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True life

By Isaac Olivarez

Ask Isaac Gregorio to sum up the story of his life and he’ll tell you in a word: healing. One look at this 19-year-old college student from Cheyenne, Wyo., reveals a pleasant young man eager to take advantage of any opportunity to learn more about God and pursue a calling into full-time ministry. But Isaac’s calm demeanor today is a far cry from the confused, bitter and angry young man of just two years ago.

Even then, it was apparent God had a calling on Isaac’s life. That’s why as his youth pastor I vowed to befriend, mentor and challenge him until he gave his life to Jesus Christ.

In August 2006, just before the start of Isaac’s senior year of high school, I invited him and several other students to a Christian hip-hop concert. During the concert I couldn’t help but wonder why Isaac agreed to go to a Christian concert. He had a chip on his shoulder. Cursing flowed effortlessly from his mouth. I could tell he was mad at the world. As I thought about Isaac I felt like God told me He wanted to use Isaac for something special one day.

“It just triggered something inside me that I had never felt,” recalls Isaac when he remembers that night. “I never knew there was such a thing as Christian hip-hop, and I didn’t know Christians could have fun like that.”

Isaac grew up going to mass every Sunday. But by his senior year, he had all but given up on God. Little did he know his senior year would bring him to a spiritual turning point.

“I had a lot of hurt and was just going through life,” he admits. “God was just another option.”

As I got to know Isaac I learned of his tough childhood. Drugs ravaged his family. When he was 5 years old he moved in with his grandparents. When he was 12, his grandmother, Ruby Gregorio, discovered a relative had sexually abused Isaac. The physical and emotional trauma Isaac sustained during his adolescent years left him feeling guilty and ashamed.

“It affected my ability to have normal relationships,” says Isaac.  “I felt perverted and unneeded.”

He says he gave up on God, which allowed the hurt and bitterness to take root in his life. By the beginning of his senior year of high school his only dream was to join the military so he could get out of Cheyenne.

“I saw myself living a simple life,” he says. “I felt I had no other options.”

For reasons Isaac says he cannot explain, he was drawn to church and our youth group, TruLife Student Ministries. Suddenly, he had an insatiable hunger for the things of God. His demeanor began to change. His grandmother noticed the changes too.

“He came home from TruLife one night and told me he wanted to be in ministry,” says Ruby.

Ruby says her heart is full of joy for her grandson because he is finally being “healed and released from all the junk he went through.”

Isaac says part of the reason he committed his life to Christ was because he realized many Christians he knew had big goals for their lives. Feeling inspired by living examples of God’s goodness and provision, he was encouraged to make big plans for his own life.

“My thought process changed when I realized God saw something in me nobody else had ever seen,” he says. “I know He has a better plan for me.”

When Isaac told me he felt called into ministry I challenged him to take on leadership roles in the youth group. He didn’t like it at first because he thought going to church was enough. But over time he came to enjoy serving his church and fellow teens.

Last year he attended Latin American Bible Institute in La Puente, Calif. Today he is attending classes at a community college in Cheyenne and plans to go back to college.

“God has placed a burden in my heart for the people of the Dominican Republic,” he says. “I want to build relationships and share Christ.”

In the meantime, Isaac is helping me at TruLife. I sense he is eager to finish his prerequisite courses so he can attend Bible school. One of his greatest desires is to let teens know that if God can change his life, He can definitely change their lives.

“Overcoming obstacles in your life matures you spiritually,” he says. “It’s what God uses to help you minister to others, so leave everything in His hands.”

And how does Isaac do that each day?

“Every young person has God’s calling on his or her life,” he says. “If you’re born into this world, God has a purpose for you and that’s to spread His Word — but more importantly, you have to live His Word.”

ISAAC OLIVAREZ, former staff writer for Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, serves as youth pastor at Good Shepherd Assembly in Cheyenne, Wyo.

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