February 28th, 1997 was my first day of incarceration at Cook County Jail. I was in a place that I didn’t want to be, I felt abandoned and alone. Even when I was in the streets, I would always pray and ask God to let me see another day, another week, another year. I didn’t know how He would do it, but I knew that He would.
I started reading my Bible and attending Dan, Steve, and Bob's church services on Division 11 every week. Bob would ask if I was teachable and if I could learn something each day and that stuck with me. It made me question myself. I started to understand that I’d buried the pain of losing my mother and daughter by burying my emotions in order to shield myself from the hurt. Getting incarcerated put me in a place where I had to deal with my own mental, physical, and spiritual health.
One day Dan and Steve shared that they were actually forming an all-Christian dorm deck at Division 11. Eventually, I and Daniel Hernandez would become the first residents of the Life Learning Program dorm. It was amazing to know that the chaplains genuinely wanted to help us make a change in our lives and become followers of Christ. We prayed together and participated in an educational and life enrichment program that had content that actually had real-life applications for us. We learned conflict resolution, which many of us hadn’t really experienced in life. Dan and Steve helped us understand that it was okay to agree to disagree and that we didn’t have to be sworn enemies.
One day Bob came by my cell and said people I encounter may never read the Bible, but they might do so because of my actions, and that stuck with me because the Bible helped me understand everything. Reading my Bible helps me understand how God feels about me.
I was released from Cook County in 2000 and I immediately found a church home and continued to lean on CPO for support. I’m now a licensed minister and founder of the Young Doctors Club which is a program that exposes kids to careers in the healthcare system through my partnership UIC School of Medicine.
Through my relationship with CPO, I have learned a lot about being in a relationship with the Lord, but I also learned a lot about becoming the man that I was destined to be.