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How an old soccer friend never gave up on me

Derek Banks’ party lifestyle left him empty and despairing until an old soccer friend helped him find hope ...

When I was born, my father left my mother. I was not a part of his plan.

I had to grow up real fast to help be the only stable man in my house for my mom and for my sisters. This was hard, because I was learning how to be the "man" when there was actually no man around to constantly teach me.

I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what to do in life but just the typical things: College, get a good job, live it out.

I was just in such a pit of darkness.

“High” School Friends

In high school, I did whatever I could to get friends and block out the feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, and just real emptiness.

That led me quickly to a certain scene — people who were good friends but all making horrible choices. It started off with just a little drinking, then trying weed. Then, before I knew it, I was drinking almost every weekend and smoking most of the time.

It was at that time I met my friend, Ryan, who was part of a club soccer team. I was invited to join because they were short on players, and they had no idea I couldn't play soccer. It wasn't pretty, but in time I got pretty good.

Ryan, the coach, and a few others were followers of Jesus. They pushed me not to drink and smoke or I would be kicked off the team, so during soccer season my life was pretty solid. But during off seasons, I dove back into the party scene.

I was a good kid, but why did I feel like I was trash?

A College Try

When I went off to college, first in Charleston and then in Columbia, the patterns repeated. There were very few days I was not high; many mornings where I was shaking off a hangover, and many times where class wasn't a thing because friends were calling my name louder.

There was one day that sticks out to me so huge: I looked at myself in the mirror, and I seriously didn't know who it was that I was looking at.

I could feel whatever bit of soul I had just truly broken, and I was crying because I was just in such a pit of darkness. I was a good kid. But why did I feel like I was trash, misused, forgotten, broken, alone, unidentified, when I lived what was supposed to be such a "great college life?”

Ryan said I was going to NewSpring this Sunday or we wouldn't talk any more.

A Real Brother

I felt like giving up on myself. But, as it turns out, my friend Ryan never gave up on me.

When I was in Greenville one weekend, visiting my high school coach and my good soccer mates and best friends, I saw Ryan again. He had been going to NewSpring for a while, and he asked me about church and how it was.

I told Ryan I went in the past purely to appease my family — to give the look of a good son that goes to his family church. I told him how I gave up on church, and it wasn't for me.

After a pretty intense conversation, Ryan said I was going to NewSpring this Sunday or we wouldn't talk any more. This dude was a real brother to me, so I said, “OK.” Because Ryan lived in Greenville, and I was going back to Columbia that night, he wanted a selfie to prove it!

I just immediately felt God saying it was time.

The day I gave my life to Jesus.

A Moment of Truth 

I went to NewSpring Columbia that next morning. I was for sure impacted and felt something, but I let it be. I called Ryan and told him I liked it and would be back — only to hear that he signed me up for an event to learn more about the church the next day.

I didn't want to go, but because they would serve Chick-fil-A sandwiches, I went. And I was also interested.

The event host talked about how he knew about Jesus most of his life but never had a relationship with Him, and that hit me like a freaking rock. I just immediately felt God saying it was time to do this — to give my life to Jesus.

I have a real identity being God’s son.

A New Beginning

It’s been the best life ever since April 22, 2013 when I left my old ways behind.

Within two weeks, I started to serve in Fuse and got to lead a group of Fuse students. And the fact I get to help students to never be where I was just, by itself, makes it all worth it! I love my guys so much.

My community now consists of several 2 am friends — people that are there for me night and day, and we can just laugh together till we can't catch our breath. It has been tough at times, but that community has truly grown me and sharpened me like no other!

I have a real identity being God’s son, I have a real and tangible purpose, and I have confidence in general. I am living life in utter joy. Following Jesus has forever changed my life.

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