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Kelly Barcol's Story

Kelly Barcol's Story

I want to tell you a story to get started that comes from the book, backwards: Created to Live SENT.

This is Kelly Barcol’s Story:

Kelly was a hurting teenager who managed to find trouble at every turn. He had a quick temper and a smart mouth. It often got him into trouble. He was a small guy in stature. He was defensive about his size and everything else for that matter. Sports were natural (and legal) ways for him to act out his aggression. He played baseball, basketball and football from ages 7–14.

But in 9th grade Kelly dropped out of every sport and became a blackout drinker. He often smoked marijuana before going to school. In 10th grade he started wrestling. It gave him the opportunity to hurt his opponent which, as he tells the story, was a good way to deal with the pain life handed him. He struggled in school and his teachers assumed he was intellectually slow. Relationships were hot and cold for him. Few things in his life seemed to be trending up and to the right for him.

No one invested in Kelly in a positive way…that is until a wrestling coach saw through Kelly’s actions to the positive qualities often masked from the world. The coach saw a guy with talent, a quick wit, and a tender heart. Kelly was a good athlete and the wrestling team needed him, so the coach had extra motivation.

Over time the trend downward continued. Kelly was suspended from school several times for fighting which kept him on the border line of being a dropout. At home Kelly was raised by his dad and his granny. His dad worked hard but then spent a lot of time at the bar after work. He went to Kelly’s games but stayed outside the gate so he could drink.

The wrestling coach decided it was time to take a risk. He decided to step in and call Kelly out on the choices Kelly made. At times Kelly responded positively and made progress. Other times he stayed on the fringes. Consistency wasn’t his strong suit. Kelly had as many losses as wins on his record, not just in athletics but in life, but he kept showing up.

During this time there was another man in Kelly’s life. This one man was as consistent as Kelly was inconsistent. He invested in Kelly repeatedly and made multiple invitations for Kelly to attend his church. Over time Kelly opened his heart to him. Because of the investment, Kelly eventually said, Yes. This guy wasn’t deterred by the bravado of Kelly’s words. He saw through the act. He knew what Kelly really needed was a relationship with God, His heavenly Father. He knew that more than anything Kelly needed to find his way back to God, but he also needed positive role models to point him in the right direction.

Once Kelly accepted the invitation to church and to a couple of campus organizations he met a whole group of students. Through the influence of these key people who took an interest in him and a set of circumstances that only the Holy Spirit could arrange, Kelly reached out to Jesus. He started by asking Him to forgive him and lead his life.

The change was dramatic! Kelly knew real love for the first time. He quickly found freedom from shame, drugs, and alcohol. His relationships improved. An entire group of Christian college students who were also spiritually seeking also, surrounded him with the community he needed for his own journey. Kelly felt hope for the first time in a long time.

Soon Kelly met and married Polly, a cheerleader and one of the co-eds in the group. Though they were brand new to him, Kelly began to explore the scriptures. He found a good church. He discovered he was a leader and a gifted one at that!

Kelly started reaching out to others like a few men had reached out to him. His story connected with others and before long Kelly was leading others to find the life he found in Jesus. In the process Kelly was becoming more and more like Jesus.

Today Kelly is a dynamic pastor who started a church, House of Joy from a very small group, mostly his own family in Valdosta, Georgia. The fledgling church has grown to 300 plus in five short years and shows no signs of slowing down. You would never guess that would have been his future had you met Kelly in his teen years! If you’d told Kelly as a teen what the future held for him, he would have laughed at the idea.

What happened?

How did Kelly achieve such an abrupt turnaround? For one thing he learned the truth about who he was and why he was here. Jesus came to redeem Kelly and us from self destruction. Jesus wants to do the same for any who will accept His grace and follow Him. We can't underestimate the value of his coach that invested in Kelly during a time when it might have seemed questionable at best as to whether the time spent on him was worthwhile. It paid off! Kelly now spends his time investing in others. 

In whom are you investing?


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