Growing up, Ricky had always been a top student and a good rule-keeper. His parents and teachers praised him highly and people around him would comment that he was ‘very mature for his age.’

While he tried his best to maintain the image of  ‘the model boy’ in the eyes of authorities, he indulged in sin when he was by himself or with peers. Partying, foul language, pornography, and occasionally smoking, gambling, and drinking were some of the things he had discovered in elementary school and continued to enjoy in high school.

Even then, Ricky thought of himself as decent, disciplined, respectable, and responsible. Seeking God was the furthest thing from his mind.

Little did he know, however, that God had plans for him.

In his sophomore year, he became friends with Dan, who was a passionate Christian. Ricky soon noticed that Dan was different from everyone else in their class. To begin with, he wasn’t Catholic. He was also concerned about profound things like God, right and wrong, justice, happiness, and truth. And what’s more, he actually read and quoted the Bible!

It wasn’t long before Dan’s vibrant and intelligent faith won Ricky over.

They started studying the Bible together, and Ricky eventually attended Dan’s youth fellowship.

“That first time was just amazing,” recalls Ricky. “Whenever I would attend mass, everything was just so lifeless. Most, if not all, of the people there couldn’t care less about God or the Bible. But in my friend’s youth fellowship, I saw a room full of young people worshiping God with passion. Their songs were filled with biblical truth. I remember thinking, ‘If God is really God, then this is how He should be worshipped.’”

Those months were exhilarating for Ricky. He learned about Christ’s amazing love in dying on the cross to pay the penalty for people’s sins, so that salvation “is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9). The sins that he used to enjoy so much now disgusted him, and he surrendered them to God. He also bought his own Bible and poured hungrily over its pages, day after day.

Being in a Catholic environment, however, it wasn’t long before Ricky’s faith was tested.

“My family and relatives weren’t alarmed at first because they thought that I was just ‘going through a phase,’” says Ricky. “But when they realized that I was serious and that I wanted them to become Christians, too… well, that’s when the persecution started. They accused me of being arrogant, thinking that I knew better than them. I would be interrogated during family gatherings, and then if I said anything they didn’t like, they’d really put me on the spot and make me feel like I was stupid for leaving the Catholic faith.”

Ricky experienced persecution from his classmates and some of his teachers, as well.

“The Lord taught me quickly that I had to be bold in my faith. One of the verses that He really engraved onto my heart was Luke 9:26, where Jesus said, ‘whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory‘.”

Despite being naturally reserved and socially awkward, Ricky realized that since Jesus Christ was the only way of salvation, he had to share the gospel with others.

This led to many conversations with his classmates. He even helped his friend Dan (now also his brother in Christ) conduct an evangelistic Bible study for their schoolmates.

Now, years later, Ricky looks back at those years with thankfulness to the Lord. “I was really rough around the edges then, and I did and said a lot of things I regret. But I’m glad that God gave me the boldness to stand on His word when people around me were telling me I was being foolish. Now, my situation is totally different from what it was before, but I hope that I keep growing in faithfulness to God.”


Writer’s Bio:
Kito Espiritu serves on the pastoral staff of Higher Rock Christian Church. He particularly loves discipling youth and sharing the gospel to non-Christians.
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