Alona L. Tapia

            I grew up doing the religious beliefs of my parents though, I did not fully understand. All I knew is that I was doing the right thing because I was doing it for God. All my life I followed the Catholic ways. I studied in a Catholic School where you are obligated to go to church and pray the rosary. I became active in our community doing the religious traditions like the station of the cross, going to processions, accommodating images in our home and the like.

            Years passed by with out having the real God in my heart. Enjoying every single days of my life and receiving blessing with out really knowing where it came from and whom to thank. I only prayed if I thought I couldn’t do things. I never asked for wisdom and guidance from God.

In my high school days during a retreat that God showed Himself to me. He was sitting on the lawn, looking and told me that "I'll wait for you my child" but I did not bestowed any importance upon it. In my college days one of my classmate invited me to join in their bible study at school but I turned him down. That moment I believed it was just a waste of time. I also had a friend after college named Marvin and a Sister-in-law Dolce who talked to me about the Romans road. They told me to "accept Jesus in your heart & be saved...so, you won't go to hell". Out of ignorance I followed them even with out realizing any need for salvation. The truth is it had no impact on me because my busy and sinful life goes on without any problems.

            Married life came [Jan.17, 1998] and that was the time I experienced the trials of life. I thought everything would just be fine for I have a helpmate whom I can depend on. We both believed that we would survive as long as we would help each other and do our best. We relied on our strength & knowledge but all we got was frustrations. One night we came across this channel where a man is preaching about God. That caught my attention and something gave me an interest to watch it every night. I heard and learned new things that caused me to be confused. Lots of question and comparison arose between my religion and the things being preached. My husband Emil and I ended up not going to Catholic Church, not doing the sign of the cross, not praying to images.

            Hearing and learning the word of God weakened my inner strength. I also got tired of my situations and just relying on my capabilities. Little by little I felt an emptiness and the need of God in my life. I will not forget when my husband asked me "why is this happening to us?" Then I answered, "Because we don't have God". One night a heaviness of heart caused me to pray and beg God to help us. We were in a serious trouble at that time. I can't explain what I felt because, never in my life had I cried for help from God and felt something inside me that wanted Him. I even asked God "Are you calling me to follow you?"

            Suddenly, help came. I don't even know how we thought of me going to U.S. having a declared lost U.S. visa. We did so many inquiries and processed lots of documents. It was so hard to believe but we surpassed everything. Maybe because of God's help? I still had my doubts then.

Aug. 1, 2004 was my first Sunday in the U.S. and I did not anticipate my first service at Trinity Baptist Church [Beulah Baptist Church now] when Sis. Dolce invited me to come with her. Everyone was so welcoming and nice. They started the service by singing "The Old Rugged Cross" and instantly I felt something different. Especially when we hit the line "Then He'll call me someday to my home far away where His glory forever I'll share"...I felt like crying. Then Pastor Charlie Garza started preaching and what I perceived was that he did not like me because he was preaching directly at my wickedness. But I told myself that I came here because of God and not him.

            Lot's of services followed and the words of God started to really sink in me. I heard some brief testimonies of salvation from Bro. Bong and Sis. Dolce. I started jotting down notes and further looked into it. I asked someone when I was confused and I tried to understand and follow what I was learning. I even attempted "saving" myself...when I heard a phrase during preaching, "just believe and you'll be save". So, after the church service I went to my room, locked my door, knelt, read the verse I heard, concentrated, raised my hand and told God "I believe please save me" [weeping]. I did not have a genuine intention of wanting to be saved. I just thought that it was the right way of getting saved.

            In Nov.7-12, 2004 Pastor Greg Moffitt started a revival meeting on Sunday and preached something about  "the sin of the world will take you away from Him" Then the following days he preached on "asking, seeking diligently & knocking with a humble heart". Matthew 7:7 Ask and it shall be given you, seek & ye shall find, knock & it shall be open unto you. He also about "calling Him with truth", the Truth that you are a sinner. Psalms 145:18, The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. Then he followed by "having a humble heart" Psalms 10:17, Lord thou has heard the desire of the humble thou wilt prepare their heart thou will cause the ear to hear. Other things were," God is good and ready to forgive just ask for mercy" Psalms 86:5 For thou art good & ready to forgive & plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. "Don't be afraid God receives even sinner". Luke 15:1, Then dew near unto Him all the publican and sinners for to hear Him.

            On the fourth day, after service I was not able to contain myself anymore. I told Pastor Greg that I needed to give him a hug. I do not know why... maybe because he has spoken the words of God in my heart.  Pastor Charlie provided further explanation about the preaching and I remembered him saying, "God will not save you if you will only hide what you think and feel inside yourself". I got disturbed by that and felt an urgency to talk to my Pastor so he would know where I was. He first asked "do you love God with all your heart, mind & soul?" I said YES! Without realizing that I can't love Him like that. Followed by "what's God telling you"? I answered, God is telling me to continue to seek Him and that I need Him. Pastor Charlie told me, “For you to get save you need to believe that He died for you.” Then he prayed for me. I won't forget when he said in his prayer that day. He believed that my salvation is coming very soon!

            I think God was working in me overtime because I was so eager to hear more preaching. I could not help myself thinking about God, I would always find myself crying at nigh, asking God to save me. Then the last day of the revival came; I was not able to attend because of my job. I got so sad and worried because I felt like it took away my chance of getting saved. But, that whole Friday God didn't leave me alone, He dealt on me so strong. I really could not focus on my work that day. I begged God to change the heart of my employer so; I could attend the service and get save. The heaviness set in, I could not take it any longer, I fell on my knee while weeping so hard and begging God to FORGIVE me of my sins, have MERCY on me and SAVE me. [That was a very intense situation with God]. The last thing that came out my lips was "God even though you will not save me, my heart will still be yours".

            My job finished at 10:30pm. I called Sister Dolce right away and she told me that they were still having fellowship. So, I ran to church with a plan to talk to my Pastor again. I still had some struggles and questions on my mind. I ended up expressing it to Pastor Greg. I asked him "why is my heart telling me to believe but, why my mind is contradicting it"? He replied to me by saying, "Believe in your heart because it's telling you the truth"! After dinner it was announced that there will be a couple that were going to visit us on Sunday but, because I'm so discourage with my situation I did not pay much attention to it.

            Day of Salvation! [Nov.14, 2004] I met Bro. Reed and Sister Charlotte. I thought that this would be just be an ordinary service, never thought that this will be a very special one. Bro. Reed stood up and started sharing Isaiah 53:5, But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed.

            God clearly told me that "He could have stopped the chastisement but He allowed it to happen because of me". Bro. Reed shared some more things but I can't remember what else he said. I started trembling and weeping before Him. Then I heard Bro. Reed sing, "When He was on the cross I was on His mind". That echoed in my ears so loud and I pictured God was on the cross looking at me and telling me "I did this for you", and I BELIEVED and THANKED Him many times!