Jose Gonzalez ~ Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

There were nine children in our family. Like most in Mexico, we were raised going to the Catholic Church every Sunday. When I was young I had to take classes to learn some prayers and religious sayings called Catechisms.

Because we were a poor family, I had to work when I was very young. My mother made sweet breads called “pan dulces.” Every afternoon, I loaded a basket of bread on my head and went up and down the streets trying to earn a few extra pesos.

One day when I was selling bread, someone gave me my first Bible. I was young but I developed the habit of trying to read two chapters every night. I thought the stories in the Old Testament were fascinating.

When I was older, I was invited to a Pentecostal Church. I was enthused for a while with the speaking in tongues and supposed healings. Soon I began to see that all this was just emotion. Everyone worked themselves into a frenzy with music and dancing. They said they were saved by “asking Jesus to come into their hearts.” However, I could not find this kind of salvation in the Bible. This bothered me. Even the healings and speaking in tongues were not according to Scripture.

I continued to attend the church. At that time, we would go to many church services each week. At the same time, we would go out and drink afterwards. I would sing in the choir at church and then sing with the drunks at the bar.

One day a Catholic priest named Pepe came to Mexico from San Francisco, California. In my emptiness, I went to talk with him.  He told me that to go to Heaven I needed to be saved and that the Lord Jesus had suffered and died on the cross to save me. Pepe preached the gospel of salvation for a few weeks. The other priests in the area did not like what he was telling people, so they sent him back to San Francisco. They told us the Catholic Church did not agree with what Pepe was preaching.

Time passed and God continued to touch my heart. I was living a life full of religion and partying. Finally, on June 21, 1994, I went to downtown Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to spend the night partying. I felt so empty and sinful. After several hours of drinking and sin, I walked out on the street. I felt like the worst sinner in the whole world. I looked up at the starry sky and told God, I am a horrible sinner and I deserve to go to hell.

Suddenly, I thought of what Pepe had told me. Christ really had died for sinners. If Christ died for sinners, than He must have died for me. I could hardly take it in! I knew if anyone did not deserve salvation it was me. That night, I was saved when I came to know what God’s word says, “In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6).