My Story: Why This Week Matters
Updated: Apr 13
Yesterday, I heard an intriguing message from my pastor Dr. Jeff Warren, Senior Pastor, Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. He said we only have one story to tell. The story of Jesus who gave his life on a cross so we might live forgiven, healed, and purposeful lives. He quoted “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.
My parents, originally from South Texas, moved to the Rialto-San Bernardino, California, area in 1960. After attending a Spanish-speaking mission, my dad decided to visit a new church. He took us to Memorial Baptist Church in Rialto, California. My first pastor was Rev. Leonard Roten whose family we came to love. Our next pastor was Reverend Bill Thornton. For many Sundays, I sat under the teaching of Pastor Thornton. He and his wife, Alta, befriended our family just like the Thornton family. They accepted us as part of the Memorial fellowship. Both my parents served as volunteers in the church.
Rev. Leondard Roten
Rev. Bill and Alta Thornton
One Sunday, Pastor Thornton spoke about the story of Jesus, about his love and sacrifice on a cross for us. I went home that day and asked my parents to explain more about this message. As a 9-year-old boy, I wanted to be sure I was forgiven too. I knew I had disobeyed and done things that I was not proud of. I knew I had sins but did not know what to do with them. Pastor Thornton offered a solution. My parents explained Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and showed me how to pray to ask for forgiveness and how to become a disciple of Jesus. That next Sunday I walked forward during the invitation at the end of the service to tell Pastor Thornton about my response to Jesus. A year later Pastor Thornton baptized me at the age of 10. For the past 52 years, I have continued to do my best to live in honor of Jesus’ death on the cross, to be a Christ-honoring husband and father. My first pastor when we returned to Corpus Christi, Texas, was Dr. Rudy Hernandez, at Primera Iglesia Bautista. By age 15, I responded to an invitation at the end of a worship service given by Dr. Rudy Sanchez, Senior Pastor at the First Mexican Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, Texas. I went forward and told Dr. Sanchez I was responding to a call to preach the gospel, the good news, and to serve the Lord the rest of my life. The following year at age 16, Dr. Sanchez arranged for me preach for the first time. It’s been 46 years since that day, a day I fondly recall with no regrets.
Dr. Rudy Hernandez
Dr. Rudy Sanchez
This Palm Sunday and journey into Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, reminds me of the Jesus story that changed my life, totally. My story connects with His-story through faithful servants like Rev. Leonard Roten, Rev. Bill Thornton, Dr. Rudy Hernandez, Dr. Rudy Sanchez, and many pastors, youth workers, mentors, Bible teachers, and professors along the way. I have found ways to serve as a pastor, chaplain, seminary-university president, and currently as president and CEO of Buckner International. At Buckner our mission is “to follow the example of Jesus by serving vulnerable children, families, and seniors.” Jesus is the author of my story, and as such, the authority over my life and ministry. This is my story.