This is Keoni Enlow, a man who knows the personal hell of alcohol and drug addiction.  Of greater importance is his story of redemption.

I first crossed paths with Keoni at “Tres Dias,” a three-day men’s retreat near Dickson. Four years went by and we randomly ran into one another again at an event here in Murfreesboro last fall.   It didn’t feel coincidental when I spotted him a third time at a local coffee shop back in April.  This time we talked at length, and I learned his story of recovery and journey toward the light.  We’ve been meeting regularly since then.

Keoni was born in the San Francisco bay area in the 1970s.  He’s lived in Florida, Nevada, Washington state, and Tennessee for the past several years.  Battling addiction since a teen and living in resulting misery, he recounts falling on his knees one night seven years ago  “literally crying out to God.”  God heard that prayer and Keoni has been sober since then.

After making a break with drugs, Keoni began reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, reading Christian authors, and watching hours of Christian films.  And, in his words, “weeping over newfound freedom in Christ.”  He was baptized shortly after the night in 2012 when he put drugs aside.  He’s visited many churches during the year’s since.  Keoni’s a tough “linebacker looking” guy on the outside, but he speaks with tenderness about his relationship with Christ.  It’s a totally refreshing thing to spend time with him.

As heart-warming as Keoni’s conversion story is, there’s a confounding element to what he’s faced in trying to grow as a disciple of Jesus. Although seeking it, he tells of a difficulty finding anyone to disciple him.  Two mutual friends, Mike B. and Michael J., recently started investing in Keoni, and I now meet him for discipleship, too.  But, it shouldn’t have taken seven years to find and experience what ought to have been available from day one!  Equally sad is the fact that Keoni’s dilemma with finding disciplng mentors is common.

Neglect of newborn disciples is not a new problem, and it is especially troublesome.  If you regularly follow our work, you know we point to the issue in one way or another all the time.  In fact, The Timothy Network was founded 14 years ago because we wanted to do grassroots work in this area.  You have our deepest appreciation for sustaining our efforts with prayers and financial gifts since 2005.

To conclude on a positive note, God seems to be calling His people back to the mission of focused disciple making.  I’m part of a congregation that’s putting great emphasis on discipleship, and there’s a similar wave moving across the country and around the world.   Writers like Francis Chan, Greg Ogden, and David Watson, and Disciple Making Movements such as that fostered by “Final Command Ministries” are a refreshing reminder that God’s Spirit is moving in powerful ways in the 21st century.