Not all heroes wear capes…

Just four years ago, Alex was a thief. He was pretty good at it, too. He stole regularly, mainly to buy beer or play pool in the neighborhood pool hall. Working in construction all his life, he learned how to run electricity to a house so that the electric company would never know. He stole from people in his neighborhood, and cut corners for those who hired him. Word of his dishonesty spread, and it was often hard to find work. He lived with his girlfriend Jenny and son Kevin in a tiny cinderblock house, barely big enough for their beds. They had been together since he was 17 and she was 14, never knowing anything but poverty, drunkenness, and dishonesty. Alex was the kind of guy that walked by and made you clutch your purse a little tighter and pick up your step. His baggy jeans and long ponytail made it clear—he was one of the “bad guys.”

Jenny, who began to attend our Bible study, got her life right and began to pray faithfully for her wayward boyfriend, the father of her son. We witnessed to Alex countless times. At first he avoided us; then, seeing we were persistent, he began to tolerate our visits; soon, he began to truly listen with conviction on his face as we explained what Christ had done for him. Once, his hands were visibly shaking so much that he gripped the edge of the couch. After he declined once again to make a decision, our hearts were heavy. Would he ever choose to leave his sin and trust Christ?

Nathan Massey (who would eventually join our team in 2009) came down for a survey trip in August of 2005. Although he spoke little Spanish, he had prepared and memorized a short sermon. God used that sermon to touch the hardened heart of a big construction worker in the front row—Alex prayed and trusted Christ as his Savior.

The changes that began to take place over the next few months amazed us. Alex got baptized a few weeks later. He then cut off his long ponytail and started coming to church in button-up dress shirts (which he’d never owned before). He decided to stop living in sin and marry his long-time girlfriend. He changed the way he worked, and God began to bless his construction business; once people saw he was honest and hard-working, he got more and more contracts. Alex eagerly went through our six-month discipleship program with Robbie, growing by leaps and bounds. He witnessed to his friends, neighbors, and co-workers. He taught a children’s class while we were on furlough. When we bought a bus, he was the first driver. Alex eventually became the foreman on our church’s building project, running a crew of twenty-five men on this site, with two additional crews on other projects across town. He purchased a vehicle for the first time in his life and used it to bring others to church. He then purchased a piece of land adjacent to our church property and built his own home. He and Jenny now have two boys and a third due in November.

A few months back, Alex was home for lunch when he heard shouting coming from down the street, where a little old lady ran a small store. “Get Alex! Get Alex!” they cried. A thief had broken into this store and stolen quite a bit of the lady’s merchandise, thrown it all into a black bag, and taken off down the street, heading toward the road. Alex yelled for a couple of men from his crew, and they jumped into the back of his pickup. He peeled out of his street toward the paved road; there was only one way out of this area, so they knew where to look. Sure enough, they caught sight of the thief as he hailed a cab at the side of the highway, jumped into the car, and sped off. Alex kept up the pursuit and forced the startled cab driver off the road before they got to the bridge. “You have a thief in your car!” he yelled. He yanked the guilty man out of the backseat, tied up his hands and feet, and threw him into the bed of his truck. Before taking him downtown to the police station, Alex drove back to the little old lady’s store, as neighbors lined the street and cheered. He dragged the thief inside and made him apologize to the lady and return her things one by one. The poor criminal was in tears by this point…he had no idea who he was up against!

Talk about changing sides! Alex is no longer one of the “bad guys.” He’s a hero to his wife, to his little boys, to the men on his crew, and to his family. But the biggest hero in this story is the One who took an empty life and turned it into something so beautiful. The Lord Jesus Christ gets all the honor and praise for this superman’s transformation.

Alex poses with DJ Groff (Beacon Baptist, Raleigh, NC) a few weeks after trusting Christ.

Alex holds up the permisssion from the city to build our church.

Alex goes over plans with one of his workers.

Alex (orange shirt) referees a game at a youth activity.

Alex and Jenny host people from church in their new home.

Alex, Jenny, Kevin, and Jonathan pose on their front porch with my parents, Ricky and Gwen Tippett.

2 Responses
  1. Kathy Says:

    Wow! Doesn't God write the greatest stories on the hearts of men? And isn't it fun to witness then capture it in words! Your gifts are blessing on 2 continents.

    Love you,

  2. Kimberly Grainger Says:

    Oh, how precious to hear those accounts of the radically-transforming work of God. What an encouragement to all of us back here stateside!
    Love you so,

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