet.
The son who was perpetually angry, yelling, whose emotions were running wild, was happy for the first time since his dad had left at age 9.
Anthony and his father, an agricultural worker, were close. He was his best friend and example; always by his side, even in the fields.
“I wanted to do everything my dad wanted to do,” Anthony says.
They were close, that is, until the day his dad stepped out of the car driven by his immigration lawyer, somewhere near Buffalo, New York, and out of Anthony’s life.
“I felt like a sense of abandonment from him,” Anthony says. “When I lost my dad, I lost a big part of myself. I lost who I was, who I wanted to be, and what I was supposed to do.”
Gauntlet changed all that.
“I came back [from Gauntlet], and I felt at peace. I felt whole,” Anthony says. “I told my mom, ‘I’m back to my old self.’ Her and me cried because I was not myself for the longest time. She couldn’t believe I came back from the darkness.”
Anthony with his sister, Nevaeh, left, and brother, Angel, right, celebrate their mom’s public declaration that Jesus is Lord and Savior.
About a month after Gauntlet 2016, Anthony’s mom asked Jesus into her life and was baptized, too. Raised in the foster care system, his mom had been exposed to religion but had never known what to believe.
At first, when Anthony had been reluctant to go to NewSpring Fuse, Anthony recalls his mom had threatened to ground him if he didn’t go.
Now the “better life” she wanted Anthony to find at church had found her.
“She saw what Jesus was doing in my life and how it was helping me," Anthony says. "She didn’t want to be where she was, and she knew she needed help from God. I have seen a change in her. Now, when she’s at a loss and she doesn’t know what to do — when she’s about to give up — she goes to God. She asks for God to help her. She goes to the church and asks for prayer.”
Anthony and his mom, Laura, at Connect, where they were able to take next steps in getting connected to the church and others.
All About Love
Anthony remembers Jamison asking a question one day during the Gauntlet. “Who is God to you?”
It took a few months for Anthony to come up with an answer, but he’s confident about it now. After all he’s seen and experienced, there’s only one conclusion he can draw.
“God is love to me,” Anthony says. “Because if you look around, God has so much love for everyone, it’s unbelievable. You see so many different people, young to old, black to white, so many different ethnicities, and they all come under one name.”
Every week at Fuse, Anthony is in the front row, celebrating Jesus, Fuse Director Greg DeMare says.
“He’s an awesome, amazing kid, and God is doing so much in his life,” Greg says.
Anthony feels called to share his story. It’s impacted not only his mom but also one of his best friends, too.
Like Anthony, his troubled life left him feeling worthless, like God couldn’t use him.
After weeks of coming to Fuse with Anthony — each time talking more openly, more honestly in the care room — his best friend finally made the decision to give his life to Jesus. His friend’s sister also came to Fuse and met Jesus as a result.
Anthony has taught me how to love - Jamison
The relationship between Anthony and Jamison has transformed both of their lives.
A Big Brother
One year later, Jamison remains a constant in Anthony’s life.
Not only is Jamison Anthony’s small group leader, but he takes Anthony’s family to church every Sunday morning, even if Anthony’s mom can’t make it because she’s working.
“Amazing” is also Jamison’s word to describe Anthony.
“He lives every day 100 percent for Jesus,” he says. “He is not afraid to say this is who I believe in, and this is what I’m about.”
Jamison sees himself as Anthony’s big brother and sometimes even a dad.
When Anthony doesn’t know what to do, he is always there for him.
“He chooses to tell me about things, instead of hiding from them,” Jamison says. “Whenever Anthony needs to talk, whenever that may be, God twinges my heart and says you need to do that. I don’t hesitate. I don’t wait. I immediately act on it and do it.”
But the blessing of the relationship between Jamison and Anthony isn’t one way. It’s how God has taught Jamison about love and about purpose.
Jamison’s turned down several career opportunities, because of the bond he and Anthony share, and because he feels called to serve Anthony and his family.
“Anthony has taught me how to love — to love him how God loves us, as his children. I cannot tell him in words how much he has changed my life,” Jamison says.