Skip to comments.Former drug smuggler discovers hope and new life in Christ
Posted on 02/07/2011 2:47:15 PM PST by wmfights
DEL RIOCold water swirls around Julio Gonzales legs as he stands in the baptistry. He laughs quickly, nervouslyand who can blame him? It isnt everyday a person stands at the intersection of two disparate livesthe one he seeks to leave behind and the new one he feels God calling him to live.
He prays he will find the freedom that has eluded him for 16 years.
Gonzales, 32, has spent the last half of his life in and out of the criminal system, including four stints in prison on charges that include conspiracy to murder and smuggling drugs. He carries the outer scarsa plethora of tattoos on his arms, back, chest, face and headand inner burdens of a hard life.
He is four months from being off parole and out of the criminal justice system for the first time since he was a teenager. He credits his progress to the support of several people, including Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church, and Moises Reyes, the churchs missions pastor, who reached out to him with a caring spirit and the hope of Christ. Through a relationship with God, Gonzales sees an opportunity to change his life and be a better father to his 9-year-old daughter.
Its a new start, doing something different, he said in an interview before he was baptized during the Texas Baptist River Ministry Conference at First Baptist Church Jan. 28. Gods going to pull me and my family through.
He knows starting anew wont be easy. Hes reminded of it nearly every day. Federal authorities have given him permission to live across the border from Del Rio in Acuña, so he can care for his wife and daughter. Life there is harder than any other hes experienced, he saida significant statement from a man who was stabbed seven times.
Gonzales hasnt found steady employment since he was released from prison 19 months ago, and has supported his family by picking up occasional day jobs. The water to his home was turned off a couple of weeks ago because he couldnt pay for it. He recently received the electric bill and cannot afford to pay it. His family is lucky to have balogna and milk in his refrigerator, he said.
Gonzales faces constant temptation to turn back to his old lifestyle to earn money. He recognizes opportunities to make quick money smuggling drugs, but he knows thats not the lifestyle God is calling him to lead. God will provide for his family, Gonzales said, not drugs or other criminal activities.
The moneys good, but you dont live in peace, he said. Theres no peace. Now Im happy with myself.
Andrea Huffman, First Baptist Churchs community minister, is working with Gonzales to help him put his skills to use in micro-enterprise to provide self-sustaining income.
Overcoming temptation marks just one aspect of Gonzales new faith. In many ways, hes like so many other new Christians who struggle to discover what having a relationship with God means in daily life.
I still have a lot to work on. I aint no angel, said Gonzales, who has the phrase forgive me for my crazy life tattooed above his eyebrows and on his collarbone.
Johnson helps encourage Gonzales in his relationship with God, calling him twice a week to see how he is doing and how the church can help.
Julio coming to know Christ is a classic example of planting, watering, and God giving the increase, Johnson said. From the prison ministry, mission partnerships, advocacy/care, prayer walking to personal evangelismall God used. We are happy to be part of Gods plan for Julio.
Despite the temptation that surrounds him, Gonzales believes hes going to make itto get off probation and be a better father. He cant make up for years lost in prison, but can do the best he can to be the man God is calling him to be, he noted. Hes not sure where that will lead, but he hopes God will call him to help young people avoid the pitfalls in which he fell. Hes already trying to help the young men who live around him.
I know Im going to make it, he said. Its tough, but Im going to make it.
May the Lord Bless this man and his family.
Prayers for this man and his family...