31 Kings Campaign
Over the past four years, it’s been incredible what God has done at engage church. What’s exciting is, the best is yet to come…
31 Kings is all about entering our Promised Land, the place where God has called us to be. We expanded to our new location in Collegetown, we upgraded our Engage Kids to a whole new level, and now it's time to finish what we've started with enhancing our sanctuary.
Drugs and alcohol quickly consumed Jeff at a young age. As his life spiraled out of control, no one knew just had bad it was about to get. Watch to discover his journey.
Paul Rorie arrived late to our interview. Considering that he lives forty-five minutes away and had worked until 4 A.M., it was easy to forgive. Besides, he now faced a far more onerous challenge: telling us his age.
“Man, I don’t even keep up with it! I was born on January 27, 1979. So that’s, let’s see…”
Billy Humphrey, Engage Church’s Experience and Storytelling Architect, made some quick calculations. “You’d be forty in 2019.”
“I’m old, dude; I’m old. I feel it sometimes,” laughed Rorie. “Nah, I’m young at heart.”
Though I’ve never officially met Rorie, my interactions with him have been numerous. He’s sort of a semi-permanent fixture at Engage, the stocky man with a signature goatee, close-cropped hair, and tattoos peeking out from beneath a t-shirt. The same warmth with which he hands out his cheery “Good mornings!” outside of church on Sundays (yeah, he’s that guy!) is palpable today. When I reach across the table for a handshake, I already feel at ease.
Humphrey, his wife, Eve, Rorie, and I crowded into a booth at Masa, a local Asian fusion restaurant a few blocks from Engage. What was designed to comfortably sit two, maybe three, made for a certain kind of closeness - the kind that causes one to bump elbows with his/her neighbor or snag food from someone else’s plate - the kind of closeness that made it easy to tell stories.
It was the perfect setup, for Paul Rorie had a story to tell.
“I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, “ he began. “I always joke with people, but if you catch Cold Case, or whatever it’s called, it’s like one of those crime shows. Those are like the streets I grew up on.”
For the most part it was just him and his mom, not counting a handful of family members and friends who helped care for him. Taking up the roles of both mom and dad, as many single parents must, Rorie’s mother worked constantly to support their little family.
“Me and Mom are still tight,” said Rorie. “I think that’s where I get my work ethic from. She always worked hard.”
They moved to Tallahassee in the summer of his fifth grade year. When Humphrey asked if he’d enjoyed school, Rorie just shrugged. “I’ve always been on the heavy side. I never really fit in with any kind of sport. I’ve always felt kind of artistic and things like that, but I never picked up any kind of hobbies. I was always just an introvert, so I stayed to myself.”
He paused. “I used to walk around with a fanny pack with candy in it and sling candy. I remember that.”
“For sale or just for free?” asked Humphrey.
“Nah, for sale. What did I used to do?” Rorie mused for a moment, slowly winding back the years. “It was water and cinnamon, maybe Red Hots, and I would soak toothpicks in it and go sell them at school. I used to sling, bro. That young, you know what I mean?” He laughed.
At sixteen, Rorie entered Godby High School in the cusp of a perfect storm. His mother remarried. Rorie’s new step-father, a struggling alcoholic, helped raise him for a while, but they quickly started to butt heads, “like, big time.” Before things could escalate, Rorie left home.
That’s when the drugs came in.
“I think the first time that I did it,” Rorie described, “I didn’t know how I felt about it. It was alright. But I was constantly around it, so it was easy just to jump into it and keep up with it and eventually, truthfully, just love weed over anything.”
It wasn’t long before Rorie’s childhood business amped up its product from candy to marijuana and, later, cocaine. And with a set routine, it was too easy. “The dealer lived in the apartments behind Godby, so I would take my orders when I got to school and at lunchtime, I would walk across the street, get what I needed, come back, and hand it out.”
He shuffled some fried rice and egg rolls into a to-go box before continuing. “But, yeah. It was just natural. It was easy. It funded my habit, you know what I’m saying?”
“What made you quit?” I asked.
“Probably my kids,” Rorie responded. “When I had my kids, that’s really when I quit everything.”
There were more pauses between his words, more silences brimming with emotion whenever Rorie mentioned his children. Crouched together in that booth, we all sensed an immense love.
“I always knew, even before my ex-wife said she was pregnant, that when I had kids I was going to be a part of their life. I truly thank God for them because they are my gifts.”
Rorie still slung to his closest friends until three or four years ago, around the time he first started attending Engage Church. Rorie always called himself a Christian. His mother kept him in church growing up, but he was soon forced to reconsider when a man by the name of Derek Kasdorf asked him a very difficult question.
“I was at his house for one of my first Engage groups not long after I started,” said Rorie, “and he was like, ‘Man, I’d like to meet you.’ So I went to his house and sat down and talked with him. He was the first one who said, ‘Dude, I’d like to question if you truly are a Christian or not.’
Rorie was so offended he almost didn’t come back. “It was that hard,” he said. “But it was a good question because it makes you stand there and look at yourself in the mirror, you know what I mean? I thank him to this day for that.”
It was as if through Kasdorf, Rorie explained, God had asked him, “What are you going to do now?” Rorie’s response was immediate: he dove in headfirst. He started attending church weekly, helping set up before service and tear down after. Eventually, he became an Owner. And he joined the Welcome Team, which is how I first encountered Rorie and his cheery “Good mornings!” when I started going to Engage Church.
“Where do you think you’d be,” Humphrey leaned in, “if it was not for going to church and being a part of Engage?”
“Dead,” said Rorie. “I’d be dead.
“When I was doing all the coke, that’s why I say I know God’s always been in my life, He always talked to me, like, verbally.” He chuckled.
“It had been a bad Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday binge again. Not sleeping, just doing straight coke. I remember just sitting in my room, sitting in the corner, and a voice was like, ‘Alright man. Keep going down this path or change your path. One of the two.’ So I got up the next day, and the rest of the coke I had, I flushed it down the toilet. I haven’t done it since.” That was almost fourteen years ago.
We parted ways that afternoon after over two hours in that tiny, crowded booth, Humphrey, Eve, Rorie, and I, knowing that though the interview was over, Rorie’s story is far from finished.
“Throughout my whole life,” said Rorie, “I’ve always know that God’s been leading me. Looking back, there ain’t no doubt. Have I been doing the right thing and what He’s been wanting me to do? That’s totally different. But has He been leading me? Yeah. He’s been protecting me for a long time. A long time, no doubt.”
“Paul, you don’t give yourself enough credit,” said Eve.
“No because if I did, I’d take it.”
Susannah tried masking her pain any way she could until one evening, this threatened to take her life. Watch to discover more of Susannah's journey.