My dream came true in 1998, as I married my best friend, Lucy Garcia. I had found “favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22) Yet, our first years were challenging, since I had been sexually abused at a young age. The latent impact of this ungodly abuse placed an almost unbearable burden for me to be intimate with my wife. The year 1999 came upon us pretty quickly and with more changes. Lucy and I were asked to be in the full time ministry, so for the next four years we led a ministry in the LA ICOC in the AMS Region. God gave us our first born, Carlos Mejia II! Having a child brought new challenges to our marriage – scheduling dates, having quiet times together, praying together – but with discipling, we transitioned well. When the year 2002 hit, I started to notice changes in the ICOC churches that were considerably different from what I had learned as a young Christian. In 2003, Lucy and I were shocked to be asked to step down from the full time ministry. We were heartbroken, for my other dream had been to be in the full-time ministry. I felt like this dream was being taken from me. The timing made matters worse – we were four months pregnant with Andrew and had just bought our first house, yet we had no jobs and no income. The financial and emotional strains of these losses were very intense and severely challenged our faith. But thankfully, God is faithful and in a relatively short period of time, He blessed me with a job.
|Summer (third from left) was baptized by the sisters in the AMS Region!|
In 2003, I perceived two major changes in our church – discipleship became optional and every region in the LA ICOC became only loosely tied to each other. What many disciples did not realize at the time – because we were not told – was that in late 2002 the leadership of the LA ICOC, as well as the entire ICOC decided to return to a more mainline theology. Most apparent was that having a central leader and a central leadership of our movement, the ICOC, was now considered “unbiblical”. Sadly, in Lucy and my weakened state, we bought into this” theology” and went with the flow. Looking back, it is very evident that the abandonment of discipling relationships – particularly in marriages – had tremendous negative repercussions on most of the disciples and on all of the ICOC churches around the world. One of the most noticeable was the incredible number of divorces and separations caused by infidelity between “disciples of Jesus”. Our once cherished standard of “no divorces in the kingdom” became a joke. I myself grew weary and hopeless, as I allowed the challenges in my own marriage to crush my faith and my dream of having a godly marriage. There were days when I did not trust or believe that God’s standard for marriage was possible. When Lucy and I wed, we had promised never to say the “D” word, yet we were now talking about it. My desperation grew as I witnessed many of my disciple friends getting divorced. It was a dark time, but one thing I was sure of – I wanted to be a disciple of Jesus and I did not want to “break faith” with God or with my wife. (Malachi 2:16) So I prayed for God to save me, because I was incapable of saving myself.
|Six couples on the “hot seat” during the “Newlywed Game” at the Valentines Dinner-Dance!|
It was during this time, that God stirred my heart and I realized that the only way back to Him was through accepting God’s mercy, repenting of my sins, and then returning to discipleship. I had to get back into a discipling ministry, where everyone had the same standard – Jesus. (2 Corinthians 11:1-4) Thankfully, it was at this time that the Spirit planted – from Portland – the City of Angels International Christian Church! I contacted some of the brothers and decided to start getting open with my life. (James 5:16) In tears, I shared with them my darkest thoughts and biggest struggles. I so missed having brothers to whom I could confess my sins and then hold me accountable so I could overcome them. Through humble yet hard-line discipling, as well as the example of the McKeans’, Bordieris’ and Comisfords’, I returned to the convictions I had when I was baptized, especially in my marriage! This did not come easy! I was out of shape, spiritually speaking, and my perspective needed a major adjustment. I was suffering, but I had forgotten that my Lord Jesus was a suffering Messiah. (Isaiah 53:4-6) I had to ask myself if I was willing to obey God rather than to give in to my bitterness and insecurities. Finally, I decided that I just needed to love my wife. I was not serving and caring for her as the Bible commands. (Ephesians 5:25) I had stopped being a disciple. Until I got that conviction back on straight, my marriage was not going to change. I realized that if I did not change, I would end up bitter in a lifeless marriage, or worse – divorced!
|Damon & Vicki James enjoying the Valentine festivities!|
I would like all those who are reading this article to ask themselves, “What kind of marriage do I have before God right now?” How is my prayer time with my spouse? Are not having devotionals okay with me? When is the last time my spouse and I were “gut open” with another disciple couple? How’s my husband’s purity? How’s my wife’s purity? How is our dating life? Am I reading self help books to “secret” my marriage back to life? How are we doing with our finances? Are we living beyond our means and feeling like there is no way of stopping? How’s my sexual relationship with my spouse? Are we roommates, or are we “one”? Do I feel hopeless in my marriage? Will my spouse ever change? Will I ever change? Have I mentioned or thought about divorce? These are all questions I had to ask myself with sober judgment. (Romans 12:3) On the other hand, if you have been divorced, take heart! Come join us in a church that honors God through building strong friendships in dating relationships between Christians. Then, if God desires for you to marry again, it will last!
Today Lucy and I are still learning how to be like Jesus. We are enjoying the life of many roles – parents, best friends to each other, and finally being “partners in the gospel”. Our dream is that we can reach out and impact many hurting non-Christian couples and introduce them to Jesus and His church. We have a dream that our kids will be disciples and that they will have godly marriages! We have a dream for disciple couples that are hopeless in their marriages in lukewarm, asleep churches, that they will join us and get strengthened and then – motivated by God’s grace – go out and strengthen other disciple couples. Recently, we had a wedding at the City of Angels Church. At the wedding reception, I fellowshipped and shared about marriage with many of the singles. Now as an “older brother”, I was once again able to pass on my conviction, that as long as every pair of married disciples stays faithful to God, there will be “no divorces in the kingdom!”
|ir 25th Anniversary!" width="300" align="center" border="0" hspace="10" vspace="5" />|
|Victor & Sonia Gonzalez celebrate their 25th Anniversary!|