Note from Starr: I met Julian Gonzales and his wife Minerva nearly a decade ago at The Pathway of Life church in Dallas, TX. I respect his authenticity, his love and passion for his family, and the work he does to minister to “the least of these.” I asked him to share this story on my blog, because I was challenged and humbled by it. Forgiveness matters.
I was 16 years old when this happened, and I was standing near the Lambrano St. bridge, by Elmendorf St. in the Mechaca Courts section of San Antonio. My uncles, who were alcoholics, recently started going to church, and for me it was scary because I didn’t know who these guys where anymore. They talked about how great church was on Sunday morning and then again on Sunday night, they were even going to church on Wednesdays too. Then one day about four o clock in the morning when one of my uncles began singing, “I will dance like David” I said, “What the hell is going on here?” It only got worse when Grandma busted out her tambourine and played it so hard that Tina Turner would have envied her. God was moving in our home, and I didn’t understand it one single bit. I was living my life just a half step in front of death; I was selling drugs and getting paid to beat people. I was involved with the San Antonio Kings at the time we where a known as a “wolf pack” for a bigger, more violent and established prison gang.
Two days later on a Friday night I found myself at church. You see, that young man who walked up to me in my barrio just graduated from Latin American Bible Institute, and he was the youth pastor and worship leader for East Central Assemblies of God Church in San Antonio, Texas. He was no older than 20 years old and grew up in the church; I guess that’s the reason why he thought he could sneak up on me and “jokingly” apply a choke hold. I was talking to several people at the time, and I noticed their eyes would flare off of me. A true sign that someone was behind you, but I ignored the massive urge to turn around. That is when I felt someone apply pressure around my neck. From then, I really don’t remember what happened, other than when it was finished this pastor of about 50 youth lay on the floor of the church gym, bleeding from his mouth holding his arm with a dislocated shoulder and a broken wrist. I stood over him and someone pushed me away. I went into failsafe mode; I was ready to fight everyone if I needed to. He saw what was going on, so he got onto his feet and placed himself in between I and the others even though he could barely stand the pain. He said something to the youth, and for the love of God I don’t remember what he said, but whatever he said calmed everyone down. In the mean time I was sizing up the guys that had begun to charge me before the pastor interceded.
I remember that night I felt like I was going to hell, because I just beat up a pastor. He called me later after he got out of the hospital and apologized for doing what he did. I remember saying to myself, “He is apologizing to me for kicking his ass?” I didn’t know how to act, but he showed up at my door and made sure that I would go to church. It was a new experience for me. He, by example, taught me how forgiveness should work. I in turn taught him how to apply a correct choke hold. I made a lot of friends at that church, and gradually left the street life. I will never forget how Pastor D, a youth pastor, took the time, got beat up, and extended forgiveness, for me to have a relationship with the Lord. I now have been married for 18 years have two wonderful children and I still go to church happily. I reflect at times what would have become of me if that youth pastor would not have listened, and taken the time to share Christ’s love with me? What would have become of me, if he did not stand up for me on that Friday night that I broke his wrist and dislocated his shoulder? I don’t know, but I thank God that he did.
|Julian and his awesome family|
When I have angry, mean-spirited, hurt kids at church who are hard to love, I think about this story and the man that Julian has become. Help me be quick to forgive offenses and extravagant with my love for those kids Lord! Thank you Lord for “Pastor D” and his willingness for forgive.