Prodigal Son Returns
After a night of wrestling with God in prayer, a young man struggling with substance abuse changed the course of his life. And today, he is using his testimony to minister to college students in recovery from addiction.
Daniel Fred woke up in a jail cell on a Saturday night back in 2002 after abusing drugs and alcohol and getting into a terrible car accident.
The then 21-year-old called his father, Terry Fred, an Assemblies of God minister and U.S. missionary, and confessed that he was on a bad path after moving to Texas from his home in Reno, Nevada.
"I was expecting him to be mad and frustrated," Fred says. "But instead, my dad just really spoke life over me and he reminded me of my destiny."
Fred says that night he truly prayed to God, who he had learned about his whole life, but never really had known.
"For the first time in my life it was real to me," Fred says. "I felt like I was completely set free that day."
Fred, now 34, recalls that as a first-year student in college at the University of Nevada-Reno, social use of drugs and alcohol turned into addiction after his roommate committed suicide.
"I didn't really have the proper tools to deal with that," Fred says. "The way I learned how to cope with it was with alcohol, which led into drugs. I didn't realize what God could do, and all the sudden I had this solution that worked for me and alleviated the pain."
Fred said he spent a few days in jail after receiving a driving under the influence of alcohol charge. His dad met him in Texas to help him get his life back on track and into school at Texas Tech University.
Fred's dad Terry has worked with college students through AG U.S. Missions Chi Alpha Campus Ministries since the early 1990s. Terry Fred says prayer and compassion have been key ingredients to seeing change in the students he has worked with, and that proved true with his son, as well.
At Texas Tech, Fred joined the collegiate recovery program and began attending church. He graduated with his bachelor's degree in human development and family studies with a specialization in substance abuse in 2005.
Fred returned to Reno and started working with his dad at church and as the Chi Alpha pastor at the University of Reno. He co-founded the Nevada House of Prayer, a 24/7 prayer room in Reno, where he served as collegiate director until 2011.
Although Fred says he felt content, God had different plans for his life.
He sensed God calling him to graduate school, and within a year, he was teaching on campus about addiction.
"I originally never wanted to work with college kids," Fred says laughing. "I never planned any of this out."
Four years ago, Fred helped start the university's collegiate recovery program, NRAP. The program provides a safe and welcoming place for students practicing sobriety. Students come to the center to connect with peers and talk through their recovery. Fred says these conversations often have a spiritual component, although he has to be careful about how he talks about God as a university employee.
At first this frustrated Fred. He asked God when he could return to ministry.
After a lot of prayer, Fred says God revealed to him that he was exactly where he needed to be. He could connect with students as a professor in a different way than if he was in a church setting.
"I used to think my job was to proselytize, but now I think my job is to love," Fred says.
Terry Fred believes his son has been an amazing example of God's love to students on campus.
"He might be able to have greater impact working as an insider rather than an outsider at the university," Terry Fred says. "That enables people to come talk to him, and not just Christian students, but people who are seekers, and that enables him to connect them to Bible studies and other forms of ministry."
Terry Fred says it has been amazing to see how God has used his son help college students in Reno.
"We teach people in Chi Alpha, whatever you do, you're in ministry," he says. "It looks a little different on the surface, but it's definitely ministry."
Daniel Fred says last year NRAP had 70 student members and over 3,500 drop-in visits.
He said the students he works with come from all walks of life and all spiritual backgrounds, but he says what connects a lot of students is that they are searching for belonging. Fred has performed weddings for some of the students and met their children.
Fred says he started the program to help others, and he never imagined what a blessing it would be to his own life.
One of his favorite stories from the Bible shares how God empowered Ezekiel to prophesy over a valley of dry bones to come back to life. He sees that kind of healing every day with the students with whom he works.
"At NRAP, we prophesy life," Fred says. "With every student we have, we have seen those dry bones come to life. To see people connect with God for the first time, and sometimes reconnect with God, it's that life that begins to happen, and it manifests in different ways, but it is powerful to see."