I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. My parents were separated and I spent most of my life living with my mother. My mother is an amazing woman who did anything to make sure we never needed anything. She loved me unconditionally and put me first. My father was a pastor for as long as I could remember. He was very down to earth and had a past of drug addiction and street life. This gave him an understanding of real life struggles and also overwhelming gratitude for his second chance at life. He never pushed religion or Jesus on me. He understood that it was a choice that I would have to make myself. When I got older I became too much for my mother; I was constantly in trouble and too stubborn for her to deal with, causing problems for her and her marriage. I was sent to live with my father which didn’t change much because I was still doing what I wanted. I was building a wall between us emotionally.
Eventually it didn’t work out and I went back to live with my mother. I continued on the path that I chose—school wasn’t for me so I dropped out and later went on to get my G.E.D. I was attracted to the street life, fast money, parties, girls and a reputation. As time went on I burned the bridges to both my parents. My life had become unmanageable. I was on a fast track to destruction. My father sent me away to a Christian young adults program in California hoping the Lord would grab ahold of my life. My girlfriend was praying for the same. I stayed in the program for eight months and I fought it every day. When I came home I felt like I had to make up for lost time. I went right back to doing what I was doing but on a bigger scale. Sensing the calling on my life, I ran even faster away from God. I got a full time job and used that to justify my behavior. I was 18 with a full time job, making decent money. I continued on a road that was eventually going to lead to jail or death.
I was emotionally empty and the pills I was taking wasn’t making it any better. I had a void that couldn’t be filled and I knew from being around church and my father that Jesus was the only answer to my problem but I still wasn’t ready to pursue God. My girlfriend didn’t know how emotionally unstable I was and she used to pray for me and encourage me to let Jesus in. Becoming angrier, fighting in the street, still living my life like a party, the void grew bigger.
I finally made a decision to give Jesus a chance at directing my life. I moved into my father’s church, under the guidance of Pastor Gus Rodriguez, who later became my mentor. I slowly started become closer with the Lord. I began attending classes, got baptized and re-committed my life to Jesus. My girlfriend, still by my side, kept encouraging me to be the best version of myself that I could be.
As time went on I felt God telling me that I was called to work with people suffering from the disease of addiction. I was placed in a position to oversee the Men’s Sober Home at the Recovery House of Worship Brooklyn. That was God reassuring me of my calling. At this home I get to build relationships with the men and help connect them to a 12 step program where they are introduced to step work, sponsorship, service and most importantly—a higher power. We also implement a spiritual program, providing discipleship classes, mentorship, and encouraging involvement in the church through ministry opportunities.
I went on to marry my girlfriend. We wanted to make a statement in a generation where relationships seem pointless, self-serving and ungodly that marriage is a commitment and it takes work but we stand on it. That love is not this new age, #RelationshipGoals but how the bible defines it in 1 Corinthians 13.
Today, I do full time work at a Detox/Rehab in the city. And we are blessed to be able to do ministry side by side together as one flesh. The Lord has been so gracious to us. Turning my life and my will over to God is best decision I ever made.
Drugs and alcohol have ravaged my family. Many relatives have all struggled with drug addiction. That’s what brought my mom to the Recovery House of Worship in 2007.
I grew up Catholic but only in the sense that I made my communion and got the ashes for Palm Sunday. So when I was 15 and my mom brought me to RHOW, I was familiar with “religion” and wanted nothing to do with it. My sister and I had started drinking and partying. My life at home was chaotic and partying gave me a reason to not be home. Alcohol became my escape but I couldn’t fully let go and enjoy the ride like my friends could because I had the overwhelming sense that this wasn’t going to end well. I knew I had a predisposition to addiction which was a paralyzing fear. Looking back I know now that that was God’s protection. I was torn between wanted to be “young and free” and knowing that this road led to bondage. This inner turmoil made me not want to live.
I was sitting in a 12 step anniversary meeting and Luisa was speaking and described her relationship with God by saying “imagine being in the midst of a storm and not getting wet” and the unmanageability of my life made me want so badly to experience what she had. My pastor told me to “suspend my disbelief” long enough to hear what God had to say.
I gave my life to Christ when I was 15, while sitting in a pile of dirty laundry in a closet, hearing my mother and sister scream at each other. I told him that I didn’t want to live anymore and I begged him to get me out of my mess. After that I threw myself into every ministry I could—I was a part of the worship team, education ministry, worked in the office. I did everything I could to try to repay God for saving my life, not understanding that his grace was a free gift. I also kept busy to distract myself from what my peers were doing, because I still had this fear that I was missing out.
When I was 16, the worship leader at my church stepped down, and to be honest I’m not really sure why but the team voted that I should lead the team. That experience grew me more than any other in my life at that point. I knew next to nothing about music and had no choice but to rely on God every step of the way. I knew that my spiritual condition effected the rest of the team and the whole congregation and so that kept me pursuing God daily.
In 2010 I started dating Ray and stepped down from all of my responsibilities. I was burnt out from trying so hard to please God. Since then I’ve learned how to rest in the Lord and I’ve fallen in love with Him. Being away at college gave me time away to develop my personal relationship with God without the pressures of ministry. God has been so, so good to me. God deserves all the praise and all the honor and if there’s any way God can use me to lead people into his presence then I want to make myself available. I want to give the rest of my life to spreading the gospel as far as I can and helping those struggling with addiction know that there is a God who loves them more than they can imagine. Additionally, I specifically hope to minister to the friends and family of addicts, knowing firsthand what it feels like to be surrounded by addicts. Today I am living the dream, being able to do ministry with my husband.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9