Awakened to Life

Adrian Lopez serves on student staff in south San Antonio, Texas, at McCollum High School, a campus that’s 98 percent Hispanic, where he’s been meeting kids and leading them to Christ for the last two years. While Lopez grew up in this part of town, he’s a long way from the life he used to live.
        In January 2009, through a seemingly senseless tragedy, Lopez lost a good friend. At the time, Lopez was a drug dealer; his best friend, Daniel Torres, was an alcoholic. But the tragedy would serve as a catalyst to awaken something inside.
       Today, Lopez and Torres have left drugs and alcohol to serve Christ and His church. And Lopez will tell you the ministry of Young Life used everything wrong in his life to bring him face to face with the One who made it all right.

A death that led to life
Victor Ramirez was 18 years old when he was killed in a drunk driving accident. Two years earlier, Victor had accepted Christ at Lost Canyon, Young Life’s camp in Arizona. Victor and Lopez were close friends.
       “He told me he met Christ at camp,” Lopez recalled. “He was going to church and seemed quite zealous for the Lord. I wasn’t saved at the time so it didn’t mean that much to me. I’d give him rides home — it looked like it was a tough life. I gave him worldly advice. He told me he had to lean on the Lord.”
       Victor’s death had a lasting effect on Lopez. At his funeral, south San Antonio’s area director, Annie Mays, read a letter Victor had written to himself at camp.
       “That was one of the first things that really woke me up,” Lopez said. “I was raised really religious, but this was different. I was selling drugs at the time. My little brother had just [been] busted for selling drugs for me and that crushed me. I realized I was living a sinful lifestyle. I felt like I offended Him with my very breath.”
       So Lopez started attending church and trying to “live a moral life.” One day, he heard someone mention Young Life and that sparked a memory. He decided to find Mays, the girl he knew was somehow connected to Victor’s transformed life.

Willing but not yet able
Soon after, Mays agreed to meet Lopez and Torres. She had been praying for years for male leaders for her mostly Hispanic club, but wasn’t sure these guys were the answer.
       “They told me, ‘We know we’re supposed to love God and spread the Word and this is how we want to do it —we want to do what it was that brought Victor to Jesus,’” she said. “They were knuckleheads, but I knew they loved kids. And I knew they needed to be discipled.”
       Mays knew of a church right next door to McCollum — Mayfield Park Baptist Church. The pastor, Jerry Canupp, had been praying that Mayfield could connect with the high school. He would soon find out Adrian Lopez and Daniel Torres were the answer to his prayers as well.
       “I met Adrian at a club I visited,” Canupp said, “and I developed a relationship with him. He and Daniel spent most of their time in my office asking questions. I’ve seen these guys go from an alcoholic and drug dealer to incredibly capable ministers of the Gospel, especially as it relates to teenagers. They’ve grown very fast in their faith. You wouldn’t even recognize them from the guys I first met. It’s all of the Lord.”
       Lopez said God used all the events of his life to bring him to Christ. “I was introduced to Young Life through death and making wrong decisions. Sometimes you don’t truly understand God and why He does what He does, but I trust that He’s sovereign in everything. I am amazed how God works and uses situations to bring people to Him.”

Coming full circle
Because of the effect Young Life and the church have had on his life, Lopez is passionate about making that connection for the kids he cares about. So now, Mayfield Park and Mays and her staff build relationships in the high school through Young Life, and then bring the teens to church. Mayfield Park opens its doors every week for McCollum kids to have dinner and Campaigners there. These same kids come to Mayfield’s mid-week youth ministry event and to church on Sunday mornings.
       “So often Young Life has been the church for kids,” Canupp said. “Then kids graduate and they don’t have a connection. It’s incredibly important for them to be connected to a church. Adrian and Daniel give both ministries great continuity. I’d hate to think about where we’d be as a church if Young Life hadn’t come in. It’s given our church the chance to see lives transformed.”
       Mays says Lopez and Torres’ presence as strong male leaders, coupled with the open-hearted attitude of the church, has had eternal impact and redeemed the pain of loss.
       “The church has been God’s clear provision to us,” she said. “You can’t afford to think your ministry is going to be enough, especially in a high-risk area. When these kids graduate, most of them are not going to go to a university where they have great college Young Life. More likely they’ll go straight to work or community college and live at home. So if you don’t give them a church body to integrate into, they’re lost.
       “It’s been incredible to see Adrian and Daniel grow as men and usher kids into the body of Christ. They bring kids to church and those kids bring their families.
       “Adrian and Daniel don’t think of themselves as doing ‘Hispanic ministry.’ They just know they’re head over heels for Jesus and kids and doing what they’re called to do.”