On This Rock

I am 8 of 11 children. The smallest in Puerto Rico is my favorite brother. We call him ‘Little Tears’ because everything we do makes him cry. We have two younger brothers in Puerto Rico.

I’ve been at Genesis Church for fifty years. The people mortgaged their own houses to build the church. I was in my twenties. Before it was a different church. It looked like a house. Then they added the chapel. There were a lot of young people. Mr. Kiilehua and Mr. Barnum were in charge. They were faithful members who took care of the kids. They always had programs. They were so nice they took the young people to their house and had parties. My son, 48 now, still remembers. He says, “Mama I remember how they opened their arms. We went swimming. We went camping.”

It’s a new generation now. And I think it’s going to go the right way. Our pastor is good. He gives love to everybody. My happiest moment is when the church surprised me for my birthday. The other day at the Thanksgiving event there was something I couldn’t explain. It made me feel good when people were united to help each other.

Church is a place of peace, a place where God is, a place where we are united with brothers in Christ. It’s different than home. Here we have peace. I feel like I’m in heaven. I have no worries when I’m around here.

We watched the entire season of the Galaxy games when MLS first started at the Rose Bowl. I was with my dad and my friend’s dad and brother and sister. My mom didn’t always come out. It was 1993, when I was 10.

That fourth of July I remember fireworks and driving down Pasadena with gigantic houses that looked like office buildings. We were always together, my friend and his dad, even now. They’re the kind of people you can just walk into their house. You don’t have to knock.

Back then we’d get to the soccer games early. We’d play in the parking lot where there was dead grass outside the stadium. We’d park. There was enough space to set up cones. Random people, random kids would join in. One of my dad’s hobbies was refereeing the game. Then we’d go watch the games and then we’d play more soccer so we didn’t have to wait in traffic to leave.

There was one time when we weren’t able to go. It was Sunday and my dad had to work. Then my friend’s dad came by and took us. We didn’t have a lot of money, so it was nice for us to be able to go.

Playing the guitar for me now is expressing. My emotions come out. When I play Christian songs, it’s not about how I play the guitar or sing. I don’t sing to the audience. I take it as my communication to God. I think of it like prayer. When I’m playing a song, I think, “This song is for Him.” If it speaks to someone else, that’s not my priority. I’m a perfectionist, but when I play Christian songs, I don’t strive to be perfect, or play to how I practice the song to be. I go with what I feel.

Meeting Michelle was a happy moment. We were friends for a while. She was deep into Genesis Church. The women I grew up with were busy with church work — my mom was a primary school teacher; my sister sang in church. A lot of that I saw in Michelle when she was working at Genesis. To me she almost glowed. I was like, that girl is pretty awesome. From there, things started marinating. I said to myself, I think I can do this. It was cool. For me it was feeling like I could just stick my neck out and go all out.

My mom is my happiest moment. Moms are the best.

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”