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The 700 Club

Loved Without Performing

Buffalo, NY

“I excelled in physical activity, such as running, running track, some basketball, some soccer. Everything I did as a child I identified in my abilities.” Those natural abilities and growing up in a loving foster home gave Schwartzen Precil everything he needed: confidence, attention, and love. Then, at 8-years-old he was hit by a car and ended up on crutches. While a minor injury, it revealed just how much those abilities meant to him. Schwartzen recalls, “I just had negative thoughts shortly after the car accident and these negative thoughts had me act out on some anger. I just felt like it was a mark of shame. Not being able to run, not being able to jump around, to play sports, and it just felt like I had lost my identity.”  

Then came a devasting blow. After investigating the accident, social services took Schwartzen from his cherished foster mom, and put him in a group home with an abusive foster dad Schwartzen called “The Warden.” He recalls, “The first day he just hit me upside the head, and I ended up falling, and I cried. And this is where he said, you know, ‘Men don't cry here.’ And so, I was conditioned from that point to not cry.” For the next 6 years, Schwartzen was the target of physical and mental abuse by The Warden and the other kids at the home. He says, “Now acting out. I'm now, you know, being angry, showing frustration, punching things, breaking things, being destructive.”

Each Sunday, the kids were sent off to church, but to Schwartzen, the idea of a loving God seemed like a joke. He says, “How can you tell me that there's a God who loves and shows mercy, if I'm being assaulted at home? If I'm going through at trauma at home, if I'm not getting enough to eat at home. It doesn't make sense.”

There was only one place where he felt accepted. “The basketball court became my sanctuary. I felt free from the negative thoughts. I felt free from depression. Basketball was an opportunity for me to channel my emotions, my anger and to use it towards something that I loved.”

In 9th grade he made the varsity team, but The Warden wouldn’t let him play. So, at 14, Schwartzen ran away and took his anger to the streets. He remembers, “I was stealing. I was fighting. I was lying. I had trouble with the law. I felt free. I felt like the gang, the street life was my family. I felt more accepted by them than I did in the home that I was just in for six years.” But that freedom was short-lived. Soon Schwartzen was arrested for robbery and sent back to the home. The next year The Warden became ill, which opened the door for Schwartzen to try out for the varsity basketball team. Finally, he found where he belonged. He recalls, “So, basketball did help me change how I saw myself, because it was something that I was able to see myself be successful in.”

He went on to 3 stellar seasons and led his team to New York City’s “elite 8” for the first time in the school’s history. He recalls, “It made me feel above the world. And it made me forget about my problems. Just being in the four – the four lines of the court, it helped me channel, it helped me focus, helped me set my goals.” Schwartzen was thrilled to earn a college scholarship. But now, at 17 and in a new town, a new school, and surrounded by new faces, his feelings of isolation and rejection returned. He says, “Outside of basketball, I still felt very nervous, very depressed from being away from something I just built in my home city and now I have to travel and do something all over again. And so, I turned to alcohol and marijuana uh to help me forget about those thoughts.”

Towards the end of his freshman year, the drugs and alcohol weren’t enough. He recalls, “I thought all hope was lost, there's no way I can get away from these negative thoughts of no one cares about you. No one loves you. You know, you're not good enough. And I went into my dorm room, and I saw the blade on the sink of the dorm room, and I picked it up and uh I thought, you know, this was it, you know, I'm gonna – I'm gonna kill myself. No one would care. And I picked up the blade and I put it to my throat. And I said, ‘God, if you're real, uh show me that you're real. If not, I'm gonna kill myself.’ And I cried out. And I felt my body trembling. And as I looked up, I felt the toxins, the effects of the marijuana and the alcohol starting to leave my body. And as those things are leaving my body, it was like a supernatural experience. All of those feelings, the depression feeling, the anxiety, it went away. I picked up the Bible and I started to read the Gospels. And I realized who Jesus spoke to. And I was able to identify with the individuals in the Bible.”

He started attending church and a few weeks later accepted Jesus into his life. He says, “Accepting Him as my Lord and Savior, it made me feel whole. It made me feel like I lacked nothing. It made me feel accepted into His family as a son. This is the first time I identified myself as someone's son. A child of God.”

Schwartzen found a mentor who helped him forgive those who’d hurt him and develop his relationship with God. He finished college and played two years as a pro in Europe before retiring for good. Now he works as a director at a Boys and Girls Club helping kids, who feel broken and abandoned find hope in Christ. He believes, “No matter how hard life is, there's still a God who cares enough to come after us. He'll leave the 99 for the one. Take that leap of faith, take that chance, that opportunity, because He always waiting, He's always waiting.”

Courtesy: Special video support from Jasmine Ramos

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