Since the day I was born, I was raised in a passionate Christ-following family that loved me and supported me in everything I did. When I was a young child my mother would always read me Bible stories at night before I went to bed. One night in particular my mother was telling me about Heaven and hell. She told me how terrible hell was and that Heaven was perfect and had streets paved with gold. She told me that hell had burning lakes of fire and that pain would always be around. I remember a chill went down my back just thinking about hell and what it would be like. I immediately asked my mother how I could know for sure that I will go to Heaven. She told me that I had to trust and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him into my heart. I prayed with my mother and now I know that Jesus is with me and will never leave me. Since then I always try and center my life on God and living for Him.
My father was a pastor at a big church in Raleigh, North Carolina, when I was in elementary school while my mother stayed at home with me. I thought life was perfect and I felt so comfortable. But my father made some mistakes that took me and my family by total surprise when I was 12 and it really hurt all of us. My mother and father ended up separating and eventually got a divorce. This hurt me so much because I looked up to my dad in so many ways, and then all of a sudden I didn’t know what to believe. I would not speak to anyone about what was going on in my life and keep many things to myself.
I had to move on and forgive my father, which I did, and now we again have a good relationship with each other. God was always there for me and I knew this. Whenever anything bad happens to me I always look to God and pray to Him for help. Through many problems that I have faced in my life, I have been able to keep calm and collected because of my relationship with Christ. Without Him, I don’t know how I would have reacted.
I eventually grew out of the hurt and pain my father had put on me and my family and started to excel in all the sports that I competed at in high school. I was dominating North Carolina high school track and field and received many scholarship offers to top universities around the country. I finally decided that I would stay close to my home in Raleigh and go to North Carolina State University which was roughly one mile from my high school.
After my first year in college, I was faced with many different temptations that I had never been faced with before, to mention a few — girls, alcohol, cheating and profanity. Every time I did something I knew was wrong I always felt bad afterwards but this did not stop me from doing it. I came to the realization that I needed a change. I needed to move away from home because I felt like I needed to grow up and become a man. I decided to transfer to the University of Southern California and pursue a degree in economics while being an athlete. My first year was a real struggle as I became homesick, struggled in school and in track and field. This all led into a downward spiral that led to more sin. I knew I needed another change after my first year at USC and decided to get more involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and surround myself with more Christ-followers who would be good influences on my life and the decisions I make.
All of a sudden things starting getting better. My academics were better, I starting winning everything again on the track, and I wasn’t doing the wrong things as much as I was before. I realized that a man in my position needs to take advantage of his life on this earth while he can. I know that many people look up to me and I need to set a good example and let everyone know that I am a follower of Christ.
To this day I try and live this way so I can influence as many people as possible. It’s important to me that I know I am doing all I can to help people understand how great God is.
—Jesse Williams, USA Olympic high jumper