My name is Jayson, and this is my story.
My life was predetermined before I was born. I was born into slavery, a caged beast. The only difference was that I thought I was the predator; the one who broke the rules to attain true freedom, to take whatever I wanted to rule the world. I was completely blind—I was, in fact, a slave.
I was initiated in to my first real gang in the early ’90s. It was all small stuff—petty theft and vandalism. But I burned for fire. I’d set bins alight and watch from a distance the fire brigade come to the rescue. While they were occupied fighting the flames, I’d set up for another fire nearby and sit back to revel in the chaos.
I was an out-of-control kid that nobody wanted. Even the police didn’t want to deal with me. Because of this, I was relocated at the age of 12. I remember the “tough guy tears” that I sobbed into my pillow in utter abandonment and loneliness. Even though I had no belief or religious background, I prayed. I prayed that God would bring me back to my family; that I could be somewhere I could belong. I wanted to go home.
Prayers aren’t always answered straight away. Even though I returned to Auckland a year-and-a-half later, it wasn’t home. God had bigger plans for me, but it was all about timing—God’s timing—not my own. Of course, I fell straight back into old habits. It was the only world I knew. I hooked up again with my whole crew and went straight back into a life of crime; a life I believed gave me strength. My power only grew. By 1996 I began to grow and sell marijuana, but by 2000 I had tried meth. It didn’t take long until I was utterly addicted.
Not only did I revel in it, but I also needed a way to support my $3000-a-week habit so I began distributing, which opened a whole new portal for me. It was lucrative— so lucrative in fact, that at my peak I was part of a syndicate of three cooks and four workers who would bring in around $10,000 every few days. It was big business.
I was known for home invasions with sawn-off shotguns, kidnapping, extortion and road rage. I had a bad reputation in the underworld. Even the greatest undesirables knew not to mess with me. During the course of 11 years of distributing meth, I had become . . . an animal. Somebody that wasn’t to be taken lightly. Somebody that you didn’t mess with. Somebody out of control.
Then one day the tables turned when someone pulled a gun on me and two of my kids. It was an eye opener. I thought I was so hard that no-one would dare come near us. And yet here I was with my kids at gunpoint. I was drowning but didn’t realise it.
One day I was at a pool when a Samoan guy named Andrew approached me and asked if I’d be interested in joining a free community kickboxing program called “Solid Community”.
I went along thinking, Man, I’m going to be even more lethal at the game . . . at the street fighting that I already love and I’m passionate about. I loved the class. I had a passion for street fighting. It made me feel in control and invincible. At the end of the session, Andrew read a thought for the day out of the Bible which said, “Lay your treasures not here on earth, but up in heaven where neither rust nor moth can destroy” (Matthew 6:19, 20). Me, being a newbie to the whole religion, faith and belief in God thing, left that training session rather confused and thinking, What the heck is that all about? What does it all mean?
I kept going back to Solid Community every week and trained hard. I got better and better at street fighting and still after every training session, I’d be challenged by Bible texts and the same one would haunt me: “Store up your treasures in heaven.” It was confronting, because what treasures did I have?
Here I was at this born-again Christian kickboxing program, still a drug dealer and a gangster, still broken and still trying to understand life. I was still trying to find out what my calling was; still wondering whether there was more to life than drugs and crime. Was this the best I could be? This gangster, this drug dealer, this person? What treasure did I have stored in heaven?
One day it finally clicked—my treasures were my family. They were my treasures for eternity. Through these training sessions, I’d learned that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. So how then, I thought, can I store my treasures in Heaven? How do I teach my family about God? The love that Andrew showed me through simply meeting me and introducing my family and I to Christ . . . that’s amazing. That’s powerful love.
It was then that the real battle began. We’d been assets to the devil’s cause for generations. And now . . . well, now Jesus was rocking the boat. Would I stay in my criminal comfort zone playing out my predetermined future? Or would I, could I, throw it all away to follow Christ? Andrew asked if I would like to be a trainer for the Solid Community: a trainer!
It was an opening, which was humbling. Finally in 2015, I said to myself: It’s now or never. I can’t live this double life anymore. Either I choose to keep on with the lifestyle I’ve always known, or I change sides and start a new life with Christ.
It was that day that I chose to follow Jesus Christ.
To become a trainer, I needed a first aid certificate, which the Papatoetoe Seventh-day Adventist (PAPSDA) Church was providing certification training sessions for. I attended and met Karl, who introduced me to a lot of the other church members. I felt overwhelmed and welcomed, like I was already part of the family.
These Adventist people were different. I couldn’t get over the love they bestowed on us; on everyone. I was amazed at how everyone had a part to play in making the world a better place. I was also amazed by their teachings on selfless service because it wasn’t just teaching. Everything they taught us they also showed us—PAPSDA embraced us on a level I never thought I was worthy of.
Years ago, a 12-year-old boy sobbed into his pillow, screaming out to God to bring him home. God answered.
Being around such positive, influential, supportive people at PAPSDA was life changing. Our family celebrated the largest baptism at church last year. Seven of us got baptised and our two youngest ones were dedicated, so nine of us in total gave ourselves to Christ.
My name is Jayson Rogers. I’m a business owner. I’m a kickboxing trainer. I’m a husband and a father to seven beautiful children. I know where my treasures lie. Do you?
This story was adapted from a video produced by Hope Channel New Zealand. Jayson now resides in Queensland with his family and is an active member of his local church.