Photo by Renee Toole
I grew up in Chile attending a church started by US missionaries where I was baptized. One of my main connections with Jesus at an early age was to experience Him as a restorer through the prayer of my mother. When I was five years old, an older kid tricked me to do sexual activities without mentioning it to my parents. I didn’t know what I was doing, but after a while when I was nine years old I began to have nightmares about it. I felt much shame and pain. I remember feeling the voice of the enemy whispering that this episode defined who I was.
My mother took me to psychiatrists, but none could help. She gave up on the doctors and began praying out loud for me every night, and speaking the truth about who I was and how God felt about me. God worked through my mom’s prayers and I was restored and healed completely. I learned that experiences don’t define us—only God does.
In the midst of this crisis, the US missionaries left Chile and my parents got divorced. God became sidelined in my life and tennis became my main priority. At 18 I set in my heart that I was to become a professional tennis player, but just as I was about to begin traveling, I received a full scholarship to play tennis at a US college. I didn’t want to go but my parents wanted me to go, so I went. I didn’t know anyone and was very lonely. I joined a fraternity to be accepted and have friends. But after much drinking and partying, I was ready for a change in my life. I didn’t speak the language well and this made it hard to go to church. However, even though I didn’t go to church, I remember praying, “God, help me to change the world with You.”
During my sophomore year, another Chilean student came to the same small college I was attending. He was from my hometown but I didn’t know him. I felt like I needed to be his friend. There was something different about him that I wanted. I took him to parties and tried to get him into my world but I knew he was uncomfortable. So we stopped the parties and just hung out. He always talked to me about God and this was in my own language, which really helped me. He told me about miracles and encountering God. This challenged me because I had never heard about this. His faith was more of a relationship than a religion.
One morning at 3 a.m. we were studying for a Chemistry test and he asked me, “Is Jesus the center of your life?” When I heard this I was convicted of my lifestyle. I could not lie. I asked him, “Does God want to be the center of my life? Is this possible?” He said, “Yes, it is the only way.” So I turned completely to God that night. I felt God inviting me to a great adventure. I felt God’s love, God’s power.
I became a new person and little by little started to make radical changes in my life. I knew God was calling me to something greater. I started to read the Bible like crazy and tell everybody about how amazing Jesus was. I began worshiping by playing guitar and singing (as I had done as a kid). I remember riding a skateboard and praying, “I want to change the nations with You, Lord.” The Lord spoke back and said, “Why don’t you begin with that homeless man in the street?” He narrowed down my view from the world to the right here, right now. “What are you going to do about that man who is right in front of you?”
That summer instead of going home, I went to live in a homeless shelter. After two weeks, I was burned out and regretted coming. Their problems were bigger than my faith. I had been preaching the gospel but it wasn’t working and no one had been saved. I was operating on my own efforts, wanting to be the Christian superhero, but the Lord invited me to the real journey. The journey was about Him. I heard Him say the John 15:5 verse, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Two days later a friend texted me that same verse. I stopped what I had been doing at the shelter and instead got up early every morning to abide in God and get to know Him. I prayed, sang, and fasted. I was filled with joy but no one knew why I was so happy. After a week, a homeless man asked me, “What are you doing in the morning?” Then the homeless men asked me to come outside and play for them what I was doing in the morning. So I worshipped outside with them. The first time I worshipped outside with them, God came and encountered all of us. Most every day we did this, and as we worshipped, many would repent and surrender to Jesus. There was deliverance from addictions, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love for one another. We became a family because God’s presence was there.
We must make God the center of our lives. When we do, we will experience God’s love and presence more deeply and find the place we really belong, a place of intimacy with our Father. When we become dependent on God and surrender, God’s power is unleashed in amazing ways, and our real life adventure begins.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.