Meet Jeff Stone. Home in Fort Lauderdale for a brief missions respite. Nothing about Jeff’s warm demeanor and clean-cut appearance give any hint of the life that he once lived back in Las Vegas. However, once Jeff sits down and begins to open up, he tells an intriguing and powerful story of his transformation from crystal meth addict to Christian missionary.
Jeff begins, “As a young boy, my dad would bring me along to his baseball games where most of the guys were drunk most of the time. From an early age I saw alcohol as a normal part of everyday life.” Despite the poor role models at the baseball field, Jeff fell in love with the game as a child and devoted himself to baseball from that point forward. Baseball became Jeff’s god and he became a skilled catcher and hitter. Jeff’s ability in sports birthed a prideful, “all-about-me” attitude which his parents did virtually nothing to curb.
God was somewhere in the picture, but Jeff got some pretty mixed messages when it came to Christianity. He shares, “My parents were church-goers, but not church-doers. My dad would always have Christian music and sermons playing on the radio, but be getting drunk at the same time. When I was around 12 years old, my dad truly came to know Jesus and stopped drinking, but by that time I was already in the beginning stages of addictions of my own.” In middle school, Jeff started getting drunk and smoking marijuana. Once he entered high school, the addictions in Jeff’s life exploded. “High school for me was all about sports, drinking, sex and drugs. I first snorted crystal meth during one of my classes in ninth grade,” Jeff shares. “As high school progressed, it got to the point where my friends and I would stay up all night partying on meth or cocaine, sleep all through school the next day and then drag ourselves out to baseball or football in the afternoon, exhausted and hung-over. This was a regular thing for me.” Jeff recalls how the drug use got progressively worse after he barely graduated from high school and then used his baseball skills to party his way through four years of community college in California. “I became a full-blown cocaine addict. Even my coaches began to hate me because of the negative influence I was having on everyone around me. Every day I used more and more drugs to cover up the growing pain of blowing the opportunity I once had through baseball, and really the pain of failing at life in general.”
Eventually Jeff returned to Las Vegas in hopes of getting clean. He shares, “Most people run from ‘Sin City’ to get off drugs, but I ran back to it thinking that I would be different.” It was only a matter of time before he started running with his old crew. Jeff began valeting cars at a high-end steakhouse on the Vegas Strip. Shortly after, he began to offer his “services” to all of the out-of-town businessmen that he encountered through his job each night, providing them with drugs, VIP access strip clubs and fulfilling their requests for prostitutes. “I was very business-minded and became the best strip-club promoter in town,” shares Jeff. “Sometimes I would make $1,000 a night. This obviously blew up my drug use, and I started to use meth heavily, which put me on a vicious cycle. I would start out in the glamour of Vegas VIP rooms and end up three or four days later still awake, blown-out on meth, in a trailer park with tweakers who had no teeth from smoking their brains out. Then I’d go sleep it off for few days and do it all over again.”
This cycle continued for years. In and out of detoxes and rehabs, Jeff was unable to escape from the grip that methamphetamine now had on his life. After nearly dying from his drug use, stealing from his family and missing his own grandmother’s funeral because he was out getting high, Jeff’s family finally convinced him to leave Las Vegas and seek long-term help at a Christian discipleship ministry called Calvary House in Fort Lauderdale. While the structure, rules and Spartan living conditions were a slap in the face for party-boy Jeff, he knew that his life needed a serious change. Jeff shares, “I began to learn a life that I had previously no clue about. I was learning how to be a Christian man, and really how to be a man at all. For the next two-and-a-half years, I was taught the principles of the Bible how and apply them to my daily life.”
Then, against the counsel of his mentors and friends, Jeff decided to return to Vegas to pursue his education and a career in the world. He returned with every intention of staying clean and close to God, but it was a short matter of time before things began to spiral out of control again. One morning, after being up for four days straight, Jeff was sitting at the Hard Rock pool high on ecstasy and psychedelic mushrooms. He says, “I looked up at the sun and said, ‘God if you’re real, show me something!’ Nothing happened. I took this as a sign that the faith I had come to know in Fort Lauderdale was nothing but a lie. Later on that day I went home and took some sleeping pills to finally go to sleep. I woke up out of a coma two days later and was told that I had overdosed, had to have my stomach pumped, and that I had almost died. It wasn’t until about six months later that I realized that God did, in fact, show me something and speak to me that day. He saved my life. I had chosen to kill myself and God had chosen to save me.”
A short time after this near-death experience, Jeff left Vegas for the last time. He returned to Fort Lauderdale and to Calvary House, knowing that staying in Nevada would be a self-imposed death sentence. He shares, “When I returned to Calvary House this time, I was truly broken. The director, John Ramseur, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Jeff I refuse to let you fail.’ He meant it. No one has ever invested in me like that man did.” Three months later, Jeff’s older sister passed away from brain cancer. Jeff shares, “I know I never would have survived that time without my brothers in Christ surrounding me. I had so much guilt from abandoning my sister during her battle with cancer, and I would have run to drugs without the tough love of John and my friends at Calvary House.”
Over the next year, Jeff spent literally every day alongside John as he served, counseled and ministered to others. Jeff saw in John—a former major drug addict himself—the joy, peace and fulfillment of a life lived to honor God and serve others. Over time, Jeff grabbed ahold of this vision for his own life and jumped when the call came to do missions work in Merida, Mexico.
As God would have it, Jeff’s primary responsibility as a missionary in Mexico was to be teaching English to a group of 15 sixth-grade students. “Here I am, a guy who speaks no Spanish and barely graduated from high school, and a guy who was a full-blow drug addict just a couple of years ago, and I’m entrusted with teaching an entire group of kids about English and Jesus. My experience in Mexico has made me so reliant upon God, because I am so not qualified for what I’m doing!” Shortly before leaving for Mexico, Jeff met his wife Nicole, and they agreed to date long-distance during Jeff’s first year of missions work and to marry when God made a way. In 2010, Jeff traveled from Florida to Mexico with his sixth graders in to, for a week. At the end of that week, Jeff and Nicole were married on Friday and were home in Mexico that same Sunday to serve the Lord together as husband and wife.
God has more than blessed the Stones’ missionary work in Mexico. They have spent the last three years serving alongside Calvary Christian Academy in Merida, have planted a church in the Mayan village of Tizimin and have hosted dozens of missions teams from the U.S. Jeff’s life was so impacted by his time at Calvary House, that he has replicated the same ministry model in Mexico, and now oversees two discipleship houses of his own – one for men and one for women. Jeff and Nicole were blessed to welcome a son, Asher Nehemiah, into the world in 2011, and also recently felt led to adopt Jose, a 13-year old Mexican boy whose grandmother was no longer able to care for him. On the near horizon, Jeff and Nicole are feeling God’s call to plant a church in Guatemala. “This is a real step of faith for us,” says Jeff. “We have been blessed to partner with a well-established ministry in Mexico, but we will be starting from scratch in Guatemala. I am excited to see what God is going to do.”
After spending his first 30 years searching for happiness in all that the world has to offer, the peace and joy in Jeff’s eyes are undeniable. “If there’s one thing I hope people take away from my story it’s that there’s hope in Jesus,” Jeff says. “It doesn’t matter how far down you’ve gone. God can and will redeem your life and take you to places that you can never even imagine. If I could tell you the best dream that I’ve ever had in my entire life, it is nothing compared to how incredible my life is today. I have joy and contentment, but it’s got nothing to do with physical things. It’s got everything to do with my place at the feet of Jesus. He wants to do the same thing in your life if you will just give Him the chance.”
Read the Stone’s blog at: http://stonesinmexico.blogspot.mx