In the name of Jesus Christ I testify. Thank and praise God for leading me to this day, so I can share His amazing work in my life.
In Acts 17, the Bible says that God “determined the times set for [men] and the exact places where they should live […] so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in Him we live and move and have our being’ […] 'We are his offspring.' ” (Acts 17:26-28). I have personally experienced these verses in my life.
This is the story of how God chose me because of His grace and mercy. He did this because He loves me and I am His child. He chose me because He is my reason for living. He did this so I could seek Him, reach out for Him, and find Him. As I look back on my life, I know that He was never far from me.
SAVED FROM DANGER
I was born in the town of Santa Rosa, in the Central American country of El Salvador. The town is located in the countryside, about three hours north of the capital of San Salvador. This was a rural area were most residents were farmers. A majority lived in shacks, were largely illiterate, and barely had enough to eat for each meal. Paved roads, electricity, and running water were luxuries we did not have.
Soon after I was born, my mother – like many other Salvadorians – left for the US in search of a better life. I was raised by my maternal grandmother and aunts.
Even as a young child, I had a concept of God as someone I could turn to for help. When I was about four years old, my home was surrounded by a band of bandits. My grandmother and I were trapped inside the shack. The nearest house was at least half a mile away, so we could not even call for help. The robbers carried guns, which they waved around to scare us. The bandits shouted terrifying threats as they banged on the door and tried to force their way in. Since they could not enter through the door, they climbed onto
the roof and started to tear it apart. With the sound of each clay roof shingle that fell and cracked on the floor outside our home, we knew that they were one step closer to hurting us and maybe even killing us so they could get their hands on the few valuable possessions we had.
In a moment, the robbers would be inside the house. What could an old woman and a young boy do against a group of violent criminals? I saw my grandmother reach out for her Bible, and I suddenly felt the urge to kneel
down and pray to God. Within a few minutes, the shouting men, the banging fists, and the breaking shingles faded away. As unexpectedly as the bandits had come, they were gone. I had sought God, and He had heard my prayer.
SAVED FROM DEATH
When I was about twelve years old, my mother sent for me so I could come live in the US. The journey was long and dangerous. Many of those who had followed the same route had not made it to their destination. Along with a group of Central American immigrants, I travelled over mountains and across seas. We were in constant fear of death, sometimes from starvation and exhaustion, other times from closed quarters and leaky boats.
Near the American border, we were forced to cross a river on foot. The current was so strong and I was so tired. It was difficult to take a step, and I could barely keep my head above the water. The water surged around me and I felt that I was drowning. What could I do against such a powerful force of nature? My instinct was to pray to God. After my desperate prayer, I somehow made it safely to the other side of the river. Even though death was close at hand, God was even closer. I had reached out to God and He had been there by my side.
SAVED BY GOD
After graduating from high school, God gave me the opportunity to pursue higher education. I was the first in my family to go to college, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance. Over time, I came to realize that
aside from my love for learning, many other things seemed to set me apart from my cousins and classmates. I had no interest in drinking, smoking, using drugs, partying, or gambling. I cared more about spending a day in the library than wasting a night in a club. In many ways, these characteristics made it easier for me to pursue the Truth. Unlike many converts to Christianity, I did not have to suffer a terrible illness, a severe addiction, or a crippling accident to turn to God.
During my junior year of college, I met a member of the True Jesus Church in one of my business classes. I was invited to attend Hosanna 2005 at Baldwin Park Church. I did not understand much of the content of the sermon, but the prayer in tongues intrigued me. I had heard a similar prayer at a Pentecostal church in my hometown, but I had never known that it was the evidence of God’s abidance through the Holy Spirit.
I attended church services for some time. I noticed that both sermon speakers and believers placed a great emphasis on the Truth according to the Bible. Everything that was preached and practiced had to be based on the flawless Word of God, and not on limited human understanding. Although I enjoyed going to church, my job responsibilities became an obstacle to regular attendance, and I eventually had to stop going altogether.
PURSUIT FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT
Later on, I received a job promotion and was able to start attending Sabbath services on Fridays and Saturdays again. I also started participating in the Spanish Bible Studies on Sundays. I listened to sermons with interest, but it was often hard to truly understand the essence of the message. I prayed for the Holy Spirit constantly, but my efforts seemed to be useless.
On two occasions, I dreamed that I had received the Holy Spirit. In the dreams, I could see and hear myself speaking in tongues and I was filled with a great sense of joy. These dreams served as an encouragement to keep praying. During Spanish Hosanna 2008, I prayed earnestly to receive the Holy Spirit. I was extremely disappointed when the bell rang to end the concluding prayer. I was sad to see that nothing had changed in my prayer.
I continued to attend services and to study the Bible. As the Spring Spiritual Convocation 2009 at Baldwin Park Church approached, I decided to receive water baptism in accordance with the Bible. To prepare for baptism, a brother gave me a few intensive classes on church doctrines. Because each of these was based on the Bible, I had no doubts or questions. I knew that God’s Word is true.
I attended the spiritual convocation services on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. I diligently prayed to God to grant me His precious Holy Spirit. Elders, pastors, and deacons laid hands on me and interceded for me in prayer. Although the prayers lasted fifteen to twenty minutes, they always seemed too short. I felt as if I was just warming up when the bell would ring. Prayer after prayer, I still did not receive the Holy Spirit. I was beginning to despair.
A sister suggested that I try fasting prayer to prepare for water baptism, Holy Communion, and footwashing. I decided to fast and pray on the next day, which was Saturday. I discovered that prayer with fasting was drastically different than regular prayer. It was more focused and powerful.
During the concluding prayer for the morning service on Saturday morning, I cried out to God. I desperately wanted the Holy Spirit. I felt that it would be a sign of complete repentance and submission to God, and a strong support for my decision to receive baptism. I simply could not understand what was stopping me from receiving it. Psalm 62:8 tells us to “trust in [God] at all times […and] pour out [our] hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” I had always trusted God to be my protector and provider. In that prayer, my next step was to completely pour out my heart to God. I felt that my heart was completely broken because of all the prayers where I had not received the Holy Spirit. Psalm 51:16-17 reminds us that God does “not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; [He does] not take pleasure in burnt offerings […but] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, [He] will not despise.” My broken heart longed for God’s Spirit in my life.
In this deep fasting prayer, I asked God that we examine my heart together so I could find what was wrong or missing. I saw an image of my heart with yellow marks on it. A bright light scanned it from top to bottom. The next thing I knew, my body was filled with heat. I felt what seemed like electrical currents coursing through my arms. My tongue was rolling on its own. At first I thought I must be saying “Hallelujah” too fast, but even
after I tried to repeat this phrase to praise God, it very naturally shifted into the unknown tongue. Then I remembered the pastor saying that when the Holy Spirit comes, we should let it flow naturally, so I did. When the prayer concluded, I realized that tears had been streaming down my face.
I did not tell anyone that I had received the Holy Spirit. In the next few prayers, this spiritual tongue grew stronger and flowed more smoothly. At the end of the afternoon prayer, one of the pastors came over to congratulate me. He confirmed that I had received the Holy Spirit. In total, seven people received the Holy Spirit during the Spiritual Convocation.
On Sunday, I – along with seven other people – went to receive baptism in living water at a local beach. It had been raining hard during the sermon prior to the baptism and also on the way to the location. Miraculously, the rain stopped as soon as we arrived at the baptismal site, although the sky remained cloudy. The water was freezing, but as I knelt down in the water to receive baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I felt warm inside. As soon as the last person was baptized, the sun broke through the clouds and warmed all of us with its light. This marked a new beginning in our lives.
After we returned to church, we received footwashing by a pastor and a deaconess, so we could have a part with Christ. Finally, we partook of the Holy Communion (unleavened bread and juice from the fruit of the grapevine) with the congregation. By accepting God’s grace through these biblical sacraments, we humbly received God’s salvation.
About a month after the spiritual convocation, the True Jesus Church’s General Assembly published a book of student testimonies. One of the testimonies was from a young sister in Irvine, who saw a vision in which angels marked students that were praying for the Holy Spirit. Those who had already received the Holy Spirit or were about to received a yellow mark. Those who did not have the Holy Spirit or were not concentrating in their prayer received a blue mark. These yellow marks in her vision corresponded to the yellow marks in the image I saw during prayer. This sister’s testimony helped me understand just how close God was during my search of the Truth. Through my two dreams, the image I saw during prayer, and the encouragement of brothers and sisters, God had been telling me that I would find Him and receive the Holy Spirit.
After receiving the Holy Spirit and water baptism, I have experienced a subtle yet profound transformation that continues to this day. When I read the Bible, passages “click” in my mind. When I sing hymns such as “Let Jesus Come into Your Heart” and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” I feel comforted and sometimes even moved to tears. When I listen to sermons, the concepts and stories simply “flow.” I can grasp their underlying spiritual meaning. I have a new sense of understanding that is beyond my own knowledge. And when I kneel down before God, the longer I pray, the shorter it feels. Fasting prayers have become my favorite form of prayer, because of their intensity and the way they allow me to experience God more fully.
Before I conclude my testimony, I would like to take one more look at Acts 17:26-28
26 And He has made from one blood[a] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
In my life, I have personally experienced this passage. God appointed the times and the places where I should live. I sought Him in times of danger. I reached out to Him when I was close to death. I found Him when I poured out my heart before Him. The Holy Spirit has shown me that God is never far from each one of us. It is our right and our privilege to live and to move and to do all things in Him. After all, we are His offspring, the ones He chose before the creation of the world, and the ones He will love for all eternity.
I sincerely hope all those who hear my testimony have the courage to search for God, to reach out for Him, and to find Him. After all, He is never very far from you.
Thank and praise God for leading me through every step of the way. May all glory, honor, and praise be unto God. Amen.