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.

Danny Oh



             The pedestal I had put my parents on was shattered when they separated. I wrestled with my sense of loyalty, and it was a challenging time for me. When I started college, I went wild with the freedom to start drinking and doing drugs. After all, I had no sense of family and received no guidance from anyone. There were families in college, and they weren’t necessarily all good, but they were families for me all the same. I immersed myself into this life of sin.
After I finished college, I was jobless, friendless, and purposeless, with nothing to look forward to and a great emptiness in my life. What made me recommit was when God told me that He was my father and that I had a family here. Jesus brought up the image of His house and asked me how far away I was from Him – if I was down the block, outside the door, or in the house – and it was then that I knew I had to step back into this home. Christ exposed the entitlement I felt; I had wanted a lavish lifestyle to replace the family He had “taken away” from me. Now I know that God and His family was what I was seeking all along.
God gave me the courage to face my problems instead of trying to run away from them like I used to. I have the reassurance that He loves me and that failure is not something to be feared. By putting Jesus in the center of my life, my perspective on family and love changed. If you asked me to choose between my college years of drinking and having fun or the sixty years of the rest of my life that I have with God, I would choose the sixty years any day. 

Nathan Kim



            Because Jesus is so big, I thought he was a monster like the Boogeyman. But now I know that picture is fake and I have better pictures that I am in Heaven with God. God is a good guy that beats the enemy, and the enemy always loses. 
All my life Jesus saves me. He always saves me from getting really hurt, like when I fell down the stairs when I was two years old. God protects me and helps me, and He is really special. 
Now when I think about the Lord I can feel His hand in mine. He loves me very much, and I love Him too. 

Matt Lucero



         After I graduated college, there was a lot of uncertainty. I wasn't exactly a go-getter and used to doing things just because it's what I'm supposed to be doing. I went to college, graduated, and now it was time for me to get a job except there was tension between what I wanted and what my parents wanted, whom I wanted to please as well. All I knew was that I enjoy and love music and felt a calling in the music field, but even then I wasn't fully confident enough to connect the dots and make a move.
I had started to explore more about who I am and what my purpose is in life when two crucial moments occurred and directed me to where I am today. First, I had gotten into a car accident in April. In short, I could've died, but luckily the damage was only done to my car. The second moment happened not too long after I had gotten my car fixed - an NBC truck decided to back up into my car. Something clicked in my head and I had felt like God was speaking to me through these incidents. Now, remember how I said I used to do things just because it's what I'm supposed to be doing? One of those things was to go to church except there was no personal relationship between myself and Jesus. These accidents were actually a blessing in disguise and I had actually felt God telling me that he was protecting me.  
The chain of events had ultimately lead to surrendering my life to Christ and forming a personal relationship with him. Knowing that Jesus died so that I can live my life to the fullest and that Jesus' confidence in who he was and security had come from God, I decided to take after his example for my own story. While I know that my parents are looking out for my safety and well-being (which I respect), I believe that through Jesus, God has shown what life could look like at its best. So I have decided and am continuing to pursue music as I believe that is part of the best that God has planned for me.

Judy Barnes



          Family means everything to me. I love my family to death. So when things weren't faring well within and started to fall apart, I started to crumble with it as well. In my desperation to keep us going as a unit, I tried everything possible for my children and counseling for my marriage. The possibility of things turning out right just seemed so bleak and to tell you the truth, I had lost all hope.

As much as I had wanted to give up, I couldn't. Deep down inside, I just knew that something was missing; there is something more than the happiness that I was looking for and something more than finding the answer to my worries and troubles. And that was Jesus. When I realized how Jesus cared about who I was becoming in the midst of my personal struggles, how He has, is, and will always be there for me, and how much He endured for me on that cross, that's when I gave my life and laid everything at His feet. 

Nowadays, things are looking up. I see how Jesus is changing and restoring my family and my marriage. It gives me a sense of calmness and peace within me that I didn't have before. People around me and at work have noticed the change in my attitude and mood. Knowing that I can look to Jesus when things sometimes get rough gives me the courage and strength to keep going as I do my best to represent Christ-like love to my family. 

Eddie Dulce



Have you ever had a falling out with someone that is close and important to you? I did. With my younger brother. Two years ago, I had moved back from Georgia and needed help moving some boxes. I asked my brother to help and he responded in the opposite way. We broke out into a fight and things weren't looking good between us. The end result was two years of silence and awkwardness. My brother was like a good buddy of mine and sadly, we became strangers living under the same roof. 

During our fall out, I had tried to think up of ways to reconcile with my brother. I asked my mom for advice, I asked my friends, and I came up with nothing. I just didn't know what to do when an opportunity that I didn't expect came up - challenge God. The last time I had been to church was in high school. I've always known that there is a higher power, but I just didn't know what to believe in. A friend of mine had been inviting me to small group so I went to check it out. After sharing where I was at, I was told to challenge God. With skepticism and nothing to lose, I had brought up my situation to God and asked him to do something about it.

Four days later, I was just going about my day when I had received a text message. I was blown away and couldn't believe what I saw. It was from my brother asking me if I could fix his computer. This moment could not have been a random coincidence. God had stepped in and stepped up to his part of the challenge, to show that he cared for me and my worries and that He is indeed real. For the past two years, it pained me to see the way my relationship with my brother was like and God had finally opened up a door for me. Despite my shortcomings as an older brother, I felt the forgiveness that Jesus Christ had died for and shown for me on the cross so that I can have new life in Him. That's when I knew I had to surrender my life to Jesus. Ever since then, my brother and I are working towards becoming good friends again as I try to share with him the love that God had shown me through Jesus.

V.C.



         I used to view my mom as weak – she was a baggage that I could not look up to. She had cancer and suffered from depression, and I didn’t like the way she submitted to men and power. I wanted to be the opposite; I wanted to look strong and confident to the world. My mom was a Christian, which turned me away from believing in God because I thought that religious people were desperate. It wasn’t until I encountered a crisis that I realized that I was wrong.
During my sophomore year of college, I went to a concert one weekend. I drank a lot the night before and got alcohol poisoning, but I continued to drink and even got high. All my friends who took the drug were fine, but I was not. Suddenly I couldn’t hear anything and I became very paranoid; when I looked at my friends, they all had the face of the Devil. My friends decided to take me home on the bus, but I felt like I couldn’t trust any of them and that I was going to die. That was when my panic attack hit: the line we were waiting on for the bus was going to Hell. I called my mom and told her what had happened. My mom then began praying for me, and I knew I had to call the ambulance. I passed out afterwards and woke up all alone in the hospital. The very first thing I saw was a cross, and at that moment I felt so safe knowing that God was there for me. Even in that vulnerability, Christ had been by my side through everything.
In the past, I always knew Jesus was real but I never wanted to go to Him because that meant I failed. I didn’t want to trust Him, but after my crisis, I knew I was no longer alone. After accepting Christ into my life, He changed my perspective on how much my family loves me and how much I love my mom. Most importantly, He let me know that it’s okay to be weak and lean on Him because He is strong. Jesus has got my back. 

Hailey Park



         God is not real. How could you believe in God?...are the kind of things I would've said up until a couple months ago. Last year was a trying time for me as I had hit rock bottom and I also didn't like the person that I was - an impulsive, go with the flow type of person who was always looking for the next "it" thing. While I had an idea of who I would've liked to be, I didn't have much hope for myself to get there. Never in a million years would I have guessed that Jesus would be my answer.

At that time, I had been receiving invitations to church which I avoided. You would think that one would turn to God during their times of distress, but I had totally dismissed that thought. My friends actually started sharing their experiences with God to me, but even then I questioned the validity of their stories. Eventually, it seemed like giving my life to Christ was a good option so that's what I did. But to be completely honest, it was still hard for me to believe in the possibility for a person like me to have God show up in my life. 

Well, turns out I was wrong. I started praying and lifting up my burdens to Christ. In a short span of time, God had answered and proved to me that he was listening the whole time. God didn't have to prove anything to me, but He did because He wanted to. Of course not everything is peachy and perfect, but I trust God and know that things will come together. Slowly, but surely. As for who I am becoming, I used to think that I could never change, until I realized that through Christ, I can! Anything is possible to overcome through Christ who strengthens me and that is just too awesome not to share.