Opportunity of a lifetime

19-year old Ian Robert still can’t believe what God had in store for him in the midst of Katrina’s devastation.

Two and a half years ago, Ian Robert was a junior at Hahnville, traveling the path that many 16 year olds take. By his own admission, at the time he was into going out and getting drunk with his buddies and wasn’t ready to change his ways. Since that time, Ian’s life, has made a complete turnaround.

Now a college freshman, Ian spoke about how God changed his life to the Holy Family Youth Group last Sunday night. He also performed several christian rap songs to the delight of those in attendance.

Ian’s conversion began the summer of his senior year on a weekend he’ll always remember.

Although his parents, Diane and Neil, were staunch Catholics, Ian wasn’t into the faith much. The only reason he began going to the Holy Family Catholic church youth group meetings at all were because youth director Mike Madere asked him to play the guitar.

Then the youth group started attending conferences and Ian said, all he could think was, “Only crazy people go to those – you know, holy rollers!”

But Ian’s mom, Diane, coerced him into going to the Steubenville South conference. Says Ian, “I didn’t want to go but I went anyway and said I’d be open to it.” Little did he know that it would be a yes that would change his life:

“When I got there I was amazed,” described Ian of the youth South’s largest Youth Conference. “Anyone whose been to Steubenville South knows how intense and amazing it is.” The fun-loving teenager finally found what he had been looking for. “I knew that God loved me and I knew I needed God,”

That summer the soon-to-be senior realized something that many unfortunate souls don’t ever discover – that the emptiness inside of him that he was always looking to fill was in fact his need for God. “When I was getting drunk, I’d still wake up in the morning and feel empty,” explained Ian. Now with his new relationship with God that emptiness was gone.

But back at home it wasn’t that easy to change, surrounded by friends who were still on the same track he had been on. “Changing things I did with friends was really hard,” said Ian. “You really have to surround yourself with friends that will bring you to holiness.”

Robert said he had no idea what God had in store for him – but the college freshman, still can’t believe the events that happened after his conversion.

Robert was all set to begin his freshman year as a theology student at Holy Cross College in New Orleans when Katrina struck and closed down the college for the semester.

He had heard that colleges in other states were offering free scholarships to students affected by the storm so by chance he called the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The Catholic university is respected world-wide, both for its curriculum in theology and for its spirit-filled campus. Robert says that if it weren’t for the free first semester, he would have never gone to Steubenville because it is expensive.

When the life-long southerner arrived in Ohio, he couldn’t believe how the spirit moved through the campus.

The students there weren’t what people would think of as “holy rollers”. These students were bright and talented — from humorists, to musicians to athletes. But what really impressed Ian was that they all had one thing in common. They weren’t afraid to worship God.

Instead of fraternities and sororities, Franciscan has brotherhoods and sisterhoods – groups that prayed together, supported each other, and had fun. “You wouldn’t believe the guys in my brotherhood; one minute they’ll be killing each other playing Rugby and the next they’re praising God.”

Ian began rapping at Franciscan and even had the opportunity to perform with famous Christian rap singer, Righteous B.

“That’s how I glorify God,” he said.

Steubenville fit like a glove, and Ian says he plans to finish out his college years there, even though he has to take out a student loan to do it. His advice to teenagers searching for the meaning of life is, “Don’t be afraid of your faith and don’t be afraid to love God. Don’t be ashamed, you never know what God has in store for you.


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