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Love Unleashed on Wayward Student Athlete

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“My name's Nate Conner and I got saved in a double wide.” He recalled, “I'd always kind of been the kid who was getting in front of the camera, taking silly photos, being a goofball at the house. I became more outgoing in high school, wanting to do things, become a people person, find new friends, go hang out or be social at the mall. So, I would say about my sophomore year, it really was a shift in my life from being this introvert, bookworm type person to being more of an athlete, being more of an extrovert, and really just going out there in the world.”

He continued. “When I moved to Arkansas, I was living this phony life. I was almost always in character. I was this outgoing, exciting person that wanted to meet people and try things and most of those were not good choices. But, when I would go home, I would be quiet and kind of be afraid of being alone. So in high school, seeking fame, publicity, and achievements for me was kind of a shell that I was developing to hide my inner fears of loneliness and not being enough.” He said, “My stats at the end of my junior year exploded and I started getting opportunities. A couple of universities started looking at me. Arkansas State University, Williams Baptist College, and Lion College all came to watch me play. I signed a letter of intent to play at Lion College with full ride scholarship. It was a great moment. I was meeting people, socializing, planning dorm room parties that we were going to have in a couple weeks, and just continuing this cycle. But at home, I was really amping up the party.” 

Nate continued, “My uncle, Todd, had died at this time and my aunt, Annette, had a trailer house on a lake that they would go to occasionally. We would go get to hang out there if we asked permission, but I thought it would be a good idea to break in there. So, we would either steal the keys out of her purse and make a copy, or we'd break in the front door and have parties. We started stealing from them. I'll never forget going in her jewelry box in her bedroom and stealing rings and necklaces and taking them to the pawn shop to get $25 for something I found out later on was a wedding band…and I would spend that on some beer or drugs."

"About two weeks after freshman orientation, my mom called me into the kitchen and sat me down. She said, ‘Your dad and I have talked and your aunt, Annette, is furious about you stealing. You can go to jail for this. So, we think that you need to call your coach and, and not go to college. Decline your scholarship.’ I took the phone off the wall and called the head baseball coach at Lyon College who I was supposed to start playing with pretty soon. I said, 'I won't be there. In that moment, my entire future changed. I mean, my dream was to play pro ball and that was the only path I had. I had no intentions to do anything else. In that phone call I felt like my life had ended.”

On losing his scholarship, Nate continued, “There was absolutely no hope in this world for me to do anything better and now I had become this identity that I had hidden for so many years. It had been exposed to the world…and that's who I was. I was ashamed to show my face. I had stolen from the grocery store I worked at, I had stolen from my aunt numerous times, and taken change out of my parents' quarter jar just to buy drugs with. I found out about this ministry called Straight Street in Cedar Hill that was run by Mary and Pastor Mark Sorenson. They would take guys in who had done time in prison from addiction. It was a six month program where it was, a Bible-based program.” 
“I remember being in this service and Pastor Mark preaching this message, and I couldn't tell you a word he preached. I don't remember the songs, but I do remember being in the fourth row in the left seat right by the window and crying from the moment the first song was sang until the invitation was given. I was bawling, crying, and my shirt was wet from tears. I was an uncontrollable mess because I felt the weight of my sin. I don't remember the invitation being given, but I remember when it happened. I got out of my chair as fast as possible, went to the front of this trailer and got on my face and started sobbing for Jesus, saying, 'God, I'm at a spot right now where I have nowhere to go. God, if you really are who You are, You can rescue me. You, You can change me and God, I want to know You. I want to serve You with my entire life and right now will you do that?' That moment is truly when God rescued me for my own pits of hell and called me His own and said, 'You are changed Nate, and you live for Me. As of this moment, you are redeemed and a child of God in a double wide trailer, on a property full of men who had made horrific life choices…and I gave my life to 
Jesus Christ.”

“In a span of four months,” Nate continued, “I was enlisted in the military, met a new young lady who very soon became my fiancé, and then was heading off to bootcamp. The military is not a place where there's a lot of active faith and so I kind of reverted back to my old ways. I remember getting in a fight with my wife in the kitchen one time in the middle of the day and screaming in her face that I'm not the Christian man, 'that you married…I'm just not that guy.' We moved to Virginia and got involved in a church there in Virginia and started volunteering. We started serving in the kids' ministry there, and started meeting a lot of friends, and got involved in a connect group and, and church life became our life.”  

“I started seeing what it was really like to be a Christian and a believer to live that way. It just changed my mindset that I'm not just going to play a phony Christian…and it was a slow process. It wasn't overnight, but I was actively reading my Bible and actively praying and involving myself in men's ministry, military ministry, and started being open about my faith at work in the military for the first time.” He continued, “I could tell my kids when they're going through stuff and say, ‘You're not going to understand it now, but one day you're going to get it. God is with you always. He’s created you uniquely, and He wants to know you, and He has not drawn away from you. Because I can look upon every time that I thought was a low point and God was there.’ My identity is in Jesus. Anything I have done or will do is for Him and because of Him. My identity is a son of God. It is who I am and I try every day for it to be what I do as well.”


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About The Author


Morgan Costner is a features producer for The 700 Club (2023) and formerly the Production Coordinator for The 700 Club (2020-2023). Morgan and her husband, Thomas, both work for the Christian Broadcasting Network and actually met while working together on a project. They serve as the Young Adult Directors at their church, Harvest Assembly, and are in love with their sweet pets, Percy and Julia.