Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
Rev. Akono Ekundayo
Preacher, Atlanta Union Mission
Editor's note: Rev. Akono Ekundayo is a 1968 graduate of Little Rock Central High School, which was desegregated years earlier with the help from the Arkansas National Guard. When his guidance counselor told him he would be better suited as a garbage man than a college student, he joined the Air Force. Shipped off to Vietnam, he discovered heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Upon returning Akono turned to crime to get money. This led him to rob a bank, and go on the run. He was eventually caught, went to jail, served long term and returned to the streets selling crack after he got out. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and it robbed him of everything. He had a failed marriage and a lost relationship with his daughter. After a few stints in and out of rehab he found faith. Akono is now a preacher working at the Atlanta Union Mission in Georgia. He also councils black men struggling to get back on their feet and helps them find jobs. He shares his thoughts with the blog:
My story starts with an issue of hopelessness, the loss of a father, the disconnection of family ties, the social and societal attitudes of that time, and the general belief that God was against me.
Hope is one of the greatest needs in the individual and families of our day. Someone has said that if you have lost hope, you have lost everything, and far too many individuals have lost their hope. They are not seeking transformation; they are seeking survival. Drugs and alcohol allows one to survive, if it's only for a few moments. The pain of unresolved issues can be dampened by a hit, a puff or a drink. I survived for twenty-nine some odd years because I believed there was no hope.
Until a recovering addict (a CME preacher) who had taken the opportunity to change his thoughts about himself and God told me, "I never had to live that way again if I chose not to!" It was NOT the first time I heard those comments (especially after seven treatment centers), but it was the first time I took him sincerely. The rebirth of hope happens in conversion and transformation. Many people are not believing in God for a better tomorrow, they just hope there is a tomorrow.
Conversion speaks of one coming to the understanding that a power greater than yourself is able to change the view of their landscape. Conversion is not an outward appearance but an inward reflection about the true meaning of life. One begins to understand that life is not on our terms. It is truly in the hands of compassionate God.
In conversion I had stop looking at God as a mean and spiteful deity who only wanted to send me to HELL, but realize actually God is a loving and nurturing Father who operates behind the scene to bring about his child's best interest. I remembered all the comments made by the haters, all the opportunities to dead in negative situations, all of the out of body experiences related to overdoses, and yet I am still here. Was God after my destruction? Conversion led me to see that my setback was a setup for VICTORY!
That revelation led to transformation. I had to stop letting people, places and things define who I am. I began to believe in what I read, that I am more than a conqueror. The more I believed in the God in me, the more positive life became, the more positive life became, the more HOPE returned. The more I understood that God loved me and was working to bring lasting joy and transformation. I began to see the miracle that this behind the scenes God was working to bring about. I have no need to conform to the world, I have a need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
I am not where I want to be (yet), but I am where I use to be and that is JOY!
Filed under: Black in America
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