Noel thought a man gained respect through rough talk and behaviour on the
southside of Chicago
On the south side of Chicago, young Noel Grace joined local gangs hoping he
would find the significance and self-esteem he was seeking. “Before I
reached 15 years of age,” Noel recalls. “I had been beaten with
baseball bats and chains, stabbed in the back twice and driven home by the
police over 30 times.”
On the outside, Noel was tougher, stronger, smarter and able to overthrow the
leader of a gang and intimidate or beat up the members.
“I answered to no one!” says Noel. “I marched to the beat of
my own drum, but my path was destructive.
“I had no regard for people or property. In high school I was kicked off
the football, baseball, wrestling, track and gymnastics teams for fighting and
my classmates voted me ‘Most likely not to succeed’. I was a
racist, a liar, a cheat, and a thief.”
One Sunday morning, Noel hopped on a church bus, intending to beat up a boy
who had been talking about him. However, his curiosity lead him right into the
church. Despite being rude to the Sunday school teacher, Noel and his siblings
were still warmly invited to the church’s youth group.
After their dad rededicated his life to Jesus Christ, Noel’s family was
joyfully reunited for a few happy years, secure with their Godly, loving
father and in a loving church.
Then, when Noel was 16, his father suffered life-threatening injuries during
“The doctors made a terrible mistake and while my dad clung to life I
prayed, ‘God, You can’t take my Dad, we have come too
far,’” Noel remembers.
“I truly believed God wouldn’t take him away from 11 children
still at home, the youngest of which was just one year old, but the next day
God took my dad to heaven.
“I reacted with anger towards God, his church and his people. I felt
cheated, betrayed and my faith, along with my spirit, was broken. So I
literally gave up on God and withdrew inside myself.”
Due to his anger and the burden of raising his younger siblings, 16-year-old
Noel returned to his former lifestyle of fighting and stealing.
The year he graduated from college, Noel remembers realising he was not a
child of God, so he began attending church again.
After marrying at age 21, Noel kept up a few religious rituals like attending
church and praying at meals.
“I knew God was not happy that I was not letting Him into my heart, but
I also knew He was the reason I had all that I had.”
Noel’s life began to change when his family life unravelled and he got a
“After all that mess, God sent me a miracle, my wife Stephanie. She is
my partner and my best friend. She truly loves me and supports me in all that
One Sunday at church, Noel heard a sermon that he believes God had specially
prepared for him.
“I realised I had skated through life long enough. I wanted to be just
like my dad, which meant I had to stop running and open my heart to what God
wanted from me.
“I put aside my fear that I had made too many mistakes and genuinely
surrendered all of my life to Jesus Christ. In that moment, I trusted in
Jesus’ death on the cross for forgiveness of my evil thoughts and
actions against Him and asked Him to make me a new person.
“From that moment, the Spirit of God began to work in me and show me
things I had not understood before.”
Since that day, Noel has a new desire and passion for life.
“My desire for the rest of my life is to
love Jesus more, love others more and be Jesus to others,” Noel
“Jesus has allowed me to be a friend and share Jesus with people of all
ages, and it is always humbling because each time I am blessed by God and
sense His presence in a real and powerful way.”
Noel and Stephanie have also moved to a new church, where Noel says he has met
some amazing men.
“God has given me a wonderful men’s Bible study group, filled with
amazing men who help me to take a deeper look at myself and apply God’s
principles to my life so I can see what real manhood is.
“To this day I still struggle to put away the rough acting, talking and
behaving of my former life, but I praise God for His healing hand. In His
strength, I want to be an example to my wife, my children and my grandchildren
as to what a real Christian man is.”
In all these struggles, Noel does not despair, adding, “God has blessed
Stephanie and me in every way”.
“I cannot wait to turn to the next chapter of our lives, with the
promise that I will see my dad again one day in heaven.”