Pastor Aaron’s Story
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 (after his parents separated), Aaron, his younger brother, and young mother became acquainted with "the struggle."
As Aaron's father still sacrificed to send he and his brother to elite private schooling, young Aaron had to learn how to survive in two different worlds that were diametrically opposed: the pampered private-school classrooms, —hosting some of the richest kids in central New Jersey—and the rugged neighborhood streets, in a small city near Newark, N.J., where drugs and crime were escalating with the advent of crack. So while Aaron's mother worked hard and commuted on public transportation for extended hours, it wasn't uncommon for young Aaron to walk his younger 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 strewn across the backyard.
Growing up in these two different worlds gave Aaron two separate vorldveiws, and thus two sets of goals by his teenage years. The first world of private schooling (along with family encouragement and their stellar examples), helped birth Aaron's goal of becoming a medical doctor. However, the second world—a world of hard-knocks, drug-dealing, and Hip Hop—gave Aaron the goal of becoming a “real man." And on the streets, one wasn't a real man unless they had money, power, and, most of all---respect—aka “juice.”
So during Aaron's senior year in high school, he made two decisions that would change his life forever: In pursuit of his first goal, he decided to matriculate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he would study premed. And in pursuit of the second goal, he decided to take a summer job at The Port Authority Bus Terminal on West 42nd Street, in Manhattan’s infamous “Hell’s Kitchen”—where he would be a street-sweeping, toilet-scrubbing, danger-dodging NYC janitor.
At the time, "the Port" was considered the most dangerous public facility in all five boroughs of New York City—where the worst things imaginable happened, from homosexual gang rapes to homeless cannibalism.
This is precisely why Aaron took such a dangerous job. He would become a doctor, so he figured, but he would also earn his "purple heart" on the streets and become a “real man,” as well. So the summer after high school, before heading off to Ivy-league academia, Aaron found himself in one of the grimiest places in America. Ex-cons, ex-killers, and killers, alike, and nobody knew who was who. But everyone could tell who the killer definitely was not, and that was baby-faced, eighteen year-old Aaron, because he was the only one who looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
However, after a couple of months of spending every waking moment on the merciless Manhattan streets, an evil sense of enjoyment started settling over him. Aaron was slowly changing, and his super-risky manhood experiment proved to be working. To top it off, some of Hell’s Kitchen’s biggest loan sharks decided to adopt Aaron, and even began spreading the word on the streets that Aaron was now their "son."
Aaron really loved these guys. These gangsters were all that he imagined manhood to be. They had money, which they lavished on their own kids; they had power, to where their names alone moved mountains; and they got so much respect that it was embarrassing to see how grown men would follow them around like puppies. But Aaron didn't have to follow behind them like another puppy, because the head loan shark really loved Aaron, and let him ride shotgun.
So, years gone by, after consecutive semesters at college, and consecutive summers on the wicked streets of New York City, life had become a rather dangerous juggling act. Among fellow Ivy-Leaguers and family members, 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 known as “Fam," the wild college kid with a criminal mind that was growing increasingly crazy and risky.
However, in both worlds, the true Aaron couldn't be found, as even Aaron couldn't locate who “Aaron” was anymore. And he was growing increasingly frustrated as both the Ivy-League and the streets had failed to deliver the grand satisfaction they promised.
So Aaron started spending more time drunk and high on marijuana and mushrooms, and could be found "tore up" on just about any day of the week, walking down the street with “Buddha,” his four-foot python, wrapped around his neck.
At this point, Aaron was known far and wide for being wild and reckless. But what nobody knew was that he had begun spending much of his alone time in a personal search for truth. Even while hiding out in urinedrenched alleyways in New York City, Aaron could now be found reading philosophy books (taking “study breaks” to send crack addicts on runs for stolen electronics). And after a day of science classes at UPenn, Aaron would retreat to his off-campus apartment, where he’d commence to chainsmoking Newports while reading and searching for answers to life’s most difficult questions: “Where did we come from?” ”Why are we even here?" "What is the meaning of life?” He spent countless hours studying Lao Tsu and Taoism, Siddhartha, The Celestine Prophecy and New Age, NativeAmerican mysticism, Carlos Castaneda and shamanism, Mdu Ntr (“Mi'doo Netcher”) and ancient Egyptian mystery religions, Rastafarianism and The Kebra Negast, Hebrew Israelites, and even a bit of the occult.
All Aaron wanted was to find Truth and Peace—in a rat-raced world of facades, frauds, and distractions, where everyone was intoxicated on cheap thrills.
And as more “life’s successes” failed to deliver any type of innersatisfaction, Aaron grew increasingly weary. In fact, young Aaron became so disenchanted with “the American dream,” that he began thinking that a jail cell might be the only place where he could find some type of peace and stillness. And the dark life Aaron was living would easily land him in such a place, eventually.
It was at this point that Aaron began having recurring dreams that he was down in the farmlands of North Carolina, where his Dad's side of the family resided. In these dreams, he was always drowning in quicksand in the middle of a cornfield, as venomous neon-colored snakes engulfed and squeezed his face, ready to bite. The dreams always ended the same way— Aaron getting pulled out of the quicksand, just in time, by this "hand."
Well, taking this as an omen or sign to take a trip down South, Aaron boarded an Amtrak. There, he found his Christian family members whom he hadn't seen in years. Uncle Greg, his father’s brother-in-law, had the largest impact on Aaron when he saw him. As a little kid, Aaron idolized Uncle Greg as the coolest, sunglasses-wearing, beer-sipping, sin-loving, butt-kicking person on the planet. But now, Uncle Greg was a man with that same cool smile, but behind that smile was this endless spring of joy and peace. Uncle Greg was clearly a new man. Needless to say, Aaron was curious, though still skeptical about Christianity because of all of the antagonistic, anti-religion conversations he had entertained both in college and on the streets. But with complete patience, Uncle Greg opened the Bible and showed Aaron how the Bible doesn't merely teach “religion,” but rather, how man can have a personal relationship with God, through the crucified and risen Christ. He then shared the Gospel with Aaron, which though Aaron swore he knew it already, he had actually had no idea what the cross of Christ was really about.
Peace with God.
Power to live a victorious life.
A Hope that transcends Death and a paradise called Heaven.
And when Uncle Greg took Aaron to the book of Daniel, and showed him how the Bible supernaturally prophesied the major world empires before they even came to be (world empires that Aaron knew all-too-well because of his love for ancient history), and even showed Aaron how the entire Old Testament also had innumerable prophesies about the coming Messiah—all of which Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled—Aaron realized that the Bible was indeed supernatural, and thus, the “Word of God.”
He showed Aaron that in a world of chaos, Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace.
Aaron took an honest look at his life. Deep within, Aaron always knew that he was a sinner. More so, though he didn't know much about God, he always knew that God must be perfect, and that sin was wrong in His sight, and that “Judgment Day” was nothing to take lightly.
So Aaron finally repented of his sins and surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately and supernaturally, the scales fell from Aaron's eyes, and for the first time, he began to see. Addictions were broken, and restlessness was replaced with true rest in his soul, and Aaron’s change was so real and undeniable that it sent shockwaves from NYC to DC. Aaron got rid of all of his crime tools and spoils, and even began contacting people he had hurt to ask their forgiveness. For the first time ever, Aaron could say along with the psalmist, "be thou quiet, my soul, for the Lord hath dealt
bountifully with thee."
Finally, Aaron realized what being a “real man” was all about—fearing God, and walking with Him in sweet intimacy and joyful obedience. "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, had become Aaron's manhood. The deadly meandering and wearisome searching was officially over.
That mysterious “hand” that kept rescuing Aaron in his recurring dreams, was none other than the nailed-pierced hand of Jesus Christ.
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 today, Aaron and Natasha have been married for 22 years and have three amazing children, and innumerable “spiritual children.”
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
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