CHANGE COMES IN SEASONS
(The Eli Garza Story)
Jesus Did It!
By: Eli Garza
Greetings in Jesus' holy name! Let
me open this story with why I am back in prison.
I was released from prison in May of 2001. I started going to church and was doing quite well. I believed God wanted my family and I together again. But my ex-wife had a male friend she claimed to be in love with. After a few months she came looking for me. I believed it was God's timing for us to be together again. So I moved in with her. But I soon realized it was a big mistake because I had 'rushed' into this relationship. We have four children and we all became miserable due to my heroin addiction. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the God of the impossible. So this is why I guess we tried once more.
The needle had its way again. I had one eye on God and the other one on what I wanted to do. I violated parole and was returned to prison for being in possession of two needles. So now I am serving a 12 month flop. However, the best thing that has happened is that God has brought me to a higher level with Himself and another dimension. His presence is so close to me.
Now let me go back to my childhood. As I look back over my life I can see God's hand of providence. Between the ages of seven to eleven I always had something inside of me that was pulling in the direction of wanting to protect others.
At this time my mother had a live-in boyfriend. I never did like him and He knew it. I became the object of his wrath - he was abusive. He would strike me with his fist, in the head, each time I did something that displeased him. The abuse continued. I have been hung by my neck with a wire hanger. He would unwind the hanger and wrap it around my neck. Then with the rest of the wire he would tie it to the highest hinge on the back of the door while making me stand on a milk crate. I would stay like that for hours and hours. I was afraid to try and escape for fear that something worse might happen. Many other incidents occurred as time passed. I would be beaten with cords, shoes, and whatever else could be used.
As time passed, the abuse got even worse. One time my brother and myself were tied by our wrists, stripped naked, and taken to be hung on the rafters in the basement. He would then beat us with an extension cord and leave us there. However, one time our Indian friends came looking for us. They looked in the basement window and saw us hanging there. They broke in, got us free, and got our clothes for us. Mother never knew. She was now on her deathbed. She passed of cancer.
At the age of eleven or twelve the abuse ended. However, before mother died she had us enrolled in a Catholic school. Sister Mary seemed to recognize that something was not right with me. All I remember about her is that she showed me love and affection; something I did not receive at home. As the oldest I did not get any attention, only rejection. Now I understand Mom had too many children. So that is why I was put to the side. I felt unwanted, unloved, and ice cold. All my life I did not understand why I was different. Now I realize I was emotionally scarred and dead.
I grew up with a cold heart. I thought I was not worth being loved. I was told that I would be no good and would end up in prison like my real dad. I never knew him. My relatives told me I was worthless, so I thought of them being older, that they knew, so I set out to be what they said I would be. I would spend my time with other kids in the streets drinking, fighting, and smoking weed. But remember sister Mary from grade school? One day she asked me if I wanted to play a role in some play she had put together. I told her I would like to be involved in the play. Remember...I thought I was unloved, so when she asked me, I felt something I had never felt before. It was like love and kindness overwhelmed my heart. It felt good being a part of something.
The role she had me play was that
of an injured man who was bandaged from head, arms, and legs. I had a bandage
wrapped around my head. My arm was in a sling, and I had a crutch for my broken
leg. Why did she do this? Did she see what was happening in my life. I wondered
what she was thinking. Maybe she saw that I was going to live a very hard and
broken life. Well, as you can now see, I have had a broken life. I had no parents
to look after me so I became a ward of the state. I was placed in what is called
a prison for young boys (B.T.S - Boys Training School). I was there because I
had no place to live. The majority of the other boys were there for serious
crimes like murder and selling dope, etc. So not knowing about this life, I had
to learn fast or become a punk.
I have never been a big guy so I had to learn how to protect myself. And I might say I learned how to be a good fighter. I would help and protect other kids that came in because the new guys always got picked on. So I started forming my own gang. Although being small and short, I was still tough. and soon became a leader. I would start fights, riots, and breakouts. Others would do what I told them. One time another prisoner and myself broke out and got away. He told me to steal a car, but I told him I could not drive. So we walked and the police gave chase. They immediately caught him. It was cold outside. They did not see me, but afraid of being left alone in the cold, I yelled at them and turned myself in. I ended up in the hole. It was a dark cell with a cement slab to sleep on. I had no blankets, no clothes, no light. The toilet was a hole in the floor.
After many days I was put back in my cellblock. Everybody was happy that I was back. Sister Mary would come visit me. One day she brought me this song called 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'. The song made me cry. I couldn't understand why I cried. In there, if you cry and others see, they tell the other prisoners - then they call you weak and laugh at you. One is not supposed to show any real feelings. It is a sign of weakness. At that time I believed that lie.
Between the ages of about 13 to 15, I spent time at a halfway house in Muskegon, Michigan. This was the first time I was given some heroin. I shot it in my veins. I liked the feeling so I did it a few more times but then I left it alone. I returned to the streets of Detroit where I was born and raised.
Between the ages of 17 and 19, drinking and drugs became a big part of my life. I was out of the halfway house. I lost contact with Sister Mary. (Now here again looking back over my life.) While in boys training school, a couple of the staff would ask if I wanted to go home with them for a fun weekend. This happened a few times with different staff members. So again, these people saw something different in me. Perhaps they saw I liked to help others. Again I see God's hand clearly now that I am older. I did act bad but inside I was very uncomfortable. It was like I had to put on wolves clothing (a tough mask) but all the time I was a sheep on the inside.
One time, someone threw a green Gideon Bible in my cell. I tried to see who it was but I couldn't. I tried to read it but did not understand it so I threw it against the wall and did not pick it up again. I had always heard of a God but I felt He would not want anyone like myself. I prayed but did not think I was being heard. I never held a job for more than a couple of months. It was like I was always under a dark cloud. My life was meaningless. I had no hope. Some people had low self-esteem. However, I had NO self-esteem. My low was under the dirt. I felt and thought I was nothing and never to be loved. But that is a lie. By this time in my life I had been in and out of jails and prisons many times.
Between the ages of 25 and 26, I met Isabel. She seemed to really like me. But I never knew love and I planned on putting her to work in the streets as a prostitute. But she would not do this. We stayed together. She later had my daughter Elizabeth, then Simone, and then Eli my son. By this time I had fallen in love with her. However, I was still using drugs and committing crimes.
I started going to a drug treatment center. There I began to hear of a higher power and it seemed that these crazy drug addicts and drunks really believed what they were saying. They looked good and most importantly they were not using any drugs. I got some real hope. I began to believe these changes could happen in me too. I continued to go to these meetings and remained clean, and even went to church again. My family and I prayed and read the Bible again. We would go to the Salvation Army church in Wyandotte, Michigan.
We had a new hope. Throughout our relationship I was very abusive to Isabel. How she ever put up with me I cannot tell you. I thank God for placing her in my life. She deserves the very best. I truly mean that. She is a good woman. She needs to know that God loves her and our family. That is my prayer for her...God's very best.
In 1991 Isabel had our last child, Carmen. I was working, going to church and things looked good. But I still wasn't sure if God was really real. So I backslid. I went back on dope and being with many other women. I would work sometimes, but it was mostly crime and women that got money for our drugs. My family life had crumbled. Back to prison I went. For many years the worse prison was in my mind. I ended up in Marion State Prison (Ohio) for safe cracking.
Once in prison I began to
really study the Word of God. Now
prisoners are asking me to pray for them and their families. One time I was
reading a story of how God had changed some peoples' lives. All I could do was
cry and cry. I thought to myself... what is wrong with me. Why can't I
change? After years in Ohio I returned to Michigan. I still had to serve time in Jackson Prison.
One time while in prayer, inside my cell, this ice cold feeling came over my body, but inside my body I had a warm feeling. It was like a thermometer. This ice cold feeling would go up and down my body but inside I felt a warm feeling. I didn't know what was happening. Now I know it was evil and good fighting over my soul. Now I praise God because I can see that I really know Christ as Lord of my life. This is how I see it. I am worth being loved. Because God loves me; I can now return it to others.
Isabel and myself are no longer together. But God used her to show me real love. I still pray for her and our children. When I am free I will see my children. That is how God got my attention.
Today I pray, which means to talk to God. I meditate on His precious Word (the Holy Bible). He speaks to me through His Word, other people, and in my mind I receive revelations. I feel His constant joy in my heart. He tells me not to lean on my own understanding but to lean on Him, trust Him and He will direct my steps. I tell you...I have never been so full of joy than now! I am confident of His love for my life. Just the other day I asked God for a pair of shoes. The ones I was wearing were in real bad shape. They caused blisters and hurt my feet alot. Not five minutes after this prayer I went out to the prison yard and a guy came up to me and asked what size shoes did I wear. So I told him. He in turn said, 'I have a pair that don't fit.' So he brought them to me. These are the shoes I am wearing right now in the picture you see above. Again, that is God showing me that He cares for even my shoes and for the small things. He who is faithful in small things can be trusted with all things.
I think of those that were in the desert for forty years and how God caused their sandals not to wear out. Abba Father(Daddy God), provided for Elijah with meat and drink while in the desert. He sent the ravens to feed him. I share this because it is impossible to please God without faith. For he who seeks God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently (Heb.11:6). I hope you can see how God has brought me from darkness into His marvelous light. Now I am known as a godly man. Here in prison I can't go too long without talking to God. I have become dependent on Him. Many prisoners call on me to pray for them. There are others who trust me enough to open up and talk to me about some very personal things that they have never shared with anyone. Most of the time they just want a listening ear. Then there are those who just want to talk. You could say that they can tell that I came up very cold and hard. But they also see that I am not like the rest of the convicts. I am different. But I am tough at the same time. They know that I know all the tricks and con games.
Many have told me that my face shines. This tells me that Christ richly lives inside of me. The devil is always trying to tell me that all of this is just a lie. Because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, I know whose I am. I know I have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of my life. Today I know how serious God is. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and I receive His guidance. Today I have a very strong desire for the things of God. I study to show myself approved. I not only hear the Word, but I am a doer of the Word (James 1:22). Today I minister the good news to those He brings along my path. The eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah did not understand, so Phillip taught him. Then he understood.
In my drug usage I have overdosed many times. I will share two incidents. I was at a McDonald's restaurant. I went inside the restroom and shot some dope. I came out and passed out under a table. My arms folded like I was dead in a casket. The police and E.M.S were called. As they stood over my body I could see them. It was like an out of body experience. I could see myself on the ground and them looking at me. The moment they reached down to examine me I entered my body again. But before they could touch me the Holy Spirit stood me right up! They immediately asked what had happened. I, in turn said, "What are you talking about?" They told me I must have had a seizure. I told them nothing had happened. I told them I didn't want to go to the hospital. So they asked me to sign a form releasing them from any responsibility. I got in my car, went around the block, and thought about what had happened. I realized I had died and God had brought me back to life. Oh...but I was not ready to give up.
Another time I drank some Methadone and then shot some heroin. I was about 1/2 mile from my home when I fell asleep behind the wheel. God sure looked out for me once again. I crossed lanes into oncoming traffic and drove into a ditch. The car rolled once and as it rolled I got thrown out of the car window. It was like an angel stopped the car from falling on me. The car landed so close to me that I could turn my head and touch the door of the car with my nose! Tell me there is not a God! I was taken to the hospital and they could not believe I had not broken any bones. There was nothing wrong with me. So home I went. I laid in bed for a month. My body was wreaked with pain on the inside, but that month of rest healed me.
However, I was still not ready to surrender to His holy call. Another time I was beaten to the point of death. I knew that one more blow to my head would have killed me. But in a strange loud voice I cried out, "That's it. Enough!" They stopped. I walked away with blood all over my face and head. (A bad dope deal) Once again He saved me.
As I have taken a stroll through my mind it has become clear why and how my life began. This last prison term has been a time of reflection and healing. Along with this comes growth and change, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Now I am on a path to lasting change. Prison has become a monastery. A theology college. This is where God has taught me about Himself and has caused me to look deep within myself. Without all that I have experienced in my life, good and bad, it would have been impossible for me to be changed. Furthermore, I am very grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ for His pure love. No longer am I the victim but because of Him I am now victorious and a man of valor. (1 Sam.16:18) Dunamis power! His explosive power which is the Holy Spirit within me... I am looking forward to hearing from those the Spirit leads in my direction. As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. Today while I await my release, I minister to many. I stay in good physical shape by exercising and jogging.
The Lord willing, I will be released on August 2, 2003. By sharing this testimony I see God interacting with me. For me change has come in seasons, and I might add it has been very difficult. Moreover, I welcome this new life.
If you should be stuck in this mud life, there is One, who really can help. If you, like me, have tried everything from dope to drinking, to crime, to sex and many other things - then I plead with you to try Him who is able to do abundantly more than you can think or even imagine. Today I am high on Jesus... all the time! Don't get me wrong I do have lows but they are not so low that I cannot deal with it. Praise His holy name! Why don't you give yourself a break and give Him a chance. Try Jesus. He won't disappoint you. Your life will never be the same. Take it from a real one...one who has done it all.
Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I am truly free even here in this prison. I have been prepared by Him, way in advance, for the purpose of sharing this testimony. It is for His glory and honor. You are welcomed to write to me if you would like to ask any questions or to just have some fellowship.
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