Everyone Has a Story
By Adel Torres
José Torres, Jr. was born in White Memorial Medical Center, where his mother was first introduced to Adventism. By the time he was a young boy, she had been baptized and was raising her four children alone. José and his sisters grew up in the low-income housing projects. The children were witnesses to massive gang fights, drug deals, and one night little José listened in terror as a man was beaten to death outside his bedroom window.
As he grew older, José was often tormented by seeing eerie figures and feeling an unwanted presence. During this time, he had the first of many memorable dreams. He was walking down a tree-lined road on a beautiful day, when suddenly the leaves of the trees became wriggling serpents, stretching their ugly heads toward him. Surely, Satan wanted him.
During his troubled high-school years, one bright spot was José’s involvement with the police explorers program. As a junior trainee, he went on ride-alongs and learned how the force operated. He was eager to join the NYPD when he became an adult.
One night he had another vivid dream. He was watching workmen building something when he became aware of a presence at his side. He saw a man who put something into his hand. When José opened his hand, he found a smooth, perfect, white stone. When he awoke, he wondered at the clarity of the dream, but didn’t know what it might mean.
José graduated from high school and, too young to enter police academy, he signed up for the marines. At the tender age of 18, José boarded a flight to North Carolina, leaving behind everything he knew in exchange for the world of forced manhood. In basic training he read his Bible and tried to stay true to his values. But soon he joined his comrades in drinking and carousing. With shame he read the letters his mother regularly sent, knowing how heartbroken she would be if she knew his activities.
While docked in a port in the Philippines, José dreamed that he was standing on his ship as it pulled away from land. He saw his mother standing on the pier in a white dress, waving goodbye to him. He awoke overcome with such sadness that he wept. That same day he was called to the chaplain’s office. He took one look at the chaplain’s face and he knew: his mother was dead. The chaplain explained that she had been hit by a car while walking home from work.
After just one short week with his sister, José was forced to return to his military duties, despite all his pleas for more time. For the next two years he was consumed by bitterness. He tried to drown out his pain in alcohol. He lashed out at authority figures who had no sympathy for his grieving state. At different times he was court marshaled, put on restriction, docked pay and relegated to the lowest rank. After nine months in the Persian Gulf, José returned to the United States and managed to finish his four years of service with an honorable discharge.
José became engaged to a young lady who had written to him during his deployment. His unfavorable military record prevented his working in law enforcement and he was forced to take odd jobs to make ends meet. His relationship failed. One night, dejected and lonely, he was driving home when, seemingly for no reason, his steering wheel veered sharply, and his car careened off the road. José walked away unharmed, but he had to find a new car. It was with relief that he accepted an invitation from a buddy to move to Jersey.
Now in his tiny room in Jersey, José flipped open his neglected Bible, hoping to find something comforting. His eyes fell on Revelation 2:17: “…to him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written....” He was struck with awe as he remembered his dream of the white stone, although he still did not know what it could mean.
With the last of his money, José packed up his clunky Trans Am and headed west, determined to start a new life. Back in California he randomly chose a church in the directory and slipped in the back pew Sabbath morning. He was surprised to see a familiar name in the bulletin, and discovered it was a church member who had sent him a package while he was deployed. He was becoming convinced that his mother’s God was directing his ways. It was not easy, but by God’s grace, he quit drinking. He was a gifted artist, and now began teaching himself how to play the guitar and piano as well. He learned to express his gratitude to God through art and writing music.
During the next six years, José continued to grow in grace as he moved north, living in Oregon. He wrote several songs and was active in lay ministries. Eventually, he returned to California to pursue a degree in Theology from Pacific Union College. While at PUC he met and fell in love with Adel, a young nurse who was also committed to serving God. José felt like God was restoring the years that had been lost. He graduated from college in the summer of 2006 and was married a month later.
Today, José and Adel serve in pastoral ministry in California. When they are finished with their commitment there, they plan to be involved in global missions, fulfilling the great commission to “go and teach all nations.”
Listen to Jose's song, Saving Grace
Adel Torres writes from California. To hear one of José's songs . All rights reserved © 2012 StoryHarvest.org. Click here for content usage information.