family: A Christmas album
people remember how Jesus changed their lives.
The greatest relationship
Rudy Lopez, 40, a former gang member, found a purpose for life after accepting
Christ as his Savior. Today, Lopez is a firefighter in Watsonville, Calif.
He and his wife, Anna, have three children: Yolanda, Teresa and Rudy.
My parents divorced when I was
8. I bounced from one relative’s house to the next. As a child I was
drawn to a gang because of the camaraderie and the sense of being a part of
something bigger than myself. The gang accepted me.
As a teenager my goal in life was
to die for the hood. But when I was 15 I met Anna. She was 14, she wasn’t
a gang member, but I dragged her into it and a year after we met she became
pregnant. We married that year.
With marriage, I wanted out of
the gang but felt committed to stay. After our house was shot at several times
and we found shotgun pellets in our baby’s crib I left the gang. I was
17. With the arrival of our second child, I got a job and enrolled at a junior
Shedding my gang lifestyle was
difficult. I still dressed and acted like a gang member because it was all
I knew. Anna and I both worked, but we drank heavily and used drugs.
The babysitter watching our children
while we worked asked if she could take them to church on Wednesday nights.
We didn’t think much of it until the children started asking us if we
needed Jesus when we drank alcohol. That bothered us and I told them that
it wasn’t their place to talk to us about Jesus.
One Saturday morning I woke up
with a hangover and felt ashamed because the night before I had come home
drunk and passed out as my son tried to show me my birthday cake. I had hurt
my son’s feelings and that bothered me. The next morning I told my wife
I wanted to go to church.
She was reluctant, but we went
to Green Valley Christian Center (Assemblies of God, Pastor Dennis Smith).
Our lives have never been the same. The people’s love and sincerity
let me know this was a place our family needed to be. Our lives weren’t
transformed instantly, but changes started to take place. We got plugged into
a Sunday School class where the teacher had the excitement of the Lord. That’s
when we accepted Christ as Savior.
This happened 17 years ago.
Thirteen of the guys I hung out
with in the gang are dead — most died violent deaths. God spared me.
I never imagined He could take a person like me and bring me to a place where
I would have three beautiful children and a wife who love the Lord. He has
been good to my family.
God did not save me so I could
have a good life and live happily ever after though. I have to share with
others what God can do. Life is difficult and fragile, and it won’t
last forever. But there is hope. I pray more people discover that Christ loves
us no matter what. Jesus doesn’t care how bad we’ve been. He just
wants to have a relationship with us.
Maria Hernandez is a retired schoolteacher in Houston. She attends Braeswood
Assembly of God.
I was not brought up in a Christian
home, but my parents started to send me to church when I was 7 years old when
we lived in Miami. There I learned about Jesus for the first time.
As a little girl I read the Bible,
but I stopped going to church after a couple of years. Still, seeds were planted
in my heart. I felt there was a void in my life.
When I started attending the University
of Puerto Rico, I had several roommates who were Christians. When my 17-year-old
brother visited me, he accepted their invitation to church. There he accepted
the Lord and he was on fire for Jesus. I felt I needed what he had. I went
to a church service and I believed everything the preacher was saying was
for just me. I felt I needed to get right with the Lord. I started crying
uncontrollably during the altar call and I accepted Jesus.
Ever since I was a little a girl
I had been very introverted, never willing to cry in public or demonstrate
affection. But after I accepted the Lord I changed completely. I was able
to love and forgive others and put difficult situations in the Lord’s
hands and feel peace.
A life restored
Desteny Chavez and her husband, Elijah, are children’s pastors at
Healing Waters Family Center in Denver.
I grew up in Whittier, Calif.,
with parents who did drugs and alcohol. I had a lot of anger and pain from
seeing my mom’s addictions, but by age 14 I started following in her
path. Later into my teens, my addictions led to depression.
During my 10th-grade year in 1993,
I moved in with my aunt and uncle in Sandy, Utah, who attend Mountain View
Christian Assembly. I went to church because I had to; that was the rule within
the house. I hated it. In spite of going to church on Sundays, I kept partying.
Then, in 1995, I started going to youth group and met some Christian friends.
I finally got genuinely involved in church right before my senior year of
Things started changing. Little
by little I started walking in the opposite direction. I stopped doing drugs
and alcohol. During my senior year in 1996, I attended a weekend youth retreat
in Denver. I accepted Christ as Savior. The next year, the Lord called me
to Master’s Commission in Greeley, Colo. I spent three years there.
During that time my spiritual life grew tremendously. I started growing in
the Lord. I felt complete, like my life meant something and I was going somewhere.
In Master’s Commission I
learned how to read and understand the Bible. I started to pray more. I started
to spend quality time with God. It was my time in Master’s Commission
that I prayed for my mom. By the time I graduated from Master’s Commission,
God started to move on her life. He began restoring our relationship. Now
we have a mother-daughter friendship, and we’re able to talk and laugh
I met my husband, Elijah, during
my second year at Master’s Commission in 1997. We were married in August
1999, and now serve as children’s pastors at Healing Waters Family Center
Alone no more
Randy Haumann is a truck driver who lives in Fair Grove, Mo., where he
attends Peace Chapel Assembly of God.
I used to be involved in sex, drugs
and rock ’n’ roll. Before I got saved my friends always thought
that lightning was going to come down whenever I mentioned God’s name.
In 1992 I was at a low point after
I had gone through my divorce. One night as I was driving my truck I felt
so isolated and alone. I thought nobody, except for my mom, would even care
if I died. I was 28 years old and I felt unloved. I wanted someone to love
me for who I was, not what I could do for them. I broke down and started crying.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on. At the time I didn’t
understand that the Holy Spirit was drawing me to himself.
A couple of weeks later my stepdad
invited me to church on Father’s Day. I’d been invited to church
plenty of times by lots of people but it never interested me. I went just
to satisfy him. There were mostly older people there so I didn’t really
connect, but that afternoon I felt an overwhelming urge to find a bigger church
with younger people.
That night I found one. I went
to the altar and cried out to God to save me. I couldn’t believe that
the Lord had died on the cross for me. I was overwhelmed. I accepted a new
Father on Father’s Day. I understand now, as Isaiah 9:6,7 says, that
God is my Everlasting Father. Thank You, Jesus.
Raised in Christ
Sam Miller, 24, is a student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins,
Colo., majoring in business and engineering.
My parents, Robert and Lennie,
are strong Christians and have been all my life, so I grew up in church in
I was 6 years old when I accepted
Christ as Savior. My Sunday School teacher gave the invitation and I took
her up on it. I knew it was something very important that I wanted for my
I didn’t realize the effects
of my decision until I was a teenager, when you get exposed to different types
of things you aren’t used to seeing. The difference was that I had a
calmness compared to other people my age. Everybody was worried about girlfriends,
boyfriends, making the team and making good grades. I didn’t because
I had a peace.
If you’re raised in a Christian
home, naturally the two biggest influences are your parents. My parents nurtured
me in my young faith. They were the people I felt I could learn from the most.
Growing up in a Christian home
taught me to have passion for my relationship with God. All I had to do was
ask Him for that passion and He gave it to me. I thank God I was raised in
a Christian home because I wasn’t exposed to the evils of the world
as a young kid. It seemed like God was protecting me from a lot of things
so I wouldn’t have to go through them.
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