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Johel’s Story 

Recently one of our main student leaders shared his testimony at church. We asked him if we could share portions of his story with our supporters, so you could have a glimpse of how powerfully God is working through RU. We want to thank you again for being a part of what God is doing in students’ lives here in Costa Rica. In his own words, this is “Joe’s” Story.


My life is a story of sexual abuse, hatred, a divided home, an identity crisis, several suicide attempts, a double life and morals, a period of agnosticism and atheism (never real, because it was nothing more than anger against God). All this happened even though I grew up in a Christian home, actively attending a church in my community. At 5 years old I was a victim of sexual abuse by someone very close to my family. He told me that if I said anything nobody was going to believe me, and that’s how my nightmare began. I saw him every day, and there came a point where I got used to what I was experiencing. I thought it was normal. Every time he abused me, he repeated phrases like “You looked for it and you deserve it”. Over the years the situation never improved. I was so afraid of him, afraid to tell someone, so I kept it a secret for a long time, 14 years to be exact. At 7 years old, I made the decision to commit suicide, but it did not work. There was a strange voice in my head telling me not to do it.


When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced. I thought, “it was my fault”. I thought they had discovered the abuse and that was why they had separated. I thought that my own problems and my enormous need for protection and love was the reason for their divorce.


My mom went into a very deep depression because of the divorce, so my older sister took care of me for a little over a year. Since both my parents were in depression, this made me more vulnerable to my abuser. He sexually violated me. I was 9 years old, and I did not know how to process all this. I just started to die inside. I became addicted to Pornography, which made life terrible in my adolescence. Many of the images I wanted to eliminate completely from my mind, but even in classes at school I saw them go through my head. I couldn’t concentrate. In my head, heard the voice of the one who tortured me. Any physical contact with someone caused an explosion of anger inside me and all I wanted was to kill him.


The abuse and rape continued during high school, and although I went to church, I did not trust anyone to ask for help.


I started playing guitar because my grandfather loved it. A pastor gave me a guitar and music became my escape. So I joined the worship group at church looking for an experience with God. But I did not believe that God was like the god we were singing about.I was miserable.


Eventually I entered the UCR looking for a new life. In the first humanities course, I met people who are still friends of mine. I remember that among them was a guy named Abraham from a group called Red Universitaria (RU). He invited me to the group and I went. The experience I had was so different! Here were these crazy people who believed in God and they completely accepted me into their group. But still I was so afraid. They managed, without words, to break down everything I thought, all my complaints against God. They lovingly destroyed all the emotional walls I had raised to “protect myself” which were really killing me.


In RU I found a family, people that I loved and who spoke of a Jesus that I had never really heard about before.


Over time I realized that the philosophies of the university did not help me. I wanted to change, but everyone in the university said I had to accept my confused sexual identity as just part of who I am. How could I accept it and not feel bad about everything? They were simply repeating the words “you are looking for it and you deserve it”.


In desperation, I tried to commit suicide again, but a friend from humanities class arrived at the apartment and rang the bell just when I was seconds away from committing suicide! He came in and took me out of there, he took me to his home all weekend. He forbade me to return me to the apartment. He told me to stay with his family. On Sunday, we went to church and wow, it was different! I felt so much love, so much compassion and so much concern for me, in a carefree way. No one had ever made me feel this way. Later, I spoke with the Pastor and I told him everything that was happening. He told me “I can not help you but God can.” With his help I went into psychological treatment for two years.


The psychologist who treated me was also a pastor and that is why she helped me a lot. I managed to connect with God and find people in the RU group who helped me overcome all the chaos in my life. I finally surrendered my life to Jesus.


It has been the best decision of my life. Now that I live for God, I can look back on my past without anger. I have a great relationship with God. I feel love instead of hatred, forgiveness rather than resentment. And most important of all is that I am here, working for RU and trying to give people an experience with God through the same ministry that introduced me to God. It’s a loving and compassionate group. And to know that now I am part of the group of people who support others in their journey towards Jesus is simply wonderful.


Joe jokingly says we won him over to the RU ministry with free cookies and iced coffee. He lovingly refers to RU as his “free therapy sessions” where he feels loved and accepted, where people listen to him without judging him, and where he finds strength and support as he grows in his relationship with Jesus. Recently he had the joy of giving a Bible to a girl who had never opened a Bible in her life. He is now introducing her to the Jesus who changed his life 4 years ago. Praise God!