Why I need Jesus — and you need to tell others about him
Youth leader at Church of Celebration Metro
Point Magazine // Spring 2017
I was full of hate and anger before I asked Christ to come into my life. My parents divorced when I was in third grade, and I grew up in New Braunfels, Texas, without my father because he was in and out of jail, eventually sentenced to prison for 50 years.
In 2006, right out of high school, I got heavily involved in drugs, and my life spiraled out of control. I tried to commit suicide twice and ended up doing three months in jail for assault against my older brother, who was trying to help me overcome my problems. But I couldn’t accept I had an issue. Plus, I spent a couple of weeks in a mental hospital.
In 2009 I met Ashley, the woman who would become my wife. Our relationship developed very fast; I moved in with her within a month. In 2010, we had a child out of wedlock.
Still, I lived for myself, never around on weekends. I was heavy into drinking and gambling during the pregnancy and even after my daughter Kareena was born. A friend began to attend a small local church and kept inviting me to attend. I declined many times. Then one Sunday in April 2013 my wife convinced me to visit the church because we were broken as a family and needed a change.
Making major changes
As the pastor delivered his sermon, it seemed as if God was speaking directly to me. Suddenly, I felt very emotional. At the end of his message, the pastor asked people who didn’t know Jesus to come forward if they wanted to place their trust in him. I felt something move in my heart at that moment. I opened my eyes, tears flowing down my face, and walked forward to ask Jesus to be a part of my life.
One month later I decided to be baptized. The pastor baptized me on May 19, 2013. Shortly after that, we moved to North Texas.
We were invited to the Church of Celebration Metro in Aubrey. We came to the service and immediately fell in love. After the service I met with pastor Brad Wilkerson and, with welcoming arms, he made me feel as if I were home. He was so authentic and genuine.
In time pastor Brad challenged Ashley and me to move out of the chairs we sat in every Sunday and plug into some of the many opportunities the church had to offer. I joined a men’s ministry called Men of Valor and a life group that met on Friday evenings. I started serving in the church.
Throughout this period, I surrounded myself with great men and leaders of the church. I began to realize I was changing into the man God intended me to be. Ashley and I began serving in children’s ministry, stepping out of my comfort zone — something COC always encouraged us to do. For the next two years I led the children’s ministry during one of the services.
The power of invitation
I continued to grow, and God was gaining more control in my life. I felt God calling me to missions. In 2016 I went to the Dominican Republic to love on the kids, help lead vacation Bible school and share the gospel of Jesus as we walked through the neighborhoods of Veron. It was a life-changing experience.
Pastor Greg Jones asked me to present my testimony to over 130 teenagers. The Holy Spirit flowed through me that evening. I became emotional, taking a step back to see how far God had brought me from all my mistakes, addictions and suicide attempts. Now he had me in this room with so many kids to bring them evidence of God’s work in my life. If they accepted Jesus and made him the center of their lives, they would experience the love of God.
My church has pushed me to grow beyond measure and put God first. I sense Jesus is calling me to ministry, and someday I hope to achieve that goal. If you are struggling, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. I hope you are encouraged as you see the work Jesus has done in my life.
There is power in invitation. If you know someone who needs Jesus, keep asking them, keep inviting them. They might just say yes and see their whole life changed forever.
I tell my story not so that I get the glory, but so that others may know what hope looks like. With Jesus there is hope!
Greg Garza, Youth leader at Church of Celebration Metro
Greg Garza is a youth leader at Church of Celebration Metro, Aubrey, Texas.