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I Came to New York City Dead: The Story of Sarah Gonzalez's Redemption

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 28, 2023 3:03 am

I Came to New York City Dead: The Story of Sarah Gonzalez's Redemption

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 28, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, coping with the loss of her father as a child, total rebellion could not stop God from pursuing Sarah Gonzalez—even after spending her time partaking in activities designed to instill hatred towards others. Sarah is here to share her story.

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Here's Sarah Gonzalez. My mother was a school teacher and my father was a prison jail chaplain. And so I grew up going to Cook County Jail with my father. Instead of taking me to school or kindergarten, he would often take me to Cook County Jail with food and Bibles. And I would go to Cook County with food and Bibles. And I just remember locking in with the inmates in their cells and we would have Bible study. And my father would tell me, Sarita, don't forget about your brothers and sisters in Cook County Jail. And I loved to be with my father.

He truly took the role of discipleship seriously. So I had a very joyful childhood. So at the age of six years old, I remember we went on a family vacation to Bermuda. And the last night of our vacation, I got up from the dinner table and I threw my arms around my father and I said, Daddy, sometimes mommy plays these worship songs and they make me miss you. And my mom recalls that there were tears in his eyes and she was thinking, why is Sarah saying she misses him?

He's right here. The next morning, I remember we were getting ready to go to the airport and I opened the door to the bathroom and my father was there and I saw him vomiting blood into the sink. And I recall that's the first time I ever experienced genuine anxiety and confusion because it was so traumatic to see this strong man who wasn't afraid of anyone, very bold, now in this strange, humiliating position, vomiting blood. And so we immediately flew back to Chicago and we went to the hospital and the doctor said, he'll be fine.

It's just scar tissue. But ultimately, he had a cirrhotic liver and hepatitis C from using dirty needles. Although he had been sober since the day he was born again, there was so much damage to his organs. And so he died before we unpacked our suitcases. He internally bled to death. And he died in August of 1996. And I was just starting first grade.

And my teacher, my first grade teacher wrote on my first report card that I had all F's and that I would just stare out the window all day. So I think there was just a profound sense of absence that I didn't really understand. And coupled with now, the household was so, there was such a sense of hopelessness because my mother was wanting to die. She wanted to die and I knew she wanted to die.

And so just a lot of darkness. But now my belief that God is good was challenged. If he is so good, then why did he allow this to happen? And as I began to grow older, even I remember second and third grade, I started to become disdainful that my mother was still a believer. Even in her depression, I would still see her reading her Bible.

She was still fellowshipping with believers in church. And I began to become very bitter because in my mind, how could you continue to serve a God that I perceived had completely abandoned me? As I got older, you know, I continued to entertain these accusations against the character of God.

And oftentimes, you know, as Satan is working in that way in someone's life, he'll send other people to agree with your accusations about the character of God. And so I gravitated towards peers who also were questioning their faith. By eighth grade, I was already experimenting with drugs. I was getting drunk, stealing liquor, selling prescription pills to other kids who didn't know any better. And so then by high school, I was really dysfunctional.

I graduated with a 1.2 GPA. I gravitated towards, you know, my father had been a gang member and had been in and out of prison and I began to gravitate towards people who were in that category. I became very reckless and I did not care about what would come of my life. By college, I was exposed to radical politics and just very anti-Christ ideologies. And I embraced those because all of those ideologies communicated the lie that you can be your own God. And because I felt abandoned by God and because I at that point enjoyed my sin, I continued that way.

When I was in college, I began to explore my roots or what I thought, you know, were roots, were my roots that were worth exploring. My family, some of my family is involved with witchcraft and it was enticing to me because although I rejected Christ, I was still, there was a certain allure to the spiritual realm. And because I had witnessed miracles, I knew that there was spiritual power. And so I slowly began to gravitate towards witchcraft and I would see results.

I would see things happen. And I had a sense, a false sense of control. I had this false sense that I was causing good things to happen in my life because of these rituals. And it became such a major part of my life that I was able to identify my identity. In the year 2016, I experienced several demonic encounters. And the first one that occurred was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

It was horrifying. And I was also with some friends who were involved with witchcraft and the activism that I was involved with. And so I didn't want to call on the name of Jesus, but the demonic encounter became so all encompassing that I began to sing the words, cover me Jesus. And as soon as the name of Jesus came out of my mouth, the demon retreated.

In God's mercy, he still rescued me from that demonic encounter, but I woke up the next day pretending like it never happened. And you're listening to Sarah Gonzalez share her story, which started off, well, she had a happy childhood as she described it. Going to Cook County Jail with her dad, who had a heart, a real heart for prison discipleship because it had saved him. He was a former gang member and heroin addict.

That heroin addiction, it took its toll on his body. And her dad, she watched him vomiting blood in a hotel on a vacation. And soon thereafter her father passed. And that's when her crisis of faith emerged and got mad at God, because why would he allow something like this to happen to her? By the eighth grade, she gravitated towards peers who questioned their faith too. By high school, as she described it, she was totally dysfunctional. And by college, well, she was exposed to radical ideologies and continued down a dark path, ending with witchcraft.

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See website for details. And we continue with our American stories. Let's pick up where we last left off with Sarah Gonzalez. In August of 2016, I flew to New York City with one of my friends who was an activist and my first night, I experienced another demonic attack. And I remember being so exhausted by the weightiness of, of this spiritual wrestling that was taking place.

And I struggled all night. I remember, you know, coming in and out of consciousness. And when I woke up in the morning, I had a text from my mother who was in Chicago and she didn't know all of the things that I was involved in. And in her text, she said, I want you to know that the Lord woke me from a sound sleep.

And I don't know what you're involved in, but there's deliverance in Jesus's name. I called her and she was expecting me to roll my eyes at her and say, you're crazy because, um, we had such a tumultuous relationship because of my hostility. But I called her and I told her I I've been up all night. And she told me that the Lord had woken her up and he gave her Psalm 69, where it says, save me, Oh God, the waters have come up to my neck.

And John 10, 10, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But I came that you may have life abundantly. What I didn't share is that she was awakened from a nightmare where I was murdered.

And the Lord told her, pray for your daughter and gave her those two scriptures. And so I was processing all of this. The fact that I came to New York City for no good reason to do nothing good. And my mother is not even in the same state, but the Lord out of his love alerted her to pray for me. And I began to think about my life up until that point. And although I had many accolades in life and all the right people liked me, I knew that in my darkest, most horrifying moments with these demonic attacks, that none of them could save me, that they could not do a thing for me.

And just witnessing how the name of Jesus had so much power. I believe that the Lord used that to show me his authority because I was so rebellious. I was so rebellious and he used it to show me.

I didn't know anything. I had no authority and it humbled me. He used it to humble me. And most of all, or not most of all, but most touching to me was that he showed me, he had been pursuing me in my rejection of him, in my idolatry, in my mockery of him. It just broke something in me.

As we know, his word says it's his kindness that leads us to repentance. And so as I walked into the hotel room, he just began to whisper these things to me. Sarah, you're not going to be the same. I knew that I would never take a drink of alcohol again. I had cigarettes in my bag.

I threw those out. I knew I would never touch drugs anymore. I knew that this would not just be, I'm going to live a religious life where I go to church, but I'm going to keep on with all the other things.

And I'll just add Christianity to it. The Lord made clear that I came to New York City dead and that he brought me to life and that I existed now to serve him for the rest of my days. And I wanted nothing to do with my former ways of life. I knew that as soon as I got home to Chicago, that I was going to raid my apartment and tear down all the altars, get all the books of divination, the sage, the crystals, and it was going to go in the dumpster. The Lord put that conviction in me.

And for the first time, for the first time, I desired to please him. So when I was born again, I was a high school teacher at the time. And I was teaching in a small alternative social justice high school, couple blocks from Cook County Jail, which is where my father had been a chaplain many years before. And, um, which there were, there was a lot of gang violence right there.

And so during this time, I would end up having four students who were murdered and 12 were shot within four months. But even in that, the surviving young people were starting to ask questions about eternity, about goodness, about how do I live a good life? And for the first time I had an answer for them.

I had an answer that there is a God who saves, that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. And during this time, we experienced an outpouring of miracles because as, as I would sleep and then wake up with scriptures on my mouth, the Lord would whisper to me, pray that every gun used against them jams, pray that the bullets ricochet and that they'll know the truth of Jesus. And then pray that they will be set free. And so I would be walking home from school and they would see me on the street and they'd pull over and I would have the opportunity to pray that prayer.

And they would just look at me like I'm crazy. But then several days later, they would come to me and they would say, Sarah, when we prayed the other day, we went to go do something. And what you prayed happened.

What was that? Many of these young people were incarcerated during this time, they would get arrested. And the Lord began to put on my heart, the desire to minister to them in the jail. And eventually that led to me connecting with Koinonia House Ministries and Manny Mill, who I met in DuPage County Jail while visiting a former student.

And we've had the blessing of merging together. My father established a ministry in Cook County Jail and we recently merged. And so this August for the very first time, I was able to go into Cook County Jail, into the women's service and lead that with my mother.

And so now the Lord has just been shaping my heart for men and women who are incarcerated and the need for discipleship. This year, I received audio and video footage of my father that I had never had access to. And I watched it for the first time. And there's a clip where my father is speaking somewhere at a church and I'm one year old. And he says, you see my beautiful daughter, my little baby, she's not going to grow up with a gun in her purse like my sisters did. She's going to carry a Bible.

And one day she's going to be with us in the prisons and jails and she'll give her own testimony to Jesus. And when I saw that, it just stunned me. And a couple months ago, I was cleaning my closet and I found a drawing that I did in first grade. And at the very top, it says, draw what you want to do when you grow up. And in the drawing, I drew Cook County Jail, I drew a big cross on top of it. And there's a drawing of me in front of it.

And it says in the drawing, be at Cook County Jail with a big heart. And so that was really, you know, the icing on the cake. In Psalm 139, it says every day of our life is written in his book. And so I have the joy of not only walking in the legacy of my father, but seeing how my heavenly father has perfectly orchestrated all of these things for his glory. I had a terrific job on the production, editing, and storytelling by our own Greg Hengler. A special thanks to Sarah Gonzalez for sharing her story, her testimony, and a special thanks also to Don Albert, who was a filmmaker and storyteller and directed our only documentary, The Streets Were My Father. And what a story we heard here, a miraculous story. And on that flight to New York City, her mom had a dream and she dreamed her daughter was murdered. As Sarah put it, the Lord made it clear that I came to New York City dead. I wanted nothing to do with my former life after that. She'd been born again.

This happens to Americans all over this country. That's why we tell this story because they're your stories, folks. And the story of that drawing, my goodness, draw the picture of who you want to be when you grow up. And she was reminded who she was and who she is.

The story of Sarah Gonzalez, a beauty here on Our American Stories. You know what's coming up? Swimsuit season.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-02 00:07:03 / 2023-04-02 00:15:23 / 8

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