“I don’t have it all figured out, but I know this: I cannot live without the Lord, and He’s the only reason why I am the man you see here today.”
“When I was 16 years old, I started burning my hands with cigarettes,” said Diego Salvador. “My spirit was completely dead, and because of drugs and alcohol, my brain was sort of dead, too. I burned my skin thinking eventually it would become numb, too (it didn’t). I did everything to challenge and rebel against God. I had no idea that the Lord looked at me as a lost sheep He would some day bring back home.
“As I kid, I bounced back and forth between Ecuador, where I was born, to California, where my mother raised my two siblings and me. Our California neighborhood was so unstable that we weren’t allowed to go outside much. But, one day, a bus full of kids drove by our house, and they noticed me. I stepped outside, and they asked if I’d like to go with them to church. I attended for several months, and God used that time to show me His grace and mercy.
“Unfortunately, by the time I was nine years old, I had joined my friends and their fathers in gang activity. I smoked cigarettes and stole cars, using a stick attached to my shoes to push the brake and gas pedals. When I was 12, my friends moved from stealing cars to dealing drugs. It seemed like they had everything, pulling cash out of their pockets like it was Monopoly money. I tried dealing drugs, too, but it just never set right with me. Cocaine and methamphetamine came into my life after that.
“The next time someone spoke to me about the Lord, I was 18 years old. I remember laughing and wondering why I would ever need God when I felt so invincible. But, when my friends started dying from gang violence and suicide, I started to wonder if God was real.
“Over my objections, my mother insisted I return to Ecuador, where I made a new life for myself. My father lived there, and we began spending time together. He was suffering from cancer and wasn’t drinking, so that was the first time I met the man behind the alcohol. When he died from a massive stroke a while later, I could truly say we had become close friends.
“Three marriages and several years later, I moved to the Dallas area. I got connected with Watermark through Watermark’s Urgent Care Clinic, where I got treatment for a torn Achilles tendon. The staff was so nice to me, and a woman prayed with us after our appointment and invited us to visit Watermark. I had never heard of church helping people in this way, and my former wife and I visited the following weekend. We got involved with re|engage, Watermark’s marriage ministry, and that was the first time I saw Christian people talk about the real issues and challenges they faced in life. Although my marriage did not make it, I knew that Watermark was the place I wanted to be.
“I started going to re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry, and God used it to give me the strength to follow Christ and live each day knowing that because of Christ’s death on the cross, I am forgiven. I still struggled with feelings of unworthiness, but I learned that Christ was enough for me. I even passed up a more lucrative job in California, because it was clear that God wanted me to be right here.
“I don’t think I’d had real friendships before, and now I know how much I need the security of biblical community. I met the guys in my community group through re:generation. The first time I confessed a current sin struggle to them, it was hard. But rather than criticize me, they prayed for me, grieved over the difficulties of my past, and loved me unconditionally.
“The men in my group also encouraged me to reach out to my mother. She was diagnosed with cancer and we hadn’t spoken in years. I went on that trip to California with the goal of sharing the gospel with my mother. But, God not only gave me the chance to share the Good News with her, but also with my nephew, sister, and cousin. God’s plans have been reckless and amazing; I trust that He will save my family.
“God has given me purpose in life, whether I’m serving as a re:generation leader, in Kids’ Ministry, or in Frontlines at Watermark. I’m grateful for every opportunity to welcome others into the joy of God’s Kingdom. I feel like I have a second family here at Watermark – a group of people who advise and strengthen me. For the first time, I feel like my life matters.
“When I read the story of Mary, sobbing on the floor with her tears falling on Jesus’ feet, I understand because I’ve felt the same way. I know what I was saved from, and I’m thankful that Jesus’ death on the cross means I am forgiven. I see God’s hand at work daily in my life. I’m thankful for every opportunity to share His story or to serve others. I don’t have it all figured out, but I know this: I cannot live without the Lord, and He’s the only reason why I am the man you see here today.”