My name is Luis. I grew up in New York City. I came from a dysfunctional, broken family. I was the youngest of five children and the only boy. As a child I always said I would never be like my father. I saw the way he hurt my mother as a result of having many women on the side. He was a womanizer. This really put a spirit of anger within me. I did not know that by professing that statement: “I will never be like my father” that my life would be changed and more damaged than I expected.
I grew up in the ghetto with my Junior High School friends. I felt safe around them, even though they did drugs and got into trouble. In spite of their bad decisions, they protected me. I had a friend die on top of me as a result of gun shots as we hung out in the city-parks. This was the scariest part of my childhood, but I believe it made me strong to the bad things of life.
I had a pretty good life considering I had one parent who did the job of two. I never did drugs, robbed anyone or was abused sexually. I was a pretty good kid with anger issues. I had a lot of hate, and I was trying to figure out who I was.
At 13, I had my first girl friend in Junior High School. I was with her all the way through the end of high school. This was serious. I was in love. Unfortunately, she broke off our relationship. I felt the pain, and such a broken heart. I was angry, and hurt by her action and her lack of trust. The next day she came over to see me and asked me to forgive her and forget what she said, but pride had settled in my spirit. My heart wanted to say yes, but my pride said no. I vowed I would never be put in that position of vulnerability again.
I went on to High School and dated many girls, but only thought of the one true love I had lost due to my selfish pride. I had girls falling in love with me, but I kept thinking about my first love. Therefore, my relationships did not last.
As a result of all that happened, I was still vulnerable. At the age of 18, I had my first homosexual experience. I did not understand why I had done this and sought help from the Catholic Church I attended. I went to confess to the priest and he told me to say three “our fathers” and four “hail Marys” and never come into this church again.
I became angry at God and the Church. I was hurt and scared. I ended up falling more into homosexual activity in addition to medicating myself with drugs. I did $300 worth of cocaine a day. I did that up through the age of 29. I got it free as I had friends who sold it. I medicated myself because I was ashamed of what I was doing, and I did not know how to escape. I wanted to go back to my old girlfriend but felt so dirty that I thought she would hate me if I told her about the homosexual sin I fell into. So I buried myself more in the sin and never told her.
I was in a long term relationship with a man, which was a nightmare. It was a relationship filled with perversion, drugs and drinking. I was a time bomb waiting to go off. At the age of 29, I cried out to God and said, “If you are real please help me. Either you are going to kill me or allow me to live.” I cursed God, screamed and yelled, and was on my knees crying. I told him he had five minutes to respond and give me a sign; otherwise, I would never pray to him again. He took three minutes.
I got a phone call from an estranged sister in Florida. She did not know what I was going through. She said that she was sitting and thinking and that I came into her mind and she wanted to know if I wanted to quit my job and move to Florida and start a new life. She knew nothing about me. I was at the end of my last unemployment check. I asked if I could call her back. I then got on my knees and asked God to forgive me for doubting him. I called her back and took her offer. At that time my life began to change. God became a tangible presence in my time of need. He showed up.
Prior to moving to Florida, I had never been in a Christian church. One day I was driving and pulled into a church off of Seminola Blvd. It was like they were expecting me. I was late and the service was already in progress. They showed me a seat and were very loving to me. As the pastor was speaking he stopped and said, “I have to interrupt my message as I just received a word of knowledge, and I have to be obedient to the Lord.” He said, “There is someone in this church that has recently come from hundreds of miles away and God showed up. He became real to you.” He continued, “You cried out to God as you were dealing with sexual perversion and you were involved in drugs. God heard your cry and brought you here. He wants you to testify to the congregation to tell them what he did, so please get up and testify now.”
I was scared. I thought, “This church is nuts.” I looked around and started to shake and was hoping someone would stand up. No one did. There was this sweet old lady next to me and she nudged me and said, “Sonny boy, is that you? You must be obedient to the Lord.” I looked at her and thought she must be crazy. The pastor was persistent and so was the lady next to me. By the time she nudged me a third time, I was drenched in sweat because of my nerves. “Get up and testify!” she said again.
Finally, I responded, and got up. The pastor asked me to go to where he was standing in front of the congregation and tell my story. I did. It was the most amazing yet scariest thing that happened to me. Talk about fearing the Lord!
A week later I began to go to Calvary Assembly in Orlando in July of 1995. I began a relationship with Christ. I also attended an Exodus group there called “Exchange Ministry” many years later. Through that group, other care groups, and through healthy relationships with men and women my transformation began to happen. I began to get connected with the church. I took part in Bible studies. I began to serve. I joined the jail ministry, and alter ministry. I took the care pastor training. I basically allowed God to use me in any way he wanted to use me, and I trusted him for my victory.
I learned that in his presence God can do anything. For me, I did not need a 12-step program. I allowed God’s anointing to come into my life and change me. He took off my rags and crowned me with his glory. He filled those empty places in my life and gave me purpose. I was set apart for his use that he may be glorified through me and all that he has brought me through. God Loves Me! For that I am forever grateful.
Luis DeJesus is a former New Yorker who came to Florida in 1995. He has been a member of Calvary Assembly for 12 years. He serves in ministry at Calvary and also serves in a local jail ministry. Luis has also been involved in Exchange Ministries, offering hope and healing for the sexually wounded.