My parents immigrated from the Azores to the US in 1966. I was a little boy, seven years of age and my younger brother was four. To pioneer a new life on new soil both my Momma and Daddy worked very hard all their lives. After living with my Daddy’s parents (our grandparents) for nearly a year, they were able to purchase their own home, a two-story or the modern equivalent of a duplex. They were able to pay their mortgage from renting out the second level. My parents were smart and frugal like that.
Those early years were hard years for them, as my Daddy labored in a sweat shop for 12-16 hours a day sometimes, and my Mom, in addition to her domestic duties, and taking care of my brother and I, also worked 40 hours a week in a jewelry factory—all this while trying to learn a new language, and adjust to a new culture. Life was much simpler in our little village. In that era of the 60s and 70s there were many immigrants just like them who settled in America to begin a new life.
After a few years of living in that two story house, my parents then purchased a couple of lots of land and built their own home. At that time both my brother and I were teenagers and very fluent in English. In fact, I attended my first two years of schooling in our little village on the island of San Miguel, and I already had a solid foundation in Math and language. So when I began school here in America, even though I was third grade level, I had to start in first grade, because I didn’t speak English yet. But soon, as I quickly learned the language, they moved me up to second and then third grade. In other words, I caught up to where I was supposed to be for my age group.
In their elder years, my parents had to sell their beautifully built home and go live with my brother and his wife. That was another hard transition, as they were used to being self-sufficient all their lives. The realtor marveled at the mint condition of their home. After living there for 40 years, it was still like new. The pride of ownership marked their entire house and yard.
I grew up watching my parents accomplish all this, but I had very little desire to duplicate that in my life and future. Although my brother and I were raised in a devout Roman Catholic family, from a young child I had a sensitivity and a fear of God, but all without knowledge. I had no desire for the American immigrant dream of a nice house with a white picket fence, etc. I didn’t really want a secure, settled, no-risk kind of life like that. My heart beat for something else, but I just didn’t know what.
When I met the Lord and realized He was not a Catholic, picture-on-the-wall, cross-around-your-neck kind of Jesus, my heart flipped for Him. To discover the real Jesus and my ultimate purpose in this universe radically transformed me.
Once I fell in love with Jesus I was hooked and have never looked back.
As we approach Christmas and the New Year, and the fantasy that is often associated with this holiday season, remember Jesus is very real and closer to us than our very own breath. We are to always be living epistles to our families and friends, especially during this time of year. Let me encourage you to be a little more radical in your expression of Jesus during the holiday season and on into the new year. Time is so short.
For example, one Christmas right after I got saved, my uncle teased me, because as a young man I refused to take a shot of liquor with the Catholic relatives sitting around the table. I told him boldly, “ever since Jesus came into my heart I don’t need to drink any more.” He was convicted.
Learn to say what brings conviction. There is no conversion without conviction.
No matter the outcome, this is the time to begin to say things like that! Be bolder now! Be stronger now! Be more intentional now! With His love and compassion filling your heart, just throw caution to the wind and do it!
* Sitting on the window at our home in our tiny village on the island of San Miguel, Azores.
* Our family photo just before leaving the Azores for America.
* Me and my brother’s elementary school pictures (6th and 3rd grade).
* My college graduation picture (21 years old).
* Me with my signature photo (hands lifted) after being delivered from religious tradition and a life of sin.
Thank God for His goodness and His mercy!