“Today I feel like my wife and I are a catalyst for our family to return to God, and church, and prayer. My wife and I have grown so much, and now I’m leading a Fight Club group, and I’m going on the Dominican Republic mission trip in April,” said Raymond Hieronimus II.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Ray came to know Jesus in 1989 when he was 11 years old. He was at a Christmas Cantata at Arlington Church in Baltimore and when they had an altar call at the end of the service, Ray knew he had to go up.
“I was instantly transformed,” he said. “I used to be a bit of a bully to get people to stop picking on me, but when I let Jesus into my heart, all that meanness and anger went away.”
He spent his younger years in various churches in the area and even had the opportunity to preach a sermon during a youth-led church service. “I was really nervous though. I think I presented the whole thing in about five minutes!”
He had plans to go to Liberty University, but when he turned 18 he fell into a group of friends who didn’t go to church; instead they preferred drinking and partying. He became rebellious against his family and God. In1995, Ray joined the Navy and as he put it, “Got sucked into the things of the world and ran from God for about 20 years…But I know he never left me. I know he was just waiting for me to come back.”
During those rebellious years, Ray admits he made a lot of mistakes and bad choices. He knew he was sinning against God but he never really repented. “I wanted to make it right, but my heart wasn’t in it,” Ray explains. “I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was doing it for me, not for God.”
Ray met Angela, who is now his wife, and they both knew it was important to go to church together. They found a church and attended, but Ray felt like there was more to it than just going to church.
“I felt like God was telling me that there was more to life than what I was doing. I tried doing it on my own for so long, and I had failed. So I kept seeking God. And it seemed like he was saying, ‘You are free from your past; lean on Me and let Me help you.’”
It was about that time that Ray and Angela began attending Severn Run. They got involved, got connected, and starting serving. They were both energized about their invigorated relationship with God.
Ray started going to Fight Club and slowly started sharing his story with others in the group. Although Ray says, “I was afraid of my shortcomings, my sins, and my insecurities, but I saw in the Bible how God often used people with shortcomings to do great things for him. God can use anybody.”
Now Ray is being a witness to others by sharing the mistakes he made when he was younger and showing how Jesus gives hope, even when we make bad choices. God is redeeming Ray’s rebellious years by using them to help bring other men back into a relationship with Jesus.
Ray also has a renewed relationship with his dad, who started coming to fight club at Ray’s invitation. Now they do studies together via YouVersion, sharing notes and asking each other questions about what they are learning from God.
“God is definitely molding me into the man that he always wanted me to be and always showing me new and wondrous things. What I learned from all of this is that now when God speaks, I say YES!”