Jose Cruz stands in the pulpit today proclaiming the power of the gospel, but his path to there was a crooked one. Born Roman Catholic, he first met a soul winner on a bus when he was in junior high school.
A young man came down the bus isle handing out tracts and sat beside Jose. When he started talking about God, Jose turned him off. Then he changed the subject: "Do you collect comics?" he asked. Jose said yes and was handed half a dozen Chick tracts. He quickly stuffed them in his pocket so his friends would not notice and proceeded to ignore his seat mate. When he got home he argued with his mom and got sent to his room.
Remembering the comics in his pocket he pulled out one (This Was Your Life) and began to read it. Part way through, he began to cry. He saw it was wrong to argue with his mom. "At the end of the tract was the plan of salvation and I realized I was a sinner. I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart," Jose recalls. "For a couple of weeks I was really excited about it. I told my mom and she thought I was crazy."
He continued attending Catholic church with his family but got no spiritual food there. One day, at a birthday party, he became disgusted watching an intoxicated priest stumbling through a dance. "I remember shaking my fist at the sky and saying, 'If this is Christianity, I don't want any part of it!'" Jose recalls.
"Then I became what I despised." Jose took a 10-year detour into drugs and alcohol. One failed marriage and three children later, he would wake up in the morning after a party not knowing how he got into someone else's back yard with a beer can in his hand. He tried to repair his family and got a part time job. His sister had had a bad experience in a church and was going to throw away her Bible. He took it and carried it to work in his lunch box. He boldly took it out at lunch and began to read.
A foreman, Gary Anderson, came up and said, "Jose, are you a Christian?" "I'm trying to be," he replied. "I still had the Catholic thing," Jose remembers. "If you died right now, are you 100% sure you would go to heaven?" Gary asked. "I told him no, I'd probably go to hell for all the bad things I had done."
Jose agreed to go to church that night with Gary if he would give him a ride. Again the gospel gripped Jose's heart and he rededicated his life the Christ. After he was baptized, he went to visit the bookstore which the church had in the basement. There was a rack of Chick tracts with a copy of This Was Your Life. "It was an emotional experience for me," he remembers.
At first his wife would not go to church with him because of her Catholicism. He patiently took the children to every service and finally she agreed to visit during a revival meeting. She was saved and their marriage restored. Now they minister as a family, singing together and sometimes his sons even help him preach. He says they are booked for meetings into 1999. One of his greatest joys is to preach in a church that uses Chick tracts and to have someone come up to him after he has shared his testimony and say, "I was saved with the same tract."