When I was a little boy, I wondered what life would have in store for me. In elementary school, starting from Kindergarten, I was that one kid that was bullied a lot. For example, I was called a “faggot”, “punk”, “antiman”, and a “gay boy” because of how I walked, talked, and smiled. I didn’t know who to turn to because I was tempted and driven by evil to commit suicide, like Eve in the Bible who ate the forbidden fruit.
Around the age of 9, my father abandoned my family and me. Some years later, I went to Philadelphia to see my father and to get answers as to why he abandoned me; he didn’t give me an answer but acted like nothing ever happened.
As I was looking for hope, I found out about the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Program while in junior high school. I wanted to be in the program because of all the opportunities it offered me – that’s where I met my teacher, Mrs. Nancy Graham.
My AVID teacher noticed that I needed help with social interactions and recommended, to my mom, that I join the Pathfinder Club. Although my mom had not heard of this program before, she was willing for me to join the club in order to help me become a better person. “Pathfinders” was a great experience and that’s where I met the other Mrs. Graham (Verne), who was the Pathfinder Director. I loved how we interacted with the community. I learned about God and what He has done for us. Congressoree was a scary and fun experience. I had the opportunity to attend Congressoree in St. Thomas and Tortola.
Soon, it was time for me to go to high school. At Central High School I joined different clubs and activities which began to take up my time so I started to attend “Pathfinders” less. Finally, I dropped out of “Pathfinders” just before entering the last class, the Guide Class.
Then on a Saturday afternoon in March of 2017, I noticed church people gathering in my community – they said it was Global Youth Day. What really caught my attention was a large group of young people playing drums and having a good time. In the area I also spotted my former teacher, Mrs. Graham. I decided to call out to her – she was happy to see me. I immediately told her that I was interested in joining the drum corps. She told me I needed to start coming back to church. Since I was already sixteen, I was no longer in the Pathfinder age group but could join the Adventist Youth (AY) group. Mrs. Graham gave me her number and I promised to call her – weeks went by and I did not. Later, we reconnected and exchanged contact information again. Since she had my number, Mrs. Graham was able to call me. She involved me in various church activities. During the summer, she introduced me to the drum corps leaders and members and I started attending practice. At first, each practice session I attended was scary because I didn’t know many of the people there and I really couldn’t play drums. Although I have yet to learn how to play the drums, I enjoy being part of the group playing cymbals.
As I re-connected with the church, I developed a Saturday schedule which began with a 10:00 a.m. pick-up for church. I had lunch with my adopted church family, then returned to church for AY meeting which was followed by drum corps practice. Still, I was haunted by many challenges at home, school and from my past.
The drum corps leaders have been friendly and have provided me with encouragement. They have been a great source of motivation and hope, even when things got very hard and dark for me: Director Jahdel Jules helps me with my character development; Section Leader Abigail Romain has been there, building my confidence; and, Assistant Director Sylvester Joseph always provides encouragement.
As I got more involved with drum corps, I also got closer to God and more active at church. At the Spring 2018 Revival, I became even more interested in God. Pastor Earl Daniel enlightened me with words from the Bible. I spoke to the Lord and my family about my decision to be baptized. My mom told me that she doesn’t believe in baptism but I am of age and I can make my own decision. I figured that being baptized would help me to be closer to God and give me relief from many of my problems. I made the decision to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church.
At church, I am now called Brother Rodriguez. I am very involved and happy to serve when asked. Currently, my Sabbath schedule starts much earlier. I have Friday evening worship with my adopted family. On Sabbath morning, I leave home at 8:30 a.m., to get to Sabbath School by 9:00 a.m. I have Sabbath lunch and fellowship and I return to church at 3:30 p.m., for choir practice – I remain for AY meeting and end my day with the drum corps.
I want to thank the leaders and members of the drum corps for making me feel special and a part of the group. I also want to thank the members of the Christiansted SDA Church family, my teacher Mrs. Nancy Graham and my adopted Lansiquot family.
At the end of the day I got saved and it’s the best decision that I made with the Lord, which is all that matters.