Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
I grew up in Cuba where I earned my doctorate degree in veterinary science in 1997. For four years, I had a very successful, busy practice specializing in surgery. But I felt something was missing. I had an emptiness in my life. I was not a Christian but did know that the spiritual world existed. I decided to go to a Methodist church in my city for a revival. There were several hundred people there but the pastor pointed me out and said, “God has a plan for your life. He wants to use you and He has been waiting for you.” I didn’t believe in Christ so I moved to the back of the church. The pastor started praying for people and they started falling on the ground. I didn’t know what was going on. I am a naturally curious person and this intrigued me.
The next day I went back to the revival and the pastor said the same thing to me. I still wasn’t picking up on this message. I just really wanted to see what he was doing and was there only as an observer. When he did an altar call I ran to the front to see what he was doing. There was a long line of people waiting. The pastor was praying and saying “Holy Spirit come!” and people would fall on the ground when he prayed for them. I was in line for him to pray for me and prepared myself not to fall. When he prayed over me, I fell to the floor laughing and crying. A couple of my friends tried to help me up but I couldn’t get up. Finally, I got up and left the church wondering, “What was that?” During the months that followed, I continued to reflect on what had happened and I continued to feel that same emptiness that took me to church in the first place.
After six months, I went back to the same church and received Christ. Finally, the emptiness was gone. When I came to Christ, all of my passion and drive were channeled for Christ. I became a tsunami, sharing the Gospel and bringing people to the church. A month after I became a Christian, I left Cuba to move to the United States. Shortly before I left, in December of 2001, the church leadership called me in and told me that I would become a pastor. I didn’t believe it and laughed at them. But two months later, in February of 2002, I was a pastor at a church.
I came to U.S. chasing the American dream. I had my own plan but God challenged me to take His dreams and not mine. I moved to a city in the Midwest where my sister lived. I sought out a Methodist church to learn English and when I got there I knew more English than the teacher did. So, they asked me to teach the English class. Then the church asked me to teach a Bible Study. Then they asked me to give a sermon. I had only been a believer 6 months and I was preaching! People were coming to church and getting baptized. The Bishop in the Methodist church felt I needed training because I didn’t have the credentials to baptize people. He asked me to go to school to become licensed to baptize and preach which I did. I was still working as a veterinarian at this point.
My wife had come to the U.S. with me and she helped me plant a church in the Midwestern city where we were living. After this, the Methodist church sent me to a rural area in Kentucky where my wife and I planted a second church. The Holy Spirit told me that the church would be for people coming from different places. I had a dream that the church was packed with people and the very next Sunday people started coming from all different places and the church was full. There were many baptisms. I was 29 years old and had given up my career in veterinary medicine for full time ministry. It was an exciting time. The church was growing and my wife and I had a vision for our future together. But then one day we were coming from a pastoral meeting and I had a car accident and my wife was killed. I was injured as well. I passed out or was dead – I’m not sure – but while this occurred I remember that my wife and I were together, lifted up above the scene of the accident and together we were walking toward the light. But I let go of her hand and she kept walking. She looked back and smiled at me and kept walking away from me into the light.
I didn’t blame God for the death of my wife. I had spent much time with Christ beforehand in prayer, fasting and reading the Bible and this helped prepare me for what happened. When dark moments of life come, your relationship with Christ is what really defines what you are going to do. Still there was much grief and pain. I loved my wife. We had many plans together and then she was gone. It was difficult to imagine my life without her. I left the church where I was pastoring and went to my sister’s house. There I went into a room, locked the door and began fasting, praying and reading the Bible. Eventually I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Stop looking for your wife in the past. She is not in your past. She is in your future. Keep walking forward and you will see her again.” I remembered the day of the accident seeing my wife walking into the light. I just needed to keep walking with Jesus and I would see her again in heaven.
This message from the Holy Spirit lit a fire under me. I was ready to preach again but this time with more urgency. I went to my sister and told her I needed a pulpit and that same day three churches called me and wanted me to plant a church for them. I met with each of the pastors at these churches to see which I felt called to work with. I had felt the Holy Spirit calling me to preach the gospel in the Dominican Republic so when I went to stay at one of the three pastor’s homes and saw a photo of two pastors from the Dominican Republic on his refrigerator, I knew that he was the one. The other two pastors offered health insurance and a parsonage, neither of which this pastor could offer me, but I didn’t care. I knew that God wanted me to go to the Dominican Republic and this pastor had the connection there. I started a church plant for this pastor and people started coming to Christ. It grew so much that the parent church became enveloped into the planted church. A year later, in 2004, I was in Dominican Republic planting a church. I have been back in the U.S. since 2005 pastoring a church and providing leadership training and coaching for pastors.
As I reflect back on my journey with Christ, I think about what the pastor said the first time I went to church in 2001, “God has a plan for your life. He wants to use you. He has been waiting for you.” I resisted at first, even bracing myself against the power of the Holy Spirit. But God was patient with me. He didn’t give up on me. He pursued me until I came to Him and gave my life to Christ. And once I surrendered my life and my plan, God’s power was unleashed in my life. God has shown me that life with Him is the only way to true joy, peace and contentment. His plans are better than my plans…much better. God has been so faithful to me in every part of my life, guiding me to the right places and right people not only for my own good but to be used by Him for the good of others. He provided comfort and encouragement when I lost my wife and restored more than what was lost. I have married again to a wonderful wife and we have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter named Sulam, which is a Hebrew name meaning open heavens. I know that God is with me, working everything out for good.
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.