I Never Ever Thought I Would Believe in God
“Growing up the way I did, I was convinced there was no way God could exist.”
It is a chilly April night in Newport Beach, and how better to spend it than enjoying a warm cup of coffee with a new friend. I met Sergio a few days ago at our mutual friend Alan’s house. Sergio and I struck up a conversation and decided to meet up for coffee in follow-up, as I wanted to know more about his life story. The little that he shared with me that night left me intrigued; as it was clear this guy definitely had a tale to tell. Little did I know, he had only begun to scratch the surface!
So here we are at Kean’s coffee shop. With my warm white caramel mocha in hand, I leaned forward, opened up my iPad and asked Sergio to start from the beginning…
I decided when I was seven that there couldn’t be a God. In fact, I was sure there was no God. I mean how could there be judging by what I saw around me? Killers, professional criminals, drug dealers, poverty, this was all I knew. I was 100% sure that there was no God.
To give you a little more back-ground, I grew up in one of the roughest areas of Michoacan, Mexico. My parents raised a family of ten children in a two-bedroom place (including others that lived with us). Life was no joke in Michoacan. We were extremely poor, we faced hunger, and to see people getting killed was a routine part of every-day life. We were all desensitized to it. You were either with the drug dealers or against them, and if you were against them they wiped you and your whole family out.
So at the age of thirteen I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. When I was fifteen my parents discovered two shot-guns on my possession and decided it was time to get me out of Mexico as my life was going down the wrong path. They sent me to the United States to live with my older brother in Newport Beach, California. Growing up in those poverty ridden conditions forged me into a self-reliant, self-made man. I didn’t believe there was anyone who had the power or desire to provide for me except for me. I saw myself as my own man, and this was the identity that I brought with me to America.
When I first arrived in Newport Beach I was attending Newport Harbor High School, but then my dad got sick back in Mexico so I had to drop out of school and work full-time to help support the family. Two years later I enrolled in adult school. It was during that time that my ESL teacher started talking to me about God. How it came about I can’t quite remember. I think I overheard her using some Christianese term like “blessing” or something during class and I asked her about her faith after class one day.
Keep in mind, during this time in my life the concept of God made absolutely no sense to me based off what I had seen and experienced back in Mexico. So anyways, I took the initiative to ask her if she was religious one day after class. She said she was a “believer” and that she would love to tell me more about her faith over the phone since it wasn’t an appropriate conversation to have at school. We spoke over the phone and she asked me why I didn’t believe in God. I told her the truth, there was no way I could believe in God based off of what I had experienced in the past. She responded by inviting me to her church, Rockharbor.
My first time at Rockharbor can be described as extremely strange. People with their hands lifted, loud music, it was so weird. But my ESL teacher invited me again, this time to a class called Alpha. Alpha is a session hosted by Rockharbor as an opportunity to explore the meaning of life in an open and friendly environment. The church encourages believers and non-believers alike to attend and ask questions. I went to Alpha and asked a ton of questions, every question I could think of. The environment was so open and non-judgmental so I felt I could ask anything, and I did. The experience of attending the Alpha class over a 7-week period changed me from a person who was closed off from God to a person who was now seeking God. I still didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but I was open to a higher power and I wanted to know more about it. For the first time I was seeking God.
The Alpha class finishes off with a weekend retreat to the mountains and I decided to attend. One cold night I decided to call out to God. I said “God if you’re out there I want to feel you, I want to know that you really exist. I’m open.” After speaking those words I just waited, and I waited, then out of nowhere I got hit with an extreme joy and a deep peace. I had never EVER felt that before in my life! I broke out in tears. A pastor who happened to be nearby saw me and asked me if I would like to receive Jesus as Lord, to which I responded, yes! Four months later I got baptized on Easter of 2012 at the Rockharbor Easter service at the OC Fair Grounds. I felt the same joy once again that day!
I didn’t choose God, He chose me. I was closed off to God, but He melted my heart and filled me with a joy and a peace that I could not explain. I encountered Jesus when I least expected it!
It would sure be nice to say that everything has been a bed of roses ever since coming to Christ, but that was not the case. Satan lost me, but he was still determined to make my life a living hell, and even to try and take it! Be on the lookout for part 2 of my story coming soon to OurWitness.com!