“It was the most important hug of my whole life. I felt the love of The Almighty that day being held in the arms of people that I knew genuinely cared for me.”
I have known Pastors Jerry Santiago and Janeth Santiago of United Faith Church for over 20 years. I first met them at the age of 8 while playing sports with their children. Even at such a young age, I remember how welcoming and kind the entire Santiago family was to me. Since then, God has used them as a tremendous blessing in my life. I’ve always felt accepted by them and known that their home was always open to me.
Growing up, I had many struggles personally, as well as with my family. By the time I was 15 I had been kicked out of my home and harbored anger deep within my heart. In school I had fallen into the wrong crowd and was doing many wrong things. I was depressed, lonely and insecure.
Rejection was a huge factor in fueling my actions as I desperately sought out a sense of belonging. Often having nowhere to go, I would spend nights at friends’ houses or even in a car. Searching for a way out of my current situation and desperately looking for a place to fit in, I started attending youth group at Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago’s home with their children and many other youth.
Many of these teens did not have religious backgrounds. Some of them were troublemakers at school and not necessarily the kind of people you might think would want to learn to pray, worship, and read the Bible, but God always touched each one. By the end of the night all heads would be bowed, acknowledging Him in prayer. Youth group opened my eyes to who God was and the fullness of what a relationship with God would bring in to my life.
One night at a youth retreat during worship, I felt the Lord tell me I had to speak out. This was not something I was comfortable doing. I had been afraid to show who I really was and what I had been through, so I kept up a façade. I will never forget that night, however, and the immense love I came to know when I finally opened up.
I began tearing up as I told the group about what I had been doing and what had happened in my life all those years I was doing my own thing. When I was finished, Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago and their children, Jeffrey, Brenda and Jessica, along with a few others came around me and gave me what was the most important hug of my whole life. I felt the love of God that day being held in the arms of people that I knew genuinely cared for me. Since then I have experienced so much more of that tangible love of God and through Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago at United Faith Church, I have been taught how to love Him back.
At United Faith Church, Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago supported me, loved me and guided me in some of the most crucial times of my life. Pastor Janeth has invited me to spend every holiday with her family. She has treated me with kindness and concern, even with things that most pastors wouldn’t bother with, like shopping for clothes when I got a new job, teaching me how to cook some of her famous dishes and just spending time talking. It meant so much to me.
Pastor Jerry Santiago has helped in the “small things” too. He’s helped me to shop for a car, told me where to go when I needed my car fixed, and taken me to the airport when I went on vacation. Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago have also shown me the love of God in the big days of my life. They were there when I started college, graduated, when I got engaged, married, purchased a home and for the birth of my child. There were many complications during the birth of my daughter, but my pastors were there for my husband and me, speaking life through the Word, praying for us and staying in the hospital the whole time. My baby girl was born in peace and our family is so grateful for their support. Those events were some of the most exciting, challenging and significant times in my life and they were there to speak the Word of God over me and help me through them by the love of God.
One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned through Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago at United Faith Church is that God’s love is unconditional and enduring. Pastor Janeth has known me a very long time, and this includes seeing me at my worst. She has seen me in my darkest times of being resentful, bitter, full of rage and wanting to control how God moved in my life. But each time, Pastor Janeth displayed unconditional love by showing me the truth in every situation. Now, I can see how God wants the best for me. I realize that He desires to teach, correct and discipline His children so that we can be changed and delivered by His love. Perfect love casts out all fear, and I can honestly say that I now embrace the love of God in all of its many forms.
Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago came into my life at a point when felt I had no one, and along with the rest of their family have truly become my family. They have loved me through my big life events and continue to be a huge part of my everyday life as well. I have had many opportunities to see the character of my pastors as I have spent a lot time at their house through the years. I have attended numerous pool parties, all night New Year’s Eve get-togethers, even sleepovers with their daughters when we were younger.
Over the years, they have been a godly example of what the Word of God depicts a family to be, by continuously teaching and demonstrating the love of Jesus. I have now begun the journey to raise my own family the same way, by the truth and Word of God. Pastor Jerry Santiago and Pastor Janeth Santiago mean so much to me. I am so thankful for all they have done and all they continue to do simply by living out the powerful and selfless love of God both in every day aspects of life and as the Pastors of United Faith Church in Barnegat.
Read another powerful testimony Not A Stranger – United Faith Church or view all testimonies in the category United Faith Church Testimonies. For more information about healing ministries please visit United Faith Church in Barnegat NJ.