In World War ll, I don’t think my mother was aware she had married a schizophrenic. My father was a veteran from the 82nd Airborne Division. It may have been that he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I don’t know my father, and I had nothing to do with him.

When I was still in elementary school, all I know of him is that whenever he was home on leave, he would beat me with his fist. Later he shot and killed his brother, my uncle. He was sentenced to the Atascadero prison for the criminally insane.

I was alone, frightened, lost, confused, and could not read or write. In elementary school, my grandmother sent her grandchildren to the First Calvary Baptist church in Boyle Heights. There I first heard the Bible stories of Jesus, and heard His Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes), “Come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Although I did not accept Jesus as my Savior, I understood that Jesus was Truth, perfectly strong and reliable. From that time on I would always pray, and come to understand that Jesus was always with me and watched over me.

With Jesus, I was able to learn to read and write, earned my sergeant stripes in the Green Berets (Special Forces, US Army Airborne), and earned my Masters in Education.

When I was 69 years old, with the help of my next door neighbor, an Associate Pastor (Colin McDougall) of COD, this church, I accepted Christ as my Savior.

Although through prayer my life was always good, it was always as an adolescent, but never as a man should experience and deal with life. I never had a father to teach me how to be a man.

Five years ago I accepted Christ and was baptized. I now have a Father in heaven who by his example taught me about manhood. Manhood is about being a good father. Being a father to your family means being: a King who has the Vision to Provide, a Warrior who has the Strength to Protect, a Mentor who has the Wisdom to Teach, a Friend who has the Love to Connect.

After I accepted Jesus, Jesus’ love and enlightenment gave me clarity as to who I am. I am no longer strangled by guilt and obligation, and filled with shame and discomfort. I’ve come to like and love myself. I am accepting of myself, I feel comfortable with myself. As in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

Being a Christian has its cost. It means taking time, courage, and energy to meet strange new people in fellowship. But remember to be free of human bondage, to break those chains that bind us, one has to expend energy and take time for Jesus, these are acceptable cost for the clarity Jesus gives us.
Dennis Contreras’ testimony
June 26, 2018

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