On Wednesday afternoons in downtown Manhattan, one room on the third floor of Trinity Church suddenly fills with the smell of pizza and the clamor of 20 high-school students from neighboring Leadership High School.
Alex's story of exploring independence, fleeing danger and finally finding purpose resonates with these kids. He had their full attention as he told them his story.
Fleeing for Freedom
At 16 (the same age as many of these students), Alex left his home and family to flee the civil war in Sierra Leone. Alex says, "I was living my life, trying to explore my youthfulness there."
He describes his life as aimless, being in "limbo," without a clear purpose.
But everything changed when a friend invited him to church, and Alex believed God was trying to get his attention.
"The things he was talking about, all the things were related to me, and I felt God was talking directly to me. That was the beginning of the rest of my life."
Finding New Life
Alex says, "I was reborn, I had a new life, and I got the vision to be in politics, to have an influence, to encourage people that God has given them an enormous potential."
Alex's desire to have an influence is why he enrolled at King's, a liberal arts college in New York that focuses on training exceptional leaders in politics, philosophy and economics. Cru is parent organization to the college.
Being an Approachable Example
They can see in Alex's face that he isn't there to "teach" them as much as to encourage them as someone who'd walked a long way in their own shoes.
One student, Darren Dailey, was a new believer when he met Alex. Darren calls Alex a "high-octane role model."
"I was impressed that he overcame so much," Darren says. "He kept a hunger for Christ, never letting anything knock him down."
To Darren, the maturity of Alex's faith seemed out of reach, but Alex told Darren that he still has struggles and has to rely on God to overcome them.
Darren felt like being a Christian meant living up to high expectations. "I felt like you had to be here, and I wasn't there yet," says Darren. "He shot that down."
Alex told Darren that temptations would always be there but that learning to depend on God to overcome them took practice.
"I have new confidence that it's a process," says Darren.
He is beginning to sound like Alex.
Alex just graduated from The King's College, but he is praying that God will broaden his opportunities for influence. He plans to move to Washington, D.C., to work in politics.