By: Joey, Youth-Reach Houston Resident

I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in 2005. At the age of two and a half, I was adopted and went to live in the USA. I did not realize how much God intervened in my life, even at such a young age. I grew up in a God-centered home, with parents who did their best at raising us. My dad tried to make time for my sister and me, but he had to work a lot of overtime. My mom, on the other hand, stayed at home with us. But no matter how much my parents tried; we were always at arm’s length. We loved each other the best we knew how even though there were boundaries. Even before I knew it consciously, I saw that my family was different. I always wondered who I was, where I was from, why I was different.

Being adopted will never be something the world will ever understand. It is a beautiful thing, and yet sadly, many adopted kids treat it as a curse. I am one of them. I started from a young age to close off to my parents because I saw myself as different. Both I and my parents could have tried a lot harder than we did. I was always getting myself into trouble from the beginning, but it was always done in a fun manner. As the years went by, I would start to get into more serious trouble. I started to lie, steal, and manipulate. I started to channel all of my fear and questions into control. I thought that if I got the world to revolve around me, things would be good and safe. I started to hurt my family and numbed myself to my pain. I started to control as much as I could. Little did I know that everything was about to change for the worse.

I was about 13 and was playing the piano for worship at my family’s home church. Over time, my family left due to leadership issues. From my point of view, I was hurt by the adults I looked up to the most. Then, I promised that I would never trust the church again. After this, I spiraled out of control. I turned to porn to help cope with my problems. I grew bitter towards my family and frantically tried to take control of my life, with no success. I closed my parents out by yelling at them and telling them they didn’t care. Of course, we lost trust. I demanded that Mom find me a place to go so I didn’t have to live with them. I had convinced myself that I would do better living in some kind of program. Even as I said the words, I could see the pain in my mom’s eyes.

After a few months, my mom found a place in Houston. It was a Christian boys’ home, called Youth-Reach. I had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity and quickly said yes. After a few months of waiting and interviews, I was accepted. I was a pig-headed, bossy, stuck-up, perfectionist. I was lost, ashamed, etc. I had a distaste for the church and the program was based around the church! I disliked the church because I felt that I had been attacked by the church years ago. At Youth-Reach, I was constantly pursued by the staff about Christ, but they would never push me to talk. I still respected the church and the staff, but I had a really hard time listening to them telling me that God loved me.

For my first year here, I was slowly softening my heart and in February of 2022, I gave my life to Christ for the first time. I can’t explain what I felt or what happened to me. It was just awesome. I still had to work on a lot, but now I wasn’t alone spiritually. As I reflect on this last year, things have been rough. But the staff here at Youth-Reach have always been with me. The staff helped me become more respectful and guided me to understand that the world does not revolve around me. Although I still am learning a lot, I have been allowed to mentor other boys as they are in the beginning stages of Youth-Reach. I honestly don’t know where I would be without staff and God guiding me through this season of my life.