Because I’m from Los Angeles, I lived in a predominately Hispanic area. My father is from Mexico. My mom is American, but I look white. So, when I walked into the school in LA I didn’t look like all the other Hispanic kids. I didn’t have the dark hair and the dark skin. Because I looked different because I was different and because I didn’t grow up with these young people I was treated differently. I was bullied. I was assaulted. They took my money. So, that began the life of wanting so badly to fit in, to be accepted, to be popular, and to be liked by people.
As the school year progressed, I became deeper and deeper involved in the knowledge of gang life, and eventually made a decision to get ”Jumped in” to a gang, which means you get beaten for about one minute. You’re initiated into this gang that way. Three of my homeboys (other gang members) beat me up in the school library, and I became a gang member. With that came all of the criminal activities that gang members do: assault, robbery, burglary, and even murder. There was even an instance where a rival gang came by my house and shot six times. So as they were driving in front of my house they were just bam, bam, bam, bam! Had my parents been in bed, it would have shot my mom in the head, the upper chest right here on the side and the thigh and the same as my Dad. You would have thought that at that time I would have thought, “This is it. My parents could have been killed, had God not intervened,” but it wasn’t. It made me angry. It made me go tell my homeboys so they could “take care of business.”
During this time I actually was in a relationship with one of my homeboys, in a relationship, a sexual relationship. We were dating and with that were the expectations of sex. I obliged him. A couple of months later I found out I was pregnant. So, I would continue partying. My son was about a year and a half old at this time. I continued going out, smoking weed, drinking, and being in the party scene until one day my mom said; “I can’t keep going on like this. I’m going to die. I’m staying up all hours of the night. I’m watching Joshua (my first son). I’m doing all these things. I’m trying to help you, and I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired.” I said; “What are you telling me? You want me to get out of the house? Are you kicking me out of the house? I make $9.00 an hour. I have a kid. There’s no way.” Deep down inside I wasn’t afraid I wasn’t going to be able to sustain my life. I wasn’t going to able to party anymore was my whole thought process.
About a week passed. I came in, and my mom was on the phone. She said, “You need to pack your things.” I said, “Where am I gonna go? I don’t have any place to go.” She said, “You’re going to Cleveland, Tennessee.” I’m, like, “What the heck is Cleveland, Tennessee?” She’s like, “It’s on the other side of the Country. You’re going there.” I said, “For what?” She said, “Because you’re going to get to go to Lee College (Now Lee University)*. I’m, like, “Oh my gosh.” I called my boyfriend at that time. I said, “I need you to come pick me up because my mom is sending me to Tennessee. He’s, like, “Okay, I’ll be there in ten minutes.” My bags were already packed, (my mom had already packed my bags), so all I had to do is put them in the car and go. So, I waited and waited and waited, but he never showed up.
Upon arriving in Cleveland, Tennessee, someone had told me about a black gospel choir on the Lee campus. I love music, and I love singing, so I thought, “I’ll go try out for the choir,” and I made it. The people in this choir became my closest friends, and they were all Christians. They all loved me, and they didn’t want anything from me. They didn’t treat me bad. It was just completely opposite to what I was used to. It was so real and so relevant and so strong that one night in February 1996 we had a man come for a revival. I don’t remember what he said that night except for one phrase. He said, “Aren’t you tired of running from Christ?” That night I went to the altar and asked the Lord for forgiveness, and I rededicated my life to be committed to Him.
In 2001 I graduated from Lee University with a degree in Intercultural Studies. Since that time I’ve been a Police Officer at the Cleveland, Tennessee, Police Department. The Lord has expanded my mission field to share my story with so many people so that He ultimately can be glorified.