Life for most people in Cuba is hard enough, but Jose’s life read like a tragic novel. He contracted meningitis as an 8-month-old infant. His mother died when he was 6. His father abandoned him, placing him in the care of an uncle who treated him like a slave and beat him accordingly. Only his aunt showed him kindness, but that light was all but extinguished beneath the suffocating shadow of his uncle’s cruelty.
Jose was understandably an angry child. At school, he reacted violently to anyone who crossed him. Throwing a chair at a school teacher who disciplined him landed 13-year-old Jose in a juvenile detention center. Short and thin at the time, Jose was often abused by other teens, which fed his already-violent character. By age 17, Jose found himself incarcerated at a maximum security adult prison.
There he earned the nickname “The Cat,” because of his practice of seeking revenge by slashing his enemies across their backs or faces with any sharp object he might obtain, or even use his own fingernails. Jose became the most feared inmate in the prison, by both prisoners and guards. Perhaps that is why he was released at age 19.
Jose didn’t waste any time once out of jail, beginning his criminal career by stealing cows and selling their meat on the black market (as it is illegal for anyone in Cuba to kill even their own cows and sell them).
Jose was quickly caught and returned to the same prison. When a fellow inmate tried to steal his shoes, Jose stabbed him 17 times with a contraband knife.
Amazingly, the man survived. Jose, however, received a 30-year sentence, and he was moved to solitary confinement where he was routinely tranquilized to control his behavior. During a medical checkup sometime later, a doctor shared with Jose that he didn’t need drugs to fix him; rather, he only needed Jesus Christ.
Eventually that doctor’s words sunk in to Jose’s hard heart, and he repented. Change came quickly and others noticed, wanting what he had. Soon he was known as “Pastor” Jose, with several disciples among his former enemies — even the man he’d stabbed for stealing his shoes!
Ten months after his salvation and miraculous change, Jose was released—with no parole—for good behavior.
It was not long after that Jose returned to the prison—but voluntarily—so he could pastor his fledgling flock. He continued to grow in the Lord over the next few years, and he fell in love with a Christian woman named Maria. Maria’s father, a chief of police, knew about Jose’s notorious past, and warned his daughter to avoid him. But convinced that Jose’s heart change—from “The Cat” to a pastor who loves Jesus—was for real, Maria married him in 2014.
Since then, Jose has been given a new monicker that reflects the new man he has become, this time from his new father-in-law: Favorite Son!