Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jeff Deguzman



             Most people grew up in church, but I grew away from it. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, which was very ritualistic and disconnected – it became a chore. My decision to leave church was fueled by my abusive relationship with my grandpa as well. I would live with this scar my entire life until God helped me to deal with it. 
I began to feel an absence in my heart when I started working as a nurse. Being in a job where I had to deal with life and death all the time gave me the perspective that a greater force was involved in our lives. It wasn’t until my girlfriend brought me to 180 Church that I discovered that this greater force was Jesus Christ, who offered forgiveness to me. Before Christ, I was living without purpose; I went from paycheck to paycheck, looking for temporary fulfillment. God was willing to forgive that materialistic side of me, but, even more than that, he gave me the power to forgive my grandpa.
Jesus brought to light this hurt I had and helped me to let it go. It was so powerful for me that I told my parents what had happened; they hadn’t even known the extent to which I had been hurt by my grandpa. My parents apologized for not being there, and I forgave them as well. Letting go of all these burdens freed me and made me feel very thankful. God loved me so much that I was eager to model after Him, and in return He gave me a life that speaks strongly of the power of His forgiveness.

Rude Soria



          I am a modern day Prodigal Son. I spent most of my life wandering and looking for something, but there was never a clear direction I could follow. As I was growing up, I immersed myself into doing good works at church, such as going to chapel and prayer meetings. My heart, however, was never in what I did. Living this obligatory lifestyle created a conflict between what I wanted to do and what I ought to do. As a result, I became a wanderer away from God and a wanderer of life.  
I didn’t like the way my life was going; I didn’t even know where it was going. It was this question of who I wanted to be that led me to God. Accepting Jesus into my heart meant that I would surrender my control into His hands and follow the direction that He leads me to. For once there was a purpose in my life, and I knew that God would change me into the person He meant for me to be. Knowing this made me feel very secure, something I never really felt before.
Jesus has set me free from a lot of delusions in my life; I thought that I was a good person and that my relationships were okay. It seemed that all I did was wander aimlessly before, not knowing where to go next. Now I know that I am messed up and that I need Jesus everyday to guide me through life. I am the Prodigal Son that no longer needs to wander because I am no longer lost; I have returned home to God.   

Tiffany Ouyang



           Religious people are hypocrites and they steal your money through tithing. Or, at least that’s what I had thought when I was younger. This belief diminished a little over time when I was sent to a Christian private school where I was first introduced to God. After I graduated college, I moved to New York hoping to work in the fashion industry. I devoted everything to my job, and I became obsessed with success. My ambition ended up hurting me more than helping, however, and I became secluded, self-absorbed, and self-preserving. 
I knew that I was becoming judgmental and nasty, but try as I may I could only focus on myself and reaching success. What finally made me turn to God was when I kept hitting this wall where I was never satisfied and knew there had to be more to life than just ambition. Christ gave me the hard but necessary doses of truth about living a life bigger than myself. I was no longer the center; God was. It wasn’t about striving for my own life anymore, but about living out of Christ’s generosity and love. 
Because God was so giving to me, blessing me with a job right after college and giving me purpose and love, I am motivated to choose the direction of the gospel instead of the direction of the world. Tithing was an important step for me, which God used to teach me generosity. Although success can still be very tempting, I know that it’s not about me anymore. Instead, I want my life to glorify God, where the credit really belongs.

Mimi Mayer Bennett



         I had always thought that Jesus was just a nice Jewish man. I am Jewish myself, but I never imagined that Christ could be my personal savior. This type of disconnect was evident in other areas of my life as well. Everything was very chaotic and disorganized; I did not have many goals to strive for. I was too involved in the lives of my children, whom I felt I had to take care of and micromanage. I was always searching for an answer to the universe and to the purpose of human beings, and only later did it occur to me that there was indeed a heavenly power that would guide my life and give me joy. 
My younger daughter was pretty involved in church and seemed very happy after meeting God. She asked me to come to a few of the sessions, and I felt very relaxed and comforted at church. I thought there must be something more to this, something to explain what I felt. That day it crystallized for me how real Christ is, and I welcomed him into my life. 
Every day I feel closer to God, and I am also happy now. I rarely have negative thoughts anymore, and I am no longer overly worried or concerned. I feel motivated to read the Bible where I can look for guidance. Surrendering everything to Jesus has been one of the best decisions in my life. Not only have I grown closer to my real family, but now I am also part of a second family: God’s.

Harris




         My parents fought a lot as I was growing up. They contemplated divorce once, and I did not know what to do. I had no guidance and no purpose in life, and my parents weren’t there to love me. Something was missing in my life, but what? How would I be able to find it alone?
I got my answers when I met God for the first time at 180 Church. I felt a powerful aura and heard a voice tell me to come back to my home. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but over time I learned that Christ was the perfect father and that His love for me was unimaginable and vast. It was a love that I never really got from my parents, who rarely ever praised me. I saw this love in the pastors as well, and it made me want to be like God. I realized then that my purpose in life was to be a good father figure to everyone. 
Although my walk with God hasn’t been long, it has already bore much fruit. I used to be shy and selfish, but God helped me to open up and change. I know where my life is going now, and I have a lot of purpose. Even though I may lack an earthly father figure, I am secure in Christ, my heavenly father. There is a place for me in God’s home, where I was always meant to be.

James Kim



          When I saw my brother Kevin come home smiling, I knew something had happened. It wasn’t that he never smiled, but that he was going through a difficult time of transition in his life – puberty. He took out his frustration on whoever was present, which was usually me. In the beginning, I endured the arguments but soon I started fighting back. We would get into fistfights which would stress my parents out, who were already dealing with financial issues. That’s why it surprised me when returned home in a good mood. It made me wonder if I could ask for help from God too.  
I went to church wanting to find a solution to my family problems, especially with my brother, and the solution came in the form of Christ’s love. Not only did I feel His love, but I could also see that love change me and my brother. The tension between Kevin and I lessened, and we were able to control our anger and talk it out instead. The scar from our relationship began to heal. Instead of resorting to violence to hurt each other, we now playfully wrestle and joke around. 
After God entered my life, everything was flipped upside down. He even gave me a vision of a burning forest, and told me that I was the fire taking down the trees that were blocking people from getting to know Christ. I believe that Jesus’s redemption of mine and my brother’s lives will show people how powerfully His love heals even the deepest of wounds.

Andy Luo



            I was a homewrecker. Once I got tired of my girlfriend, I cheated on her with another girl. Later we broke up, got back together, and broke up again. I didn’t take my relationship with her very seriously, and moving on from her was not a big concern to me either. It wasn’t until I heard King David’s story and his struggle with lust that I felt God’s presence. 
I related to King David a lot, and the redemption from Christ was something I longed for. Jesus told me that my previous sins could be renewed and that I could change. When I accepted Him into my life, I became a new person that could grow from my mistakes under His guidance. With this clean heart I can strive to be what God had always imagined for me and not feel limited by my past. 
Now I have found a new community God has blessed me with, and I am also able to view others internally rather than just by appearances. This has helped me to love others well, especially my family. I try to communicate with my parents and brother and work on our relationships, whereas in the past I just pushed them away and avoided going home. Just as King David repented from his heart and changed over the course of his life, so have I been made into a new creation and given a clean heart to start over. No matter what sins I committed in the past, I am not defined by them anymore.