From Self-Reliance to Reliance on the Lord God Almighty
First of all, I thank my Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ for the honor and privilege of sharing with you His great
mercy, power, and glory.
Sharing a testimony can be
challenging; we can sometimes be self-absorbed and self-centered. We may even
present ourselves as victims rescued by Christ rather than as guilty culprits
restored by Christ. The tendency to focus on and talk about ourselves in a
favorable light—glorifying ourselves instead of God—is something we must always
be wary of when bearing testimony for the Lord.
MY EARLY YEARS
I was born and raised in Mexico; life
was quite difficult, especially for my single mother. Raised as a Catholic, I had
catechism classes, which I did not pay much attention to, and I only attended
church for special occasions. As a result, I was not familiar with God’s word.
When I was twenty, my mother passed
away, leaving my two brothers and me in the care of my mother’s youngest
sister. Life became even tougher for us and I had to work and study at the same
time to help my aunt, who also had a daughter to support.
That was when everything in my
life changed. I had the reputation of being a “good guy,” but in a matter of
months, I started drinking, smoking, lying, and going home late, especially on
weekends. Then people thought of me as that “poor young guy”—they mistakenly thought
I was a victim. On the contrary, my mother’s passing allowed me to do whatever
I had always wanted to. Without a strong figure of authority keeping me in
check, I could live as I pleased. I was not a victim, but a guilty culprit, manifesting
my true colors.
Over the course of a decade, my
relationship with my aunt, cousin, and brothers deteriorated until one day, we
had an explosive argument. I was so angry, disillusioned, and fed up with my
life in Mexico that I left everything I had ever known and headed for the US
with the intent of finding a new life in Canada.
EARLY ENCOUNTERS WITH LORD JESUS AND HIS TRUTH
However, I ended up working in
southern California. Not long afterwards, a member of the True Jesus Church
(TJC) started working at the same place. She spoke some basic Spanish and invited
me to church. I accepted out of curiosity since I did not know much about
Christianity. My first impression was that the church was plain and bare, full
of people who did not think or look like me. I asked myself, “What am I doing
here?” Nonetheless, I continued attending services with the believer who had first
One thing that really caught my
attention was praying in tongues. In the Catholic Church in Mexico, I had been
told that praying in tongues was only a gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, I thought
only a few would pray in tongues. To my surprise, however, almost the entire
congregation was doing so.
HARD-HEADED & HARD-HEARTED; LEARNING THE HARD
Over a year later, the believer who
had first invited me to church left the US to work abroad. Eventually, I stopped
attending services at TJC; instead, I visited other churches, but I always felt
something was missing despite their good teachings.
Years passed and I was fairly
content with my life. Then one day, while working in construction, I fell from
the second floor. With a beam breaking my fall, I survived unscathed. About a
month later, I fell down a skylight and survived that too without any
significant injuries. That got me thinking about God again, but not for long ….
Then in 2005, I saw blood in my
urine. Worryingly, the problem did not go away. Anxious and afraid, I consulted
a doctor. Being diagnosed with bladder cancer completely stunned me—I felt that
my life was over. Yet somehow I also felt that there was still hope, and that
hope made me turn to God. I pleaded, “If you really exist, please help me.” I had
no choice but to surrender myself to the Lord God Almighty.
Within a week after this shocking,
life-altering news, I attended services again at TJC, and by God’s amazing grace
and mercy, I received baptism. Praise the Lord, everything went smoothly: the
cancerous tumor was surgically removed and I had check-ups every three months.
In spite of all this, I remained unchanged—still
an egocentric sinner, reverting to my old ways and relying solely on myself. I attended
services on Monday and Friday evenings, but worked Saturdays because I did not
think that keeping the Sabbath was important.
About a year after my baptism, the
believer who had first invited me to church returned to the US, and a year and
a half later, we got married. God had blessed me with a beautiful wife and
marriage, but I still continued having many difficulties and struggles.
In 2009, during a routine
check-up, the urologist told me that he saw a tumor, which needed to be
surgically removed. The news shook me up, but my wife encouraged me to rely on
God in prayer and to get a second and third opinion.
After a month of intercessory
prayers and consultations, I settled on a different urologist. During the pre-operation
exam, he looked troubled and kept shaking his head. Afterwards, he told us to
wait in another room. Meanwhile, my wife and I prayed earnestly. When the
doctor finally entered, he incredulously said, “I looked and looked, but didn’t
see any tumors.” We joyfully left, praising God with gratitude. You would think
that after experiencing such a miracle, I would have completely turned over a
new leaf, but no! Stubbornly and foolishly, I clung to some of my old ways.
It wasn’t until 2010, when God
gave us the awe-inspiring privilege of parenthood that I truly started to
submit to God and rely more on Him than on myself. It was then that I stopped
making excuses for not keeping the Sabbath. I realized that I had been pleasing
myself, and worst of all, lying to God, merely obeying Him at my own
Every birth is a miracle,
especially one with complications like the birth of our first child. Praise God
she was born healthy, despite frightening odds. Seeing the frailty of human
life and the suffering my wife endured spurred me to heed God more seriously.
DRAWING CLOSER TO LORD JESUS
Since 2011, I have had the
privilege of being involved with church visitations in the Dominican Republic (DR).
Serving the Lord is a humbling experience; I felt ill-equipped since I had not
yet received the Holy Spirit. Despite this, I relied on Lord Jesus and volunteered
as often as possible.
In 2012, a tumor was discovered in
my bladder. Praise the Lord that the biopsy showed it had neither taken root nor
spread to other parts of the body. Thank God it was removed quickly and
painlessly. Plus, I didn’t have to take any additional time off from work.
In late 2013, I was offered the responsibility
of helping with the church construction in the DR, which would take about six
months. Though I had initially agreed, I began to have second thoughts about
being away for such a long time, especially since my wife had just given birth
to our second child. While the ministers in charge of the project encountered
delays, I secretly hoped they would forget about me.
The ministers eventually contacted
me in early 2014 and asked if I was ready to go to the DR the following month.
To do so, I had to quit my job and leave my family. My anxieties almost got the
better of me and I nearly backed out, but my wife reassured me with her
unwavering faith that God would take care of our family. After putting the
matter in God’s hands through prayer and with my wife’s support, I mustered the
courage to go.
In the DR, I had countless
opportunities to share about Jesus and His truth with many people, which shamefully
made me realize that I didn’t really know that much myself! I had to constantly
search the Scriptures to find the answers to all their questions as well as my
By speaking to people on the
streets and studying the Bible day after day, I learned more about our faith
and how to share and defend it. The believers there also helped me address the
many questions I could not answer. Although we shared the gospel with
surrounding neighbors, nobody came to believe. Initially, I got upset and
frustrated with the apparent lack of results.
Then it dawned on me that I used
to be just like those neighbors—rejecting God, unwilling to admit how sinful we
are, and not wanting to rely on Him. This realization sparked a change in my
prayers and prompted me to fast and pray, out of a desperate need for God’s
guidance, wisdom, and the courage to share His truth. Each day, I would ask God
to reveal His will—where to go, who to talk to, what to do and say. I thank God
for enabling me to share His word with whomever I encountered on the street for
a few hours each day after work.
RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT
I came across numerous questions
about our faith during that time in the DR, but whenever asked about the Holy
Spirit, I became nervous and uneasy. How could I give an answer when I myself
had not received the Holy Spirit? Nonetheless, the questions encouraged me all
the more to pray for God’s will to be done and for me to be equipped for His
After being in the DR for over
five months, my return to the US was delayed by a month due to a couple of
unforeseen circumstances, one of which was to interpret for the next visiting
preacher. Before his arrival, I had a couple of weeks to think, reflect, and
A little less than two years prior
to this point in time, I had the first of three related dreams: While at an
outdoor church service, I received the Holy Spirit during the prayer. It was so
real that I felt very happy. Alas, it was only a dream.
Within a year of the first dream,
I had the second one. This time, I was attending a service inside the church.
While praying, I suddenly started speaking in tongues. Of course I rejoiced
upon receiving the Holy Spirit, but again it was just a dream.
The third dream occurred during my
extended stay in the DR. However, my reaction was significantly different from
the previous two. I dreamt that I was inside the church and when I knelt down
to pray, I started speaking in tongues. Weeping and pleading with God for His forgiveness
and mercy, I could only see myself as a sinner—arrogant, cowardly, disobedient,
and self-centered. I then realized that in my previous dreams, I had desired
the Holy Spirit for selfish reasons rather than for surrendering myself to God.
A couple of days after this third
dream, I prayed to God to direct my footsteps. As soon as I felt my tongue
start to move on its own, I stopped praying. I could not believe that I had truly
received the Holy Spirit! At first, I thought I was only imagining my tongue moving,
so the next few times I prayed by deliberately repeating, “Hallelujah” very
softly so that my tongue would not move freely.
When the preacher finally arrived,
we prayed together. Afterwards, he immediately asked, “When did you receive the
Holy Spirit?” By confirming that I indeed had received the Holy Spirit, my
doubts disappeared and I was inexpressibly grateful to God for granting me His precious
As in my
dream, I felt so unworthy of God’s love and mercy that I was moved to tears. I
asked, “How could you grant Your Holy Spirit to such an undeserving sinner like
me?” I recalled how God had shown me tremendous love throughout my life.
Previously, I had only been
praying to receive blessings for my own benefit, but did I truly believe, obey,
surrender, or have faith in Him? What had I done with my life but wasted a good
portion of it? I realize now that God does not need me—I need God! I love Him
because He first loved me, and the best way I can show my gratitude is by
denying myself and taking up the cross to travel on the path that God has
allotted for me.
Being baptized and having received
the Holy Spirit are just the beginning of my journey with Christ. I am still a work-in-progress,
in need of God’s forgiveness every day, and I ask for mercy and sanctification,
to grow in His likeness. As Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore,
my beloved, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much
more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”