Zeeke's Dreams Were Shattered When His Dad Went to Prison, Until He Discovered that God Had a Plan
Zeeke remembers the day his dad was arrested like it was yesterday. It was the day of seventh-grade basketball tryouts—the day Zeeke and his dad had been planning and preparing for all year. "I figured he'd just be home in the afternoon," Zeeke recalls. "If I make the team, I'll be able to come home from school and tell him."
But Zeeke's dad wasn't home after school that day. Or the next day. Or for the next two years.
Middle school became a lonely time for the 12-year-old from Garland, Texas. He excelled at basketball. But with a father in prison and a mother and sisters who "weren't into sports," there was no one to share his excitement. Zeeke did well at school, but he still felt empty.
And then everything changed.
AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY
The first Christmas that Zeeke's father was incarcerated, he signed his children up to receive gifts through Angel Tree,® a program of Prison Fellowship®. A few days before Christmas, volunteers showed up at Zeeke's door. One was even dressed up like Santa Claus! The volunteers presented gifts to Zeeke and his sisters on behalf of their dad. The church also provided the children with a scholarship to attend a Christian camp the following summer with other prisoners’ kids.
Zeeke had never been to camp before. He admits he was a little nervous and didn't know what to expect. But he soon lost himself in the fun of sailing, trying out the zip line, and making new friends. He enjoyed getting to know his counselor, who made a special effort to take Zeeke under his wing.
That week, Zeeke also made an important discovery—he and his sisters weren't the only ones living with the pain of having a parent behind bars.
"It was eye-opening to know I wasn't alone," he says.
At camp, Zeeke grew in his understanding of the Gospel. Although he had grown up in the church, it wasn't until Zeeke came to an Angel Tree camp that he began to understand that God wanted a personal relationship with him through Jesus Christ. Later that year, he and his family got plugged into a new church with a "phenomenal" youth ministry. That's when Zeeke made a firm decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
JUST LOOK AT WHAT GOD IS DOING NOW
The next few years had their rocky moments. Zeeke's dad was released from prison just in time to watch Zeeke play his final football game of ninth grade. But he soon returned to his old habits and was barely around during Zeeke's high school years.
Thankfully, God had His hand on Zeeke's life. Each summer he was back at the Angel Tree camp, where the staff and his counselor helped keep him focused on Jesus. Zeeke continued to compete in sports and do well in school. He was determined not to become a statistic.
His sophomore year in high school, Zeeke began working as a counselor at Angel Tree camp.
"My counselor told me he came back every year to see me," Zeeke says. "I wanted to do that for someone else."
Zeeke achieved his lifelong dream of playing college basketball—eventually finding his way to a Christian college in Kentucky, where he earned his degree in youth ministry. Last year, Zeeke was hired to serve as youth pastor at a church in the heart of Austin, Texas.
"I will forever be grateful for Angel Tree camp," Zeeke says. He claims that, more than anything, it taught him that "there's a way out of what you're going through."