A testimony of redemption and restoration by God's amazing grace

Growing Up in Northeast LA

      We grew up with my mother as our only parent, since our dad and mom were separated when I was young. When I was about 5 years old, my mother was left to raise me, my brother, and my two sisters, all one year apart. She was our only disciplinarian and she tried to teach us what she could, although she didn’t have much of an education herself. One thing she did do was to teach us how to work hard. She was always remodeling or adding something to our house. She would have me and my brother carry buckets of rock and sand to mix cement for various improvements. 

      So growing up I started to do mischievous things. While in the 6th grade I started to ditch school. I think I broke the record for the most days ditched by a 6th grader - 30 days or more. I would ditch by staying in the foothill of the mountain where there were some old crane tractors. It was like a junk yard. It was kind of fun because we would play with the controls and smoke cigarettes.

      Then, by the time I was in 7th grade, I met one of the most notorious gang members from The Avenues named Indio. He was one of the main leaders, and what stood out about him was the way he would dress with slick hair and the appearance of a tough guy. I made friends with him.

      There must have been something he liked about me because he would let me hang out with him. That was the age when I started drinking wine called Ripple, beer, smoking and taking pills – barbiturates called Reds, so by that time I was accepted by my gang member friends.

      Through my Junior High School years there were changes with the groups of friends that were from a different gang; although they knew each other they no longer accepted one another. The Avenues did not like the fact that I was now one of the C.P. Boys (Cypress Park Boys).

Photo courtesy of AdamFromTheVillage (wikimedia)

      They wanted to jump me real bad but my new friends would not allow them to get a hold of me. The Avenues no longer ruled the Cypress Park area, and things started to get really bad. What was supposed to be my High School years got even more crazy. The street that we lived on was where we hung out at and became one of the main hangouts of the C.P. Boys. 

      Going into the 10th grade at Franklin High didn’t work out. I got kicked out because of my attendance and proceeded to get kicked out of two more high schools. At continuation school I also got kicked out. I was never able to finish High School due to the gang situation. When our older friends went on to a better education we were left to finish the battles they started.

      There were lots of drive-bys and lives lost from both sides. Two of my friends were shot coming out of my house, one being killed and the other left in critical condition. My house had over 30 bullet holes from gun shots. There were more retaliations on both sides, with close friends dying. 

      I had to take three different friends to the hospital emergency room because of gunshot wounds. Through all of that I was still able to go out of state to get my GED. When I returned home, the battles were still going on.

      At one point in my earlier years I thought I would never make it to my 18th birthday. I had a gun pointed in my face on three different occasions. I and my brother were wanted men, and had we stayed in the neighborhood we would have been either killed or put in prison.

      Through thick and thin, my mother never gave up on us, along with several friends that she lectured and loved just as well. Although my brother and mother began to follow Christ, I did not start until years later. Their faith is what made me want to follow Christ for a better and more fulfilling life.

Raul and his family

Raul and his family