When I turned sixteen (back in 1998!), I was not following Jesus. Attending a public high school in Moore, Oklahoma, with no religious influences in my life, I found myself lonely, depressed, confused and enslaved by several habits that I was introduced to by my peers in school. Though I was a capable student, my grades were in the Cs and Ds. I was barely making it academically, and my mother, working three jobs and struggling to make ends meet as a single mother of three, barely had enough time to keep up with what was going on in my world. I felt guilt and shame, and often decided that I wanted to quit doing the things I was doing, if for no other reason, out of love and pity for my mother, but would often within days find myself right back to doing the things I had decided I wouldn’t do anymore.
In the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school (1999), everything changed. Jesus found me, I responded and he freed me from my enslaving sinful habits. At this point, I need to give some context. I was born in Brazil and migrated to the United States at the age of six. For ten years, I did not return to my original home nor did I have any contact with my family in Brazil. They did not even know where we were living. In an attempt to leave an abusive marriage with my father, my mother disappeared with her children in the midwest of the United States and told no one where we were living. But in 1998, at the age of sixteen, my father discovered where we were, and decided he was going to pay us a visit.
Remarkably, as he was on his way to Oklahoma via the Mexican/Texas border, he was arrested and spent seven months in prison (I won’t go into the details here). During this time in prison, he had an experience with Jesus. He returned to Brazil determined to live a different life. An aunt (one of my mother’s sisters), who knew where we were, had heard about what happened to my dad, and convinced my mother to allow her to give him our contact information. She did, and within days I received a phone call from my dad, whom I hadn't seen or heard from in ten years. He asked me to come to Brazil and see him, and I agreed to go in the summer (1999).
Depressed, confused and addicted to several destructive habits, I traveled to Brazil. My Portuguese was rusty, but within a few weeks I was speaking rather fluently. Out of respect for my dad, I would attend church every Saturday with my dad’s new family (wife and two-year-old son). I was very unengaged, but would enjoy the Saturday night social activities, especially playing soccer with other young people. But as I spent time with several young people who knew Jesus, I found myself desiring to have what they had. They never studied the Bible with me or invited me to be baptized, but their unconscious influence was inviting me to accept Jesus as my Savior. Without them knowing it, their demeanor appealed to me like Philip’s words to the skeptic Nathanael, “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). I finally gave in. I began to pray and engage in the worship services I was attending week after week. As opened my heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
As I entered the airplane in August of 1999 to fly back to the United States, I had decided to follow Jesus. When I returned home, I began attending a local Seventh-day Adventist Church. I studied on my own a set of Daniel Bible study lessons, attended the Net ’99 evangelistic series in October/November, and was baptized December 5, 1999. Jesus broke the chains of sin that had enslaved me for years. I was no longer depressed and confused about life. Jesus brought peace and clarity. I enrolled in an Adventist school (Parkview Adventist Academy) midway through my junior year in high school. I went on two mission trips while at Parkview, and in my senior year found myself preaching in the several Adventist churches in the Oklahoma City area. People around me affirmed my call to ministry. In the summer after my high school graduation, I did canvassing work (selling Christian books door-to-door) and in the fall began studying for the ministry.
The invitation to “Come and see” is for all who are on the fence, still holding back from making a full commitment to Jesus and following him all the way. There is a power that comes from taking that step that one will only understand once they make that momentous decision to give the Saviour a chance. The Psalmist invites, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). The implication is that you will never know unless you give him a chance. The promise that follows is, “Blessed is the man that trusts in him.” I can tell you from experience that this is true. I tasted and saw at the age of 16. Now at 38, I can say that I have been truly blessed (happy) for trusting in him for twenty two years.