Transformational Testimony: When all their wishes came true

In the final installment of the “Transformational Testimony” series, the four formerly suspended students share where they are today and reflect back on their journey.

Now clean for two years, senior Colin Cabalka, senior Boye Fajinmi, junior Daniel Han and junior Clay Fisher are shown here in 2008. Courtesy of Boye Fajinmi

Now clean for two years, senior Colin Cabalka, senior Boye Fajinmi, junior Daniel Han and junior Clay Fisher are shown here in 2008. Courtesy of Boye Fajinmi

Kathryn Watson, Writer

Coming home (Spring 2010)

Strolling past Metzger Lawn toward the bell tower one temperate January day in 2009, Daniel Han basked in the beauty of it all — the rustle of the light wind through the leaves, the conversations taking place all around him, the sun streaming down. The library towering overhead had never looked so attractive. Secretly, he hoped he wouldn’t come across anyone he knew, just to preserve the moment’s sweetness. More than a year had elapsed since he last set foot on campus. It was good to be back.

Colin Cabalka, Boye Fainjimi and Clay Fisher were all back too. God had chosen to say “yes” to the questions tormenting Cabalka as he bid his comrades goodbye at LAX more than a year before when they were kicked out of Biola for doing drugs. After fulfilling the lengthy list of requirements — minus rehab — they were all readmitted on a second chance.

But it wouldn’t be easy transitioning.

The four knew they weren’t the same. God had vanquished the lure the old lifestyle once held over them. More than that, God had alleviated their deepest fears over their own salvation. He had taken them — welcomed them — back. Even human relationships with their parents and siblings had been restored and renewed.

Making the transition

Back in La Mirada, Calif., however, acceptance didn’t always seem the case. Like the times when he did drugs, Fajinmi felt the eyes of peers on him. But, this time, he felt as if they were watching, waiting, to see if the radical transformation he and the others professed was genuine. It was frustrating. Cabalka sensed it, too.

“I wanted to be back, but felt as though I had just gone on this crazy life changing journey, but felt as though no one could relate or understand, or even believe that God had changed our hearts and character,” Cabalka recalled.

The friends found, however, that Biola had changed along with them in that year. Old friends left, and old friendships faded. New ones formed in their place. They transitioned, little by little.

New normal (Fall 2010)

Sporting his turquoise S.O.S. T-shirt, Fajinmi watched the largest-ever incoming freshmen class pour onto campus on the characteristically warm SoCal day of Tuesday, Aug. 25. He realized just how much he had seen and changed over the past three years. Spring semester, not to mention the past two years, had been hard. But the suffering had grown him — had grown all of them.

Calling fall semester “normal” would be a stretch. But, finally, Fajinmi began to feel comfortable back in the community he and the others tried everything to escape.

“Doesn’t feel like I missed a beat,” he added.

Realizing how far he strayed when he came to Biola, Fajinmi now enjoys throwing safe, clean parties to offer friends a better alternative to the dark lifestyle he once pursued.

Colin Cabalka simply enjoys making daily encounters – like striking up conversations at the Caf or spontaneously praying for people – ministry opportunities.

“We are blessed to have this kind of community around us, where spiritual transformation and biblical truth flow so freely, and so many times, we take it for granted,” Cabalka said. “I know I did.”

Filled with something new

Han, a part of After Dark staff this semester, sees firsthand the brokenness of the Biola community – a brokenness that was once so intense in his own life. Eternally fulfilled is the aching hole Han once tried to satisfy with drugs.

“One third is filled up by God the Father, one third is filled up by God the Son, and the other third is filled up with God the Spirit,” he said, smilingly.

The tattoo from Israel etched in Hebrew letters on the back of Han’s neck echoes a theme the Lord hasn’t let leave him these past two years — “חופשי,” spelled out, “Hho-fesh.” Translated, it means “free.”

That’s exactly how Han feels now — free. Free to take joy in God. Free to pray for people. Free to make Christ the center of his relationships. Free to bless others. Free to tap into God’s overwhelming grace. They are daily freedoms.

“I feel like I’m being re-formed,” Han articulated.

Saved by the contract and grace

Remembering their old lifestyle, Fajinmi realizes how rebellion and drugs had taken God’s rightful throne. That old lifestyle was an idol, Cabalka realizes, they couldn’t conquer alone. The severity of the dismissal accomplished what perhaps nothing gentler could.

“I think there’s a lot of brokenness in the heart that a lot of people are feeling but they don’t get that kick in the butt that I feel like I had,” Cabalka said. “And God knew that’s what I needed, that that’s what we needed, us four. …The contract saved my life.”

But human chastisement wasn’t ultimately what saved them. Trying to change wasn’t ultimately what saved them. Human power was insufficient.

“It’s the grace of God that even remotely allows me to try my best, because it’s not about us trying harder, it’s about being filled with the desire and ability to have integrity,” Cabalka said. “I can’t do it on my own by any means.”

To hell and back again with a new perspective

Bittersweet nostalgia washed over Cabalka as he sat next to Danny Paschall, dean of students, on a bench in the Olive Grove bench under the warm, mid-afternoon sun rays on Nov. 11, 2010. Smiling at the man who authorized his dismissal two years before, Cabalka asked if Paschall remembered what today was. He didn’t. “Two years ago was the day I got caught,” Cabalka said.

So much had changed. He was now engaged to that beautiful girl from Florida he met for the first time outside LAX last December. He now cherished the community he once mocked. Addiction was a thing of the past. It was as if he had been to hell and back again.

Ironically, Cabalka and the others now have nothing but gratitude for the people who authorized their dismissal, and for the person who turned them in. Nov. 11 will always mark the day life changed forever.

“It was 11/11,” reflected Han. “And all our wishes came true.”

Moving forward

The temptation to do drugs may be gone, but that doesn’t mean the memory is. Cabalka still feels haunted at times by his past and human proclivity to sin. To this day, Fajinmi sometimes suffers residual effects of the Ativan withdrawals — adrenaline rushes, dizziness, headaches. But, those are just vivid reminders of what they were saved from two years ago.

Now, the focus of Fajinmi and the others is not looking back — it is “moving forward” — striving to take over the world for Christ, as Fajinmi said. Getting caught on Nov. 11, 2008 marked a crossroads at which the four allowed God to author their life stories.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” Fajinmi said. “But God made it the beginning of his.”

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