Redeemed: My Story of Failures and Forgiveness
Hello, my name is Jonathan Senne from the United States of America. The tuition free ministry study opportunity at the Christian Leaders Institute is a blessing.
My story is one of God’s love and redeeming grace. 29 years old and living in Cameron, Wisconsin, USA, I have a technical diploma in Human Services and work with developmentally disabled youth as a behavior technician. I aim to spend my life spreading the gospel of our LORD worldwide. However and wherever God calls me to do it.
I have been on a lifelong journey of discovering God and His love for me. Through mountains and valleys, high and low, God has always been with me, and I knew it— though I did not like to admit it.
My childhood was challenging. I was conceived in adultery and born to a single mother who struggled with mental health and substance abuse. I have never met my father. He was married to another woman with his own family, so he had no interest in me. My grandmother primarily raised me, and we lived on her social security income. My mother was in my life only sporadically.
Throughout childhood, I was abused, molested, neglected, and exposed to people and things that a child should not be exposed to. As a result, I started smoking cigarettes at five, marijuana at ten, and drinking alcohol at twelve. By thirteen, I was partying, often with my mom, and experimenting with other drugs.
In school, I excelled in academics, even skipping a grade. However, behaviorally I struggled. I was defiant, truant, and a bully, which I regret today. Eventually, my behavior and truancy caught the attention of the justice system. At thirteen, I was placed on community supervision. At fourteen, I was incarcerated for the first time, which was a devastating experience. I was expelled from school and placed in a group home by fifteen. I promptly ran away from there and lived independently for three months before being captured and placed in a juvenile behavior modification program.
Upon graduation, they released me to go home. However, one week later, they placed me in a group home again due to a failed drug test. During my second group home placement, I met the woman I later married who bore my first child. At seventeen, one week before my release from the group home, my now ex-wife and I began a mutually controlling, codependent, and emotionally abusive relationship from the start. Four months later, we ran away together for a weekend, and as a result, I found myself in an adult county jail.
By eighteen years and three months old, I had spent eleven months and three weeks in an adult county jail. I struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues. I was a two-time felon who had never held a job. As a result, I struggled to find and maintain employment. I felt hopeless. Over time I cycled through addiction, jail, and homelessness, eventually losing my marriage, son, and family. I lost everything there was to lose except my life, and I tried to give that up when I hung myself at age 21. But, by the grace of God, I survived.
Later in my 21st year and again in jail, God opened my eyes and heart to who He is. A fellow inmate gave me two books God used to change my life. These were “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel and “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. The balance of logic and faith introduced by this combination of books allowed God to show Himself to me. I realized that God had been revealing Himself to me my entire life. I just refused to open my eyes and see.
At age 22, God answered a prayer of mine directly, publicly, and in a way that I could not deny it was Him alone acting on my behalf. On that day, I felt “joy” for the first time. However, even that beautiful experience was insufficient to commit my life to His hands. Later that day, I metaphorically spit on His holy shoes. What a guy I was.
At age 23, after a lifetime of running from responsibility, I turned myself in for the very first time. It was not just a change; it was an act of faith. I owed it to God to willingly face the consequences of my actions. Further, I knew that it was the only way forward if I wanted to be a father. I turned myself in, expecting to spend about a year in jail. I never thought that I’d be sentenced to prison. Jail is much different than prison. When the judge sentenced me, he said, “I’ve watched you grow up in this courtroom. I’ve seen you too many times. I’m going to send you to prison. You will find one of two things: a new way to live or your new home.” He was right.
That morning, I returned from the court and climbed somberly onto my steel bunk. I was in a daze. I tried to pray but couldn’t think of anything to say. It was unbelievable to me that I was going to prison. When I finally mustered the strength, all I could pray was, “Lord, I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I guess I trust you. Amen.”
The prison was perhaps the scariest and most challenging experience of my life. However, it was also one of the essential things needed. I lost everything and seemingly had no choice but to turn to God. I relied on Him for safety, protection, sanity, provision, and everything else. In learning to trust Him, my life and who I was changed. After God, my children, and my wife, prison may have been the greatest blessing of my life, odd as that seems. The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed.
Released from prison in January 2018, and I have not been back. However, I am beginning a volunteer outreach program at the same prison I was released from. So, I will return soon, but on much better terms.
Upon release, I committed to trying God’s way instead of mine. It paid off in more ways than I can list. I returned to my oldest son’s life and can now be a father. I found employment, and through my jobs, I met my wife, with whom I have a child and another on the way. My favorite boss, a close friend to this day, even officiated our wedding.
I stumbled and had my fair share of ups and downs, but life has been, and remains, good. Even in my lower moments, disobeying God was always the cause of my misfortune. But, even then, He always used those experiences to teach me and help me grow. For every weed God cut down, He planted a garden in its place. The Lord is a beautiful Creator.
My life has been atypical by societal standards. I was an abuser, an addict, a user, a liar, a thief, a criminal, a hobo, and worse. Yet, by the grace of God, I am alive today, a changed man in the process of going home to the Father. I often look back on my life and can hardly believe He has led me to where I am. Based on my background, anyone would unlikely expect me to become a minister for Jesus. Yet, here I am, amazed at God’s loving grace. How much more will I feel like this in 10 years? 20? 50?
Tuition Free Ministry Study at CLI
I am now entering a new season dedicated to serving God through tuition free ministry study and ministry service. The LORD has blessed me with many gifts, and I am excited to see how He uses them for His glory. I believe God is leading me toward Worship & Youth Ministry. However, I can never be sure where God will lead me next. All I know is that wherever He leads and whatever He tells me to do, it is for His glory and my good. In God, I trust.
My primary goal in attending the Christian Leaders Institute is to gain an in-depth and thorough understanding of the Bible. God has called me to this mission, and I submit. I look forward to learning and say thank you, CLI, for providing this tuition free ministry study opportunity. You are filling a vital need in this world, where money is often the gatekeeper to knowledge and opportunity, among other things.
I hope that by sharing the Truth God has given me, others will be encouraged to do the same.
My interests include God, the Bible, family, psychology, combat sports, nature, animals, music, learning, and trying new things.
Thank you for reading this. God loves you, and God bless you!
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Register for a free study account that automatically enrolls you in the Getting Started Class at the Christian Leaders Learning Platform. The Getting Started class will take you less than an hour to complete.
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The Getting Started Class will orientate you to the Christian Leaders Learning Platform and the Programs offered, including:
- Ministry Awards, Certificates, and Diplomas with the Christian Leaders Institute.
- College Degrees with the Christian Leaders College.
- Minister Credentialling (Ordination) with the Christian Leaders Alliance, including local Soul Center registration possibilities.
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