Challenges and Change
Chris 'Shep' Shepherd brought a message of challenges and change to the day five audience of the 38th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast this morning at Clinton High School. The Presbyterian College football team joined students from Clinton High/Clinton Middle Schools and community members in winding up this week's series of inspirational speakers.
Shepherd said a NFL commercial asked players "When did you know?" - when did they know they were a game-changer. Shep said he knew at age 14, before he ever played a down of football. He knew the day he took a gun out of his mouth, seven days after his best friend fell dead on a basketball court, and gave his life to Christ. He went on to be the first person in his family to graduate from high school, and then on to play football at every level (Florida Atlantic University and the National Football League).
After, as a young teenager, he decided not to commit suicide, Shepherd said he went to the crew he was hanging with, selling drugs with, and told them he was going to commit himself to graduating high school. Three of the 17 young men in the group joined him. "The other 14. All dead," he said. "When I say I'm going back to hang with the people I grew up with, I go to the cemetery."
Shepherd said his mom and his 15 brothers and sisters grew up poo - "we were too poor to afford the 'r'."
"I was born in the 'hood. I'm not a rapper, I'm not trying to sell you a song. I was born in a ghetto apartment in the bathtub - that's being born in the 'hood. We had absolutely no money." One time some people came to give Shepherd and his brothers and sisters Christmas presents, he asked for, and received, a pillow - this first pillow he'd had of his own.
"To this day, I have that pillow."
Shepherd said, "I'm not here to talk to everybody, but I'm here to talk to somebody. I'm here to talk to hurting people, there is hope on the other side. I sat in classrooms with Christians just like you, and you said nothing to me. My mother took us to church all the time, the only person who talked to me was my Sunday School teacher who molested me. I felt like this is what Jesus' love was like, and I didn't want it."
Ignored by his drug-dealing father after the man got out of prison, Shepherd said he saw a sticker - one fish going one way, lots of pretty fish swimming the other, the caption - "Go Against the Flow (Romans 12:2)" - and that's what he decided to do. "God changed my life from the inside out."
Shepherd's hard-edged talk was the conclusion of a prayer breakfast series that for 2016 included James 'Mitch' Mitchell, Adrian Despres, DeCole Shoemate Robertson, and Jason McLeod. The Clinton Family YMCA, with sponsors, partnered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapters of Clinton High/Clinton Middle Schools to, for the first time, stage the week-long prayer breakfast to the cafeteria and gym of Clinton High School.