“Stepping away from our community group was both the worst and the best decision I ever made. I was disobedient, yet God provided people who were willing to love and pursue me. I didn’t deserve to be loved like that, and those guys stuck with me.”
“Growing up, I never really felt like I was part of a family,” said Luis Caceres. “My mom left El Salvador for the U.S. when I was five years old, and we stayed with her mother. Later, my dad took us in and remarried when I was eight. My stepmother started a spark in my heart to seek the Lord. I’m very thankful for that.
“I moved back and forth between the U.S. and El Salvador as a teenager. After high school graduation, I started drinking, partying, and working for the weekend. Because I knew the Lord, I understood that what I was doing was wrong, and I slowly unplugged from God.
“I met Kaylee (now my wife) at a bar in Dallas. She invited me to go with her to The Porch at Watermark on a Tuesday night, and I ended up loving it. Every story I heard was something I could relate to. God used those messages to give me hope.
“When I found out Kaylee was pregnant after just dating for a couple of weeks, I had so many questions about how I was going to handle the responsibilities of fatherhood and provide for a family. I did not want my child to grow up without a stable home, so we decided to get married and make our relationship work. The day after our wedding, we joined a Foundation Group, which is a Watermark community group for couples married three years or less.
“Our marriage was not easy, and there were times that my heart was very cold toward both Kaylee and the Lord. As I got to know the guys in my Foundation Group, I began to see that we were all facing the same challenges, no matter how long the couple had known each other before they married. There were couples in our group who had followed Christ all their lives and they still struggled with conflict, selfishness, and temptation. Their faithfulness encouraged me that our marriage could make it.
“Then Kaylee and I stepped away from our Watermark community when we moved to Frisco (this was before Watermark had a Frisco campus). We stopped serving and interacting with our group and became very isolated. I thought we had our marriage under control on our own, but in reality, I had stopped investing in our relationship, and our marriage suffered.
“Even when I stepped away from our group, God put guys in front of me who loved and cared for me. They spoke truth when I didn’t want to hear it, and they were willing to widen the circle and bring in others to give me guidance when I would not listen. Stepping away from our community group was both the worst and the best decision I ever made. I was disobedient, yet God provided people who were willing to love and pursue me. I didn’t deserve to be loved like that, and those guys stuck with me.
“I was resistant to the love that my community group had to offer. I remember a guy in the group telling me how much he loved and cared for me. I can’t recall another man telling me he loved me before, and his words really touched my heart. His example was a reminder both of God’s love for me and that I needed to tell my son how much I loved him. That’s just one example of how God used my community group to soften my heart and move me into a fully devoted relationship with Him. The more love I experienced from God’s hand, the easier it became to see myself as the father I needed to be.
“Eventually we got back into a community group, and Kaylee and I went to re|engage, Watermark’s ministry for married couples. We heard so many stories of renewed and transformed marriages, and that made us both hopeful for what God could do in our lives. I learned to draw a circle around myself and work on the person inside the circle, rather than on Kaylee. I also learned how to fully commit my heart to Christ and began growing in the Lord. Marriage was still difficult at times, but I had hope that if we were both committed to Christ, our story would be different from my broken family.
“Today, my family’s priorities are different because of Jesus. Our goal is not to seek comfort and security for ourselves or our kids. Our focus is the pursuit of godliness, which is not always comfortable or easy. But God has given us peace and joy, whether we are comfortable or if we are in a season of adversity. God created us to experience much more joy in Him than in the things of this world.
“Looking back, I missed out on so many years that I could have used to make an impact for Jesus. I used to feel ashamed of the choices I made, and the enemy used that to keep me out of the light. But, when I learned more about Christ’s free gift of grace and that in Him, I was truly forgiven, those chains were broken. I could finally see myself as a leader, a father, and a member of a body like the one here at Watermark.”