His Pursuit part 1

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A couple of weeks ago I was prompted to write “my testimony.” When I finished it, I immediately began questioning whether it served any purpose to the goals of this blog, and whether I wanted to get this personal. While my life prior my conversion was not outwardly messy, it was inwardly dark. So I’ve been sitting on my story for a while, but like many things in a faith led life sometimes you just have to obey and let God do the rest. If nothing else for freedom’s sake. So with much love here it is part of my story which I’ve divided it in three installments.  

About 13 years ago I came to United States. I spoke not a coherent word in English and I could barely put the words together to understand anyone trying to communicate with me.

I was living at my step-uncle’s house in Southern California. Although he is a Christian man he felt compelled to take me to a Catholic service on Sundays. Like he put it, I didn’t have to go to his church but I had to go to church. He assumed since I was Mexican, my faith was Catholic.

I never had the heart to tell him not only that I wasn’t a Christian, but also that I wasn’t a believer of any sorts. My heart had been hardened, a learned mechanism of protection from the loneliness, fear and the anger accumulated from my childhood. I became skeptical of anything but things I could see, hear and witness in the physical world. I didn’t need things of the heart or spirit for I had a sound and brilliant mind.

Skepticism was a form of life. Very early on I learned how religion was used to subjugate entire societies. I was an avid reader.  My morality: I believed in personal consequences, a loose understanding of karma, if you will, heaven and hell here on earth. The world, the universe was random chaos, no divine justice or intervention. Religions were lies given by churches, monasteries and mosques around the world to the weak-minded to control them, and I was not going to let anyone, or anything control my life or choose my destiny.

Because I was not ready to have those conversations with my uncle, more out of the fact that I could barely ask for salt at the dinner table, I began attending Catholic services on Sundays and it quickly became my weekly break from the English bombardment at home. It was a time for me to turn off my mind through the predictable movements of Mass, which despite being held in English I could follow: Kneel; stand up; Padre Nuestro (it has the exact same rhythm in both languages); now someone is going to read from the Book that I never put much attention, Credo, line up to eat the ostia (you don’t want to let everyone think you carry an unforgivable sin if you don’t partake), etc..

One Sunday morning, during my cousin’s leave after he graduated from Boot Camp, he invited me to join him with the rest of the family for a service at their Southern Baptist Church. That week I had been feeling particularly lonely and homesick so I decided to join them.

The first thing I noticed was the dozens of cute American “churchy” kids about my age. I joined them to their College group, which it was held in a classroom. It felt like Catechism class all over again, yet instead of stories of mythical gardens, giants and endless repetitions of prayers they were having a conversation in History, Theology and Geography. It went right over my head. I only sat there and smiled, with a little bit of pity for their little minds being brain washed while they felt so academic and important.

Then we went to the main sanctuary where for the first time in my life since I can remember my heart was stirred to be connected to something more, at that moment, God began His relentless pursuit for my heart. (I suspect the pursuit might’ve started long before, but my heart needed to be completely broken until I could let Him in).

My command of English was very limited; the only things I could watch in T.V. were reruns of “Friends” because I knew many of the episodes in Spanish. But during worship, for reasons I could not explain I began crying. Maybe I was tired, but I didn’t feel embarrassed to cry in front of everyone. No one minded. Then the pastor began speaking and I could understand every word. I heard the words as clear as any I have ever heard in my native language. It was freaky, but I figured the sermon was to be understood by the masses so the message had to be a simple one– one that I could understand.

Then I heard “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6b) No sentence ever spoken before by anyone ever felt that personal. I knew he was speaking about the loneliness I was feeling at that moment. It was directed at me as if preceded by “Fabiola… For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can’t explain it: open ears, open heart. It was a promise for things yet to come. Then I felt warmth in my heart, literally like falling in love. 

When the service was over I didn’t share the experience with anyone and I was shocked when in the van on our way home, everyone’s voices became muffled. Their language undecipherable as usual, I wanted to demand them to speak with the speaker’s voice. “Enunciate,” like my uncle repeated it when I tried out his language in my mouth. Staring out of the window His promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you” began circling in my mind. Could it be true that the Creator of the Universe was after me?

Can you have faith in the face of fear?

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29 Jesus said, “Come, Peter.”Then Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30 But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. He was afraid and began sinking into the water. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”31 Then Jesus caught Peter with his hand. He said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

 It never fails; doubt and fear are a heavy burden that causes drowning.

It is no wonder fear has been a recent visitor in my life. See, I’m like Peter. Of course it’s easy to follow Jesus in land, but to follow Him in water?

I’ve told you my story about where I’m heading here.

However, at each step my legs wobble and my hands tremble. A couple times (more like a thousand) I’ve questioned how wise is for me to take this path. I’ve told myself that maybe I should’ve been looking for something to secure my family’s future. A career with greater compensation, big benefits or at least job security.

The truth is that fundraising has not been easy for me and didn’t expect it to be.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I imagined that the whole situation would resolve itself, keeping me from the inconvenience of becoming “uncomfortable.” Don’t get me wrong I’m eager to start working with Amor and I’m convinced about my calling and their mission.

Yet, my life would have been easier if a big donor would have jumped in and offer to cover my salary for the entire year. Talk about miracles, right?

But I know growth only occurs when you get out of your comfort zone. God is after something else. He knows I’ll need more faith than ever before to carry out His message, to help His people and to stay strong for Him. It feels like a test, but I believe is rather the lesson.

Fundraising is only hard now because it is something I’ve never done. However, as I walk in this path, with each step my legs become sturdier and stronger, remembering what they’ve done and what they can do through Him.

When my faith sees itself tested. I draw strength from past experiences. One day this experience will too serve to show me that faithful work has its recompense. One day soon I hope, I’ll be telling you from the offices of Amor that all is well and you too should consider stepping out into the water and join us in a mission trip.

Today don’t fault me for doubting; these are my first steps out of the boat.