In 1981, Jesus C. was 14 years old; an undefeated amateur boxer who was following in the footsteps of his family’s tradition. His uncle had been a professional boxer before entering a career in politics; and likewise, many of the men in his family had this particular talent. He admired his uncle and worked hard at being the best in his division. By his 15th birthday, however, that dream began to take a turn. He started smoking weed and getting into trouble. At age 17 he was serving time in the California Youth Authority for fighting and causing bodily injury to someone while he was under the influence. From that time forward he spent the better part of his adult life in-and-out of prison.
“My mom died when I was three-years-old. I don’t know that it had anything to do with the rage I carried in me, but the one clear memory I do have from that time took place during her funeral. I wanted to jump into her grave with her. One of my siblings grabbed hold of me when I tried. I didn’t understand her death or why I couldn’t see her again. For some reason, it haunted me.”
On November 29, 2015, Jesus C. was arrested for Grand Theft Auto; charges related to a chop shop operation. He was placed in a jail cell by himself. In all the time he had been incarcerated, this was the first time he had ever been alone. “I felt myself give up. I broke down in my cell, feeling so lonely. The only thing I had to keep me occupied in that moment was a Bible. In Psalm 23, verse 4, I found a phrase that stayed with me: ‘…I will fear no evil; for You are with me;’ The words hit me. It was the start of something new.”
A few days later, his daughter, Jessica, wrote him a letter. “When it arrived I was afraid to open it. I thought she was going to be angry at me for getting into trouble again. She had every right to hate me for all the times I hadn’t been there for her or my other children. Instead, she wrote to tell me she loved me. Her words gave me hope. I still have that letter.”
Jesus C. entered the Mission’s Academy on September 27th, 2016.
“I am brand new to the Christian faith. I love the encouragement I get from being here in the men’s program and the comfort I find in the words I read in Scripture. The very first time I experienced God’s grace at the Mission was the night before my daughter, Jessica, graduated from Rescue the Children. I had no idea she was graduating from the Mission women’s program. I found out the day before the event. I had only been in the program for a little over 3 weeks, so I was still on restriction. I asked if I could attend and, to my surprise, I was given permission. It was the proudest day of my life, being able to surprise her by being there for her on her big day.”
Jesus C. continues to work through his pain. The years of addiction masked quite a bit of emotional baggage, but he is confident that he is on the right track.
“I’m learning a lot. God knows my heart. He knows how much I love my five children and my 5 grandchildren, so He knew that His words would touch my heart as they were coming through my daughter’s letter. He was right! When she told me she loved me and was praying for me, I got the message. Now, I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I have so much to gain by living for the Lord. The battles I face with Him are completely different than the ones I used to fight alone with my fists. They are in my heart and mind. But because of His love, I won’t fear an enemy I can’t see. Instead, I am careful to arm myself with His truth. It’s painful. I cry a lot – like a big baby! But it’s worth the tears. I’m not numb anymore.”
Jesus C.'s story appeared in the June 2017 issue of Lighthouse News.
Jessica's story appeared in the September 2015 issue of Lighthouse News.