This photo reminds me of Jesus looking straight into my soul (& it hangs at ICC)

When I went on the #CreekwoodDR trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic I knew I would be moved spiritually. How exactly I was sure, but I knew something would stir me. The way I got moved though COMPLETELY caught me off guard. So let's set this story up ;)

On Fri of our trip we went to Iglesia Comunitaria Cristiana aka ICC to tour the Gym & then serve the homeless. When we came back it was lunch time so we got prepared to serve. Before serving lunch Jim, a member of our team, was asked to give his testimony (which I had not heard before). Right before he started speaking I noticed a young man sitting at one of tables kind of aloof. I had no idea why this man looked so familiar to me, but even as Jim talked I kept staring at him like I knew him. AND SO THANKFUL I HAD MY SUNGLASSES ON SO ONE I DID NOT LOOK LIKE I WAS STARING AND TWO BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. As Jim kept talking I started to cry out of control (and for all of you that have not heard Jim's testimony it is seriously amazing). Jim was talking about being an ex-drug addict and how his mom continously prayed for him daily to come clean and closer to God. And that is the moment I realized I was looking at the carbon copy of my younger brother Aaron.

East Coast Family Vacation with the cousins

My brother Aaron came into my family at the age of 8 years old. Not only was he born into a drug family but he is also of Dominican descent. Now I did not put two and two together about Aaron and this young man because quite honestly I forgot and never looked at my brother as someone with a different skin color/another race. He was our brother period. Aaron was on of the most gifted kids I ever knew. Good looking, athletic, and amazing cunning. As he entered into his senior year he fell into the wrong crowd. And slowly but surely started smoking pot. I was actually the one to find joints he had hidden (I suspected things since he was starting to always act differently) and told him I would not tell our parents if he stopped smoking pot, but that did not happen. I know he was pist at me for telling on him but I had too.

This pic was taken during my Junior year. Cheri, Aaron, Brandy, & Kim were all in 8th Grade.

Aaron ended up going off the deep end into drugs for a few years, but a miracle happened one day and he got clean. He ended up enlisting into the Navy and was on a Naval ship for 6 months. We wrote actual letters (crazy thinking about that with all of our technology now) back and forth the entire time and then he went silent. Come to find out he had come home to LB to see my mom/stepdad and ran into the "old" friends and ended up going AWOL. A few years later he was arrested for stalking someone for a 3rd time. In California there is the 3 Strikes law which on the 3rd arrest you have to go to jail. By this time Aaron was diagnosed as a Schizophrenic and to stand trial he needed to be clean & sober BUT for Aaron to be sane he needed to be on drugs. As a result of this lovely loophole he served 7 years in the DWTN LA jail. Finally he was released since he served longer then the sentence would have been.

This photo was taken at my Mom & Stepdad's 25th Wedding Anniversary party

My brother since then has been living in a half way house that is funded by the government. And at some points over the past 15 years he has been homeless. In the Dominican Republic the government doesn't give assistance to the homeless which was another reason all this shook me to the core. But the worst part of the whole situation was realizing how numb I had become to him. I have never been ashamed of him, but my brother after an hour of talking to him goes into seriously crazy talk. And hearing Jim talk about his mom never giving up hope reminded me of how amazing my mom & stepdad have been. My stepdad picks him up every holiday so we can see him or just to take him to lunch. And both pray daily. Why had I stopped praying for him then? I know I can't save him, but why wasn't I looking at opportunities in Long Beach to tell my parents about so in case he asked they knew. It was all so overwelming.

This is a horrible picture of the man in DR, but the man in the blue was who I saw that resembled my brother

God definitely shows us things when we need to see it, even if we aren't prepared. Can I save my brother? NO. Only God can do that. But I can pray... Never give up. God is in Control. God is Good. We just need to believe & have faith.

Me & Aaron at my Grandmother's funeral in 2010

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