Phil 1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.”
Alongside this verse in my Bible I wrote two words “Leukemia and Miscarriages”. Since Kurt was teaching on this verse in Philippians, it seemed like a good time for him to have me share why I would write such words down.
Just prior to Kyle’s diagnosis of Leukemia I had been studying the book of Philippians and I had also just finished reading Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place. Both had a profound impact on me and I believe prepared me for the trials that would lie ahead. For Paul, he writes how he could see God working through him because of his extremely difficult location – PRISON. For Corrie Ten Boom, she writes how she could see God working through her in her devastating and torturous location – a NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP, her PRISON. Their accounts of how they trusted God and let Him use them laid a foundation of FAITH in me that I would so desperately need. Both were kept in prison for a time. Both shared the gospel. Both were used greatly and both saw the miraculous power of the Lord.
I too entered what I call similarly to Paul and Corrie, a PRISON. My prison was Kaiser Hospital Anaheim and my stay would be 3 years & 2 months. As many of you know, my son Kyle was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was young. My freedom to serve at the church, be involved in my community, and to shop during regular hours was over. Instead I would take my sick and frail son to either the cancer clinic or the hospital for chemo which included: Two-three hour IV drip, painful and life threatening leg shots, and the hardest of all… spinal taps. They were the most painful time for Kyle. He was awake during the procedure which took 30 or more minutes and needed two nurses to hold him down so that he would not move as the Doctor would insert a large needle into his back so she could inject the chemo slowly into his spinal fluid. For me, this was like being shackled down in prison. Kyle and I were stuck. Enduring this suffering was not an option, it had to be done. BUT, something beautiful and amazing took place every time we were there. The Doctor would always ask me to get eye level with Kyle and keep my eyes on him and sing a song to keep him calm. So I would begin by singing “Jesus Loves Me” and as I started singing the Doctor and nurses would join in. What’s amazing is they would sing whatever I sang the whole time. I would repeat Jesus Loves Me and then move on to “Our God is An Awesome God” – Kyle’s favorite song at the time. It was a profound moment of worship. The crazy thing is Kyle’s Doctor is Hindu. I believe God was ministering to her, the nurses, and all those outside the room who could hear our singing. I am still awestruck as I consider how God was glorified in the midst of such a dark and scary place. The spinal tap room was to me like the inner cell described in Acts 16:22-25 where Paul and Silas were shackled down after they had been stripped and beaten. And guess what they chose to do in the painful circumstance? Worship! They prayed and sang hymns to God.
God’s plans for Kyle and I were BIG, much bigger than I could’ve imagined. All to God’s glory, I would like to share a few of the ways He used us during those three years and two months at the hospital and clinic. Within the first month of Kyle’s diagnosis the clinic had a surge of new patients, 12 children had been diagnosed with various cancers. Because I had earned the respect of the staff at the oncology dept. they had asked me privately if I would be willing to host a support group for the families at the clinic. After prayer, I accepted with one condition, it would be held at my church. To my surprise, they consented! We formed a support group called the I.V. League, we called it that because our kids were on I.V’s. It was an opportunity to support each other and encourage each other. Kurt and I would set up a table with teaching tapes and Bibles and of course, be there to pray and share Christ with them. It was so beautiful. We would also arrange for special visitors to spend time with the kids, such as The Army Reserve, who came with their guns and Humvees. (PIC) We had firemen, ambulances, a Harley Davidson group, etc! It was remarkable.
Another way God used our unique situation for His glory was that the nurses would send me to the hospital to visit newly diagnosed patients and families. They would speak in code so they would not violate privacy. They would say, “Amy, you should go to room 404”. I knew what that meant. They wanted me to go and give these families HOPE. Every time before I entered the hospital room, I would stand outside and pray, “Lord, you have to show up because I am not brave enough or courageous enough to do this alone. I need you to speak through me. Give me Your words. Make me brave.” And every time without fail, He would show up. The most difficult rooms the oncology staff would send me to were the ones where the children were dying. I would like to share about my visit with Brandon. He was 8 and was fighting the same Leukemia as Kyle and was 2 weeks ahead of Kyle in treatment. Brandon was losing his battle. When I went into the room where he and his mother were, I could see he was somewhat comatose. His mom sat next to him holding his hand crying. I asked her what she wanted me to pray for. She asked if I would pray that she would have enough courage to let him go. I said OK but then proceeded to share with both of them what heaven is like. I remember rubbing his leg and would say in heaven there is no more pain, and his shoulders would move. I would say and in heaven there are no more shots or pokes and again his shoulders would move. I would say and in heaven there is no more crying, its gonna be beyond amazing and again his shoulders would move. After our talk about heaven and how Jesus provided a way, I prayed for God to take Brandon and deliver him from his suffering if that was His will and that his mom would have courage and let go. Three hours later he went to be with the Lord.
I could share story after story of how radically God worked during those three years and two months… I am still blown away at how He uses it today. So yes, “Leukemia” written in my Bible is a tribute to my agreeing with Paul that what has happened has served to advance the gospel.
The other word I wrote down was Miscarriage. I believe God has used my three miscarriages as well. Until you have desired a baby, prayed for a baby, conceived a baby and then lost a baby through miscarriage it is hard to understand the deep sadness and anguish that is experienced. I felt so much discouragement as I would see my friends pregnant after I had just lost my baby. I wanted to be happy for them but felt so alone and sad. I would say to myself, “Rejoice with those who rejoice! Come on Amy you can do it.” It was hard and the fear of getting pregnant and getting my hopes up again was almost too much to bear. But God has shown me that He never left my side. He carried me and I would hold on to Romans 8:28 and trust that He really would cause all things to work together for the good. I couldn’t see that verse played out back then but I see it now. He has allowed me the privilege of crying and praying with many different women who have miscarried or who have not been able to conceive. He has allowed me to encourage them with His word. He has taught me to truly practice1 Thesallonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Out of obedience I’ve learned to thank Him even for the painful things.
My prayer is that whatever hardships, trials or “PRISON” you are in, or will be in, that you will ask God to give you the courage to suffer well. I pray that He would enable you to be a witness for Him wherever you are and that you would make the most of every opportunity. I pray that you would always remember that we are not just conquerors, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! (Rom 8:37)
It’s sad how we can be so hurt and angry that we walk away from God. It’s not that I blamed Him- I didn’t. But my life took some turns that I wasn’t prepared for. And I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t handle it very well. I fell into the pit of depression and couldn’t seem to find a way out. I stopped going to church and even praying. I felt so useless and betrayed. I wouldn’t talk to my pastor when he called or tried to come to my home. I cut my friends out of my life and just kept sinking into that black, never-ending pit.
My five children had grown up and left home starting a life of their own and didn’t seem to need me anymore. My husband was an alcoholic and very hard to live with. In addition, he had an affair with another woman. The first time when he asked for me to forgive him I did. But he continued over and over again. So I made him move out of the home. That was the darkest time in my life. I never left my home after that. I didn’t even sleep in my own bed anymore. I never took a shower or washed my hair. I never changed my clothes and after a while I’m sure I smelled pretty bad, but I didn’t care or even think to care about it.
To enter our home, if you were family, you had to knock on the garage door and I would open it from the inside. If someone knocked on the front door I wouldn’t go to see who it was. I only answered to the knocks on the garage door knowing it was family. Before I allowed anyone to enter, I would turn on the TV and the light so my family wouldn’t know I had been sitting in the dark. The story goes on and doesn’t get any better.
So I will just jump ahead and tell you that my son Kurt, after many times of coming to see me, would sit in his car crying to the LORD in prayer for me. He had other Christians praying for me and indeed God heard their prayers! It was only God’s will that I left my home and moved to Fullerton. This was the beginning of my salvation. He arranged things in such a way that I was persuaded to make Fullerton my permanent home. I started to go back to church where the LORD got a hold of my heart and opened my eyes. I only thought that I knew Him before but this time it was for real. Jesus had saved me!
The apartment I moved into was for seniors only, with so many of them who were in a worse condition than me. Consequently, I became very active and involved in their lives even leading Bible studies. God uses me in other ways today and gives me a purpose for living.
I praise God and glorify Him for taking me out of the black hole and into His light. I still fight depression from time to time but by prayer and faith in the LORD I trust that He will never let anything snatch me from the palms of His hands. I now allow God to lift me from the depression and no longer resist Him. I’d like to leave you today with the first Bible verse I learned and have clinged to…
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I grew up in a typical Romanian Christian home, the type that it is just expected and assumed that you are a Christian.
I strayed away from my faith when I was about 15. When I turned 16 I started driving and had a lot more freedom from my parents, which in that stage of my life was not a good thing.
I began living two lives… I would live a life of sin throughout the week then go to church on Sundays as if everything I’d done Monday through Saturday didn’t exist. I began feeling God tugging at my heart and I remember always feeling this overwhelming guilt in my mind and this voice telling me that what I was doing was wrong, and I knew it was.
Over time I grew further and further away from God but still, I would attend church on Sundays… At this point in my life I became so good at “Acting like a Christian” that no one really knew what a sinful person I had become. I started feeling that if any of my Christian friends or my family knew the things I had done and the person I had become that they would look down on me and not want to even be around me anymore.
When I turned 19 the tugging at my heart became overwhelming. At this point in my life I felt I had hit rock bottom. At the same time I felt that God really hadn’t given up on me. I became so emotional knowing that all this time and all these years God didn’t turn from me. I turned from him over and over yet He was just waiting for me to come back to Him.
That year I truly gave my heart and my life to Christ. I was baptized along with 40 other Romanians. I remember coming out of the water and I could not stop crying all day! Oh! To know that my disgusting, pathetic, sinful life that I had lived secretly for so many years had been washed away. I seriously cried that entire day. Everyone asked me “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” I was experiencing PURE JOY, something I had never felt before.
My life is soooooo different now. That PURE JOY feeling is always in my heart. I find myself smiling every time I think of how much God loves me and what He has done for a sinner like ME! I don’t know where my life would be today if God had given up on me. I don’t want to know.
We have an amazing God that loves all of His children. No matter how far we stray, He is always waiting with open arms for us to run back to Him.
I continue to have struggles and go through trials. What gets me through them, is knowing that Jesus is walking through them with me everyday and I am so grateful for him!
Despite growing up in a Christian home, I never truly had a relationship with Christ growing up. As a kid, I actually didn’t enjoy going to church because it would cause me to miss the baseball or football games that I really wanted to watch on TV. I had times when I wanted to be a “more faithful Christian” and even would wear a “WWJD” pin to school almost every day my sophomore year of high school. After being made fun of constantly for my faith, by my senior year, I somewhat resented Christianity. My only focuses in life were basketball, girls, and friends. The problem is, my friends weren’t the best of influences. My mouth became as filthy as… let’s just say I used to cuss like a sailor. To go along with this, I had a temper that might make Coach Bobby Knight blush.
I actually got worse in my first couple years of college. I managed to find ways to sneak into clubs for the sole purpose of finding girls. Today, I praise God that I wasn’t any good at it. But, I didn’t care. I was an 18-year old that had one thing and one thing only on my mind… that was the opposite sex. While going to these clubs and hanging out with these friends who really weren’t friends at all, I’d go home being very upset every time because I’d go home feeling completely empty. I would feel this way regardless of how “successful” my hunting was that night. The truth is, the only reason I wasn’t worse than I was, is because I wouldn’t drink or stay out too late… I was too afraid of my dad and disappointing him.
Living this lifestyle, combined with taking a couple of General Ed classes on Philosophy and Religion, I got to a point in my life when I was about 19 when I actually questioned if God even exists. I allowed these classes to rock the foundation of what a believed. I would hear the whispers of “the Bible is not reliable,” “the Bible is outdated,” and other silly arguments and allowed them to completely erode at any bit of faith that I had. I wasn’t prepared for these arguments because I’d never thought about them before. The Bible became somewhat of a fairy tale to me. I remember going to a Romanian Youth Conference, and going out to lunch with some of the youth there, and I remember asking them something along the lines of, “Why do you guys even believe this stuff? You know it’s not real.”
What I didn’t know is that God was working in my life, even through all this “stuff.” This was in about 2002, when I was at my lowest point spiritually. Towards the end of that summer, I agreed to go to Florida for another of those Conferences. I had no desire to actually go to the conference itself, but I had some family out there that I could visit, and hey, it was Florida, so I knew what my focus was. The first 2 nights of the conference, I didn’t even actually bother going inside. For some reason though, on the last night of the conference, out of respect to my cousin that I was staying with, I went inside. I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember who the pastor was that spoke that evening, or what he even said, but what I do remember is that his words forced me to look at my life very hard. I knew at that moment that I needed to change, because if I didn’t my life was going to spiral way out of control. Because I didn’t want to talk to my dad about this, I knew that there was this group of guys at the Romanian church who seemed to really have their lives together, that seemed to be really on fire for the Lord. So I talked to them, and they invited me to church with them.
Once I surrounded myself with people who loved the Lord, and got rid of my friends who were causing me to falter, God began a work in me. I realized that these so-called questions were easy to answer… I just needed to study on my own, and not be brainwashed by my atheist professors. To this day, He continues to work in me, and His work is certainly not finished. You don’t need to spend a ton of time with me to know that. And even though my wife has no idea who Bobby Knight is, she’s unfortunately had to see the “Bobby Knight temper” come out a few times. Despite my weaknesses though, God found me, grabbed me, and by His mercy has blessed me with a life beyond anything I could have ever asked for. I have the most amazing wife in the world, who can put up with a guy like me, a wonderful family with parents and siblings who love the Lord, and literally the best friends/church family anyone could ever have. Most importantly though, I have a God who took the punishment for all that disgusting stuff I’ve ever done and will do and so undeservingly put it upon himself for my sake. That is the greatest gift of all.
I grew up seeing my father abuse alcohol and beat my mother. My mother was always missing something in her own life. She was married at fourteen and a mother at 16. She hardly knew her father and she missed having a father around. Because most of the time my parents were busy dealing with their own issues I felt unloved and unwanted by my parents. I was always looking to be loved by someone. When he came around I was 5 years old and he took my innocence. He took advantage of my innocence for many years.
Thankfully when I was 7 my parents went to a church retreat and their lives were changed. That’s when we were taught about God. I was taught about living life, but not about surrendering it. We were taught to look good, do good and it will be good. After their encounter with God, the bible was read to us regularly. We were taught about Jesus and His deep love for us. We were shown what it meant to serve Him in our lives. Yet, this all came at a cost to our family. My parents got very involved in the church. They became pillars of the church while we, their children, raised ourselves. They worked hard and did their best to do all things. Meanwhile, being the oldest, I learned to cook and help my siblings get ready for school. From homework to dinner I was the “parent”.
I had been married for about 7 or 8 years. Our marriage had been a great one, on the outside. But it had come to a fork in the road. I was carrying all the baggage from my past and it was bearing down on my chest, I was slowly running out of breath and seeking a breath of fresh air.
I wanted more from life and I wanted out, but I didn’t want to be the one asking for a divorce. I treated my beautiful wife with so much contempt and took every chance I could to hurt her in any way possible. I became a tyrant. I also searched for other ways to fill the void in my life. I thought I had found someone else and was ready to leave it all! I wanted to be “happy”!
We were invited to a Marriage Retreat at our Catholic church, even though we looked like we were doing so well. Yet, through my wife’s prayers and supplication, I agreed to go to the marriage retreat as a last resort. This would either change me or I would get out.
Well, the Lord did a mighty thing! He opened my eyes and circumcised my heart. That was just the beginning. For the first time I not only saw but felt and experienced Jesus in my heart. It was the most life changing experience.
A few years later we went to Corona, CA. There we had an opportunity to look for a church. I tried to click into a catholic church, but something spoke to our hearts and we decided to check out some local Christian churches. We ended up at Calvary Chapel Creekside. Although we started going there regularly, God was not done with us. We began to be changed from the inside out through His word. But, I was still holding on to some of my baggage. Our pastor made it a point to greet everyone after service. He even closed one door off so that everyone only had two ways out! Then one day after service, my pastor greeted me with a hug, looked me in the eyes and said, “I love you.” His words changed me at that one moment. He didn’t know me, but he loved me and in his eyes I saw Christ and felt my baggage claim ticket fall from my hand. It was this simple man’s words that changed my heart and turned it to the Lord for good!
I still struggle and fall. I fail and hurt. I want to run and hide. Yet, now I have a hope in Jesus. He made this blind man see. He made this heart of stone feel and love again. He renews and strengthens me daily. He is my all!! I can’t live if it is not for HIM!
Thank you Jesus for bringing these dry bones back to life!
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.”- 1 Timothy 1:15
In order to show God’s awesome grace in my life, you must first understand what a wretched man I was. I will attempt to paint a rated “G” version of who I was and what I was capable of.
In 1989, at 16 years old, in this very location, I was baptized as a believer in water. Very soon after, I started hanging around with the wrong crowd, drinking and smoking. At the age of 18, I got in an argument with my father and I chose to move out. Soon after that I fell in love with crystal meth.
That was the beginning of a long run of immorality. Once I figured out that I can have and do whatever I wanted with methamphetamines, I started living a life of unbridled sin. I stole. If accumulated, I stole probably in the 6 digits. I destroyed numerous families. I was never without drugs. I pushed, sold and started many people on drugs. Some of which now live on the streets, some sell themselves to maintain their habit, and some of which have passed away from drug use. Some of these people, some of you are personally familiar with. Nothing got in my way. Sleeping around 8 hours a week gave me lots of time to spend sinning.
I was so caught up in that life style that long periods of time, even years went by, where I didn’t see my mom and dad and family. I didn’t even pick up the phone to call them.
I spent over 3 years in the penitentiary; Folsom and Centinela State Prison, where even there I got high on whatever was available. While in prison, I shaved my head, braided my goatee and associated myself with skin heads.
However, in 1995, I started seeing a need for me to be sober. Not a need for God, but a need to stay off drugs. Life was spiraling down and had become dangerous in many aspects. A friend, David Spatacian, which some of you might know, saw my condition, and offered to get me into a program. It was a one month live-in program. I didn’t know it was called “U-TURN FOR CHRIST”, until he had dropped me off at the gate, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone. There, on a little ranch in Perris, run by Calvary Chapel, I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Feeling a spring in my step, I set out to straighten what was broken and to fix what needed fixing in my life. I should of let Jesus do all that because I was not capable.
A couple of months passed and I had run back to my vomit. I was right back into the mix. I picked up where I left off. But this time, it was different. I could find no peace, no happiness, or pleasure, no matter what I did or how much drugs I consumed. Emptiness overtook me and secluded myself from everyone. Thoughts of suicide entered my mind and I would find myself curled up in a little ball calling out to God for help. I knew what I had to do but didn’t have the strength to do it.
Three agonizing years passed, and I was invited to my niece’s birthday party. There, I met my future wife, Corina, who hearing of my troubles dedicated herself to helping me. Corina persisted, wanting to see me sober, even when I would avoid and hide from her. At that time I’d like to think that her prayers and my parent’s years and years’ of prayer and fasting had reached the throne of God, because in a blink of an eye I had a moment of clarity and invited God to fix my life. I gave it all to God and allowed Him to work in my life; never to go back to using again.
Weeks after, my sister Mary told me of little church called Son Rise Christian Fellowship in the same location of the church I grew up in the 80’s. Excited and anticipating an alter call I went there. I listened to a sermon by Pastor Kurt from Geneses 1, and there in the very last seat in the back I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave me. He lifted all my guilt and filled me with joy.
Why would a King come to this earth to die for a sinner like me? Why would He suffer so I will not? What did He see in me? Wow, such amazing grace! This is the story of God’s grace and mercy in my life. How Jesus forgave a wretched man like myself and planted peace in my heart and a greater hope through his death and resurrection. I pray it encourages others that are on the same path to destruction. ALL the glory and praise to God alone.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found… Was blind, but now, I see!”
Thank you Jesus.
On May 30, 2012 at 8:30pm when my mom was tucking me in bed, I asked her how can I go to heaven. She said that we are sinners and that Jesus died on the cross to pay for those sins. Trusting in Him is the only way to enter in. I told my mom that I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive me for my sins and I wanted to put my trust in Him as the only way. And then I remembered a song Radu taught us in Kingdom Kids, “We need Jesus, He came to save us, Not to condemn us, That’s why we need Jesus.”
Then my mom took me in her room and made sure I knew what I was about to do. She led me in a prayer asking God to forgive all my sins and told Him that I wanted to put my trust in Him. That night I put my faith in Jesus. He forgave me of my sins and made me his own. When we were done my mom said the angels were having a big party in heaven because of what I had just done. In Luke 15:7 Jesus says ”I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” I am a child of the One True King!
I shamefully allowed 70 hour workweeks, alcohol, and other selfish interests to fill my life. My job made it easy to reject family: long hours, working nights, weekends, holidays and good money. I chose the money over my family and my health and sadly over God. My wife became a single mother and my boys became a burden to me. On my time off I’d drink and I’d be really intoxicated when my wife got home from work. I’d drive to pick up my son from school drunk hoping his teachers wouldn’t notice my breath or my eyes. I thought I couldn’t enjoy life without alcohol. I was in my own world. Evil had me by the neck and I rejected God. But then one night at work I came across 99.5fm. I heard pastor Steve Wilburn lecture on the Book of Revelation and I got really scared. It’s heavy stuff. I continued to listen every night and then I felt the Holy Spirit enter my heart and convict me of my sin. I wanted to change. I prayed to God to lead me to Him. I repented of all the wrongs that I had committed against my God, my wife, kids and myself. I trusted in what Jesus did for me to make me right with God. I learned to put my trust in Him. I asked Jesus to walk with me and show me how to be a real man. I cleaned out the filthiness in my life with His help. I cut out the addictions. I began to live debt-free and then I resigned from a job that was stealing my time to be the husband and father God wanted me to be. I have been given a great new position that allows me to build my life around Jesus and my family. I asked and the Lord responded. God is good! He has made me, my wife and my kids happy. I know the LORD has put me on His path and I will follow. My faith is in Him.
I don’t like to remember all of the problems I had in my family because of sin; my husband’s sin and my own sin. I had a lot of stress and unhappiness because my husband was hardly ever home. He ignored me and our kids. I allowed my husband to become my source of joy and peace instead of God. The stress was even worse when my two sons Robert Jr and Ryan started asking “why is my dad never with us?”. My husband blames himself for all of the bad situations at home, but I am equally to blame because I let it go so far and I added my own sinfulness. During this time, I was becoming more and more unloving toward my husband. If he wouldn’t take on the role of leadership in our home then I would. I was completely untrusting toward God. My life and my family’s life was a mess. Robert had a Christian friend named Chuck. Chuck was talking with Robert about God. Also, Robert began listening to Bible teaching on the radio. God was working in Robert’s life and I saw it. He began to communicate to me about God and our need for Him. During this time, my co-worker and friend, Gracie had been sharing the LORD with me and invited me to Son Rise. We began coming to Son Rise in May of 2013. Through all of these ways I heard and believed the good news about Jesus. Jesus Christ forgave me of my sin. I know He gave me a new life; a second chance. He has changed my values. He has changed my attitude towards my marriage and family. I wasn’t happy but now I am! Now that we have found God, everything has changed. For us God is first. By faith, Robert quit his job and started a new career. Our relationship has never been better. Our kids have better attitudes, as do we. With Christ we have peace in our hearts and we know He is always with us. Thank you Father.
My name is Diana Flores. There was a time when I was hopeless, and a non-believer headed for destruction. I was lost without faith in God and I was living with no self worth. I realized that I was going to die as a sinner.
And then, I received the Gospel, the good news that Jesus came to save sinners like me. I needed Jesus Christ to save me from my sins. I asked Jesus to forgive me and save me. He did. Now He is my savior, and I have committed my life to Him as my Lord! I believe that God has empowered me through His Spirit to be a witness to His good grace. I have confidence in myself and I’m excited about following Christ and about what He is doing with my life!
I want to thank my brother Oscar and Gracie for inspiring me. I also want to thank my husband, Pastor Kurt, and Pastor Josh for praying for me and helping me commit my life to Christ.
Hello my name is Leonel Flores. I didn’t, nor do I, have a problem with drinking, smoking or drugs but I know I have sinned greatly against the God who loves me! Although I was raised Catholic, I didn’t care to go to church, especially a non-Catholic church. I found church to be boring.
And then my boys began attending Son Rise with the Barragans. I found out that on one visit to Son Rise my son Isaac put in a prayer request for his parents to attend church. My heart was truly touched. God used my own son to help me realize that I was not leading my family in the right direction. I needed Christ in my life. I needed to receive the Gospel. I did that and the LORD forgave me and saved me.
Now He has given me the strength to lead my family. My relationship with my wife and sons is being strengthened by the grace of God. I feel as if I have been given a new life. I would like to thank my new family here at Son Rise for your love and support and thank God that He saved a sinner like me.
I grew up and was raised in a Christian home. At a young age, I was surrounded by the things of God. In fact, I would go through the motions of doing “Christian things” that I thought you were supposed to do. Although I knew about the LORD, I didn’t know Him personally or in a saving way. I willingly chose to reject His love and purpose for my life.
Eventually I found myself searching for purpose and meaning in people through relationships. I poured my whole heart into them. I also became very fixated on myself and my image. I became very consumed with what people thought of me and I was living for the acceptance of the world.
At my lowest point, when I was alone and afraid, God drew me to Himself. I knew what I needed to do. I knew that Jesus could save me if I just let Him. I have. I confessed that I am a sinner and that I was trying to find life in other people and myself. I acknowledged that He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that I can be saved from my sin and have eternal life.
I am committing to live for God instead of others. I know I am not perfect and I still mess up, but God loves me despite my flaws and imperfections. When the things, and people, I was pursuing before continually let me down, God never once left me. God loved me even at my lowest point and he rescued me from myself, and eternal separation from Him.
There is a verse in the Bible that reminds me that no matter how bad things can get in my life he will always be there unconditionally. Isaiah 41: 10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Thank you God for saving me and your promise to always help me.
I’ve been going to church since I was a child, starting off in the Romanian church, then several different churches as I grew up. I always knew about God, and believed there was a God, but never put my faith in Him or given my life to Him. Before I put my faith in Jesus, I was headed for destruction, sadly without even realizing it. I had been portraying myself as a “Christian” to family, relatives, friends, and co-workers, one who basically went through the motions by going to church, listening to Christian music, and posting Bible verses on social media from time to time.
I saw myself as a “good person,” always comparing myself to others, instead of comparing myself Jesus. I’ve never smoked or taken a drink of alcohol, but looked at those who did and thought I was a better person. I looked at all the evil things going on in the world and thought God would favor me because I’ve never done those things. The devil corrupted my mind into believing that I was better than those people, when of course, I was headed for an eternity in hell.
I hit “rock bottom” when I even started watching pornography. This was my low point, for I haven’t even been going to church anymore. I felt no sense of peace in my heart anymore. The way I was living my life was extremely dangerous.
On March 24, I messaged Pastor Kurt on Facebook, asking for his opinion on if going back to school for a PE teaching credential was a good idea. Kurt said he’d love to meet up to sit and talk. He also encouraged me to seek the Lord through prayer and to trust in His word in James 1:5-7. So I selfishly went to Son Rise on March 30th with the motive of hoping to get some valuable information from Kurt because of his background in PE teaching. He spoke that morning about justification by faith, but little would I know that God was using Kurt to speak directly to me that morning. I met with Kurt in his office after service. We spoke and we prayed. I left that building with a sense of peace in my heart that I’ve never felt before.
Four days later, I put my complete faith and trust in Jesus and surrendered my life to Him. I am so thankful that Jesus loved me so much that he died on the cross for my sins. I am so thankful that Jesus saved me and has forgiven me of my sins because I know how unworthy I am of His grace and mercy. I’m so thankful that God used Pastor Kurt to tell me exactly what I needed to hear that day. I am so thankful and so humbled that Jesus saved me from my old self and has made me a new creation in His image. I am so thankful for God’s love, kindness, and compassion towards me. I am so thankful for the peace Jesus has given me, knowing that if I died today, I will spend all eternity praising and worshipping our Lord in heaven.
It’s easy for anybody that’s not a Christian to look into the big group of pretentious, preachy, hypocritical, fake Christians and judge the entire group, and above that, the God they serve. It is even easier to become bitter towards both the people and their God. For me, it oftentimes felt as though these images of fake people was a designed image, like something wanted me to only see these people. It felt as if the most misguided, ridiculous people had the bullhorns in the news stories, and for a long time, I despised the church because of what I saw. I despised the very idea of a Creator at one point because of the people that claim to serve Him and obviously do not do His will.
I was in a dark room, where everyone was either yelling to believe or yelling to not believe or just yelling for the sake of hatred, and all I knew was hatred. I watched on television as so called believers in Christ preached hatred towards sinners and gays and the world, and preached hell, and preached to follow traditions and their own morality. I never once heard the true doctrine of Christ on TV. This made me think that there is no way. There is absolutely no way a perfect God wants this taught, so either He does not exist or these are not his followers. Every nonbeliever faces the question at some point: Is there or is there not a God who created us? Where did we come from?
The reason that this question is always there is that God desires for us all to know Him, even when we are at our lowest point. It is implanted in our brains to seek Him. I’ve always known the ‘story’ of the God who created us, but became immediately bitter whenever I saw people who claimed to know Christ do the exact opposite of what he taught. The other side of it was that I also saw Christians who produced good fruit. I saw the ones who people see and think “Look how happy they are, and how many bible verses they know. I bet they never steal, or cheat on their wives, or anything. How can I ever do as well as them when I am in my own little bubble of evil?” The truth is that evil is pleasurable, profitable, and extremely easy. I fell prey to every type of sin there is. I was a lying, lazy, sexually immoral, manipulative dirt bag who hated almost everything and justified it all because I never killed anyone or robbed a bank or anything that I, the self proclaimed master of my own universe, felt was ‘too bad.’ I was in a place where I looked at myself and felt I didn’t deserve God, even if he did exist, and didn’t want to believe in Him because I knew I was evil, and didn’t deserve him regardless.
That was not His will for me, though. Through his truthful love, all my bitterness and all my hatred, all my sin was gone. Every single thing that I did not deserve taken away was gone, and while I was in that dark room that will always be loud and difficult, a few words came through in His name very clearly. A few words and a metaphor put my bitterness at a standstill for a moment. Someone said to me that it is not through our own will that we are saved. It is about Christ. It is like being an amplifier. If you are not plugged into an outlet, you are a piece of metal and wire and material just sitting there. However, when you get plugged in, you get the electricity. You get the capability to create sound and you are given the power to complete your purpose.
All my hatred, all my bitterness, and all the darkness was coming from the world, and from the Enemy, and from my own sin. I was the amplifier sitting in the corner, unplugged, gathering dust, waiting to unleash sound, but unable to. Once I plugged myself into Christ, and simply asked for him to come into my life, it didn’t all make sense at once, but I saw that He was there through his love, and through his work, and now every time I open His word, I see the resounding theme. I see that Christ came to save me from my own sin, and that the law does not hold me, but He does, and for His name’s sake do I do everything. But most important (and by far most difficult) was to have faith in Him. To ask Him to come into my heart, to plug myself into that wall, and to trust him.
Seeing the hypocrisy no longer bothered me in the same way. Now when I see a false teacher or a misguided Christian on TV spouting hatred, I do not resent them, but pray for them. I pray for them to see the same grace I did. It was all as simple as getting plugged into Christ, and letting the Spirit’s power work in my life. Everything else that was good came from that, and everything in my life I want done according to His will for me, whatever that may be. And in no way am I unable to sin now. You don’t become immune to sin, by no means, but you become aware of yourself, and through Christ, you are set free to no longer be a slave to it. You know that through faith in Him, your sin, past, present, and future, is washed away.
I didn’t understand it then, but I realize now that in the metaphor, Christ was the outlet, the Holy Spirit was the electricity, working through my heart and mind, and the sound produced was praise towards the God that is all around us. Praise be eternally to Christ.
Hi my name is Ariel Calixto. God has done a great thing in my life through Jesus Christ. While I was a sixth grade student at Richman Elementary School Mr. Koerth, my PE teacher, invited me to his church to attend a program called Kingdom Kids. All of the staff members were so welcoming and kind. Even though I had just met them they were so easy to talk to. I enjoyed all the activities that Kingdom Kids had; the crafts, the games, the music and the snack station. In each one of those stations the members would always talk about Jesus. It was then that I heard the gospel.
I heard that Jesus died on the cross for me. Even though I deserved God’s punishment because of my sins, Jesus took it in my place. I heard that Jesus also rose from the dead and lives to save me. I accepted this and put my trust in Jesus. I know I am His and He is my God and Savior. Trusting in God and His word has given me the confidence to be who I am meant to be and receive peace. I know God is always with me and He will never leave me.
Since coming to faith I have had many struggles. Like most teens, many of my struggles have happened at home and school. These struggles have caused a lot of pain within me. During those times I have cried out to God to help me. God listened to me and helped me overcome my struggles and gave me faith to continue in life. I thank the LORD for healing me.
Today my trust is in Him! He has given me strength to stand strong. Just last week at the MNY retreat I was reminded how great God is and how He deserves my trust. The LORD can do anything like Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Sovereign Lord, You have created the heavens & earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is to hard for You.” I thank God that He has changed my life.
From a very young age my parents would consistently bring me to church. I learned a lot during this time. As I look back now I am very thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to make sure I had a Christian foundation. Although I grew up in the church, and was surrounded by the things of God, I never really sought a relationship with God. I certainly hadn’t committed my life to Him. I thought I was doing pretty well on my own. I was successful in school. I was a very good athlete and my life was going well. What did I really need God for? I felt like I could do things on my own and my life was turning out great without God. So, I pushed Him aside and ignored Him.
About four years ago, I moved in with my aunt and uncle and their family. It was during this time when I began to learn much more about the Bible and Christ. I didn’t really know it but God was using different circumstances and people in my life to show me my need for Him. My aunt and uncle would lead family Bible studies. They would also spend a lot of time talking with me about life and faith. I was also attending the weekly home fellowships at Kurt and Amy’s house where the Bible was being taught. While attending Son Rise’s youth group, Ty Gardner was teaching me the Bible and answering many of my questions. Although I did learn a lot, my heart still wasn’t changed until about seven months ago.
I had decided that I was going to enter the Coast Guard. In fact, I was two weeks away from leaving for Cape May, New Jersey when I suffered a severe ankle injury while playing basketball. God soon showed me that I had made plans for my life but He wasn’t a part of them. In one moment, everything I had been planning was gone. It was a very humbling experience to have my mobility taken away, and become dependent on other people for most of my needs.
Because I wasn’t able to move around much I had a lot of time to think about my life and my need for God. Everything I had learned about God from my childhood to the present was coming to mind and things began to really make sense. God had changed my heart. I realized that God had a totally different plan for me than what I was going to do. He had a plan for my life all along, even though I had sinned against him so many times. At that point I realized that I couldn’t do anything without God, and I put my trust in Him, and really gave my life to Him. Jesus is now my Savior and LORD. I trust Him to direct my life now and I’m looking forward to what He has in store for me.