This New York Graduate has ministry dreams as he continues his studies at Christian Leaders Institute.
Now the age of 27, I am glad to be the husband of my lovely wife, and father to our spirited son (with one more on the way, due April 2 2016). I was raised in church and involved with numerous ministry activities and outreaches throughout my childhood and young adult life. Though I had somewhat of an understanding of who God is, and though I had wonderful examples of walks with God in both of my parents, somehow I had not yet fully set my heart in God’s hands.
Around the ages of 19-20 years old I was a wayward young man; I was still attending chirch services 2-3 times a week, but my heart was far from God, and my actions proved it. It was at that age that I began to search in the wrong places for satisfaction and purpose, only to find myself without any particular direction or identity. I would float from one group of friends to the next, always craving to be in the middle of the next big event. I quickly found out that the sorrow and guilt of living a life apart from God were far worse than it seemed, no matter how great I dreamed the independence would feel. No party, no relationship, no thrill or experience could appear to fill the void in my heart. After some deep searching along with some divine intervention, I came to know Jesus at a more personal level. I was invited by a friend to visit Mexico on a quick mission trip, where I was invited to share my testimony.
I frantically opened up a Bible to look for something I could say, but quickly realized that my testimony was no better than the prodigal son before he returned home. I returned home after that trip with a new desire to know God, and a deep hunger for His word. Out of that time I began a new walk with God, that did not rely on the influence of others, but rather a deep understanding of my Savior’s love for me personally. Now I can say with absolute certainty that I know the Lord for myself; He is no longer the God of my father and mother, but my personal savior and friend. From that point on, despite the many attacks of the enemy, my foundation has been strong. The decision of choosing God for myself as a young man, and the experience of encountering His love and presence in my life, has been the beginning of a great walk with God which has only grown stronger with time.
You could say that I come from a family pedigree of ministry; not anyone famous, but some genuine, humble men of God. My paternal grandfather was an Assemblies of God pastor who planted 5+ churches throughout rural Michigan, while my maternal grandfather was an ordained Nazarene minister who spent most of his working years serving a church in a poor Hispanic community in Arizona. My father is now the pastor of a small church in rural Oregon with my mother and youngest 3 siblings. Throughout my short life I have helped to lead youth programs, Bible studies and outreach teams, while constantly looking for opportunities of one-on-one evangelism.
In December of 2013, in obedience to God’s leading, I moved with my “newly-wed” wife from San Diego, California (where I grew up) to Staten Island, New York (one of NYC’s 5 burros) to be near her family and their church, which is pastored by my father-in-law. I have been amazed at the Lord’s provision as He has faithfully supplied all that we have needed. As a young man with no degree (I initially dropped out of college to start my own business, and have not gone back), I have been blessed with an excellent job taking care of the maintenance of 2 buildings for a ministry organization in Manhattan, NY.
Over the past two years, God’s plan has been unfolding little by little, and my wife and I have been able to learn and grow together in Him. We have a growing circle of influence with new friends and family members and feel a strong calling plant a church near our home. I have for several years felt a strong calling to ministry, and one day hope to be a pastor. There are many young men and women near our home who have never known or experienced the love of God, let alone his ability to forgive and transform them from sinners into saints.
Most have grown up in Catholic homes while only attending mass for Easter and Christmas, thinking that a bite of a cracker and a sip of wine for communion will be good enough to get them into heaven. I am excited for this opportunity with Christian Leaders Institute to pursue ministry in a more studious manner while still being able to support my growing family. With a growing family in New York City, it can be difficult to get by, but with God’s provision and this new educational opportunity I am extremely glad for the scholarship offered by CLI. I am looking forward to seeing what God does next on this amazing adventure of serving Him!