Last week, a lot of you wrote me e-mails after the
interview aired, saying you care about my current situation. I want to thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement and your prayers. I hope God’s name will be glorified through what has happened to me. That is why I agreed to do the interview with the “700 Club.” I am glad you enjoyed it and were blessed by it.
My current situation is best described by the phrase, “in limbo.”
After Judge Manuel Real sentenced me to five years of probation and 3,000 hours of community service, I served the first 1,000 hours at my church, the Granada Heights Friends Church. The judge ordered me to serve 1,000 hours per year, but I finished 1,071 in my first year. I have served my community service with my repentant and grateful heart, paying my debt to society for breaking the law.
Pastor Stanley Ponz and my supervisor at my church felt I did a good job, so they wrote a letter to the judge telling him so. Then, in the middle of January this year, I was ordered by a United States probation officer to stop serving my community service at my own church. I was reassigned to the Lakewood YMCA.
After seven-and-a-half months there, the YMCA executive director, Mr. Joseph Twyman, and my supervisor, Mr. Rick Carlson, wrote a letter to Judge Real saying they were very pleased with my servant’s attitude. I handed the letter to the judge on Aug. 7, during my 120-day review.
Two days later, the United States probation office asked me to stop performing my community service at the Lakewood YMCA, saying they were going to reassign me to a new location again. I was not told why the change is being made.
Immediately, I talked to the supervisor of my probation officer, saying, “I will obey your order.” I said it not once, but twice, because I know if I have a servant’s heart, it doesn’t matter where I perform my community service. I believe God will provide me with another good environment to show me His great love. And I can witness and give my testimony to another group of people.
When I said to the United States probation office that I would obey its orders, I said to the Lord, Jesus Christ, “Lord, I am here. Send me anywhere you want me to go, because you are the final authority on where I should be.” If God did not allow it to happen, it wouldn’t happen.
I learned to have peace with these changes when my community service was switched from my church to the YMCA. Some of my fellow church members were worried about my safety at that time because of three assassination attempts that had been made against me. They even went to the YMCA with me on my first day there, waiting in the car in case anything happened to me. My wife and my mom and dad were also very worried, as was I. My heart trembled at the thought of going to an unknown location.
But I have learned that God provided me the best environment in which to serve and to be a good witness to His love and mercy. I built up my physical strength at that job, and by cleaning toilets and sweeping and mopping gym floors, I built up my spiritual strength as well. I was humbled and learned to serve others. God has truly given me a servant’s attitude.
Like my supervisor told me, “I work your butt off from the minute you walk in to the minute you walk out. You are qualified to clean any YMCA because you know the facility inside and out.”
In my time at the YMCA, God has given me more than I ever expected. He has given me the best. I really believe that. When I look back on the last seven-and-a-half months, I see that my trembling heart and the worries of my family and friends were unnecessary.
I have peace in my heart. This time I know I don’t need to be worried or scared, because I know God is in control. I have learned that I just need to trust Him day by day.
Over the last several weeks, I have been talking to my wife and my friends about how I have grown up. Who ever said men don’t “grow up?” We just grow up slowly. We just need a little bit more discipline by the Lord, Jesus Christ.
After Judge Real sentenced me, I thanked the Lord and the court for giving me a second chance. At the time, I didn’t know it, but they had not only given me a second chance, they had given me the great chance to learn how to be humble, to serve others, to grow up and to know myself better. What a privilege it is to have this punishment. It has made me a better man.
One thing is certain, even after I finish my 3,000 hours of community service, I will be a community volunteer for the rest of my life. When I serve in my church, a lot of people are affected. I used to just walk in and out on Sunday mornings, but now I understand how much work goes on behind the scenes.
The YMCA is a good facility that allows kids to swim, play basketball and lift weights. All that exercise equipment not only builds their physical bodies, but it keeps them out of trouble and off the streets. More important than that, the YMCA is willing to provide their facility to those with repentant hearts who must perform community service. I thank God for that.
I used to be a “boss man.” I made my own decisions. I went anywhere I wanted to go. But now I am a criminal who serves his punishment at the YMCA. Everybody is my boss. On the first day, when I picked up a dustpan and broom and swept everywhere, people stared at me. I felt embarrassed. But after a while, that feeling began to fade. I’m not embarrassed now, because I’ve grown up.
And when kids come in and mess up the floor I had just cleaned five minutes before, I give them a smile and tell their parents, “They’ll be fine.” Then I clean up after them again and again.
You know, I can’t stress to you enough how completely humbling it is to clean both men’s and women’s public restrooms. Standing in a completely closed-off shower room, spraying almost 100-degree water on all the surfaces to disinfect them, breathing the hot steam and sweating like a pig, not to mention picking up all the restroom-related trash, changes you very quickly.
If that doesn’t humble you, nothing will.
Wining and dining at the White House in a high position, talking to those politicians and listening to their empty promises revealed something to me. The people in that kind of environment are focusing on how to use each other. In one hand, they hold a wine glass to toast you, and, in the other, they hold a knife ready to stick you the back.
No, that is definitely not a place to which I wish to return. I am lucky to be in my own community, meeting with great people who care about each other — they love one another, and we can talk heart-to-heart. Yes, this is where I want to be, and this is where I will remain, God willing.
I have learned a great lesson: that our families, communities and country are more important than political parties. All I want to do is help kids and care for my community.
You see, God never promised us an easy life, or even a happy life. What He did promise us was joy in all circumstances, no matter how difficult they may be.