“…en esta vida, van aber muchas cosas que van apareser emposible…en esos tiempos, vas a ver es cuando El te levanta.” -- Abuelito Tomas
(“..in this life you will come across obstacles that will seem impossible and it is at these times that you will see that He will lift you up.” – my grandfather Thomas)
When I was 5 years old, my grandfather, an impressive man, instilled in me a sense of what a warrior is: someone who lives by an awareness of the ever present “El”, and who demonstrates truth, honor, and courage, as a lifestyle. It would be many years of wanderings until I discovered the true “El” (or I should say, He revealed Himself to me), and became a real warrior.
In July 1950, I was born into this world and spent my early years on a ranch in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. My parents were sharecroppers on the ranch, and also, Mom studied Nursing and Dad worked at a steel foundry. Dad played baseball for many years and became a really skilled player, joining a professional baseball team in Mexico. Mom spent a lot of time with me teaching me mathematics, calligraphy, and how to be enterprising with the little that we had. We had a picture of Jesus and Mary, the mother of Jesus, on the wall. I remember listening to Mom pray to the pictures of Jesus and Mary. At the age of 5, I had a sense that Jesus was God. Like many Catholics, my parents expected me or my little brother, Jose Guadalupe (a.k.a. “Lupe”), to become a priest, so they were determined that we attend Mass.
Dad’s interest in baseball led him to steel foundry work in the States and playing baseball in the minor leagues for a US team. Later, me and Lupe came with our “green cards” to the States. I learned a little bit of English from my aunts and the TV, but realized that I would not be successful unless I mastered the English language. I took this as a personal challenge and taught myself English, which then allowed me to excel in elementary school as a straight “A” student. Like my Dad, I loved baseball and loved to play it all the time. My Dad was a hero to me. I loved my parents, and could never see us separate for any reason. I had a very happy childhood.
When I was about 12 years old, I noticed that my parents began arguing behind closed doors. The pressures and popularity of being a baseball player probably had some influence on my Dad to start drinking, going to parties, and flirting with other women. My Dad’s behavior made me so angry, as I could see that it hurt Mom’s feelings. I could tell that these things were pulling my parents apart. Yet, I remember my Mom telling me to “love your father, no matter what”. I couldn’t stand it. When they argued, I got out of the house to hang out with my little league baseball friends, whose parents were also arguing. My friends became my “other” family. We ditched school, and over time, we drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, “made out” with girls, and did drugs together.
One day, when I learned that my parents were going to separate, Mom asked me to choose between her and Dad. I didn’t understand how I could love both of my parents and yet have to choose between them. Instead, I ran away to my “other” family. At first, for several weeks, we lived in a cave near El Sereno, stealing food, bringing girls, and doing drugs. Then, I moved in with two of my best friends at their father’s house, and learned to be enterprising by doing illegal things. I would occasionally go and visit Mom, who by then was separated from Dad. I would try to get them back together, but it would never last. Like my Dad, I had several girlfriends at the same time, hoping they would never discover each other. However, there was a very beautiful girl that I really liked and wanted to marry. We would be together for a time, but then it never lasted.
When I was nearly 18 years old, my parents divorced. I was already working, supporting myself, and continuing school. I was always in trouble, though, finding myself in Juvenile Hall, and eventually jail. Although I was arrested many times, I always got out of doing serious time. Whenever I got in trouble, I would pray to God to get me out of it, promising to be good, but then I would go back to doing illegal things until I got in trouble again.
There was one evening when Lupe came back from a party hosted by an infamous gang known to be killers, and someone had beat the crap out of him. I found out who beat him up, and I, in turn, beat up that man. That guy and his “home boys” came back to my house, and as I was getting ready to fight them all, they shot me in the chest and left me to die. As I lay on the ground with blood coming out everywhere, I consciously said to myself, “Ahora no! (Not today!)” I did not die, but had paralysis for two years. When the gang found out that I didn’t die, they made other attempts to kill me, but I always eluded them.
It was my wife who reminded me that I was the protector of our 2-year old daughter and I needed to leave this lifestyle of terror and violence. Why didn’t I think of that? We moved out.
When I was 23 years old, I will never forget the day that I was upset because I couldn’t find my stash of weed. As I rode home on my bike, I heard a voice speak inside my head, “What about Me, Tony?” I thought to myself: “I must be going crazy, like an LSD flashback!” Another three times, the voice repeated, “What about Me, Tony?” I stammered, “Is that You, God?” There was no answer. Then, I felt a breeze sweep through me. I felt like that was God touching me; it wasn’t a drug trip. I hurried home, ran past my child, went into the bedroom, and locked the door. As I lay on the bed, the room seemed to be glowing. I thought I was going out of my mind. In the stillness, there was a knock at the door. I opened the door, looked down and saw my 3-year old daughter holding open a bible with the following words underlined: “Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and take the evening meal with him and he with me (NWT).” My daughter’s eyes were glassy, and she was smiling and giggling. Then I looked up and said to my wife, “Put another plate. Jesus is coming over.” The table was readied as I hurried out to open the front door. I looked out and then looked up at the sky. “Is he coming soon?”, my wife asked. After a few seconds, I started to feel bad that, perhaps, Jesus did not want to have dinner with me, because I was too evil of a person. I shuffled back to the bedroom, then shut the door. I heard another knock at the door. I opened it, and it was my daughter. “Read it again, Papa!” She giggled. “Read it again.” I read it and a light bulb turned on in my head: “El hablaba de ‘la puerta de mi corazon’! (He was talking about ‘the door to my heart’!)” I fell to my knees and saw a vision of a panorama of all of my wrongdoings. I cried. There was a dark mountain with a man on a cross. Red blood was falling, as if it were falling all over me. I shivered. I stood up and walked toward the door, and said to my wife, “Can you hear a bird chirping?...He was talking about ‘the door to my heart!’”. I picked up the bible and saw that it was given to us by the Jehovah Witnesses. I quickly dialed their number and soon a man from the Jehovah Witnesses started visiting me and teaching me. I studied a long time with him, to the point of getting baptized. Their teachings and their love began to change the way I lived: I got rid of my guns and drugs. Yet, something didn’t seem quite right about them, because there were things that they said which were not consistent with what their bible said. I asked God to reveal this mystery to me. I approached the Jehovah Witness man with my questions, and he could not adequately refute my findings. After awhile, he never came back.
I continued searching for whoever might have the answers. I read lots of religious literature and even got into transcendental meditation. The Scientologists almost had me convinced that their way was “the way”. It was my daughter who prevented me from entering their premises. Seeing her uneasiness with that group of people, I turned away from entering their “church”. Then, I ran into a guy who had a bumper sticker on his car which read, “Jesus is coming soon!” By this time, I was pretty cynical about the journey to find ‘the way’. I gave the guy a piece of my mind. He smiled and gave me a religious tract, and invited me and my family to attend church with him. This time, my daughter ran into the building, embraced the pastor, and exclaimed, “This is the place!”
This was a real Christian church, with a hellfire preacher from Tennessee, preaching from the Holy Bible! His teachings and patient explanations about the triune nature of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, the actual physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and Jesus’ infinite and ultimate payment for all of my wrongdoings through his death and resurrection and the promise of everlasting life available to all who believe, and the beautiful hope of Jesus’ returning again really rang true with me. The year was 1973, and from then on, I stayed at that church, raising my children in that church. I got involved with youth ministry and taught Bible studies when the pastor was out of town. My wife did receptions for the ladies, and became the drama director for many dramatic presentations.
Today, over 41 years have passed, and I have made it my life’s work to teach God’s Word correctly and to point people to God through Jesus Christ. I share the Good News and the love of Jesus Christ with bus riders, gangbangers, LGBT’s, homeless people, and people from all sorts of religions, yet with gentleness and patience. My Mom, Dad, and brother have all come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I thank God for revealing Himself to me all those years ago.
Would you like to make Jesus the Lord of your life too?
If so, you can pray this prayer - Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you into my life and heart as my Lord and Savior. Please help me grow in you and live for you. Thank you for coming into my heart.
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