By Guest Blogger: Pastor Henjie Pimenta
Text: Ephesians 2:1-5 and Romans 6:1-4, 11-14
It should always be nice and easy to talk about the experiences on how I came to know the Lord. Mine was not a complicated one, in fact I call it a “sweet transformation”. There was no accident, neither a life threatening situation, nor traumatic event. In fact it was a series of events and communications with God that eventually led to a “total surrender”. But of course, during those times, especially the “honeymoon period” with Jesus, I am always reminded of who I was before the “encounter with the Lord”.
I was born in May 11, 1972 and was given the name Jose Henjie Aguilar Pimenta in Manila , Philippines. I would have been “an aborted baby”, had not Jesus intervened in my parents life. Both came from the country side. My father was from Ilocos Sur, and mother was from Camarines Sur. They left their hometown and headed to the big city, Manila, for greener pastures. Both young and away from their parents, just imagine the vulnerability of these two sweet hearts. I love my parents dearly, and they are God’s instruments for my being.
My father died as an alcoholic and a heavy smoker. In fact ,he was found dead in Bicol. I was here in Los Angeles on my second year alone, young and vulnerable. I was becoming very lonely and had turned to the only way I knew best at that time to make me escape the tight grip in my heart: drugs, alcohol, wild partying, wrong crowd, simultaneous relationships; I didn’t get the chance to attend his funeral, and that made me feel worse. I was very depressed. I remember I told a co-worker in the Beverly center, Macy’s Men’s store, “ what is the point of going on in this life, it’s so sad.” She took it seriously and thought I was going to commit suicide. I was brought in the office and my manager made sure that I was alright.
I thought I was friendly and can connect to people easily. That’s why I had friends who I smoked marijuana with, drinking buddies and I used to keep a small glass pipe for my methampethamine handy at all times….the smell of nicotine, alcohol and drugs were so aromatic from my body. I was either awake for days and/ or drunk every night. 2-3 packs of cigarette just for a night. Lighting a cigarette stick one after the other, sometimes overlapping without realizing that one was still lit. Consuming hard liquor and flushing beers down my throat to my pancreas and kidneys, I could care less; and driving with more than the alcohol limit unaware of the danger that it could bring. And along with that, sometimes there were fights, rumbles and brawls. I never thought that I could get hurt. Whatever I felt like doing, I would just do it without conviction. And even to my fleshly desire, I would nourish it to satisfy my craving.
I was very polluted mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s all about what I want, for myself and myself alone.
Oh, did I mention that I was a Christian already during those ordeals and a roller coaster of emotions? Oh yes, I was! Someone planted the seed even when I was still in the Philippines. I always had that in my subconsciousness. I just never paid attention to the deeper relationship with Jesus. I was having an affair with the world. I was away from God’s flock, I was wandering, squandering and wallowing in the mud like a pig. I was living my life but I was spiritually dead. Totally numb from any conviction. Astray. Trying to hide my sadness through worldly ways.
One night, during the times that I was not even religious and had stopped attending church for quite sometime, I heard a voice from heaven’s thick cloud in my dream. The message was: “Serve me!” I was awakened by this dream and I sat beside the bed for awhile. I wasn’t even sure who said it then. I went back to sleep and forgot about it.
Mary Ann used to operate Bayanihan restaurant, which eventually became Twelve o’ four club and restaurant. I was one of the managers who worked there. She used to invite Pastor Joe once a week for a bible study. I was deaf, mute and blind spiritually. I did not remember any topic that he discussed, maybe I was asleep or staring blankly at this charismatic worker of God, plus I was a night shift guy. All I remember was, when I saw him crossing the street from this church I had to finish my cigarette, wash my hands and rinse my mouth and then shook his hands and would say “good afternoon Pastor.”
I met Mary Ann even before my depressing times, and she’s heaven sent. She was there when I was mourning for my father. She was used by God to tell me that if I didn’t stop drinking, that I was going to end up like my father, and she meant well. God used her so that I would quit smoking. I was hard headed at first and didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do. I had given her ill feelings and broken her heart. I didn’t know how to respect her as a woman, I just know that she was there and I love her and she was willing to understand and bear everything about me. But there came a point that she was fed up with my promises and lies. So we parted ways. But God’s will and purpose for these two cupcakes are restoration and unification. She was later to become Mrs. Pimenta. As you know her by now.
My winning of Ginoong Pilipinas paved the way for me to compete in the Mr. Asia Pacific , male modeling contest held here in the States. I won first runner up next to an American born Chinese guy. I was size 31 waistline, medium built, 60 pounds lighter, long hair. Now all a thing of the past. Then I went back to the Philippines the summer of 1992. And just before the end of fall I was back in L.A. for fashion shows and stage play projects. Then I was invited to PCF Bonnie Brae by Rutillo, Sis Chris, Bro Bobby’s wife, Monet Lu, and their family. And then I became pre occupied by my worldly affairs that made me put church as the last on my list. If I was feeling "churchy" that Sunday, I would go, otherwise there were a lot of less boring things to do.
I still remember the times that I was attending church but under the influence of substance. I was wide awoke for how many days? 2-3 maybe, and would worship here with my hands raised up to heaven. I was driven, I was driven by the crystal meth. I thought the Holy Spirit was in me. I was getting confused. Unable to identify which one was drawing me closer. Closer to whom , to what?…But I kept coming back here. Maybe, just to be polite with Mary Ann, because she invited me here and I had to drive her and with all those that she invited also. Maybe, so that I won’t lose her? But what really kept me coming back? Something bigger was pulling me. Something was changing, transforming. Something I had no control of. I just let the wave keep surfing. Everything was becoming meaningful all of a sudden. Colorful, and most of the time indescribable. The river of tears unstoppable. I checked the main source of the faucet to try to turn it off, but I couldn't because it was Living water, cleansing me, washing me, scrubbing me from my filth, skin deep dirt, soaking my heart. I was swimming in His ocean of presence. I was renewed, I felt whole.
Then, I started remembering the preaching, the verses, the songs. I was beginning to like the people, the Pastors, the workers. The church. The body of Christ. The grace. The forgiveness of sins. The eternal security. The cleansing power of the blood of the lamb, the sacrificial atonement. The deeper meaning of my faith, the commitment, the obedience, the giving up the worldly practice. I became dead to sin and alive in Christ! The salvation not by my doing, but by His doing and it is freely given, not because I deserve it but because he loves me.
Then one time the whole church was in big bear, Jesus reminded me of everything about Him in me. I was having a one on one deep and meaningful conversation with the Lord all the way at the back of the sanctuary. I laid prostrate before the Lord and told Him: Now, I know that it was you, your voice that asked me in my dream to “ serve you”. And I said yes to God. I will. I will. I will serve you for as long as I live.
I started as a volunteer greeter, then joined a cell group. Eventually I got baptized, attended Praise School of Ministry and the rest is history.