My mother’s shadow clung to the pre-dawn darkness as she slipped back into the commune with a chicken she had bought at the market under her arm. We were vegetarians and I was eight years old. Years later she would say that her son needed protein. She knew something was just not right when members of the “priory” began taking turns to supposedly regress to previous lives or channel communicating with a cosmic brotherhood. This was New Age on steroids before anybody used the term.
My family had moved from Texas, where I was born, to live with 14 other families in a town in the jungles of Peru. When the commune we lived in for nine months broke up, Dad bought a house and sent me to school. I think the only word I knew in Spanish was frazada – blanket. Since everybody at school seemed to want a locket of my bright red hair for a souvenir, it didn’t take me long to become a fourth grade drop-out. And that was when my folks asked my mother’s mother to come and home-school me. Granny came and brought more than books. She brought the Gospel to our home.
After two years in the jungle, we moved to Lima where I started going to a local school. Granny continued to live with us. She witnessed to my family and prayed and fasted for our salvation. I remember she would fast three days a week. My Dad thought it was ridiculous. She would tell him how wrong it was to think that there were monks in Tibet with a third eye and that reincarnation was nothing more than a devil’s lie. He would get mad, and when he would insult and humiliate her she would retreat to her room in tears, pray all night and come out the next morning as fearless as a tiger. Oh, how I thank God for her.
After a year in Lima, we moved to Chaclacayo where Dad set up a landscaping and greenhouse business. During those early years a fear of dying hounded me everywhere I went. I knew that if I died I would fall through the floor right into the fire. When I was thirteen, my folks had gone somewhere and I asked Granny if I could go into her bedroom and pray. I remember kneeling at her bed and asking God to forgive my sins. I told Him that I believed that Jesus died on the cross for me and I asked Christ to come into my heart and be my Savior.
I didn’t know what to expect when I prayed that prayer. How could I? I had never done anything like that before. Suddenly, I started to cry. Then I felt so unbelievably happy that I began to laugh. I don’t know how long I cried and laughed, but since it scared me a little, I came out and asked my Grandmother what was wrong with me. She assured me with a simple, “It’s the Holy Spirit. It’s alright.” And I have not been afraid to die since.
I wanted all there was of God and He gave me all there is of Himself. Eventually my Dad came to the Lord too.
When we came back to the States, I transferred to Texas A&M University where my best friend’s dad called me a red headed Mexican because I spoke English with a slight accent. The second best thing of my life happened to me at the Baptist Student Center. I met Donna. I had never met anyone like her and asked her to marry me on our third date. She suggested we pray about it and I thought, “What a novel concept!”
We were married, I graduated, was commissioned into the Army, got called into the ministry, went to seminary, pastored Hispanic missions and churches for 35 years and came on board here at our Baptist State Convention of Michigan in 2009. And here we are now, closing another chapter as we prepare to transition out of my Language Ministry Leader position to become the pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor in Lansing. Indeed, we really do serve a great Lord.
Language Ministry Leader
Baptist State Convention of Michigan