Tyler's Story

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My childhood years I lived with my grandparents and they took us to church. My mom was kind of in the picture, but she left when I was a young child because she wanted to live a party lifestyle. My father walked out on us, and so as a child I had a hatred for him. I wanted him in my life, but at the same time I hated him for the choices he made. His choices involved drinking, drugs, and him wanting to live his life and not caring about mine and my sister’s. My grandparents laid a foundation about God and Jesus in my life, and we moved out to New Mexico because my grandfather was a preacher.

When I was 11 or 12, my mom came back and she wanted to be involved. Then she met a man from Canada and they got married. He didn’t want to move down to the states, so he thought it would be better if we just moved up to the rez in Canada. It was a very isolated place, and there was nothing around us. It was a very different place. It was a very hard thing to do to go from learning about God in Children’s Church and singing “Jesus Loves Me,” to being around people smoking cigarettes.

I started smoking weed when I was around 12, and started selling it a little bit after that. I started running with the wrong crowd and got mixed up in a gang. We were about selling drugs, smoking drugs, and partying, and we had our altercations here and there.

I wanted out of that lifestyle so I turned to basketball. I started getting serious about it and I dedicated myself to the court. Sometimes I would be at the court by myself for hours shooting as many jump shots as I could and working on ball-handling skills and fundamental skills—doing anything I could just to be better because I love the game that much. Hard work paid off and I got a scholarship to go play at a private school.

I got to experience a lot of good things. You know, getting off the rez was a big culture shock for me. Ultimately, when I looked deep down inside of me, I was still suffering. I lost friends to suicide, had sex with girls, got into pornography, and felt alone and depressed even when I had the best opportunities going for me. I thought I didn’t need Jesus.

When I was 18, my grandmother got diagnosed with cancer. She would always take us to church whenever we would visit her. I would never listen when I went in there; I would just sit down and draw. I might sing the songs a little bit or just stand there and not care for anything that they said.

One day I decided to listen, and that’s the day God spoke to my heart. He spoke through the preacher and basically called me out on everything—from stealing and lying to having sex. I knew it wasn’t just someone talking. I knew that it was God speaking to me, so I got up and gave my life to Jesus that morning.

After I accepted Jesus in my life, it was honestly the hardest couple of years. I had to go through things that put me through pain, but it was necessary for me to grow spiritually. I was still living like I wanted and doing some sinful things that I used to do. This continued until I was around some spiritual warfare and realized the devil was destroying my life. From that point God has called me to preach the gospel. He has changed who I am from who I used to be.

After I got saved, I moved from Canada to Oklahoma, and I got involved in a church there. A man approached me while we were at a sporting event and told me about a Native conference called Warrior Leadership Summit. I found out we were going to the same church and I’d never talked to him. He told me there’s a bunch of Native young people who come together and worship God.

I went and it was a very extraordinary thing. It was amazing to see kids come off the rez from all over—like New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada. You have all these people from different reservations coming to praise God. It’s just something I’ve never experienced before, and it was something I was happy to see. I was very glad to see God working in people’s lives from all over the place.