"Hi, my name is Manuel and I'm an addict."

        You may of heard that phrase or cliché used in an AA meeting. I want to share with you how I came to Christ, and how I first heard the word Christian. It was my Uncle Ralph that was one of the first in our family to be saved, and that caught my attention. My mother also came to Christ when she witnessed what her brother had gone through. My mother was always helping someone in need; she bailed my uncle out of jail and saw firsthand how he turned his life around.

        Once my mother became a Christian, she started to have Bible studies at our home. I was probably between the age of 14 or 15. She would always try and make us join her Bible studies, and we would try to ditch her, but she would find ways to make us join her when she could. She did it because she knew we needed Christ in our life. At that time I was still living in LA Cypress Park/Highland Park area and heavily involved in gangs and drugs, and I didn't think I needed Christ.

        So as my life continued, things started to get pretty bad. I started losing friends (homeboys, we called them). They were killed in gang violence, and my drug addiction continued with no hope in sight. To tell you the truth, I know now that my mother was praying for me because I probably should not be standing here. But God had a plan.

        In 1977 we moved out of L.A. to Alhambra. I was able to gradually leave the gang life behind, but the drug problems persisted with many court dates, programs and eventually jail time for a DUI. I knew things needed to change, and always in the back of my mind I remembered how my Uncle Ralph had become a Christian and had changed his life.

        So one of my friends - actually we called each other brothers because we had informally adopted him into our family - we started visiting a church in East L.A.  I felt God's presence and conviction, but Satan still had a grasp in my life that I could not break.

        So because I failed to obey God, I then returned to the county jail for the longest stretch - six months - which was actually lenient because of the laws back then. I had just had my first son Manuel, and it was a struggle to be locked up and not be with my family. But in the jail church I got involved, did Bible studies and promised God that I would change.

        But again after getting out I continued disobeying God. At the same time God would not let go of me. It was back and forth, but God prevailed.

        Deep down inside I knew that if I let God take over my life, I would succeed. I knew I never wanted to have my boys grow up without a father in their lives, so in 1989 I was able to overcome my addiction and give my life to Christ fully. I entered rehab and it only took 30 days, but it was Christ in my life that helped me break that bondage of drugs.

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