It was a new low for the one they called Lalo. Born Eduardo Gutierrez Del Angel of Pachuca, Mexico, Lalo had already lived more than a dozen years in drunkenness. But this night, as he lay in a rat-infested abandoned building, he awoke from his stupor to find a stray dog trying to eat his eye out. When I heard that awful detail, I couldn’t help but notice the scar under his left eye. Lalo confessed that was one more night when he contemplated suicide.
The deck was stacked against Lalo from the beginning: his parents separated shortly after his birth, and four years later his mother remarried a man who considered Lalo’s light skin and gray-green eyes to be indicative of a curse. So, as a condition of marriage, he insisted that Lalo’s mother “get rid of him.” She dropped him off at his grandparents’ house, and Lalo only saw her occasionally after that. By age 14 when he quit school, Lalo was a smoker and a drinker, just like his alcoholic grandfather.
When Lalo turned 18, he tracked down his birth father whom he had never met. At their first and only meeting, the man who abandoned him as a baby, as well as his mother and older brother, accused him of wanting to meet only to ask for money.
After that rejection, it was all downhill for Lalo. He began living on the streets and in abandoned houses. He didn’t cut his hair or shave. He did whatever work was available just to survive and purchase more alcohol. The only time that his extended family members knew his whereabouts was when the police contacted them after they’d find him lying drunk on the street, or when he was admitted to a hospital for injuries sustained in fights.
It was during yet another one of those alcohol-fueled nights that, during an argument, a drinking buddy split Lalo’s head open with a broken wine bottle, and Lalo awoke in a hospital bed to the voice of his sister-in-law, Esmeralda. She pleaded with him to commit himself to a drug rehabilitation program she knew was helping other addicts. Lalo had already made sincere attempts over the past decade, in drug rehabs and through self-proclaimed folk healers, to escape the chains of alcoholism, but to no avail. He eventually lost hope of finding deliverance. But because Esmeralda was his relative and she was so insistent, he agreed to try one more time.
The rehab that Esmeralda persuaded Lalo to commit to was a Christian community called The Village, started by Jason and Nicole Fitzpatrick, missionary partners with Heaven’s Family. In fact, Esmeralda first came to repentance and faith at a home church that Jason and Nicole had started. Since then she had seen God transform other addicts, and she believed He could do it for Lalo.
When Lalo arrived at the Village, he was overwhelmed by the love he received. Rejected all his life, the defenses around his hard heart began to weaken. He sobered up, heard the gospel, and after a few weeks, repented and believed. As he studied the Bible and joined in corporate worship, he experienced cleansing and healing.
Since then, Lalo strayed from the narrow way on one occasion, and found himself once again drunk and sleeping in an abandoned building. But brothers from the Village searched for him, and with the Lord’s help, found him, and brought him back to the Village. Their love in action melted Lalo’s heart once again, as he realized that Jesus had not given up on him either. From that day, Lalo has remained sober and full of the Spirit, and he continually witnesses on the streets and in the local prisons where he serves with some of the other brothers from the Village. Everyone who knew him from before his new birth is amazed at the transformation of his life. Lalo is truly a trophy of God’s grace, now very “high” on Jesus!