The next guest writer for the “New Year, New Me” series is the kind of friend everyone needs in their life – even though he is an OSU Alum – Go Pokes? Gonzalo and I met at a place that is near and dear to my heart, Kanakuk Summer Kamps. We both worked at Family Camp though I can’t remember the exact moment Gonzalo and I became friends, I remember wanting to be his friend because he has such a great sense of humor.
So it is entirely possible I forced him into a friendship. One of my favorite memories with Gonzalo is sitting in the rocking chairs on camp property and chatting about how we both felt called to work in the corporate world, yet we both felt so in-our-element in the ministry setting. We all know how that turned out for me, but I’ll let him tell you more about who he is and how the Lord is using him. . .
Throughout the last few years, if you would have told me that I’d be working in vocational ministry after college, I would have looked at you like you probably needed a smack in the face. Don’t get me wrong, I had a heart for diving deep into the mission of the local church and to see the saints flourish as they become more fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. However, I just didn’t believe that God was leading me down that path. I saw my strengths better played out within the context of the business world. Regardless, God had other plans for me, because I currently work at a church in Dallas called Watermark Community Church to help lead college students and young adults to live life to the fullest and rooted in Jesus Christ. More specifically, through a gathering called “The Porch,” I get a front row seat to watching the lives of 20-somethings be transformed by the Spirit’s ministry of reconciliation and sanctification through an authentic biblical community. I get to pray, encourage, exhort, and love the members of the body while staying on mission with them of making known the gospel of Jesus Christ to all regardless of the tongue, color, age, gender, or background.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t always like that. At eight-years-old, I was fleeing terrorism from my home country of Peru and moving to the States to start a new life in the town of Edmond, Oklahoma. Not having grown up in the church paired with a background of family brokenness made for an explainable outcome of me being introduced to a lifestyle of drugs, sex, and alcohol at a young age. By early high school, I had made it a habit to live a life for the flesh and the things of this world – smoking weed after school and walking in sexual impurity whenever I got the chance. However, through the simple faithfulness and obedience of a kid in school, he took a step of boldness and asked me if I’d like to come to a movie night with his youth group at his church that Friday night. Not having anything better to do and seeing that he was a good kid, I agreed to go. A few weeks later, I returned to a second movie night. This time around though, the youth pastor asked me if I’d like to take the place of a kid that had just dropped his spot from the week-long summer trip the youth group goes on every year. Seeing that the trip had already been paid for and my parents didn’t mind me going, I quickly accepted the invite. Then, on June 15th, 2011, in an old auditorium filled with over a thousand other high schoolers, Jesus grabbed hold of my heart as my ears heard the gospel for the very first time in my life and the majesty of Christ was irresistibly presented to me. Even though I tried to fight it and felt incredibly confused, I couldn’t shake off recognizing that I was a depraved sinner in need of a gracious savior. I had been exhausted by continuously chasing after things that only offered me temporary satisfaction leaving me feeling empty afterward. So, from that moment on, I had been made new; the old had passed away, and behold, the new had come.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t going to be easy. After all, Jesus was calling me to die to myself, pick up my cross, and follow Him daily. I don’t think at the time I fully knew what that meant; but with years of studying His word and through the influence of great biblical teachers around me, I would soon grow to better understand that true freedom is attained in submitting, victory is gained at surrender, and life is found at death. God’s purpose has never been about robbing me of life but rather always about leading me into it. Today, God has me working for the local church, but tomorrow He could have me somewhere entirely different. If there is one thing that I’m learning in this season of life is that the Lord calls us to be faithful today (Matt. 6:33-34). Say yes to today, offer up what He’s entrusted you with, and watch Him multiply your fish and loaves. He will always be most glorified through you when you become most satisfied in Him.
Today I remind myself that and I reflect on what He’s done in and through me, but moving forward, my eyes have also been exposed to the many areas I have yet to grow in. When it comes to Matthew 20:26-28, I see I’m often not the first to raise my hand and serve in situations where I’m not benefitted. Jesus came to serve, but I find that I’m selfish and usually only willing to help others when I know it will eventually be to my benefit. As a close friend of mine recently put it, “you’re really into the things you’re into and really not into the things you’re not into.” Leaders take the initiative for the benefit of others. You can’t always play quarterback, but you have to be a team player and ready to lead even when you’re not in charge. So absolutely, through the Lord’s providence in my life, I have come a long way. From being that high school kid that got stoned in neighborhood parks and stole things from malls just for fun to pursuing the Lord every day. He continues to deploy me to use my gifts within the context of the local church, I pray He molds me into the kind of person that He’d want to entrust more ministry to. Regardless, whether in the local church or business world or wherever else He may have you, I pray that your heart always breaks for the lost and that you be made more into a willing vessel of using your gifts for the building up of the body (Eph. 4:12). You don’t have to work at a church to equip the saints, but you do have to be the church to grow the kingdom of God with more saints for the glory of God and His glory alone.