My personal story of faith is a fulfillment of the promise that was communicated by the Apostle Paul to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” I was born in Camaguey, Cuba. At the time of my birth, my parents were already believers and active members of Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) of Camaguey. A few years earlier, however, they were both spiritually lost. My father grew up in a home where “Santeria” (Voodoo witchcraft) was practiced, while my mother grew up in a Roman Catholic home. Through the faithful ministry of Primera Iglesia Bautista, my parents came to faith in Christ. They would eventually marry and establish a household of faith. As a result of my parents’ conversion, our family’s spiritual legacy was changed forever. Prior to my parents, no one in my family tree was a follower of Jesus.
After my parents, every one of their children, as well as their children’s children, have come to faith in Christ, thus fulfilling the words of the apostle Paul in Acts 16:31. To God be the glory!
Like many Cubans in the late 1950s, my family supported Fidel Castro in his quest to oust Fulgencio Batista. However, after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro declared that he would move Cuba into a communist state. My family rescinded their support and began seeking Castro’s removal in the counter-revolution. My father led one of the counter-revolution’s movements. This made him a wanted man by the communist authorities. Growing up hearing my father’s stories of the counter-revolution was like living in my own “Mission Impossible” movie! My father would eventually be smuggled out of Cuba through the Brazilian embassy after a childhood friend who served in the communist army informed him of Castro’s plans to capture him. After several months in Rio de Janeiro, my father relocated to New York City where he began to work for his family’s liberation from communist Cuba. I was ten months old when my father left Cuba for Brazil. I would not see him again until five years later.
My family immigrated to the United States in the 1960s. Like all good Cubans, we arrived in Miami but would settle in the inner-city of Los Angeles, where my father was then living.
As a rambunctious boy, I searched for acceptance and significance in my new home. This would lead to my association with friends and their siblings who were involved in the gang life of the inner city. This also brought about attitude problems and my participation in questionable activities. Concerned about my future, my parents packed up and moved the family far away from Los Angeles, settling in Atlanta, Georgia. While my surroundings had changed, my attitude and behavior had not. It appeared that difficulty followed me everywhere I went. It was not long before I began to have conflict with neighborhood kids and with school officials in my new hometown.
My family attended Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church where my dad served as pastor of the Hispanic congregation. On one occasion, the church held a week of special services called “revival.” I had decided that I would not participate even though I had to be present since my father was leading it. Once the service began at the church, I followed my usual routine, sneaking out of the service, making my way to the basement of the building, where I ate donuts, talked, and watched television with the custodial staff. Trying to time it just right to miss the service, I ran upstairs thinking the service was about to be over. However, God had His perfect timing and as I “sneaked” into the back of the Sanctuary the preacher was making the Gospel presentation. In those few moments of the service, God’s Word spoke to my heart and opened my eyes to see my desperate need for Jesus. That night I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. My life was completely turned around. The Holy Spirit transformed me from a combative young man with a chip on his shoulder to a more caring individual, who, eventually, surrendered to God’s call to ministry.
I’ve had the joy of serving the Lord for more than 30 years in various capacities and roles. At the age of 17 I told the Lord, “Here am I, send me” and the adventure has been awesome! I’ve had the pleasure of starting new churches, ministering to gang members, serving as a chaplain for major league baseball, and serving Southern Baptists in apologetics and evangelism at the national and state level. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people of all different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and religions.
My wife, Esther, and I have moved to the Birmingham area and have joined the Dawson Family of Faith to pastor and serve as the church planter for Comunidad de Fe (Community of Faith) in Fultondale. Comunidad de Fe was begun under the leadership of Pastor Bayron Mosquera. Esther and I feel blessed to serve with Dawson in its continued development and growth. We currently meet weekly in home Bible studies throughout North Jefferson County, and on Sunday evenings for worship at the facilities of First Baptist Church Fultondale. We have two sons, Andrew and Timothy. Andrew (26) is an entrepreneur living in Atlanta and was married last November. Timothy (24) is a graduate of the University of Georgia and is now serving the Lord in one of the collegiate ministries at UGA.
The fields are ripe for harvest! You can help us by praying as we connect with Hispanics in our field of ministry. Please pray for doors to be opened for the sharing of the Gospel. Pray for the Lord’s favor as we begin our youth ministry this fall and seek to have a presence in the area high schools. Please also pray for additional homes to be opened for evangelistic home Bible studies. We are grateful for your faithful prayers. Join us on Sunday evenings at 5:00 p.m. for our Celebration Service and worship in the heavenly language—Spanish!