“Life isn’t over for you as long as God hasn’t said His last word. You can still find deliverance. Take courage, don’t give up. Just as God worked in my life when I didn’t want to have anything to do with Him, just as He healed me when I didn’t even really believe in Him anymore, when I was actually against Him—He didn’t look at the multitude of my sins—He will also do it for you.”
I grew up in a dysfunctional family where my father was not very present. He was unfaithful to my mother and, in spite of his careless attitude, was quite strict with us. He didn’t want us to cry, because for him, it was a sign of weakness. He probably had this mindset as a result of his time in the army. Because of all this, I think, I quickly started getting into trouble as early as elementary school—fighting, robberies, armed assaults and so on. As the years went by, it got worse. I started hanging around with a street gang at the age of 14 and officially joined at 15. But this was due to my father’s leaving when I was 13 years old. He left and never came back.
At age 17, I suffered an attempted murder by my rival gang. My rivals attacked me with a machete, hitting my head and stabbing me. My girlfriend at the time was there and pregnant, and lost the baby in the attack. A few years later, my best friend who had introduced me to the gang got killed by his own gang because he didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. Two years later, someone I had initiated was also killed by his own gang; I found myself caught in between, wondering what I was living for and questioning God.
From age 15 to 26, I went back and forth to prison, juvenile prison and then adult prison. I had serious addiction problems with drugs, alcohol, sex and pornography. I spent more than half of this period of my life (age 15 to 26) behind bars. So I would say that the most difficult moments in life were being abandoned by my father, the lack of a male figure, and the death of my two friends and my child.
I had heard about Jesus since I was a child, because my mother was a Christian before I was born. She taught us the Word of God, so I knew who God and Jesus were. I even knew that it was through Jesus that we could be saved, but I didn’t really take this seriously.
During my last three years in the penitentiary, I met a prison missionary and the chaplain of the institution, who is also the pastor of Oasis Église Rive-Sud in Sainte-Julie, Quebec. They became the key elements of my conversion. They preached the gospel to me not only with words but especially with love. I’ve never known a love like this before. Once out, I fell back into my bad habits (alcohol, cocaine, sex, debauchery) because of a love relationship that had gone wrong. However, I still had one foot in the church and the other in the world, which was not necessarily bad in my case. But I knew this had to change.
One day, as I became intensely aware of my emotional, physical and even spiritual state, I cried out to God in my distress without even realizing what I was doing. I simply told Him: “God, I'm really tired of being a slave to all these drugs and other addictions. I am suffocating. If you really are the God I’ve always heard about, then do something.” It was a few days before New Year’s Day in 2016, and on January 1, 2016, Christ broke those chains that held me captive. I gave my life to Him on January 10, 2016, and I was publicly baptized on April 24, 2016. Since then, I haven’t touched alcohol and drugs at all and several serious issues of my life have been resolved.
Jesus showed me that He loves me with all His heart and that He will always be there for me. He restored me and healed many of my wounds from the past. He opened doors that were previously closed and closed others that needed to be closed. I give thanks and glory to God for everything He has done for me to this day.
What I know today, because I have experienced it, is that there is indeed a God who cares about His creation and who wants to become a Father to us—to you. I also know that there are not 36,000 solutions to get out of your problems, but only one, and that is Jesus, because He is the only way, the only truth and the only life. There is also a truth that I can testify to: Jesus will always be there for us no matter what happens, until the end of the world. He wants to take care of us and wants to take us to places where we could never have imagined going, because He wants the best for us. That is what I know and what I can say with confidence. Putting my trust in Christ is the best thing I could do; following Jesus is the best decision I could make.
Let me tell you, as you are reading these lines, if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine when I was far from God, struggling with pornography, alcohol, drugs, sex, and lack of self-confidence, if you do not know who you are, if you feel rejected, abandoned, or betrayed by a loved one, there is a solution for you. Let me tell you again: His name is Jesus. Life isn’t over for you as long as God hasn’t said His last word. You can still find deliverance. Take courage, don’t give up. Just as God worked in my life when I didn’t want to have anything to do with Him, just as He healed me when I didn’t even really believe in Him anymore, when I was actually against Him—He didn’t look at the multitude of my sins—He will also do it for you. I pray this testimony will deeply encourage you and that God will bless you.
Andres Centeno attends GospelVie in Montreal, Qc., where he is active on the worship team, with the youth, in evangelism, and more. He is pursuing a career in acting.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com.