Nathaniel “Nate” Thompson of Kennesaw, Ga., is living the dream. With his wife and children, he now lives in the West Chicago area, working as a program director at Wheaton College. A stable home and family, a rewarding career in higher education, and a strong faith in the Lord are three things Nate may have never been able to attain without Paul Anderson Youth Home.
Growing up, Nate fell in with the wrong crowd late in high school. Obsessive video gaming led to a serious drug problem. He was overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and despair and constantly arguing with his parents. The conflicts turned violent, resulting in a stint in jail. Upon release, Nate attempted suicide. An aunt who worked at Chick-fil-A, a longtime PAYH sponsor, suggested it to him and his parents.
“I knew I needed help,” Nate said. “I wasn’t very spiritual, but I had recently felt a powerful experience with Jesus Christ,” he added.
Each young man in PAYH’s care receives counseling, academic assistance to complete their education, job training, and substance abuse therapy, if necessary. Still, he had conflicting feelings about church and religion upon arriving at the Home.
“What meant the most to me was in class and Bible study, learning about God’s grace – that we are loved despite our faults and mistakes. It made hard work mean more because God’s grace was constant, even if the work wasn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be,” he added.
That turning point led to a desire for self-improvement in addition to what he was learning at the Home. He began reading self-help books and recalls how sitting at the large dining table with the rest of the young men allowed him to learn the art of conversation, asking meaningful questions, and learning by listening to others. Upon graduating in 2008, he returned home to his parents and mended their relationship.
“It was important to capitalize on all the lessons I had learned. It wasn’t easy, we had some critical conversations, but it was worth it,” he said.
Nate is one of six distinguished alumni recognized by the youth home as true success stories, living productive and positive lives, and being named “Gold Medalists for Life.” He credits PAYH for instilling in him a work ethic, an understanding of community and connection, and the power of God’s grace.
“Spiritual growth is what put my life on an upward trajectory,” Nate said.
The success stories span decades, with graduates found all over the country. For more information about Paul Anderson Youth Home or to donate, call (912) 537-7237 or visit www.payh.org.
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