Sunday, May 17, 2009

CHAPTER 8 Return Home - Fall 1998 Convert Becomes a Growing Disciple

I made it home bruised and battered to find I could still teach Spanish but not French. I was being sent to Middle School. 2 of them. For half a day each.


I lost my apartment but luckily I found one right in front of my morning school.


Could it get worse?


It did. While away my driver’s license had been suspended. Most days I had to walk from School#1 across town to School#2. Thankfully my lunch break and planning time were arranged so that I had time to travel.

But in both schools I was given a gray room with mismatched metal desks and a box of worn, written in, workbooks and told to create my own program. I would have students for each group of students for only 12 weeks. Every student. Whether they wanted to study Spanish or not. And there would be no academic accountability. No grades.


Was there a silver lining? A light at the end of the tunnel?

Not in the classroom. In fact, the 1998-1999 school year was so humiliating, tiresome, and negative that I retired from teaching rather than repeat the Hell I had just endured.


But something incredible did happen. In the fall after a particularly bad week I began to feel so sorry for myself I contemplated ways to pretend to attempt suicide. I wanted to get the support and attention without actually hurting myself. I wanted to end ‘ME’ without hurting me. So I called two of my former youth, now good friends, and dramatically said that if they wanted to see me alive they better show up before it was too late.


They did. In fact that stayed all night. Josh Dougherty and Jason Lambert really showed what true friends are that night. I was still in church and leading the High School Youth but I was burnt out.


Josh knew I was committed to Trinity UMC but he convinced me to attend a new church at Coastal Carolina University at 9:00. He promised I’d be able to arrive on time for the 11:00 service at Trinity.


I remember distinctly how everyone I passed spoke to me and smiled, welcoming me to the service. I remember how the praise music encouraged everyone to participate the way I had been raised. At Trinity rarely did the congregation actually join in the singing.


And the young minister oozed charisma. He was inspiring and funny and I wanted to follow where he was leading. So eventually I began to attend Christ United Methodist Full-time. By the Spring I had transferred my member ship. I went with Trinity’s blessing because, after all, Trinity was my new Pastor’s home church as well.


The church, almost from the beginning has had 4 services that reach out to people in all walks and stages of life. They were intentional about loving each other and about loving non-Christians as an expression of their love for God.


I volunteered in youth, young adult, and worship ministries as I had at Trinity but the crucible of my recent trials caused me to invest myself with sincerity, dependence, and faith I had lacked before. Suddenly I was changing and learning more about real life ministry than all the years of bible study and singing had taught me. I was so at home there, that when I moved home in 1999 to regroup I would still commute on weekends to attend services as part of the worship team.


I eventually moved back to Myrtle Beach in 2001 to teach Spanish to preschoolers and to work in an Afterschool and Summer Program. That’s where I learned everything I know about teacing, from the 1-4 year olds.


Growing was surprising, especially with the High School Youth and with the Young Adults from “Refuge”.


I was still stubborn and rebellious but I was learning how to be a disciple of Christ every moment. Then in 2003 an invitation caused me to re-evaluate my actions for Christ. A friend challenged me on the selfishness of my extensive world travels. He helped me to realize I had never once travelled for any higher purpose than my own pleasure. That got me thinking.

In fact it led me to participate in Mission Trips every other year.

Honduras in 2003

France in 2005

Uganda, Africa in 2007

The Dominican Republic in 2009

Each trip highlighted more and more the unique purpose for which I believe I am called. I speak French pretty well already, I've lived there twice and understand the culture. And I love discipling new believers and just doing life with them while God teaches them how to become more like His Son!

1 comment:

  1. Ricardo, this is really amazing. I've known you for a handful of years and never knew the depth of your story. Thanks for taking the time to record it. It has really blessed me. I can't wait to see all that God does in and through your life. Please keep this updated!
    ~ Dave