My Christian Testimony
I grew up in Bell, California which is a suburb of Los Angeles. My father grew up in Havana, Cuba with some catholic influences. My grandparents made their way to America when he was 9 years old, along with my aunt and uncle. My mom who is Navajo Native American grew up in Southern California in a Mormon home with three sisters. My parents met in high school, got married, and had my two older sisters, Alexis and Cecily, and then my twin brother Manuel and I.
I went to a private catholic school from kindergarten to the twelfth grade mainly because the public schools in my neighborhood were overcrowded and weren’t really known for their academics. My parents felt that my siblings and I would receive better education while attending a private school (which I am so thankful for). As a family, we never devoted ourselves to a particular religion, and my siblings and I only attended church during school time. I clearly remember being in the 2nd grade and I couldn’t participate in the Catholic Church sacrament of “First Communion” with the rest of my classmates. I felt left out, and the reason why I couldn’t participate was because I wasn’t baptized. I felt alone and didn’t understand why I wasn’t baptize as a baby. It is important to know that families growing up in a Catholic home will baptize their children as infants, but for some reason, my brother and I were never baptized. See in the Catholic Church there are 7 sacraments that should be performed in a certain order; Baptism, First Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, & Anointing of the Sick. Since I was not baptized, I was unable to receive some of the sacraments of the Catholic Church with the rest of my classmates.
While attending private catholic school, I would attend weekly liturgy with the whole school during class time. During the liturgy (church service), there would be a time where members of the church would form a line to receive the Holy Communion from the priest in front of the church. I would also get in line, but when I would stand in front of the priest, I would have to cross my arms. By crossing my arms, it let the priest know that I was unable to receive the sacrament and instead the priest would “bless” me. My classmates would always ask me why I couldn’t receive the communion and I would tell them I wasn’t baptized. When I was in middle school, my classmates would instantly give me a face of shock and they would sometimes tell me that I was on my way to hell. Every time someone told me this, deep down I knew this wasn't the real reason.
Attending the Catholic Church services, it felt very repetitive to me. And even though gospel scriptures were often read, it was never clear enough for me to understand. Even when I was told I had to confess my sins to a priest, I always felt uncomfortable doing so and I always wondered why I couldn’t just tell God my sins for myself instead of having to go through a priest. After I would confess my sins, the priest would give me a penance to perform which would often lead to a couple of different prayers and/or reciting the rosary a couple of times. I never understood how the priest would come up with my act of penance, as it was different all the time. Was it some sort of formula? I was always just so curious yet skeptical. But looking back, it is mind blowing to me that at that young age, I knew that something was inaccurate about what I was experiencing at the time. Looking back, I now see that God had a different plan for me. While growing up, my interest in sports grew. My family was really big into sports and we were all really athletic. My dad grew up playing basketball, and my mom was a cheerleader, a black-belt in karate, and she also played basketball and softball. It was inevitable that I would find myself immersed in sports as well.
Finally, after playing six years for my father’s club softball team Nemesis Elite, I was finishing high school and I had to figure out what my college plans were. I didn’t get heavily recruited by college coaches after my senior year of high school, so I knew I had to figure out a way to continue my softball career into college. With absolutely no idea what college I was going to attend, I followed into my sister Cecily’s footsteps and I attended a local Junior College. I tried out for the softball program at Cerritos College in Norwalk, California and I made the team.
After my outstanding lone year at Cerritos, I received two athletic scholarship offers from UCLA and the University of South Carolina. UCLA was a 30minute drive from where I grew in Bell, CA and the University of South Carolina was on the other side of the country. UCLA had just won a National Championship and South Carolina had a losing record and had only won one league game that year. For some reason, I felt needed at South Carolina and ended up choosing to be a Gamecock. I wanted to break away from home and I wanted a fresh start on my own. I also really fell in love with the campus, and I really wanted to play softball in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). I ended up playing for the Gamecocks for three seasons. In the beginning of my senior campaign in the Fall of 2012, I made a friend in Kaleb Zuidema, who was on the Track team and from northern New Jersey. I would often see him in the athletic training room doing his rehab after his surgeries and I would strike up conversations with him. We quickly became great friends. In April of 2013, toward the end of my senior season, I was one of 20 seniors in the nation drafted into the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. As my senior season ended at South Carolina in May, I then had to report to Montclair, NJ for training camp with my new team, the New York/New Jersey Comets. School was already over, and knowing Kaleb lived in New Jersey, I decided to text him so that I could get a personal tour of NYC because I have never been in the city before.
After my personal tour of NYC, Kaleb asked me if I was interested in hearing the gospel and told me about a series of tent meetings in Livingston, NJ. Little did I know, that God was revealing to me a great man here on earth, who on the surface was everything that I wanted, yet who had everything that I needed, salvation. Kaleb was handsome, athletic, funny, smart, and somehow when I first met him back in 2012, it had seemed like I knew him for a lifetime. I was so comfortable around him and I am so glad that we were on a level where I was able to trust him like I did. I told him that I was interested and decided to give it a shot. Kaleb was a trooper because he would pick me up in Montclair and take me to the Livingston every night that I was available to go, which was totally out of the way. After the first gospel meeting, we were on our way back to my apartment, and Kaleb started swerving the car. He was obviously swerving on purpose and I thought he was crazy. After the swerving stopped, he asked me, “if I crashed this car and we both died…. Where would you be, Heaven or Hell?” I said, “I think heaven”. And he said, “Why do you think so?”. I said, “Because I’m a good person”. His question was confusing to me. He said that my answer would not get me into heaven. I was shocked at how straightforward he was. I then asked him, “Would you be in heaven if you died?” and he said with confidence, “yes 100%”. I then said “how do you know that?” and Kaleb continued to tell me that my sins have already been paid for by everything that Christ did on the cross at Calvary. Kaleb said that all I had to do was believe that He died for my sins. I really didn’t fully understand, and some things were still unclear but I agreed to attend more meetings because I was still curious to learn more.
I attended two more gospel meetings and I have never heard the gospel like this before. With all my time in catholic school from K-12, it struck my heart differently and I found myself even more engaged and fixated on the words that Dave T. and Josh were sharing about the gospel. It didn’t seem as repetitive as to what I was used to. It was genuine and I was slowly beginning to understand what it meant to believe that Christ died for MY sins.
The tent series only had two gospel meetings left and I didn’t think I would be able to make either of them because my professional season had already started. But on Thursday June 13th I was suppose to have my first professional softball home game at the Yogi Berra Stadium but it was postponed because of inclement weather. It had been raining the whole day and about an hour before the gospel meeting was going to start, I received news from my coach saying that we had the night off. I quickly called Kaleb and told him the news and he picked me up so that I could attend one more gospel meeting.
Half way through the gospel meeting, Dave T. came up and read the verse that he was going to preach on and it was, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6. As soon as he said the word “ungodly”, it all clicked. In that moment, I realized that I was ungodly, that I am and will always be a sinner and that I need a savior. I had a mix of emotions, as I sat there. I was scared because I didn’t want to go to hell when I die. I felt guilty because I just realized that I’ve been a sinner all this time, and that I will always be a sinner. I was relieved, because I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that He paid a debt that I could not pay back with neither words or works. And I was happy, because I knew that one day I was going to spend eternity in Heaven, all because I just believed He died for me, Samantha Taylor Garcia. I whispered to Kaleb, “I am saved, I believe”. I then felt my cheeks become warm and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of evening. The previous three meetings had me already thinking, and the fourth meeting just confirmed everything that I already heard and that I was questioning. After the gospel meeting, I went home and reflected on what happened. Looking back on my young life, it seemed that everything happened for a reason, and that reason alone was because God was waiting for the perfect time to reveal himself to me. God had a plan all along as He perfectly placed specific people at specific times in my life. My life so far has had crazy twists and turns from Southern California, to South Carolina, and then to New Jersey. I am so appreciative for my unique experiences that ultimately led me to Christ. There is absolutely no coincidence to this beautiful journey that I‘ve been on so far. I am so thankful that on June 13th, 2013 I was reached and saved by the grace of God, and can now say I'm 100% sure on my way to heaven.