Rooted in Faith | Image of Worship Leader Justin Gambino
Episode 64

Justin Gambino Devotional: Finding Worship In Iraq

Jail or the Army?

In a world filled with stories of despair and hardship, the tale of Justin Gambino stands as a testament to the redeeming power of faith and forgiveness. A worship leader, recording artist, and songwriter hailing from the heart of Texas, Gambino’s life journey is a remarkable testimony of transformation and revival. On an episode of “The Walk,” we were privileged to hear his story, one that unfolds through a lens of incredible depth and unwavering hope.

A Childhood Rooted in Faith

Justin Gambino’s journey begins in the small town of Angleton, Texas, just 38 miles south of Houston. He was raised in a household where there was no sleeping in on Sunday mornings. The Gambino family faithfully attended church services on Sundays, Wednesdays, and any other events that took place. Justin’s earliest memories include strumming his Bible like an air guitar at the age of five, a sign of his early passion for music and worship.

Despite his initial resistance to piano lessons, Justin’s musical journey had already begun at the age of nine. His parents heeded the advice of his piano teacher, who saw a budding musician in their son, and provided the guidance he needed. Justin’s musical talents would soon find their true calling.

Discovering His Passion for Music

At the age of 15, a pivotal moment occurred when Justin’s friend introduced him to the world of the guitar. As they spent their homeschooling days together, Justin would eagerly learn chords and strum patterns, ultimately acquiring his first guitar for Christmas. From the moment he held that guitar, he couldn’t put it down, practicing tirelessly even when it made his fingers bleed.

He quickly integrated himself into the church youth group, and his passion for worship and music began to flourish. In his teenage years, he embarked on the path of leading worship, even starting by serving the fifth and sixth graders at the church. Little did he know that this was just the beginning of a profound spiritual journey.

The Enemy’s Intervention

Remarkably, while Justin’s musical journey and spiritual path were blossoming, the enemy sought to derail his life. Around the same time he discovered his love for music, he fell into a pattern of self-destructive behaviors. At the age of 17, he was already drinking, smoking, engaging in premarital sex, and wrestling with addiction issues that were far beyond his years. He began leading a double life, attempting to fit in both with his church crowd and a group of friends who indulged in these self-destructive behaviors.

By the age of 18, Justin found himself in a courtroom, facing the consequences of his actions. He was charged with theft, a pivotal moment in his life that had the potential to lead him down a dark path. His choices and decisions had led him to this crossroads, where he was given two options: serve time in jail with a felony on his record or commit to community service and military service to have his offense reduced to a misdemeanor.

Choosing Redemption and Military Service

Justin chose the path of redemption and opted for community service and military service. In just a few months, he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Navy CB (Construction Battalion). His military journey took him to Iraq, where he served as a support unit for the Navy SEALs and Marines. Yet, even in the midst of his military service, he was still struggling with the addictions and self-destructive behaviors that had plagued him for years.

The Turning Point in Iraq

Halfway through his deployment in Iraq, Justin turned 21. In a poignant moment, he felt a gentle nudge from the Lord to attend a church service on the base, even though a country artist was performing for the troops that evening. Following this divine prompting, Justin began leading worship and playing his guitar for a small congregation of soldiers on the base. It was a transformative experience, and it marked the beginning of Justin’s journey back to his faith and music.

Returning to Civilian Life

After completing his military service, Justin returned to civilian life with a newfound passion for music and faith. He continued leading worship and even started writing songs dedicated to the Lord. In 2015, he made a life-altering decision, quitting his job to pursue music full-time. This step of faith marked the beginning of his journey as a recording artist and worship leader.

Challenges and Redemption

Justin’s music career flourished, but it wasn’t without its challenges. The year 2020 brought unexpected twists and turns, with the global pandemic disrupting his plans for a major international tour. Justin, who had grown accustomed to a fast-paced life, found himself in a season of stillness. During this period of uncertainty and frustration, he had a profound encounter with God that changed the course of his life.

A Personal Revival

While seated on his front porch, Justin saw an image in his spirit of two lines closing in on his face. He interpreted this as a pause symbol, indicating a period of inactivity. However, through divine revelation, he realized that these lines were actually God’s hands enveloping him, cradling him with love and care. This led to a calling to revival and the beautiful revealing of how God turned Justin’s literal trials into revival for his town.

This is a very special testimonial episode of The Walk Podcast and we hope you enjoy it.

Please subscribe to our social channels for more information and great content surrounding building a lifestyle of worship. This podcast is brought to you by Authentic Media and Worship Leader Magazine. Our host is Joshua Swanson and the show’s co-producer and editor is Matt McCartie. More episodes can be found here.

Read the transcript here

Who is Justin Gambino?

Since 2015, acclaimed Texas-based singer/songwriter Justin Gambino has been developing an enthusiastic following across the United States and around the world with his charismatic live performances and hope-filled anthems. With an EP, a full-length recording, and numerous cinematic music videos to his credit, Gambino’s signature songs include “Your Hands & Feet,” “Anchored” and “Going Under.” He’s performed at festivals, churches, camps and other venues, opening for such genre leaders as TobyMac, for KING + COUNTRY, Crowder, Casting Crowns, Skillet and Switchfoot.

Gambino’s testimony is a consistent theme in his music and ministry. A rebellious teen, he was arrested for theft at the age of 18. Opting for military enlistment and community service in lieu of incarceration, he spent eight years in the US Navy. While serving in Iraq, Gambino was asked to lead worship on base, rekindling a love for music he first embraced as a child. Battling PTSD and anger issues following his military service, Gambino turned to alcohol and spiraled into depression and despair. One night, on the floor of his apartment, he cried out to God for help and a new journey of redemption, hope and purpose began. Coming full circle, Gambino now holds the Brazoria County Revival each year on the steps of the Texas courthouse where he was sentenced as a teen.

Scripture References

Music by Justin Gambino

What Is Planning Center?

Planning Center is a set of software tools to help you organize information, coordinate events, communicate with your team, and connect with your congregation.

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