Tyrone Flowers was just 17 when a confrontation with a teammate turned violent. Tyrone put up his hands to fight, but the teammate pulled a gun. Multiple shots later, the once-promising basketball player was paralyzed for life.
“The main thing that was ringing in my head was getting this person back – revenge,” Tyrone says. “My goal was either put him in a wheelchair or kill him.”
Tyrone was the one who ended up in a wheelchair. It was just the latest blow in a life that had been full of them. Born to teenage parents who couldn’t care for him and taken from his ailing grandmother at age 7, he spent the next decade bouncing between foster homes, group homes, residential treatment facilities and reform school.
“I was told I would never amount to anything,” Tyrone recalls. After his father was murdered when Tyrone was 10, “People would always tell me, ‘You’re going to be just like your father – either dead or in jail.’ ”
Tyrone was just starting to get his life together – it was his senior year of high school – when an argument with a teammate escalated. The other boy pulled out a .357 Magnum and fired three shots, severing Tyrone’s spinal cord.
The desire for vengeance burned within him for two years. But in conversations with God, he moved past anger and self-pity to forgiveness and a new perspective.
“Now, what was really burning in my heart was, ‘Why did God save me?’ ” Tyrone says. “Why did I go through the things I went through? What was my purpose?”
Tyrone attended the University of Missouri-Columbia on a Fulbright Scholarship, not only graduating with honors but going on to earn a law degree in 1998. While in school, working on a paper about the juvenile-justice system, he visited some of the centers where he’d stayed as a child. He found that he had a connection with the kids.
“[They] were going through something that I’d already experienced – parents are incarcerated or dead, grew up in poverty, trouble in school,” he says. “I knew that God had equipped me uniquely to work with high-risk urban youth.”
Today, Tyrone leads Higher M-Pact, a ministry to rescue and mentor at-risk youth in Kansas City, Missouri, and beyond.
“I realized that, if you’re operating in God’s perfect will, you’re not disabled,” he says. “He’s going to enable you to do whatever you’re called to do.”
To learn more about Tyrone Flowers’ story, listen to the May 14 Focus on the Family broadcast, titled “Offering Hope to Hopeless Kids.”