From the inner city to the center of God’s heart
Guest Writer: Omar E. Ruvalcaba
By the time I was 18, I had been to more than a dozen funerals. These were all young men who had died at the hands of street violence. I was no stranger to violence myself. Growing up in the streets is a fight to stay on the right side of the tracks. I failed terribly at this. Like a lot of young inner city youths, I did not give much thought to my future. If I witnessed friends die left and right, what made me think I had any kind of future? That wasn’t for people like me. I was lucky if I made it through the day alive. Beautiful fall trees. Clean sidewalks. Astounding landscaped playgrounds were nowhere in sight for me. Depression, sadness, and anger surrounded every corner in my neighborhood. The police stalked me and my friends. They harassed us. They pulled us over for no good reason. They planted weapons in our car. The Los Angeles riots, in 1992, was directly in my backyard. I was at war with life! Or, so I thought.
When I was 21, I met a preacher serving time for domestic violence. I found him a bit peculiar. Why was he a preacher serving time in jail for domestic violence? And on top of that he was praising God! However, he shared Jesus Christ with me and from that day my life has never been the same. A life of violence and anger I completely walked away from. I had no choice but to terminate the friendships I had. These were friends I had since age 9. Jesus Christ required me to live a holy and blameless life, therefore; I chose to die to myself and live for him. Was it easy? No. But if I am being honest, the streets gave me purpose – I now had purpose in Jesus Christ.
When I watch the news today it saddens me. Men protesting in the streets. Men rioting and looting. Do we as minority men have reason for our anger? Yes. I believe there’s a lot of validity to the fear and anger we feel living in America. But are we channeling our anger in the right direction? At the end of the day, what will come from rioting? Nothing. Why am I no longer out there in the streets rioting with everyone else? Because I learned that everything is a spiritual battle and we must fight it with spiritual weapons. I don’t have to protest to get results. There’s nothing wrong with a logical well-balanced protest. But there’s a difference between a God-led, organized protest, and complete anarchy. God’s Word will bring forth change in people who choose to fight the right way. How do I fight?
- I study God’s Word every single day. (Psalm 119: 147 “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.”)
- I pray every single day. I pray for my well-being and for my family. I pray for others. I pray for America. (Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.”)
- While jogging, instead of listening to music, I listen to sermons. (Luke 11:9-10 Jesus said, “Seek God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”)
- I attend church every week. (1 Timothy 3:15 “God’s household is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”)
- I prayed and asked God to lead me to a men’s discipleship group and he answered the next day. I spend time in the Word with other men, on a weekly basis. (John 13:35 Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”)
- I attend any men’s conference that comes my way. (Hebrew 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”)
- I lead devotion with my wife. (Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”)
- I lead devotion with my children (Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”)
- And not to be considered least because it’s number 9, but I invest in my preteen son. I take him to men’s conferences with me. I take him to men’s Bible studies, even if it’s at 6am. I pray over him. I read the Bible with him. I ask God’s favor over him. (Proverbs 29:17 “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.”)
Whether we want to admit it or not men, it’s starts with us. We need to stop blaming the world and start focusing inward. The preacher I met who was in jail, he could have blamed his wife, the system, the police or whoever. But he didn’t. He accepted full responsibility for his actions and continued to share the Gospel with others. I would not be a follower of Jesus Christ today had he not shared Jesus with me. We need to have a solid relationship with God. When we are aligned with God, we are better leaders in our home – our communities, and the world around us. Instead of protesting in the streets, pick up a Bible. Then take your son by the hand and together you grow as disciples for Christ. When you’re tired of protesting – try God. When you’re tired of looting – try God. When you’re tired of fighting the system – try God. When you’re tired of exhausting your energy in the wrong places – try God. When you’ve tried every other way to make a change – try God, and see if He does not change your heart. When you change, your home can change. Your children can change – your friends can change – your community can change. We have a fighting chance to change the world when we start with us!
Omar E. Ruvalcaba is a husband and father of five. He’s a Bible student, and football coach. Omar has served as a deacon, Sunday school president, preschool director, middle school teacher, and volunteer youth coach within his local church. He is often asked to share his riveting testimony (from the inner city streets to man of God)which has led many people to Christ.