“Ronaldo,” called Mom from the kitchen, “it is almost time for church. I just put away all the food from breakfast and washed the dishes except for yours.” Ronaldo had been daydreaming again, this time about one day running down golden streets in heaven with his very own puppy.
“Oh, sorry, Mom!” Ronaldo dug into his fried tomatoes with eggs and quickly finished up his arepa (a golden round flat cornbread stuffed with cheese, beans and avocado). Quickly gulping down his orange juice, Ronaldo swiped the back of his hand across his mouth. He jumped up and took his plate to the kitchen sink. Running to the bathroom, he brushed his teeth, ran a comb through his hair, tucked in his shirt, and scurried to his room to find his Bible. Soon he and his parents were walking to church.
Years passed. Ronaldo was now a teenager. One night, he came in very late. He found his mom and dad sitting in the living room with worried faces. Ronaldo smirked and slurred his words, “Why are you looking at me that way?” Mother choked back tears, and Dad gasped as their precious Ronaldo, the boy who used to go to church, stumbled his way to the bathroom where he threw up. Ronaldo was drunk!
Mom and Dad prayed for their son every chance they got, but sadly, he chose to add drugs to his alcohol drinking. Soon their precious boy rarely even came home. Instead, he lived on the streets or slept on the various couches and floors of friends’ houses.
One afternoon, Jose was walking home from work when he saw a young man who looked very discouraged and decided to talk to him. “Hi, my name is Jose. What is your name?” Ronaldo looked up at this kind young man he didn’t know.
“My name is Ronaldo, but why do you want to talk to me? You don’t exactly look like my type.”
Jose smiled and said, “What do you mean?”
“Well, you look like some kind of church person, dressed all nice and looking happy. By comparison, my life is a mess!”
Jose listened attentively while Ronaldo spilled out the details of his life and what a mess his life had become. Jose smiled kindly and said, “Wow, your life has been rough! But you know what? I think your life could be happier than it is. Hey, I see you have a cell phone. Could I have your number? If so, how would you like to receive some messages of hope every day on your phone?”
Ronaldo looked at Jose curiously but finally said, “Well, OK.”
That night, Jose sent Ronaldo a message of hope straight from the Bible. Ronaldo listened with growing interest. Some of the things he heard, he remembered hearing in church when he was a boy. Other things were new and amazed him. Jesus was coming back soon, and he also had a special day each week. Ronaldo’s heart burned with excitement at the idea of Jesus coming back. Maybe he could still walk or run on the streets of gold. You see, despite being 21, Ronaldo still wanted a dog to play with one day in heaven.
One day, Jose called. “Hey Ronaldo, how would you like to come to a small group Bible study? We will have it tonight at a friend’s house. There will be other people there your age, and a couple of families. I think you would like them, and I am sure they would like you.”
Ronaldo tried to come up with an excuse for not going. After all, he didn’t know anyone there except for Jose, so this could be really awkward. But he said, “Um . . . well, what is the address and what time should I be there? I’ll think about coming.”
That night, Ronaldo listened and participated in the Bible study. The lady sitting next to him helped him find the verses in the Bible that they were discussing.
At the end of the study, Jose said, “Now is our time to pray, but before we do, does anyone have any prayer requests?” Everyone had things that they were worried about—like a sick neighbor, a university exam and someone’s son who wasn’t able to stop drinking. Now it was Ronaldo’s turn.
Ronaldo looked down at the floor and rubbed his sweaty hands together. Clearing his throat, he said, “Um . . . thanks everyone for being nice to me even though you don’t really know me. I enjoyed the study. It is awkward to admit, but I have a problem with alcohol and drug addiction. I am using less than before, but I would like to be clean. I want to follow Jesus, but I have been running from Him for years. Could you pray for me?”
Immediately, everyone went into a time of prayer. They prayed for everyone’s request, but when they came to pray for Ronaldo, nearly everyone prayed that Jesus would help him to stop drinking and taking drugs. Tears squeezed out of his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. He couldn’t believe how much these strangers cared about him and his problems.
After the prayer, they invited him to church on Sabbath. Ronaldo had grown up going to church on Sundays. But Sabbath morning, Ronaldo put on his best clothes and walked to church. Everyone was so kind to him that he found himself smiling and laughing, something he hadn’t done in a long time.
Week after week, Ronaldo returned to the small group Bible study, and each Sabbath he was in church. One Sabbath, he talked to the pastor and said, “Pastor, God is simply amazing! I have now been free of alcohol and drugs for several weeks. I never thought I could stop, and I couldn’t. But God is a miracle-working God and has freed me from these terrible addictions. Could I get baptized next Sabbath, please?”
That little church didn’t have a baptistry, but they did have a tall black round tub in the church’s yard. So that week, the pastor had the water truck come and fill up the big container. The moment he stepped into the water, Ronaldo’s face was just one huge smile! The round tub was big, but not big enough for two people, so the pastor stood outside the tub and ended his prayer with: “As a minister of the gospel, I now baptize you, my dear friend Ronaldo, in the all-powerful name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The pastor smiled as he looked into the newly-baptized young man’s face. “Welcome to our church family! Young man, I hear that your small group asked you to lead the Bible study the last couple of weeks. Is this true?” Ronaldo’s face blushed, but he nodded his head. “Well, what if I gave you a chance to preach sometime at our church?”
Huge brown eyes looked into the face of the pastor. “Are you serious?” stammered Ronaldo.
The pastor nodded his head as the church members said, “Yes! We would love to hear you preach!”
The pastor was already mentoring other young adults in the church on how to give Bible studies and prepare sermons. Quickly, Ronaldo joined the group, as he too wanted to be used by God to preach the gospel to his community.
If you could see Ronaldo today with his big smile, peaceful face and gentle brown eyes, you would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when Jesus changes lives, He completely changes their life!
Today, Ronaldo is preparing to preach an entire evangelistic series at his little church. He wants his friends and family to find that true freedom is found in Jesus and that His truth gives real hope for these last days. Jesus is coming back soon! Let’s join Ronaldo in telling everyone we can about this good news!
You, too, can share Jesus’ truth and love with friends and family in need of prayer, or who perhaps have Bible questions. Direct them to awr.org/inspire today.
By Karen Glassford