Blogger overcomes hardships to combat trafficking

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Alabaster resident Steve Austin knows what it’s like to see a person’s life change dramatically. While he was serving as a youth pastor at an area church in 2012, Austin was overcome by the struggles in his life and made a life-altering decision.

Austin

Austin

“In September 2012, life got to be too much and I attempted suicide,” Austin said. “I woke up in a hospital in Huntsville, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I was there for a little over a week.

“A lot of people say ‘Oh, that’s just to draw attention.’ This was not that,” Austin added. “I fully intended to not be here.”

Since the suicide attempt, Austin said his faith, counseling and his role in what was then a small blog aimed at his church youth group has helped him to “come full circle” from the near-tragedy.

“I took one-and-a-half years away from everything and went through intense counseling, both personal and marriage,” Austin said during a July 30 interview. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

While Austin was working through counseling, he began to use his blog, Grace is Messy, as a way to help those who have struggled with everything from alcoholism to abortion find grace through faith.

“We call it respectfully raw. There are some pretty radical stories that have been shared on there,” Austin said, noting the traffic on the site has grown from about 10 viewers a few years ago to 5,000 per day now. “But the message is that nobody is too far gone to find God’s grace.”

Over the past few years, Austin has been compiling stories posted on the blog, and he is planning to release his book “Grace is Messy: Reflections on Jesus” in November. Fifty percent of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Birmingham-based Wellhouse, which works to combat human trafficking in the Southeast.

The book will contain 62 short stories, and is designed to allow readers to complete one story a day for two months. Austin currently is working to raise $11,000 to form a nonprofit organization, start a Grace is Messy podcast and self-publish the book.

Austin also has organized a “community night of worship” on Aug. 17 in the Calera High School auditorium featuring a silent auction, door prizes and guest speakers including former Crimson Tide football player Taylor Morton. Doors for the free event open at 5:30 p.m., childcare will be provided for $2 per child and all money raised through the auction will be used to form the nonprofit, Austin said.

“My goal is for the nonprofit to be self-sustaining and for me to become a full-time missionary in Birmingham within the next year,” Austin said. “I feel like God is calling me to be a missionary here at home.”

To learn more about the book, visit Graceismessybook.com, Facebook.com/graceismessy or follow @graceismessy on Twitter.