Winning Souls by Any Means Necessary
- Stacy Hawkins Adams Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2007 3 Apr
That’s because he remembers how empty his own life was – until a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
By the time he was 17, Geronimo had faced more trials than he thought he could bear: His biker father abandoned his family during his toddler years; his stepfather murdered his mother when he was 8; he joined a gang at 11 and began selling drugs, and soon he was hooked on heroin and cocaine.
Deciding he had nothing to live for, he strolled through his Anaheim, Calif. neighborhood one afternoon in 1987 and pondered how to kill himself.
Geronimo passed a small church and saw children outside laughing and playing. Something tugged at his heart. Could he, too, find joy within those walls?
He went inside and informed the receptionist that unless he was given a reason to live, he intended to die. That day.
Within minutes, he found himself seated before the pastor, who shared his own journey through pain and pitfalls to Christ. He led Geronimo through the prayer of salvation.
Then that pastor pulled out a picture of the son he hadn’t seen in years. Geronimo looked at the image and stared into his own eyes.
He knew with certainty that there was a God. How else could a father and son be reunited in this fashion?
Within a year, Geronimo had left the gang, quit using drugs and dedicated his life to the ministry.
“It was like God was telling me, ‘I didn’t save you just to keep you from going to hell. There’s more to life for you than that,’” Geronimo, now 37, recently recalled.
Instead of entering the pulpit, he formed a hip-hop and Christian rock band. The group crisscrossed the country to spread the message of God’s saving grace through their music and testimonies.
Geronimo believed he was walking in his purpose.
In 2000, however, God nudged him to leave California and move to Richmond, Va. A suburban congregation there had solicited his support to reach people living in the inner city.
Geronimo relocated with his wife, Samantha, and 18 Christian friends who wanted to help establish this new ministry.
Yet, within days of their arrival, the opportunity to partner with the suburban church unexpectedly fizzled.
Geronimo began asking God if he were supposed to do more in Richmond than simply live there when the band wasn’t on the road.
Answers surfaced a few months later, when the group took a break and he had time to listen.
“God took the scales off my eyes and showed me Richmond,” he said. “I fell in love with it because I learned that my ministry was right here in my backyard. I saw the same problems here that affect people in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, (the method is) to save as many people as you can before Jesus comes back. In Richmond, I saw the potential to really impact the city through Christ.”
Geronimo’s research revealed that there were 801 churches in the Richmond area, and he didn’t feel God leading him to establish No. 802.
Instead, he realized that Richmond needed a resource to help churches work together to win souls for Christ.
The Richmond Outreach Center, also know as The ROC, was established in 2001.
Members of more than two dozen suburban churches began frequenting The ROC, located in one of the city’s most depressed communities, to learn how to do inner-city mission work.
Middle class and wealthy Christians joined with Geronimo and his team from California to canvas public housing communities, motels and dilapidated homes. They shared smiles and kind word with residents, offered them bus rides to Bible study and talked with them about Jesus.
As the one-on-one witnessing bore fruit, many of the newly saved individuals began asking to worship at The ROC. They wanted to fellowship with the believers who had led them to Christ.
To meet that need, a church became part of The ROC’s ministry in 2004.
Clad in a T-shirt and jeans, Geronimo leads the worship service in a gym on Saturday evenings, which allows Christians who partner with The ROC to worship there and also at their churches on Sundays.
It’s not unusual to find suburban soccer moms praying with tattooed bikers or businessmen hugging the homeless.
Geronimo, whose own tattoos serve as reminders of his past, offers the relevant message that God is the great equalizer and loves them all.
About 4,000 people now attend The ROC’s Saturday service, and nearly just as many participate during the week in programs ranging from Bible study and ballroom dancing classes to a private elementary school and food pantry.
Even with a growing congregation and more than 100 ministries, winning new souls for Christ remains Geronimo’s (and The ROC’s) primary mission.
Seven days a week, members and partnering congregations walk through urban streets and knock on doors to share the love of Jesus.
Geronimo often reminds his congregation and other ROC supporters that “Getting saved is not the end, it’s the beginning. You’re saved to serve, not to sit. We’re here for God’s business.”
He considers his life an inspiring example of God’s transforming power.
“It’s almost surreal,” said Geronimo, who still has a relationship with his semi-retired father. “There’s no reason why it should be me. It’s a love that’s hard to comprehend.
“When someone tells me to describe The ROC, I tell them to go to our website and spend an hour. Then go back and remember that God used a 17-year-old, drug-addicted kid from Los Angeles to start this ministry. Then you tell me that God is not real.”
For more information on The ROC and Geronimo Aguilar, visit http://www.richmondoutreachcenter.com/.
Stacy Hawkins Adams is the author of the Christian fiction novels Nothing but the Right Thing and Speak To My Heart. She is also a freelance writer and inspirational columnist. Stacy often speaks to audiences about the blessings that come with authentically living one's faith. She and her husband, Donald, have two children.