Our congregation in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, for the past four years has sponsored on a few Sunday evenings in April evangelistic services we call Stories of Hope. After encouraging the congregation in a variety of ways in the preceeding months to pray for and deepen friendships with those who do not have the hope of Christ, they are then urged to invite them to these services. The meetings were given this name because they feature a testimony from one of our members and an evangelistic message on a story found in the Bible.
Last Lord's Day evening, we were blessed by the words of two men. Dr. Leo Salgado, Director of Administration and CFO of Light of Life Rescue Mission in Pittsburgh, shared the touching story of his journey of struggle and salvation. Then Pastor Will Baker, a Baptist minister in Pittsburgh and soon-to-be graduate of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, delivered a strong gospel call from the story in Luke 8 about the woman with the issue of blood.
The Lord brought a number of folks to this time, and it was exciting afterward to see people discussing the gospel with visitors. Below you can read Leo's story and hear Will's message. Hopefully these stories will encourage you. And if you are in the area, please join us this coming Sunday evening, April 22, at the site and time on the picture!
Dr. Leo's Salgado's story:
For the past ten years, I’ve been more acutely aware of the life God has given me, as I've been working among the homeless men in Pittsburgh. We often hear from them their sense of loss, hopelessness, and their belief that they’re worthless. In response, we tell them of how God rescues us from the mess we find ourselves, gives us life and fills us with hope and a new identity in Him.
Briefly, this is my story:
I grew up in Colombia South America. I am one of eight, and I grew up in a huge extended family. Both of my parents had 14 siblings. I grew up in extreme poverty, sometimes without shoes and very little to eat, but I grew up happy.
By the time I was thirteen I had lived in a place and a culture where I comfortably belonged. I loved the church, my family, and friends.
I enjoyed going to church often and participating in its rituals. I respected the priests and nuns who were very helpful in my community. I was even an altar boy for a short time.
The family was everything to me, and I enjoy living among my many siblings and my many cousins. I also belonged to a barrio, a neighborhood that was built all at the same time by young families. So, there were a lot of kids my age. Although I wasn’t very good, we played soccer constantly.
My life changed dramatically when my parents, for financial reasons, decided to migrate to the United States. That was very hard for me. Very quickly, I found out I didn’t have the gift of languages, so I had a tough time learning English. It took me five years for me to begin to speak English in sentences. I also had a tough time adapting to the culture. It was so different than the world I grew up loving.
Slowly, a spirit of rebelliousness grew in me. I resented my parents and hated my father for putting me through this awful time. I then distanced myself as much as I could from the rest of my family.
Meanwhile, as I began to hear in school about the church, my love for the church grew cold. I really liked my history teacher, and it seems that she talked a lot about how bad the church had been throughout the years. She talked about how it was then reasonable for her to become an atheist. I heard that loud and clear. And shortly after, I too declared myself an atheist. I divorced myself from the church.
By the time I was 18, I had found myself estranged from my family, with no love for the church, and with only a couple of friends that could hardly understand me. With a lot more material possessions than I had ever had, I found myself a very unhappy, rebellious young man, and somewhat hopeless for my life, grieving for what I had left in Colombia. The worst is that I couldn’t really go back.
During my last year in High School, something happened that gave me hope for the future and changed my whole life's journey.
With my broken English and heavy accent, somehow I mustered the courage to ask a beautiful young lady for a date. She said yes, and we ended up getting to know each other well. She happened to be a Christian and began patiently to share the gospel with me and answer all the questions I had about the church. I then started going to church again with her.
Shortly after that, I remember vividly, during a Sunday service, carefully considering what I had heard from the Bible about Jesus and making a choice to follow Him. I told Karen what I had done, and she was excited for me. In fact, her whole family was very excited, and they took me out for lunch to celebrate. But I wasn't excited. I knew it meant that I had to change. I was going to have to tell my few friends who were not Christians about it, and I had to reconcile with my family eventually. But I now felt hopeful for my life.
Although I struggled in many ways after that decision, a few years later I did make peace with my family and especially with my dad. I asked him to forgive me for my rebelliousness towards him.
As I continued to grow in my faith, I began to love the church, but now differently. I love my church family because I love Jesus. I belong to God's family. That's my identity. And although I have in a real way chosen to live closer to my church family than my blood family, I still enjoy my relationships with my extended family.
My story always goes back to this time in my life because it was the most challenging time of my life. I had lost my sense of belonging and found myself disconnected from everything I had loved, in a strange place, not by choice, and I didn’t cope with the change well. But at that time God chose to give me life, a newness in me that has continually given me hope over these many years.
Jesus died and was resurrected to give me this abundant life, and it’s this life in me that has helped me throughout the many years to face very difficult times and sustained me in my faith.
Pastor Will Baker's Message: