With the application right in front of me to become an intern pastor, I filled it out and turned it in. Guess what they said. “No.” The campus pastor said, “Let him in. God has a call on his life,” and he took me under his wing. He taught me how to be a Christian man, then husband, dad, and pastor. He even taught me how to write my first sermon. I would come every Sunday at 6:30 AM to set up the church and serve at all five services (until around 9 pm) in any way I could because I was just so grateful for what God had done in my life. Everyone thought I was crazy and used to say, “Who is this guy that just got out of prison, running around here talking about how he’s going to be a pastor?”
I immediately signed up for school so I could be a pastor and eventually received multiple degrees. I don’t even know how, but I got some more mentors who poured into me, and I just did everything they said. It was uncomfortable at first, but finally I stopped arguing with them because I saw how much my life was changing. I got my first opportunity to preach four months out of prison at an outreach, then, four months after that, God opened the door for me to start a Friday night service at a rehabilitation center. God was opening up so many doors for me including starting small groups and other ministries. The best door that was opened through serving was being reintroduced to the love of my life. We are now happily married and have two beautiful kids together.
After about three years, I felt the call to plant a church. I had no experience, barely any education, wasn’t seasoned, but I knew that I loved Jesus, and I had this uncontrollable fire in my bones to share the Gospel with people. Things started off great, but when my wife developed hyperemesis after she got pregnant, we had to live in the hospital or she would be bedridden with tubes in her neck and arms. Every three hours, I would have to come home and mix up multiple IV medications to give her. This, along with going to school full time, running a church by myself, and the doctors telling me over and over to prepare for our baby to pass away, was a long and stressful time. It was a lot. Thankfully, God answered our prayers through two pregnancies (and our miracle babies aren’t really babies anymore).
We ended up merging with Meridian Baptist Church and I served as the outreach/teaching pastor under Pastor Rolland Slade. Under his leadership I gained so much experience and was introduced to this wonderful family called “Southern Baptist.” While there, Pastor Rolland helped me name an event that my wife and I began the year before called the Hope Toy Drive which, at one point, became the largest Southern Baptist evangelistic outreach in California next to Harvest Fest. A big reason for that ministry’s success happened during lunch at a Friday’s restaurant, when I met a man named Pete Ramirez. Pete was one of the first people to believe in the ministry. Through the CSBC, he gave us a $3,000 check along with introducing me to SoCal Ministries and the Baptist Foundation of California which was instrumental in our growth and reach. Because of people like Pete, the CSBC, the CP, California Baptist Foundation, and SoCal Ministries, we have been able to lead thousands of people to Christ!
After Meridian, God called my family and I to New Vision Church where I was able to get some very high-level experience overseeing multiple campuses in several areas of ministry. I was there for five years and learned a lot under the leadership and mentorship of Pastor Pete Contreras. For the last year and a half, I kept feeling this pull to become more of a shepherd. I did a twenty-one day, no-food, prayer and fast and asked Pastor Pete to join me in prayer. After a series of confirmations, most importantly my wife’s, we made the decision to go start Hope Church San Diego.
We were prayed out of our church and made the announcement to everyone on January 8th, 2023. It was just me, my wife, and my two kids. That’s it. We didn’t bring anyone with us. Plus, it was a little scary because I was also giving up a full-time salary and we had a mortgage to pay. Either way we knew God had called us, so we took the step of faith. We had four prayer meetings where we brought some food, threw it out on Facebook that we were starting a church asking if anyone wanted to come pray with us. We then decided to have two practice services before we invited everyone, because we knew that we were going to make a bunch of mistakes. On February 26, 2023, we had our first Sunday service and 165 people showed up! Since that day, we have averaged between 125-130 people per Sunday! We have done a mission trip to the Philippines, helped plant two more churches, seen over 500 people come to Christ, and, as of today 89 baptisms in 11 months!
When I think of all the lives that have changed and how we get to have and experience freedom and hope, I think back to that moment when my wife and I made the decision to start Hope Church. It makes me wonder what would’ve happened if we would have said no? But because of God’s love and grace, faith pastors and churches came alongside us, entities like the SDSBA, CSBC, California Baptist Foundation, SoCal Ministries, Send Network, NAMB, and more.
Thank you to the Hope Church Elder Board (Dr. Shawn Beaty, Dr. Dale Garland, Dr. Phil Herrington, Rolland Slade, and Jeremy Aylett), who came alongside me to help build and strengthen the foundation. Without your faithfulness, commitment, and wisdom, there would be no Hope Church. Together we will spread contagious hope through the Gospel to help transform and restore people, families, communities, and California, because we are better together.
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