The music of multi-talented and versatile performer, Jontez, is a bold blend of pop, rhythm and blues, hop-hop and Latin rhythms. He's opened for artists like Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, Point of Grace and Erykah Badu. For May's Unplugged, Jontez talks to readers about why He knows God is real.
Three things happened in my life that has convinced me that there is a God, that He is real and that I have a personal relationship with Him. I don't need a preacher to convince me...I lived it out.
In early 2001, my 18 year old sister found a lump on her shoulder. I'll never forget the day we sat in the doctor's office and found out that my beautiful little sister had lymphoma, a particularly deadly form of cancer. They had found a fist-sized tumor in her chest that had developed around her liver and grown all the way up to her shoulder. She'd had it for at least two years before they found it and by then it was all over her body. Her disease was terminal - she didn't have long to live.
It was hard watching her go through chemo and squirm in her bed because the pain was so bad. And it was hard watching her go from being a vibrant, beautiful young woman to basically nothing. Chemo treatments cause you to lose all of your white blood cells and it's important that patients avoid being exposed to any bacteria or they could get really sick. Now, I'm the kind of person who gets busy when tragedy hits. So, when my sister was undergoing treatment, I went to my mom's house and cleaned it from top to bottom, bleaching and disinfecting the whole entire house.
When I got back to my apartment that night, the seriousness of the situation finally hit me. I realized why I was doing everything that I was doing - that my sister was really dying. I remember crying so heavily that I wasn't even able to physically hold myself up. I slid down the wall in my hallway until my face hit the floor.
At that particular moment, I learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. At that moment, I told God, "If you decide to take my sister away from me, then so be it. I will love you the same. Whatever you decide to do God, I'm 100% behind you." My love for God wasn't predicated by what He did or did not do for me. It was based on my absolute love for Him. It was the hardest thing to be able to say that, but I meant it. Of course I prayed for my sister to be healed, but from that point on, I accepted His will - whatever it was.
In September it was time for the next phase of her treatment - a bone marrow transplant. The doctors tested me and all three of my brothers, but none of us was a match. A donor was finally found and my sister was prepped and ready to go ahead with the procedure. When all of the preliminary tests and examinations had been done, the doctor dropped a bombshell...
My mom called me at work that day with the news. The doctors could find no trace of cancer in her body. She wasn't in remission, it was like she'd never had cancer at all! The disease was completely gone - the only evidence they found was some scar tissue where the tumor had been.
I didn't know how to react. I wasn't used to getting good news, every day she'd gone farther and farther downhill. It had been cloudy for 9 months, and then all of a sudden the sun came out. I was amazed - I mean I had seen the x-rays and she definitely had cancer. She'd gone through chemotherapy for God's sakes! And then miraculously ... it was gone! I know God is real.
One of my dreams had always been to visit New York City. I was finally able to take a trip with a couple of friends of mine in September of 2001, shortly after my sister was healed. My coworker's boyfriend went to New York pretty frequently, so I asked him where to get the best view of the city. He suggested I go to the north tower of the World Trade Center to a famous restaurant called Windows on the World. I wrote his recommendation down on a sticky note and put it on my computer.
The plan was to go with my friends on September 9th and 10th and then drop them off at La Guardia airport on the 11th for their 7:45 a.m. flight home. From there, I was going to go straight to the World Trade Center and check out Windows on the World. But at the last minute, their schedule changed and my friends decided to take a later flight.
I woke up to the phone ringing that morning. It was my mom, anxious to see if I was okay. I was irritated, "Mom, I'm asleep, why are you waking me up?" Then she told me to turn on the television. When I switched it on, I couldn't believe the horrifying scene at the twin towers... right down the street from the hotel we were staying at. If my friends had stuck to their original schedule and taken that 7:45 a.m. flight, I would have been on the top floor when American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m.
I remember walking in NYC on September 11th. Normally, Manhattan is loud with horns honking and all this activity going on. That particular day, however, I remember walking down the street with thousands of other people, but everybody was quiet. It was like a quiet panic - everybody was frantically trying to get off Manhattan, but too stunned to speak. It was surreal - almost an out of body experience. The sky was full of smoke and ashes and the sirens were wailing. And I could literally smell flesh in the air. I'll never forget it as long as I live.
The freakish thing was going back to my office a few days later and seeing that yellow note still on my computer "Windows on the World, World Trade Center." I thank God that He kept me from being harmed that horrible day and pray for those whose lives were changed forever.
Before all of these bad things happened to me in 2001, I never would have been able to say that I would love God no matter what. I couldn't say that until I'd been through the test. Now I really know what that means, and I'm able to put myself completely aside and allow God to have His way in my life.
These events helped me put my life back into perspective and to really understand that it's not all about me. It's about God performing His will in my life. And when I submit myself to Him, I know I'll be a lot happier and live a much more successful life. I'm just a fragile man, and I know I can't do anything without God in my life. It might have taken three huge, life-changing experiences, but yeah, God brought me back around. And because of that, I know He's real.
Amy Hammond-Hagberg is an internationally published freelance writer. Her work has appeared in magazines all around the globe. She is also the author of three books: "How Do You Know He's Real: Celebrity Reflections on True Life Experiences with God", and "How Do You Know He's Real: God Unplugged" feature the Christian testimonies of famous actors, recording artists and athletes. She also wrote the book, "My Favorite Christmas" (Integrity House, 2006), which shares precious holiday memories by noted celebrities. Find out more on her website, www.amyhagberg.com.
Writer: Amy Hammond-Hagberg