Monday, October 21, 2013

chapter 12 the cry for help

Henry came home, just as he had done for the past several years, in the middle of the night. He quietly opened the door of his children’s bedroom. They were so beautiful, so peaceful. The euphoria of cocaine was spiraling out of his system. But through the spiral, he could see much too clearly. “My children are cursed,” he cried inside of himself. “They are cursed! In this evil world in which they live in, nothing could be worse than having me as their father.”
It's true," he thought. Then he said it aloud, “it's true."
He shut their door. He couldn't stand to look at them.
He turned and went into his bedroom. There was Lisa, faithful Lisa sleeping in his bed.  “Oh God,” Henry cried out. “Oh God, if you're real, why won’t you stop me? Why do you let me so hurt the ones that I love?”
But sin's grip was so strong that when he woke up the next morning, he went about his life exactly as he had the day before. But God, in His infinite mercy, had heard Henry’s cry. 
Just a few weeks later, a drug smuggling plane was flying over Hispaniola in the middle of the night with 550 kilos of cocaine en route to the United States from Colombia. On board were the pilot, the co-pilot, and a Columbian national named Belteshazzar, who supervised the operation. The plane developed engine trouble and had to make an emergency landing on a remote runway on the Bahamian island of Great Inagua. The police heard the plane fly into Bahamian air space without authorization. They raced to the small island runway expecting drug involvement.
When the plane touched down, Belteshazzar jumped out and ran into the brush. The plane came to a stop and police surrounded the plane with automatic rifles. They motioned for the pilot and the co-pilot to come out of the plane. They had not seen Belteshazzar. As the pilot and co-pilot climbed down, the police punched and frisked them, and put them into one of their police cars. The police then went into the plane where they found the cocaine. When most of the cocaine had been loaded into their paddy wagon, the police changed their course. With the next bag, they went into the brush.
 Belteshazzar couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he quietly followed to see where they were going. They pulled some branches and leaves from beside a stump, and went back and forth from the plane several times. They tore apart the plane looking for more cocaine, but when there was no more to be found, they went back to the stump and covered everything over with dirt and leaves. Then they drove away.
Belteshazzar found the stump. When he pulled away the leaves and the dirt, he couldn’t believe it—they had managed to hide 150 kilos (about 330 pounds)! It took him a while, but he dug out another hiding place several hundred meters away. He moved everything and covered it well. He set up markers for himself. There was no way he was not going to be able to find this spot again.  Eventually he made his way to an island hotel and called his contacts in the United States. He needed to get out of the Bahamas, but he had only a counterfeit passport and no explanation as to how he got there, or what he was doing.
Some of Henry’s buddies were involved in this operation. They needed someone to fly down to the Bahamas and bring Belteshazzar back to Miami. Henry had worked with Belteshazar before. He also had several good contacts in the Bahamas. They all talked it over and made Henry an offer. It was an offer he was not going to refuse.

The next morning Henry made arrangements with a pilot who used to fly for him. Henry rented a plane (one that had previously been used for drug smuggling) and they headed for the Bahamas.

On September 9, 1984 Henry located Belteshazzar in Great Inagua. His mind went into high gear when Belteshazzar told him about the 150 kilos of cocaine that nobody knew anything about. Henry convinced Belteshazzar that since they had the plane, the pilot and a boat to smuggle him into Miami waiting in Bimini, they would be fools not to smuggle in the cocaine as well. The wholesale value of this cocaine just as it was, was over 6 million dollars. Henry had contacts in Bimini who would give them passage to the awaiting boat to smuggle Belteshazzar and the cocaine to Miami--for the right price. With so much cocaine, price was no object.

Before dawn Belteshazzar left the hotel to find the cocaine he had hidden. The plan was for Belteshazzar to move the cocaine down to the end of the runway. (He left about 40 kilos behind for another day in case this operation failed.) Then Belteshazzar hid in the brush at the end of the runway and waited for Henry and the plane to turn around right before take off.

Henry and the pilot checked out  of customs and boarded the plane. They taxied down the runway, and as they turned around, Henry jumped out and helped Belteshazzar throw in the cocaine. Belteshazzar scrambled onto the plane and Henry followed. The flight back to Bimini was a celebration. With the thought of so much money to be made from the cocaine, and with some additional help from snorting cocaine and drinking alcohol—Henry had never been so high.

As they were about to land, the pilot noticed another plane not far off. Had it been following them? Henry was not concerned. This was his day. So he ignored what he would have never before ignored in his dangerous life as a drug smuggler.

At Henry's insistence, they touched down and taxied down the runway. When they came to a stop and opened the plane’s door, their vision was filled with the sight of heavily armed soldiers with their weapons drawn racing towards them.  “Don’t move! Freeze or you die!”

Then everything became a blur. Henry thinks it was six (but maybe it was only four) soldiers that had come out of two helicopters. One of the Bahamian soldiers was ready to beat Henry bad, but American advisers from Reagan's anti-drug task force were with the group so he was restrained. Henry hoped they would lock them up in Bimini. He could bribe himself out from there. “I'll be out by morning,” he thought to himself. 

Then one of the soldiers said, “It’s early enough in the day, we can fly them in our military craft to a secure prison in Nassau.” So immediately Henry was in the air again heading for Nassau.

Henry was no longer celebrating. He was not yet able to realize that God was answering his cry for help.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chapter 11 she couldn't stop weeping

Lisa had been embarrassed when Henry offered the visiting elders from their assembly a glass of Scotch, but she kept going to church. She was a Believer. She loved the Lord and she loved being with the Lord's people. But Sunday after Sunday people kept asking her about Henry. Where was he? What was he doing?

What could she say to them? He wasn’t there because he was high? Or because he had been out carousing all night?

Lisa went back to the Episcopal church where nobody asked her anything. No one had any idea whether she was single, or widowed, or divorced. 

A couple of ladies from their old assembly would always send Lisa cards on her birthday. On holidays they would send a note  letting her know they were praying for her.

Lisa still read the Scriptures, especially during particularly hard times. Verses she had memorized would come to mind. She remembered Hebrews 13:15, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” When anxiety would flood over her, she would calm herself with Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Fourteen months after marrying they had a boy they named Nicolas. Alfredo and "Fafo" followed soon after. Then came their first daughter, Erica. They had four children within five years. Henry was making serious money. They had a beautiful home in a private neighborhood. Once a week a maid and a gardener came to their house. They even had a man who would come in to clean their cars.

The birth of Nicolas had made an impact on Henry. He loved Nick. He took a few steps back out of the fast lane to be with his son. He vowed he was going to be a good father, a good example to him. But that didn’t last. Henry was soon back to where he was. He did what he wanted and was beholden to no one, certainly not to his wife.

When their second son Alfredo was born, Lisa’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was told she would be dead in a week. Lisa’s dad thought that they needed to get Alfredo in the hospital quickly so that his grandmother could meet him before she died. He helped Lisa sneak both Nicky and Fredo into her hospital room. She was so pleased to be able to hold her new grandson and to give little Nicky one last hug. But several weeks later she was out of the hospital. For eighteen more months, Lisa had her mother. Though her mother had little physical strength to help Lisa with the babies, she provided her with much needed emotional and moral support.

Before her mother died, and in spite of his lifestyle, Henry shared the gospel with her. He gave her a book called “The Fight,” by John White, and also one by C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” She read the books and discussed with Lisa what she had read. These books gave her a spiritual and a practical understanding of the gospel. Lisa prayed with her. “She may have accepted the Lord as her Savior,” said Lisa. “It’s certainly my hope that she did.”

Five months after her mother’s death, Lisa got sick. She couldn’t keep food down and she was losing weight. Henry was gone much of the time, sometimes on business, sometimes with other things. Lisa ended up in the hospital. They did numerous tests on her and could find nothing physically wrong with her. Her doctor concluded she was having a nervous breakdown. He put her on medications.

Then Lisa’s best friend Gail was murdered by her husband. He crushed her skull with a hammer. Later, during an argument with Henry, Lisa threatened to leave him. Henry grew red with rage. “If you ever leave me,” he said, “just remember what happened to Gail.” Lisa was terrified, much too terrified to talk to anyone about it.

The more that alcohol and cocaine got a grip on Henry, the more difficult it became for Henry to bring in money. He was losing salesmanship charisma. He continued to fly down to Honduras for three weeks and then fly home for three weeks, but he didn’t have the discipline to work his Honduran clients or to bring in new clients. To make up for the decline in insurance commissions, Henry expanded into drug trafficking. He made sure he had enough money to pay for his cocaine addiction, but often there was no money for the family. Lisa took a job as a teacher’s aide at a private children’s school. It only paid $100 a week but it also included tuition for three of her children. The school gave Lisa a place to go every day. The people she worked with were good people. Lisa still had her sense of humor. Her life could be so normal at the school.

When there was no money for food, she would show up at dinner time at a friend’s house or at a family member’s house with four kids in tow. Lisa would discard whatever bills that came in the mail without  opening them. She soon learned which bills were most urgent when the electricity or the telephone would get shut off.  

But worse than the bills, Lisa never knew when Henry might show up. She never knew what state he might be in. Henry was good with the kids. They adored their father. He played with them. He teased them. He sang Cuban songs with them. But every evening when the kids went to bed, Henry would go out. “I don’t know where he went,” said Lisa. “He just went out.” Sometimes he would be home around midnight. Sometimes it would not be until daybreak. Sometimes not at all, for days. When he showed up at daybreak, Lisa had to make sure the kids kept quiet so Henry could sleep. She would take the kids for long walks. They had to go some place, any place, but to their own home. 

Lisa remembers one good day when she had money in her wallet. She had enough money to purchase everything she needed to make a nice meal.  She can’t remember what set Henry off, but suddenly the spaghetti sauce that was on the stove went flying in every direction. It splattered the ceiling, the walls, and covered the floor. While Henry raged, Lisa slipped quietly into the closet and rolled herself up into a tight ball. After he left, she came out, comforted the kids, and cleaned up the mess.

One evening when Lisa took the two pills that had been prescribed for her anxiety, she thought, “I love my children, but I just can’t take this anymore.” So she took two more pills. And then more pills. The bottle was almost empty when her stomach rebelled. She started throwing up.

The kitchen door opened and in came Henry. “What are you doing?” he demanded.She told him. Then she threw up some more. Henry brought her into the car and turned the air conditioning on full blast to keep her awake. The kids were at home asleep so they kept driving around the block. After an hour or two with Lisa showing no serious physical symptoms, they returned home.

Henry showed compassion for Lisa, for about a week. But after he left one evening, Lisa went to take a shower before she went to bed. The water felt good against her face, but something was wrong. She found she was still fully clothed.

 One evening Henry took off, and didn’t come back. Not that day or the next day or the next. Lisa started thinking, “When he does come home, then what? I have to do something. I must do something. But what? What can I possibly do?”

“I have to go,” she told herself. She was able to round up about $200. “I’ll just take off. I’ll take the kids and go as far north as I can.” She couldn’t tell her father. When Henry found her gone, he would blame him, threaten him. She had to leave her father out of it. But who could she tell?

Before she left, she decided to see Henry’s parents. They needed to know why she had left. It wasn’t right that they should think badly of her for leaving. She would tell them what had been going on. She would tell them exactly what Henry was like.

When she came to their door, Henry’s mother was on the phone. She was crying. She was talking to Henry. She looked at Lisa and then handed her the phone. When Lisa heard Henry’s voice, she started to weep. She couldn’t stop weeping.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

chapter 10 out of control

Henry now gave his full attention to getting a hold of the almighty dollar. An education degree wasn't going to cut it. His brother Juan Alberto was selling life insurance to foreign nationals overseas. Enrique’s eyes about popped out of his head when he found out how much money Juan was pulling in. "I gotta find a way," he said. 

He got hired to be a salesperson for Equitable Life Insurance. His idea was to get licensed and trained in the insurance business from Equitable Life. Then he would switch to another insurance company that sold to foreign nationals overseas.

Henry became good friends with a successful older Cuban attorney. This man liked Henry. Henry was young, smart and fun. Henry was hungry for money, and this attorney thought Henry just might have the savvy to figure out how to make it come in his direction. The attorney saw a lot of himself in Henry.

Henry asked the attorney to introduce him to some of his overseas clients. He told him he would give him a finder’s fee for any client with whom he could make an insurance sale. The attorney was reluctant but Henry was persistent. Whenever they were out together, Henry kept after him. Finally he introduced Henry to a Palestinian business man who owned a paper company in Honduras. The man was amused. “You’ve got big dreams, young man. I’ll tell you what,” he said, “you come and see me in my office in Honduras and we’ll talk.” 

So now he needed enough money to get to Honduras. In addition to his insurance job, he did construction and roofing work. He soon saved up enough to pay for both the round trip plane ticket and a three week stay. The man was good to his word. He received Henry into his office and Henry made a $5000 commission on his first overseas sale. The man then introduced Henry to one of his senior salesmen, Jacobito Hilsaca. Jacobito thought Henry was the funniest person he ever met. Henry recruited him to find him clients and he paid Jacobito a good commission. When Henry returned and told the attorney about his Honduras trip, he was impressed. He introduced Henry to more clients.

Henry gave up his construction job. His next trip to Honduras was even more profitable. Again he stayed for three weeks. This time he came back with almost ten thousand dollars in commissions.

In five years, Henry and Lisa had four children - Nicolas, Alfredo, Enrique and Erica. When his first son was born, Henry was determined to provide a good life for his family.

Lisa was impressed with what Henry had done. They bought a nice house in Coral Gables, Florida.

Each time Henry went to Honduras he would make five to fifteen grand. But instead of dedicating himself to the business, he decided to enjoy life. He bought Lisa whatever she needed to take care of the family but with all the rest of the money, he had a good time. Between trips he had a lot of time to play.

But Henry's practice of working only when the money ran out, made life a roller coaster. He did a lot of gambling and even more drinking. He won big, sometimes. But in the long run, like most gamblers, he would lose more than he would win. Lisa became increasingly frustrated with Henry. He lived as if he were single.

Lisa was stuck at home with four small children. She was struggling.She wondered if things could get any worse. 

Then one night Henry discovered cocaine. It was like nothing he had ever experienced. Henry had been under the influence of one substance or another, on and off, for a long time. He had always felt he had control, that whatever he used served his purposes. But with cocaine, Henry watched his life spiral downward. He observed his digression as a husband and a father. He saw his ambition to work hard to make money losing ground to his need to be high. Expenses piled up. Now his business was going bust.

Henry's note: Do you remember the day your parents gave you your own bike? It was your first real taste of freedom! You could get further and further away until you couldn't hear your parent's voice calling for you to come home. Your bike served you well. It took you where you wanted to go and to places you'd never been to before. When you got your first car, remember the sense of freedom that gave you? But with cocaine, it was if suddenly I was driving along in my car and I’d turned the wheel to the right, but the car didn’t turn. I’d hit the brakes, then I’d stomp on the brakes, but the car didn’t stop. I’d try to cut the engine, but it only revved up higher. It took me where it wanted to go! I tried to kick out the windshield. I wanted out. But I was trapped, and the car only kept going. I didn't own it, it owned me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

chapter 9 the honeymoon

Henry was good with the way his life was going. He was back in school working on his education degree. He had gotten a good scholarship. He was getting paid for his work as a teacher’s aide. He liked his church. He liked his night life too. He and Lisa would have their arguments, sometimes about marriage. He kept telling her they would get married, but he never did anything about it. He preferred things the way they were.

But then Lisa’s parents got into the mix. They thought it was time for Lisa to move on. They couldn’t understand why she stuck with Henry. Lisa was smart and artistic. She had always been interested in fashion. Her parents suggested she go to Paris for a year. There was a fashion school there. Paris was the epicenter of fashion, so how could she lose? Her mom told her they would pay for everything. Lisa hadn’t said anything to Henry about this. She knew what his reaction would be. But the more Henry dragged his feet, the more she thought about it.

Finally she told him. “It will just be for a year,” she said.

This sent a shock wave through Henry. He started thinking real hard about his relationship with Lisa. She was beautiful and so much fun. He was sure he'd lose her if she went. "And if I lose this girl," he thought, "I'll never find another one as good as her--to marry a scoundrel like me."

He asked her to marry him and the wedding took place at the Central Gospel Chapel in Miami on July 17, 1976. Henry had his brother Juan Alberto as his best man. They took off on a five week honeymoon. They went through the Smokey Mountains and then up to Toronto where they stayed with David and Agnes Adams. The Adams had been missionaries to Cuba. When Castro came into power, the Adams had to return to their home in Canada. Henry admired David. He was an excellent Bible teacher. David asked Henry to lead the singing at their church fellowship. Henry also shared at their meeting.

But Henry was a smoker. A couple times a day he would make an excuse to get out of the house because he had to have his cigarettes. He was careful. He would only smoke while driving in his car because if he smoked when he walked, a neighbor friend of the Adams might see him.

Late one evening it was raining, so Henry could only crack open the car window while he smoked. He heard a weird sound coming from the engine. He got back pretty late. He meant to open his car windows before he went to bed, but it was still raining.

The next morning Henry heard the sound of a chainsaw. He went outside and saw David cutting trees from his yard. While Henry was helping him with the wood, he told David about the strange noise coming from his car. David said to him, “Well I'm ready for a break! Let’s take it for a ride.” When they opened the car doors, the smell of cigarette smoke came out at them.

“Who smokes?” asked David.

Henry thought for a bit. He knew he was in trouble. "What should I say?" He worried for a moment. Then he was mad. He looked David right in the face. “I do,” he said.

“You know it’s a dangerous thing for a Christian to go back to something that God has delivered him from,” David said to him.

Later Agnes Adams talked to Henry. “I don’t know if you understand what the people at the chapel would say about David if they found out about your smoking.”

Henry didn’t say anything. He was angry before, now he was angrier. “Why is this guy talking to his wife about my smoking?” he thought.

Henry kept thinking about it. Henry respected David. He wanted David to think well of him. But something inside him snapped. He thought to himself, "I don't care what any of these people think about me. Why should I care? I'm tired of it."

They took off the next day to a place near Worcester, Massachusetts to stay with Myles Beers, Bob Beer's older brother. They stayed for several days and went on to reunite with the Adams' for the last two weeks of their honeymoon at the Adam’s cabin in the Smokey Mountains.

They came home to Miami at the end of August 1976. Henry got back to work and back to school. The Christians at the church were happy to see them. But something had changed inside Henry.

Bob Beers was commended to the Lord's work and moved to Holiday, Florida. With Bob gone, it got harder for Henry to appreciate the others at the assembly. Some of them got under his skin. Henry showed up at the assembly less and less. Finally he just quit going. This was tough on Lisa. These people and the way they worshiped were a big part of her life. She tried to continue to go by herself but it was hard.

One night out of the blue, John Quentin, an elder, along with another brother from the church, drove out to the Sardiña house. Both Henry and Lisa saw them as they came up to the door. Lisa was nervous. She let them in and they sat down. She asked if she could get anything for them. Henry was mad. He thought, “I’ll make this real quick.” He went to his bar, pulled out a bottle of Scotch, filled a glass with ice and poured in whiskey. He came back with the glass in his hand and the bottle in the other. "Can I pour you men a drink?" he asked.

They didn’t stay long. They couldn’t think of much to say.

When they left, Henry said to Lisa, “What a bunch of hypocrites!” Now for sure he was never going back to the assembly.

*Henry's note - To this day Henry is eternally grateful and thanks God for each and every Christian mentioned in this chapter for what they tried to do for Henry's benefit, because of the love of Christ. None of their labors or zeal was wasted. God later brought their teaching and testimony forcefully to Henry's recollection and used it to shape Henry's, doctrine, work ethic and zeal for the Lord Jesus. "Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

chapter 8 Juan

Juan Oro was married to Enrique’s aunt Tia Fela. He was a Spaniard who had come to America from Cuba. He was a hard worker in the migrant fields. When he was in his late 60’s he took sick with cancer. Enrique went to visit him in their apartment in ‘Little Havana’ in Miami. Juan liked Enrique.
Part of the Cuban culture is the older men and the younger men form a certain bond. Both groups learn from each other. There is not the disconnect between the generations. Juan talked with Enrique man to man. “Listen, before this cancer takes all the dignity out of my manhood...” Juan reached over to a drawer and showed Enrique a gun, "I'm going to take care of my own business." Juan feared his cancer was going to incapacitate him. He wasn’t going to be a burden to his wife.
“I hear you, man.” Said Enrique.
“Don't tell anyone.”
Enrique nodded.
Juan had not told anybody about the gun. He had to tell someone so he told Enrique.
Months went by and Juan kept getting worse. Enrique couldn’t get Juan’s gun out of his mind. He called his mom. “I’m going to tell you something that Juan told me when he found out he had cancer. He said when the time came when he couldn’t take care of himself, he had a gun.”
“A gun?” asked his mom. “What do you mean?”
“He’s going to shoot himself.”
“How do you know this?” she asked.
“He told me,” said Enrique. “He pulled open a drawer to show me the gun he's going to use on himself.”
Enrique’s mom took action. She called Juan’s wife and others in the family. They searched the apartment, found the gun and made sure Juan would never again get access to another one.
Enrique had betrayed his uncle’s trust. How could he face him again? He stayed away. But as time went on and Juan grew worse his mother kept at Henry. “You need to go see your uncle! You're ungrateful. Where's your sense of loyalty to your family? He likes you. Don’t say you’re too busy.”
There was no way Enrique was going to see him. But then,  Juan got really bad. He was at the hospital in intensive care. Enrique’s mom was livid. Enrique knew he had to see him, but he was ashamed.
Enrique shared the story of his uncle at the Bible study at Bob Beer's house. “I’m so burdened for him,” said Enrique. Here I know the gospel and I know he’s never heard it.” “Let’s pray for him, and we will pray for you” said Bob. He strongly encouraged Enrique to see Juan.
So the next day with a bit of help from a couple of beers and a marijuana joint, Enrique walked into the ICU ward. His uncle was awake, but he was so hooked up with tubes he couldn’t talk. He looked up at Enrique.
“What’s he thinking about,” thought Enrique. “Is he thinking that he’s where he is at, just lying there like a rag, because I ratted him out?”
Enrique started talking. He was very emotional. “Please forgive me,” he said. “What could I do? I knew I was the only one you told about the gun. If you killed yourself…but what could I do? I’m sorry I sold you out. I am so embarrassed. That’s why I didn’t come to see you. I couldn’t. I’ll tell you what. I’ll bring you another gun. You can shoot me first before you shoot yourself.”
Juan just stared and listened.
Enrique kept talking. “I got to tell you about something, Juan. You’re close to death. You’ve got to face it. You know Juan, they lied to us. Our whole religious system, it’s a sham. The only thing it's for is to keep people under its bondage, and to take our money.”
“But Juan, this is the truth. God does love us. And He knows we’re sinners. He knows we can’t save ourselves. He knew none of us could ever be good enough. God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus into the world. He knew we were helpless. So Jesus Christ died for my sins, Juan. He died for your sins. It was He, the One who never sinned that could alone pay for our sins by dying for them."
“So God gives us forgiveness and salvation as a gift. It had to be a gift Juan. There’s no way we could pay for it. It was way too costly. You know we couldn’t earn it. He had to do it Himself. And He had to give it to us for free."
“The Bible says that the one condition is, we have to believe it and take it as a gift.”
Tears started coming out of Juan. “Oh my goodness,” thought Enrique. “He is so ticked off. He would love to totally kick me, but he can’t do it because he’s stuck in bed.”
Then it began to dawn on Enrique. “Could it be that he is crying because he actually believes what I just told him?” He thought, “Can it be? Nah, it ain’t like that.”
Then all of a sudden Enrique says to Juan. “You okay? You’ve got to let me know. Is the reason you’re crying because you believe what I just told you? If it is, squeeze my hand.”
Juan didn’t just squeeze his hand. He pumped it, and he pumped it for as long as Enrique held his hand there. Juan was crying for joy. He believed. He knew the Lord Jesus was His Savior, his own personal Savior. God had saved him! Enrique left Juan overwhelmed. He had never had an experience like that. He wondered if he personally had ever had experienced what Juan just had.
Enrique told the Christians at his church. They rejoiced.
In less than a week, Juan was dead. All Cubans appear to be good Catholics when they die because the family always gives them a big Catholic burial. But Juan never went to church. He had left his religion behind a long time ago. Enrique told his mother, “It's a farce if you give Juan a Roman Catholic burial! He didn’t believe it.” He said to his mom, “Juan got saved when I visited him at the hospital. I was with him when he received the Lord Jesus as his Savior. If you give Juan a Catholic funeral, it will be like slapping him in the face.”
His mom listened. She talked with the family. In the Cuban culture, people tend to accept others for who they are. Juan’s widow agreed that when Juan was alive he would have nothing to do with religion, so she asked Enrique’s mom, “If we don’t go with a Catholic funeral, what are we going to do?”
His mom talked to Enrique. “Don't tell me your going to be like those hippies that find fault with everything but don't do anything about it. Why don’t you say something at the funeral? You opened your mouth, so put your money where your mouth is.”
Enrique hadn't thought anyone would actually listen to him. Now what?
He called Bob Beers. What should he say at the funeral?
“Tell them exactly what happened with Juan,” said Bob.
So Enrique preached his first gospel message. He told the people at the funeral how Juan came to know the Lord Jesus. He explained why they weren’t doing a big Catholic funeral. He expounded on Christ raising Lazarus in John 11, and he preached on the believer’s hope in the Resurrection.
It was a good message. Perhaps hearts were touched. They certainly wondered at it. Many had never heard such things before. But Enrique still felt like something was not quite right. Lisa’s parents were convinced something was not quite right. They wanted Lisa to get away from him and they offered to make arrangements for her to go off and study in Paris.

chapter 7 lisa

Enrique tried to be careful with the friends with whom he now spent time. Along with his Christian friends, Enrique still hung out with Jorge. He was a good friend. He was like a brother to Enrique. They had attended Jesuit School together. Enrique was close to Jorge's father and had spent many days at a time in Jorge's home when they were younger. Jorge had been a good student and he was now in business with his father.

His cousin was visiting from Spain and had a girlfriend who was staying at a cabana (beach house). Jorge suggested that they go with his cousin to visit her. They arrived to lots of activity. His cousin’s girlfriend was there chaperoning several of her younger sister's friends who were celebrating their graduation from high school. One of those friends immediately caught Enrique’s eye, and not only because she was the only Gringo (an American). She was tall and gorgeous. Enrique liked the sound of her voice. He really liked her laugh. He went over to talk with her. Her eyes lit up. He kept returning to talk to her. He was pretty sure if he asked her out she would agree. He wondered if this was a good thing to do, but he asked anyway.   

Shortly after first date he got right to the point. “I’m a Christian,” he told her. “I don’t think it’s really right for a Christian to go out with someone who is not a Christian.”

Lisa was bewildered. She was a Christian. Her family went to an Episcopal Church. They believed in God. They were solid people and their morals were high. He told her about his church. He asked her to come with him next Sunday. No guy had ever asked her to do that before. She agreed.

When he picked her up, Lisa was looking good, really good. She had on a new dress. She was wearing high heels. She had a look of youth and of vibrancy. When they walked into the meeting, the ladies had their hair up in buns, and mantillas or modest hats covered their heads. People spoke quietly and reverently between meetings. The church had little cups of Kool-aid for during their break time. What was going on here? Lisa wanted to know. Was he into some kind of a Jim Jones type of cult?

But she kept coming to church with him. Many times when the Beers family had Enrique over for lunch, Lisa came too. She liked the people and they liked her. She was impressed with the reality of their worship and their love for the Lord Jesus.

Enrique felt something for Lisa that he had never felt towards a woman before. They dated for three years. They would break up, but neither could stand being apart, so they kept getting back together. One day Lisa was in a serious car accident. She was knocked unconscious. Her mother was with her when she started coming to. Lisa kept calling out, “Where’s Henry? Where’s Henry?" (Henry is the English name for Enrique).

Lisa’s mom wondered. She called up Henry. “Are you secretly married to her?” she asked.

During these three years, Enrique—or Henry—moved slowly, steadily towards living in two distinct worlds. Just as when he was a boy, Henry lived within the Cuban world at home and the American world at school; now he lived both in the church world and the world of a fun loving young American Cuban man. He learned as a boy how to keep his two worlds separate. He did the same now.

Henry was tall and muscular. Henry was hired as a bouncer by a big promotional company for rock concerts. He loved music. He was paid to be at the concerts for security for these rock stars. He was in demand as a bouncer so he could be selective. There was not a big name band that came to Miami that Henry was not at their concert, or on their stage, or in their rooms. If any trouble arose, Henry would take care of it. He loved doing that too. Nobody messed with Henry.

Henry understood the taboos his new church had on smoking, drinking, dancing, and going to shows. Not a hint was given to his church friends of what his world was like outside of their assembly lives.

Not long after Henry starting going out with Lisa, Bob Beers’ son died in a tragic accident. He was only 16. Henry had been to many funerals. He had never been to one like this before. Henry came to the funeral expecting to see the agonizing displays of grief that were common with Cubans. He was ready to see the indescribable pain displayed by women holding onto the casket, wailing and refusing to let go. He expected to see his good friend Bob Beers folded up into a cocoon of quiet grief.

Instead, Bob was the one who prayed at his son’s funeral. He thanked the Lord for giving him and his wife Betty 16 years with their son. He praised God for His kindness for each of the 16 years. He said he understood that each of those years on earth was only a temporary gift. Then he worshiped the Lord. "I thank Thee Father, for the wonder that You gave up Your only Son, so that I might have mine in Glory for all of eternity."

Bob continued in his prayer, “if only one person comes to know the Lord Jesus as their own personal Savior, then my son’s death will be more than worth it, as much it hurts now.”

A preacher got up and explained the Passover lamb. God’s wrath had sent the avenging angel through Egypt to kill every first born son. “But God provided a lamb to be sacrificed so the shed blood could be applied to the lintel and the two door posts. When the avenging angel came, when God saw the blood, he would pass over those who were in the houses under the blood. On the basis of the blood they were saved from the awful wrath of God.”

The preacher quoted John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.” He quoted I John 1:7, “For the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

He then asked those who were at thefuneral, “Are you under the blood? Have you ever gotten under the blood?" He implored, "If you've never gotten under the blood, do so right now! Receive Jesus Christ, God's Son, to save you from the wrath of God. Come today. Come under the blood that you might be saved.”

For the first time Lisa saw herself as outside the protection of the blood. She realized she needed Christ to be saved. And on that day, at that very moment, she put herself under the blood.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

chapter 6 bible bob

Enrique became angry toward the Catholic Church when he understood that the Bible taught salvation was totally unmerited; that it was given through Jesus Christ as a free gift to be received by those who believed.

He mockingly said to the priests, "Now I know why you don't want Catholics reading the Bible. If they do, they'll find out they don't need you anymore.”

Enrique had read I Tim 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” He understood its implications. “People get saved by coming directly to Jesus Christ. They don’t need any other mediator because Jesus is the only mediator,” he told the priest in his classroom. “People don’t need the Church to bring them to God. “If people started reading their Bibles, you wouldn’t be able to get their money from them!"

This was when Enrique was in ninth grade. It was also Enrique's last year in Jesuit school.

As he lost respect for the priests’ theology, he also lost respect for their authority. His behavior deteriorated. He was called into the principal’s office repeatedly. Despite his family’s connections, his parents were told Enrique would not be permitted to continue in Catholic school.

Though he did not understand it at the time, the Jesuits had taught him that he was responsible to figure out for himself what was real and what was false. Part of the Jesuit mission is to teach people to use their reasoning. As an example, a priest asked the students in Enrique’s class if it was right to smoke a cigarette while praying? The kids were aghast. “No!” they exclaimed. The priest continued: “So what if someone is smoking out on the beach and he sees a beautiful sunset. And that person prays, ‘Dear God, thank you for such a beautiful sunset.' Is it okay that he prays while he is smoking?"

Enrique did not understand at that time that though his mind was filled with the truth of the gospel, his heart had not yet been converted to the person of the Lord Jesus. His love for sin only increased as he had lost his fear of a coming judgment.

Yet his new understanding of a ‘works free’ salvation had become part of his psyche. Because he felt so unlike any of his friends, his emotions were dark. Anyone critical of anything in others would fill him with sadness. Life around him seemed to have so many problems. He looked for anything to drown out his feelings and his fears.

He went to a Christian youth outreach called The Ranch. There they had many activities. They sang and talked about the Bible. But Enrique couldn’t make a connection with the kids. They were too different from him.

At age 17, against his earlier principles, he began using marijuana with his friends. He had never so enjoyed himself, or had such a wonderful escape from his troubled feelings.

When Enrique started community college he decided to buckle down. Without any help from a girlfriend, he did well. He chose his course of studies and he stayed focused. But Enrique knew where to find a good time, and gradually his motivation diminished and his good grades declined.

While in school, he found a job as an installer/repairman for Southern Bell. He dreamed of becoming a millionaire. His happiness consisted of doing whatever was out there to have fun. He gambled, fished, caroused and he liked women. All those things needed money.

His foreman at Southern Bell was a man everyone called BB. His name was Bob Beers, but his employees understood BB to stand for Bible Bob. The other men warned Enrique about him. But one day BB got Enrique by himself and began to witness to him.

“I know Jesus died for my sins,” Enrique told him. “I’m a Christian.”

“You!?” said BB. “You’re a Christian?” He could hardly contain his astonishment.

Enrique had hair past his shoulders. He dressed good. He swore even better. “I am,” said Enrique. “I know Jesus died for all my sins.”

“If you’re a Christian,” asked BB, “then why don’t you act like a Christian?”

“What are you talking about?” asked Enrique.

“If you’re a Christian, why do you hang around with the crowd you do? Why do you talk the way you talk? Why do you go with the boys to the bars after work?”

Enrique was confused. Bob Beers quoted I Peter 1:16 and Ephesians 2:10. “Be holy for I am holy.” “We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works." 

He asked Enrique, “Don’t you know that Jesus did not die for our sins so we could just keep on sinning?”

Enrique listened. It seemed to make sense what Bob was saying. He thought he understood. So he said to himself, “Okay, I’m a Christian, and if Christians don’t smoke, I need to quit smoking. If Christians don’t cuss, I need to quit cussing.”

He cut his hair. He stopped smoking marijuana and he stopped drinking. He ended his promiscuousness.

He did not yet understand that Christians behave like Christians because they are Christians.

But Enrique listened to everything Bob told him. He got baptized. He read his Bible. He went to Bob’s church. His church was different! The building was a simple structure. No one there had any special titles. He heard their expressions of prayer and listened to their teaching and observed their breaking of bread. There wasn’t even someone presiding as the person in charge. He saw a difference in the roles between men and women, and he observed there was not a chafing between the genders there. It was just a small gathering of plain people who believed that Christ was in their midst. Enrique was deeply moved. “Surely God Himself is among these people,” he thought.*

He became a regular part of this fellowship. He liked these people. Bob opened his home to Enrique. There he enjoyed many meals and many good conversations. He became good friends with Bob's four sons.
A fellow worker in BB‘s crew at Southern Bell, Bob Bowers, also befriended Enrique. He and Enrique spent much time together, and they often talked over the Scriptures.

But sometimes Enrique wondered if maybe these people were not just a little too simple. He respected them. He believed they had the truth. And they were perfectly happy with their singing, their prayers, and their beliefs. But still he wondered. “There has to be something more,” he thought to himself. He missed his old circle of friends.

During this time, he met a beautiful young girl. She came from a good home. She had good morals (very different to him from the other women he had once found so attractive.) Even better, she was willing to come with him to this church fellowship. “Maybe,” he thought. “Maybe this girl is this missing part. Maybe she is what I’ve needed.”

*1Corinthians 14: 24-25

Monday, February 18, 2013

chapter 5 saved?

Without anyone knowing about it, all on his own, ten year old Enrique went to mass the first Friday of every month for nine consecutive months. He believed in God. He had a feeling something was wrong with what he was taught in the Catholic Church but at the same time, he was drawn to the Church because he thought there was where he would find God. It was a time of deep spiritual oppression and he was desperate to be relieved of it. Every night when he got into bed, it seemed like the Devil was offering him a deal. And every morning he would think, “What should I do today?” He knew he could not live by his understanding of the golden rule. He couldn’t be a goody-two-shoes. He didn’t want to be a goody-two-shoes. But he could not believe he was so bad that he wasn’t actually a good kid. He saw a lot of other kids who were worse than him. At least he showed respect to those in authority, unlike some of his American classmates who would be defiant and verbally disrespectful to their teachers.

Bigotry and prejudice were openly displayed against Cubans in Enrique’s neighborhood and sometimes at his school. Some Cubans rejected their culture to fully embrace Americanism. They were known as ‘Un cubano arrepentido,’ (a repentant Cuban). Enrique responded defiantly by embracing his Cuban identity all the more.

After Enrique's experience with Kennedy's assassination and his confusion and uncertainty about ever making it to heaven, he wondered if there was any use in even trying. As a teenager, Enrique lost heart on trying to achieve respect and success as an American. He gave up even trying to live righteously in the way prescribed by the Catholic Church. “I just want to have fun,” he thought to himself.

His parents were making every sacrifice for the survival and support of their children. This meant they were away at work, and the daily job of child training was pretty much left to his grandmother. But Enrique was a big, good looking teenager. He was confident and gregarious. He was a smooth talker, and got by in school by cheating and getting girlfriends to do his homework for him. He loved to joke and party. At age 12 he gambled and he started drinking. He soon learned where to find the physical pleasures he desired, but he stayed away from the drug crowd. They were too closely associated with the hippies. Hippies were against Vietnam, which to Enrique meant they were not against communism and the Castro regime. He also was still concerned about the influence he might have on his two younger brothers.

When Enrique was 15, a neighbor moved in next door. He was a 21 year old white American student attending Florida Bible College. Enrique had never seen anyone so clean cut. But Enrique liked him. This neighbor was friendly and athletic and they played street ball together. He had been recently converted to Christ. When he heard how Enrique talked and he saw the kids he hung around with, he knew Enrique was someone who needed to be reached with the saving gospel of Christ. One afternoon he shared it with him.
He asked Enrique, “How many sins did Adam have to commit for God to cast him out of the Garden of Eden?” Enrique knew the answer, it was just one sin. Then he asked Enrique, “Do you think it would have mattered if for the next 900 plus years of his life Adam never sinned again, do you think God would have let him back into the Garden?” Enrique didn’t think so. “He shouldn’t have sinned in the first place,” Enrique said. “God told Adam what would happen.” The neighbor explained to Enrique that God knew that we couldn't save ourselves. God knew that if we were going to be saved then He would have to do it Himself. He did this by sending His Son to die for our sins, for only by death of a sinless one could the penalty for our sins be paid.

It made sense to Enrique. He knew everyone was a sinner. He knew he couldn't save himself.

The neighbor he asked Enrique, “If Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all your sins, then how many sins do you have to pay for?”

“None,” said Enrique.

“That’s right. It’s a gift. It’s absolutely free. And it is yours to receive simply by believing!”

Enrique had never heard such reasoning before. It was different than all that he had ever been taught and beyond anything he had ever imagined. He had always believed in God and that Jesus was His Son. Now he heard there was nothing he needed to do, for Jesus did it all. Securing his own salvation was not up to him, it was all God’s initiative. It made sense to Enrique.

Regardless of the good or bad influence of the Catholic Church, the Lord used it to teach Enrique certain essential truths:
1. God was the Creator
2. There was judgment to come for sins
3. There is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
4. The Bible is God’s Word and thus it is the truth

Imagine witnessing to a typical secular person or to a Moslem and telling him, "The Bible says that Jesus is the eternal Son of God." That person would look at you with bewilderment and amusement. “Now why is it that I am suppose to care about what the Bible says?” he would say to you.

So when the neighbor opened up the Bible Enrique, he believed what it said. Though he had never read the Bible and had hardly even seen a Bible, he did know he could accept that what the Bible said was from God. He had learned that in his catechism classes.

His neighbor read to him John 3:16 and explained that the only condition for salvation was to believe. Then he read Ephesians 2:8 & 9: “It’s never by works. Salvation has nothing to do with what we can do to deserve it or earn it. It’s because of what Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins.” 

Enrique thought, “I've always believed in Jesus Christ. And I believe in sin and God's judgment for sin." So he said, "I believe that. I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins.”

His neighbor exclaimed, “Then God’s Word says you’re saved.”

“I am?” said Enrique in surprise.

His neighbor read 1 John 5: 9 - 11: “...Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that God gave concerning His Son...”

“I believe,” said Enrique. “I would never call God a liar.”

“Then you’re saved!” pronounced his neighbor.

Enrique was overjoyed. “This is tremendous,” Enrique thought. “I can go on living exactly the way I want to live and I can stop worrying about guilt and about judgment. Since Jesus paid for all my sins, I’m going to heaven. I don't have to worry about hell.” To him it was like a credit card that one can use and use, but the bill never comes due. It had all been paid for.