Going Back To Nineveh


Charles White


Life is a journey filled with a myriad of paths for us to choose. Some paths lead us to wonderful, beautiful places, while others lead us into dark, scary forests. The great thing for us is that life is a constant journey. We are all faced with our share of dark, dismal places. It is both the beautiful and the dismal that make us who we are. It is also the light that is Christ that dispels the darkness and leads us down the path to righteousness. Don’t believe me? Just ask Vince Lichlyter. His story says it all.


Vince Lichlyter’s life was pretty normal until he was about thirteen. When Vince was thirteen, his parents caught him doing drugs. As expected, his family’s response was swift and stern. Vince’s parents gave him an ultimatum: my way or the highway! For the next 6 years, Vince chose the highway.


“I spent about the next 6 years in and out of rehab and family counseling. I was constantly running away; running away from reality, running away from responsibility. I was such a punk. I would break into my parent’s home and steal jewelry just to buy drugs. I was so embarrassed and so ashamed and I knew that I hurt everybody that every loved me and I just wanted to keep running and running. I continued choosing that lifestyle over and over again until it caught up with me.”


At the age of 19, just when things didn’t seem like they could get any worse, they quickly did. “I was about 19 and living with a crank dealer. After a bad deal went down, we got a call saying everybody in the house was gonna get killed. So the dealer split…but for some reason I stayed in the house for two weeks. By this point I already ran off all of my friends and my parents, and now I was sitting in this house, completely wasted and freaked out and contemplating suicide. Finally I called my dad, and we talked about it. He paid for a round-trip ticket and let me come home to live with them.”


As it turns out, Vince never used the second portion of that ticket. Instead, he found God in the tiny town of Wickes, Arkansas. As he looks back, Vince admits that calling his parents for help was tough. “ I had legally emancipated myself from my parents when I was 17.  I was adopted when I was 3 and my parents had this hope of a normal American family life and I just shattered that with selfishness and pride. When I called them, they knew what kind of lifestyle I lived and it was tough. My parents are to this day one of the best examples of Jesus that I’ve ever seen. They totally embraced me. The prodigal son story fits to a tee.”


Lichlyter began growing in the Christian faith at his local Church. Through the kindness of a local youth pastor, Vince questioned, probed and debated until he felt a stirring in his heart that led him to follow the way of Christ. “I ended up getting saved at 3 am. It wasn’t with a lot of emotion. It was more of surrender. I knew that I could either give this a try or commit suicide. I knew that I didn’t have anything left or at least I thought that I didn’t.”


Over the next 8 months, his youth pastor, Rob Thorson acted as his shepard as Vince began his journey in the Christian faith. Lichlyter spent many evenings with his youth pastor simply talking and asking questions. As time passed, he grew stronger in his conviction and his faith. Eventually, Thorson was called to another Church and Vince followed about a month later. “I knew that if I didn’t follow him, I was toast. I lived in town long enough to know who was who and who had what. I knew that if I didn’t follow him, I was headed right back where I was. I knew that habits would lead me back.”


After performing with a long series of failed Arkansas rock bands and serving as a youth minister himself, Vince began to get a strong sense that he needed to pursue his music as hard as he could. This is when miracles began to happen in Lichlyter’s life. Through a series of wonderful events, Vince found himself with a recording contract with Ardent Records and new band that he named Jonah 33.


The band’s unique name really colors their approach to music. Their name, taken from Jonah 3:3(Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh) reflects the band’s commitment to go out and spread the message of Christ wherever people are in need of it. “We want to be ready at a moment’s notice to go and do what God wants us to, whether that means playing for seven kinds in Sacramento or going to Sweden.”


Looking back on his life before he accepted Christ, Lichlyter sees the mission of Jonah 33 to reach out to kids who are on the same road that he was. “There are way too many people headed to the same place that I was headed. I just want to see kids saved. I want to see kids actually change, not make some emotional decision at one of our concerts just because the music is playing in the background.”


However, Vince admits that music is an important tool to reach youth. To reach them, Vince realized that his music had to adopt the shell of the rock/grunge genre while remaining firm in the message of Christ.


“I feel strongly about where I am, where God has placed me and the genre that he has placed me in.  I think that one of the things that led me to the Lord was the fact that there was cool music out there. I was raised in Seattle right in the middle of a massive grunge explosion. It’s hard to reach people that have been or are on the road that I have been on. The kids that are wrapped up in the lifestyle that I was in are not going to listen to Pop.”


As Vince puts it, the lifestyle that he and many youth are wrapped up in is a lifestyle that is satisfied with the quick and easy way out. However, this can also be a very destructive way of life. ”Don’t settle,” Vince pleads.  “There is so much settling going on. We live in a microwave era. We have to have everything right now at our fingertips and kids are settling: everything from giving up their virginity to doing drugs. Kids are settling for second best all across the board. As the body of Christ we need convince kids that they don’t need to settle. They can suffer through what they need to suffer through to get to the other side.”


Vince Lichlyter is a man who walks the walk and talks the talk. He’s been in the pits of despair and struggled through his darkest hour. Now, he presents the light of Christ to all who struggle within darkness, both through the candor and darkness of his own story and the honesty and strength of his music. He has gone back to "Nineveh" and presented the light of Christ to thousands of troubled teens. He is living proof that through Christ, all things are possible.