Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
Aaron W. Campbell was born in Plainfield, N.J., in January 1974. Growing up in a single-parent home by the age of four, Aaron, his two year-old brother, and young mother soon became acquainted with “the struggle.”
As Aaron’s father sacrificed to send he and his brother to private schooling, from a young age, Aaron quickly had to learn how to survive in two worlds that were diametrically opposed: the pampered private-school classrooms, hosting some of the richest kids in that part of New Jersey, and the harsher realities of the neighborhood streets, in a small city where crime was growing with the advent of crack.
So while Aaron’s mother would be working and commuting long hours to make ends meet, it wasn’t strange for fourth-grader Aaron to walk his brother home from school and pull out his “latch-key,” only to find that their back door had already been kicked in, their windows shattered, and their belongings rummaged over and strewn across their backyard.
Growing up in these two opposing worlds gave Aaron two separate goals by his teenage years. The first world of private schooling–along with much family encouragement–helped birth Aaron’s dream of becoming an Oncologist.
However, the second world, a world of hard-knocks and pecking-orders, gave Aaron the goal of becoming a “man.” And on the streets, one wasn’t a “man” unless he had money, power, and, most of all, respect.
During Aaron’s senior year in high school, he made two decisions that would change his life forever. In pursuit of the first goal, he decided to matriculate at the University of Pennsylvania. And in pursuit of the second goal, he decided to take a job at The Port Authority Bus Terminal on West 42nd Street, in New York City. At the time, “the Port” was the most dangerous public facility in all five boroughs of New York–where the worst things imaginable happened to people, from homosexual gang rapes to cannibalism. This is precisely why Aaron took the job. He would become a doctor, so he figured. But he would also earn his “purple heart” on the streets as well.
So the very summer before heading off to Ivy-league academia, Aaron found himself in one of the grimiest places in America. Ex-cons, ex-killers, and killers, and nobody even knew who was who. But everyone knew who it definitely wasn’t–baby-faced eighteen year-old Aaron, because he was the rookie who looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
But after a few months of spending every waking moment on the merciless Manhattan streets, an evil sense of enjoyment started setting over him. Aaron was changing. To top it off, the area’s biggest loan sharks had decided to “adopt” him under their iron wings, and had even spread the word on the streets that Aaron was now their “son.”
And Aaron loved these guys. They were all that he imagined “manhood” to be. They had money, and they lavished on their kids; they had power, where their name alone moved mountains; and they got so much respect, that it was embarrassing to see the way grown men followed their every move like puppies. But Aaron didn’t have to be just another puppy. The head loan shark loved Aaron, and let him ride shotgun.
Years gone by, after consecutive semesters at UPENN, and consecutive summers on the hot wicked streets of hustlers and victims, life had become all the more of a juggling act. Among the Ivy-Leaguers and family, he was still “Aaron the pre-Med,” the Biological Basis of Behavior and Neural Systems major, who accompanied doctors on hospital rounds and even conducted high-level Melanoma research at the renowned Wistar Institute. But on the streets of NYC, he was “Fam,” the wild college kid with a criminal mind that was growing increasingly crazy and risky.
But in both places, the true Aaron couldn’t truly be found, because Aaron couldn’t even locate “Aaron.” And he was growing increasingly frustrated as both UPENN and “the streets” were failing to deliver the grand satisfactions that they both promised to deliver. Aaron began spending more time drunk and high on marijuana, and soon could be found “tore up” on any given day, walking down the street with his four-foot python named “Buddha” wrapped around his neck.
Aaron was known for being reckless, but what nobody knew was that for years he had been spending much of his alone time in a desperate search for “truth.” Even in the urine-drenched alleys in New York, Aaron could be found poring through philosophy and history books–even while taking breaks to send crack addicts on “runs” for stolen electronics. And after a day of class at UPENN, Aaron could be found sitting in his off-campus apartment, chain-smoking Newport’s and desperately looking for answers: “Why are we here?” “What is the meaning of life?”
He spent countless hours studying Lao Tsu and Taoism, Siddhartha, The Celestine Prophecy, Native-American mysticism, Mdu Ntr (Mi’doo Netcher) and the reading and writing of Egyptian hieroglyphics, The Book of the Dead, New Age and astral projections and transcendental meditation, Rastafarianism and the Kebra Negast, Hebrew Israelites, and even a little bit of the occult.
All Aaron wanted was to find peace-true peace-in a rat-raced world of facades and distractions, where everyone is intoxicated on cheap thrills. And as more “accomplished” goals failed to deliver their promises of true inner-satisfaction, Aaron grew increasingly weary.
Aaron began having recurring dreams that he was down in the country of North Carolina, where his Dad’s side of the family resided. In the dreams, he was always drowning in quicksand in the middle of a cornfield, while venomous, neon-colored snakes squirmed all around him on the surface. And the dreams always ended the same way–Aaron getting pulled out of the quicksand, just in time, by a “hand.”
Taking it as a sign to go South, Aaron boarded an Amtrak.
There he found his Christian family members whom he hadn’t seen in years. Uncle Greg had the largest impact on Aaron. As a kid, Aaron had idolized Uncle Greg as one of the coolest, sunglass-wearing, beer-sipping, sin-loving, butt-kicking people on the planet. But now, Uncle Greg was a man with that same cool smile, but behind that smile was an endless spring of joy and peace. Aaron just wanted to “feast” on the same thing Uncle Greg was feasting on-and that was Jesus Christ.
With complete patience, Uncle Greg opened the Bible and showed Aaron that Jesus was more than a man, and more than a mere ideal–He was a resurrected and living Savior, who knows and understands all men, and desires to forgive them and reconcile them with God Almighty.
He showed Aaron that in a world of chaos, Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace.
As Uncle Greg continued to share God’s Word with that same smile, Aaron took an honest examination of his life. Deep within, Aaron long-ago knew that he was a sinner; and though he didn’t know much about God, he always knew that God was perfect and that sin was wrong in His sight.
After hearing the Gospel, Aaron finally repented and surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately, the scales fell from Aaron’s eyes, and for the first time, he began to see. And though Aaron had developed an over-all suspicion about anything concerning “religion,” this was the real thing. In fact, it wasn’t even “religion,” as Uncle Greg showed him; it was a “real relationship” with God through the cross of Christ.
Restlessness was replaced with true rest of the soul; and for the first time, Aaron could say along with the Psalmist, “be thou quiet, my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
And finally, Aaron realized what being a man was about–fearing God, and walking with Him in sweet intimacy and joyful obedience to His Word. . “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, the saved a wretch like me . . . I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now, I see.”
Jesus Christ, the risen King, became Aaron’s manhood.
Soon after, Aaron graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and married his long-time college sweetheart, Natasha, who gave her life to the Lord exactly one month after Aaron.
And now, Aaron and Natasha have been married for nearly 20 years and have three children; Anni Rebekah, Josiah Aaron, and Jonah Matthew.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters -Psalm 18:16