On Tuesday, June 28, 2005, I stood in the altars of Brownsville Assemblies of God Church having responded to an invitation by Pastor Benny Perez to come forward for prayer. I stood next to hundreds of teenagers as we all wanted more of God. Pastor Benny walked my way on the stage and pointed at me saying, “you young man, come up here.” I made my way through the crowd and onto the stage where Pastor Benny was waiting for me. He began to speak to me saying, “you have a great plan and purpose on your life.” He continued to tell me that every generational curse was broken in the name of Jesus. It was on this night in Pensacola, Florida I received the call into ministry and I consider my walk with my God to have truly begun.
Ten years later, I reflect on the past decade as a Christ follower and the wild ride it has been. Through every up, down, struggle, pain, joy, and blessing, my God has been faithful. He has reminded me in the depths of brokenness that HE is the Father that will never leave me nor forsake me. He’s been the coolness in the gentle winds and the rock when the ground feels weak below me. He’s been relentless in His pursuit after me as I ran from my call. He’s shown me that ministry isn’t just a vocational position, but a call to walk so closely with Him, that it affects others around. I think about how Pastor Benny spoke over me that every generational curse is broken in the name of Jesus. I think about my life and desires now and how as I prepare for marry my beautiful bride-to-be, how I want to be a biblical husband and father. How I want to protect my wife and children from the fires Sabrina and I have both been burned by and lead my family into a relationship with God. The very thought of loving my children brings tears to my eyes because of the burning desire to be the father God has called me to be. And as I look forward, I am excited for my future in ministry that God has in store for my future family and me. And I say now as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Six months ago, I packed up everything I owned into a 2003 Ford F-150 and a U-Haul trailer and moved to Charleston not knowing what to expect. As a recent college graduate and never have moving away before, this was a big chapter of my life and uncertainty was a common feeling. After a nine-hour drive, I finally reached my new home and began to settle in. As a Barista at Starbucks, I transferred within the company to Charleston and started my “first day” two days after moving in. My first observation of my new city was the people. They radiated a friendliness and peacefulness that I wasn’t used to in Naples, Florida. It made such an impact on me that it was the first thing I mentioned to my fiancé when she asked my how my first day went. I began to notice the love the people of this city had for its people, which they showed through a cultural chivalry you aren’t accustomed to. The people of this city created such an atmosphere of love and southern hospitality that it made foreigners such as myself want to join in their actions. Being in the heart of the Bible Belt, the people of Charleston publicly expressed their faith in God and even those who did not participate in the faith had a high regard for their morality.
Several weeks ago, my fiancé and I made the bittersweet decision to move back to Naples, Florida as we prepare for our future together. I came home a Charlestonian at heart and guarded the cultural chivalry I picked up closely as I didn’t want this beautiful flame to burn out. Last Wednesday night, I read the news and was grief-stricken by the horror that afflicted the city of Charleston. I thought of the wonderful people I met and wondered how they were handling this, wishing I was there to mourn with them. As the days began to pass, the attention switched from the horrific incident to the response of the people of Charleston. Not even in the face of hatred, the people of Charleston didn’t lose their unique and tender love. Instead, they chased the flames of hell out with forgiveness, unity and humility. Their actions showed me again what made the Holy City such a special place in our nation and challenged me to continue to fan the flame that Charleston left within me.