I was born and raised in a traditional Hispanic home in El Paso, Texas. Everyone is Catholic because your parents are Catholic and your Grand Parents are Catholic and their parents were as well. It is all there is to be and you accept it. My parents sent me and my sisters to private Catholic grade school and High School. In grade school, I served as an altar boy and loved serving in this capacity. You got to get out of class for the weekday funeral, and just thought is a cool thing to do. I always had a special connection to serving in God's House. But there was no real, personal connection to my faith. Maybe it was my age but my faith and my life outside were never tied together. Even though we attended mass every Wednesday and Sunday. But it was at this stage in my life I learned to reverence the House of God. God was so Big and so Distant and so fearful to me.
In High School, my apathy continued. I attended Cathedral High School that was famed for it's academics. It is an all boys school and run by the Order of the Franciscan Brothers. Though I attended 12 years of Private Catholic schooling, I never learned much about the bible, prayed, memorized scripture or basic doctrine. But in my mind, I was a good Catholic. And in the minds of my family & friends, I was a good Catholic, We all were good Catholics. After graduating from college and starting my professional career, I lived life to the fullest. I was young, single and had some money to blow. I lived for the party & loved every minute of it. I lived for myself and tried not to get anyone hurt. There where plenty of guys like me and we all teamed up every Thursday through Saturday. I ran with wrong crowd and did things that are now forgiven forever. I loved God but life certainly did not reflect it. I never had a spiritual thought during those days, only carnal.
While living in Stockton, CA I met my future wife to be. She was a first year bible student at the local Pentecostal Bible College and living away for the first time. One thing led to another and we began dating. And getting pregnant. She was a dove and I was a vulture. She moved away and we maintained a long distance relationship. Finally our little girl arrived and we married months later in Mondovi, WI. Her parents had every right to throw me to the curb but demonstrated genuine Christian love towards me. My wife also learned which of her fellow "Christians" would stick by her while some would write her off and turned away. I moved her to Phoenix, AZ and we soon had my son who was born a Micro Premie. Born at 1lbs 13oz. God worked a miracle for us. Doctors said he had a 50% chance to live and if he did, would have severe mental & physical complications. Little did I know of the hundreds of prayers that where going before God around the country for him. We rarely attended church. Just a young couple making their way in life.
With my wife home sick, I quit my job and we packed up a U-Haul and drove to Wisconsin. Our son was still strapped to medical monitors but took the journey. We soon started a new life in Milwaukee because my wife's sister lived here. That is when it all began. My wife quickly went back to living for God and going to church. I soon met the "church" people and they seemed good enough. But I was Catholic and proud of it. Rome, the pope, the traditions, etc. Who could stand against that?? Slowly we where faced under what faith our children would grow up under. I began to attend mass alone, but only out of spite. Mass in Milwaukee was the same in El Paso. Put in my 60 mins and come home. Duty done. I began to read Catholic doctrine so I could defend my faith against the "church" people. They were so educated in the Bible and I only had Rome, The Pope and Traditions to argue with. The wife began to push me to attend church with her and I dug in my heels. I was Catholic, my parents where Catholic and their parents where Catholic. It finally came to a point of me shouting to her from the side walk as she left for service, " I will never, EVER go to that church!". She stopped pushing. Our daughter would ask why I didn't go and I told I just couldn't. I remember seeing wife praying every morning before I went to gym. It left a mark on me. Never saw someone really pray before, faithfully. I latter came to find that she was praying for me. For God to do a work in my life and to soften my heart. After a few years, I softened. I started going but "Only for the kids " I told myself.
I attended with arms folded and we sat in the back at her church. I found the whole service disrespectful....the music, the loud preaching. But the people were so nice and warm to me. Slowly the preaching began to prick my heart. I was being faced with truth from God's word. How could I refute it? The lyrics to the music moved me to tears for some reason as they worshipped God. I began to feel something and I was afraid of what I felt. I had never felt this before but tried to keep everything hidden. One night, after the preaching an altar call was given. I moved to the altar but sat a few rows back. I remember the title of the message " You have to have the Ticket to Get In". I was not a condemning message about how to get to heaven but simply truth being spoken. I realized that night I was a lost soul. I had fought God long enough. I began to weep with repentance. I had committed terrible things and felt a distant God become personal.
A sweet old lady, Sister Louise Driskill began to lovingly speak into my ear as I had my head down crying wishing know one to see me. She told me that God loved me . Simple words but felt the changing love of God come over me. I stood up walked to the altar and gave my life to God and began to speak in tongues. I was baptized that same night in the name of Jesus just as it was done in the Bible. The original way done by the original church that I could find in the Bible. When I came out of the water, I was 100% a new man. The next morning instead of listening to Howard Stern, I left the radio off and meditated on what happened. I never listened to Howard Stern again. I thought about Jesus and have thought about him everyday since. I could not believe the change that took place inside me. My life was completely and utterly changed. I began to drive the church van picking kids on Sunday morning and did this for a number of years. I began to knock on doors inviting people to church & had doors closed in my face. I could not believe I was actually now one those "church" people. I began to read the Bible because I wanted to and soon had several Bibles and Doctrine books. Basic Christian applications of prayer, fasting and Bible Study where applied to my life's journey, impacting my view of what life on this earth is about. My marriage was made whole and love my wife more than ever. Today, I serve as Youth Pastor, sit on the Church Board and working towards getting my Local License in the United Pentecostal Church International. All this in 9 years from first stepping into "that" church! This is only the beginning and trust Jesus will finish the work he started.