I didn’t grow up with my parents [in Ecuador]. I used to hate them for a long time. When I was three months old, my father came to [the United States]. And he never came back [to Ecuador].
I didn’t [actually meet] my dad until I was 16. When I was a kid, I used to see him in pictures. I grew up very insecure. The day I met him, I didn’t have any reaction. I didn’t know what to say, what to do. But it affected me my whole life, the fact I didn’t grow up with him.
[When I was 6-years-old] I saw my mom having sex with another guy. So that was an image I couldn’t erase in my mind. She was having an affair. I used to hate her so much. My parents eventually got divorced and made their own separate families.
So I was like growing up alone. No mom. No dad. And I found refuge in all these bad things, addictions, trying to fill something. [Since] I lived with my grandfather, I had a lot of freedom. I became an alcoholic and a drug addict.
It was very easy to connect [with others] when they’re doing the same thing. I used to sleep with many, many women. All the relationships I had failed because I was living a life of addictions. I couldn’t have a stable relationship. So all of those things were giving me some sort of ecstasy in the moment.
A brush with death
When I was 16, I got very sick.
I felt something wrong in my stomach. It was going on for two days. It didn’t stop. My grandfather took me to the hospital. And the doctor started to touch me. He said “look at your eyes, they’re so yellow. You might have hepatitis.” And it was my liver. I caused so much damage to my liver, because I started to drink so young at 13 or 14.
I was about to die. I lost that year of high school, because the doctor told me to stay in bed for three months. Eating healthy. Drinking a lot of water. Liquids.
When I recovered, I went back to my high school, but it was too late to graduate. I had to repeat another year. I didn’t take the whole thing seriously. The doctor said, “Listen to me. You drink again, you’re going to die.”
So I quit for a time to get better. But then I came out of that and the urges got stronger. Pornography, masturbation. And in my 30s, I was already living here [in NYC] and making money. So I started another addiction – prostitutes. I was living in hell. That’s not life.
A friend invited me to the Alpha [dinner parties at Wellspring]. I wanted to just be nice with [the friend] that invited me. But I wasn’t really interested. I thought.. What are these Christians that they invite me to church services, they invite me to Alpha, what is after this? (laughs) I never imagined I would [actually follow Jesus] and even more.
I grew up in a Catholic family. But for me, it was just superficial. I didn’t feel God. [However] someone gave me an image of Jesus years ago, which hangs in my room.
And this image has a heart. Every morning and night I used to touch this image, when I go to work or come back from work.
After that first night of Alpha [I came with my friend] back to my house. And I tried to have sex with her. She didn’t want to, so I took her home. I guess I was angry, because I didn’t get what I wanted.
So I came back home and I saw this image [of Jesus] and the heart was in a different position, like it fell to the side. All my body started to get chills. Hot and cold. And I start to cry, like I never cried before. I was on my knees thinking that God was disappointed of me. And that was a moment, like supernatural. You can’t imagine the emotion i feel in the moment, especially because every morning I touched that image before work, I say, God bring me back home if its your will.
That night, when I tried to have sex and I saw the heart of Jesus [was broken]. That made me change. The second week of Alpha, I started to join thinking this was my time to start a relationship with God. I made it up in my mind, I’m not going there for anyone. I want reconciliation with God, to be friends.
I started to learn things, I started to process things. And I came to faith in week eight of Alpha. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. There was a moment where I felt incredible peace. My eyes closed. Just crying. And that cry was leaving my old life and my past. Also tears of joy.
Searching for my father
[Fast forward] to church one Father’s day and it was a beautiful celebration.
And I started to cry, [I realized my dad was something missing in my life]. From that day, I started to search for my dad. And it was like a search, being in a movie. Back and forth. Calling somebody. Calling another person. Showing his picture. Going to an old job he was working.
Someone [finally] gave me his number. So [I decided] to call him.
Ring… Ring… Ring…
As the phone started to make those sounds, there were a lot of emotions. What if he doesn’t want to talk? What am I going to say?
And he finally answered, and I said, “hey, Dad, it’s Cristian”.
And he said, “hey, Cristian! How are you man?”
I said, “Dad, I just want to tell you that I miss you so much and I would like to see you.”
And he said, “I miss you too son. What are you doing tomorrow? Let’s go eat.”
And that day I saw my dad after 16 years.
Since that day, I have seen him once a week. We chat on the phone. We text a lot. My relationship is beautiful. It’s growing. I feel so thankful with God, with life, to have this opportunity to see him. Doesn’t matter what we have or don’t have. But the fact that we meet for one hour or two hours. Laugh a little bit. Talk. It’s beautiful.
My mom also became one of my best friends.
There was a process of forgiving myself for all of the horrible things I did, then I started to forgive others. Like my mom, my dad, people that hurt me – with intention or without intention.
And I think one of the most difficult parts [of my faith journey] was to ask for forgiveness. It’s so easy to judge people, but it’s difficult to understand them. Discovering the different levels of the love of God, I learned the best [way] to understand others was to spend a moment in their shoes. And to think, what really happened? What made them that way? What kind of struggles they had?
Faith is everything to me now. To keep knowing God more and to stay on this journey. He teaches us to be better humans and to find meaning in small things.