The founder's story


Football (soccer) was my religion and my god. But I didnt believe in the true God.
Lets say I didnt consider myself an atheist but an agnostic, because my motto was "seeing is believing". 
In April 2003, Dr.Francis Collins revealed to the world that his team of scientists had finally published the complete code of the human genome. He called the code "The Language of God" because the instructions contained in our DNA resembled a software designed by an engineer. His discovery was enough to turn skeptics into believers, but in my case it took that and more.

If you read what Im about to write or listen to my story you might be inclined to think I have quite an imagination, but I had a close encounter with GOD.
I tell you the truth when I say that He sent me signs. That was my burning-bush experience!!! I just had to ask Him to forgive me, and my new life began... So now I'm a believer! But... how did that happen?


September 2001 - When God changed my plans

I was doing well in a third division club, the coach liked me, and maybe I would have made it to second division in a couple years (or so I hoped) but as you will see, God had different plans for me. Trust me, it was God. You’ll see.

My dad decided that we should leave the country because violence was hitting too close to home. He told us we would flee to the US. It was obvious for all of us that he was right, so we all agreed. The trip was delayed for a week because of the attacks of 9/11 and airports were closed, but when flights resumed our immigration was successful and we were granted political asylum. We settled down in a small city called Aventura, in the greater Miami area.

Football was my only passion and I thought I would find the way to keep playing in Miami. I visited the Miami Fusion (one of two Major League Soccer teams based in Florida), but a few days later the Fusion declared itself bankrupt and dissapeared. That was the beggining of my worries because there were no second or third division teams in the whole state. That left only one MLS team in Florida: the Tampa Mutiny.

I didnt even get to visit the city of Tampa, because the Mutiny also declared bankrupcy and dissapeared. It all happened pretty much at the same time, so fast! Suddenly the whole state of Florida had no proffesional soccer. I couldnt believe my bad luck but I would not give up: even if the whole universe conspired against me, I would persevere because soccer was all that mattered to me. My last chance was college soccer.


December 2002 - This cant be a coincidence!


Only one school in Miami had a team participating in the highest level of college soccer, and it was FIU, the city´s public university. I decided to enroll for a master in sports management. At the end of 2002 I was admitted and I went straight to the soccer coach. He didnt give me much hope but he did suggest I should come for the tryouts next month. He didn’t know I was a great player, but I intended to show him soon enough.

Next month came and I cant tell you how great my dissapointment was when I learned there would be no tryouts. FIU announced that because of a budget-cut the school would eliminate the boys soccer team. (The girls team would go on but what could I do? shave my legs and wear a wig?). There were big protests because boys soccer was the only team FIU ever had at the top level of college sports... and it was a winning team!
It was so absurd that I just couldnt believe it. It made no sense but it was happening... everywhere I went, soccer disappeared and now I was out of options. What to do now? Maybe try another state, but I had already paid college tuition and I had also found a job at a gym.

In spite of all I would see it as just coincidence and I refused to accept that my destiny was to renounce my only passion. One blow after another had me quite depressed, yet I decided to keep trying at any cost.

Having no choice, and trying to stay in shape, I practiced with the best amateur team around, with other frustrated players who found no place to develop their skills. I needed more soccer to fill my days, so I volunteered to coach for an under-16 team. I got the job, so I would set up training exercises and games where I would run and practice more than the kids themselves.

I also joined a hispanic jew (from Argentina) and we created a soccer academy called “Soccer Paradise” in the city of Aventura. We had about a hundred students, most of them jewish from argentina. There I coached another U-16 team.

One day after practice, another coach invited me to play a little game with some of his buddies. I was inclined to pass because I hadnt taped my ankles, (which I always did for protection) but I was so eager to play that I told myself: “oh, its just a friendly game”.

One of those guys was not so “friendly” and he slide-tackled me in such a horrible way that he destroyed my right ankle. The doctor said it was impossible to perform surgery, so all I got was a cast, crutches and painkillers. I realized that it was the end of my soccer career.

That injury changed my life forever (but I didnt know at the time that it would be for the better).



April 2003 - The first sign

News media all over the world were reporting Dr.Collins' incredible feat of revealing the complete human genome, a sophisticaded code he called "The language of God". That is enough to get you thinking about the existence of a Creator. In my case, there was more.
 
Somebody said that the right book at the right time can shake your world . Well, I was reading this book called "Left Behind" where a skeptic character (like me) asks God for a sign that He is real. Everything I read really got me thinking and wondering, and the question going around my head was: “What if?”

So I did like the skeptic character in the book. I had never prayed, but I asked God to show me that He really exists, and if he was listening, to send me a sign.

A couple days later I was cleaning my mailbox of all the advertising stuff (you know, that big load of paper that´s always covering the real mail and by real mail I mean bills). So I was throwing away all the discount offers and coupons when a bright blue card bigger than a postcard flew apart, falling to the floor. I said to myself: “that´s gotta be a vip pass to some club in south beach”, therefore I picked it up with great interest.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that it was something special indeed. The blue side of it said: “A place where Miracles happen, and life changing experiences occur”. It also had an address: “Palmetto and 67 Avenue”

I was a little surprised. I was wondering if that bright blue card could be the sign from God, but I quickly dismissed it. I thought: “This is just a coincidence. Surely God’s sign would not come in the form of a postcard”. (I was hoping for something amazing and supernatural like a burning bush, but I would get some supernatural stuff later).

So I did not believe it, and I did not go to the address printed in the card. It would take more to convince me.

So i had decided that the blue card was a coincidence, but the question of the existence of God was still on my mind, so I asked everybody about Him, I wanted to hear opinions. I found out most people avoided the subject and some simply didnt know what to say.

3 or 4 weeks went by and I had pretty much forgotten about the card with the printed address (Palmetto and 67th Avenue).

April 19 2003 - The second sign

If people wouldnt even talk about God, how would I learn anything? I didnt have a copy of the Bible. I guess I could have done some research on the web or something, but I didnt.


On the evening of that Saturday, I asked Pita, my stepmother (her name is Alexandra but we call her Pita, i dont know why) if she believed in God. She replied:
-Of course I believe in GOD!
That surprised me, because she never went to a religious service.  Then I asked her another question that burned in my mind:
-What about the Messiah?
-Well, I dont know what to think about that, because my jewish friends say one thing, but my christian friends say something else.

I told her I had a few questions about the Scriptures, but she said she wasnt the right person, and she suggested that I talked to her grandma because she had read the whole Book. I said:
-Your grandma! No way, I want to talk with a young person, and even better if its someone who has studied the scriptures, someone with academic knowledge of evidence and stuff.
-Well, now that you mention it, there is a young preacher here in Miami, he has master or phd degrees in theology, and you know what? He was a professional soccer player.
-A soccer player? Really?
-Sure, he played in some famous teams, and he also played with Maradona and the argentinian national team. I think he also has a soccer club here in Miami.

That was all I needed to hear, I just had to meet this guy. We would talk about God or we would talk about soccer. I asked:
-Why didnt you tell me about him before? 
-It just didnt occur to me. You want to meet him? I´ll introduce you, we´ll go to his place tomorrow. Let me bring you the address – Pita said.

She came back with a little piece of paper and handed it to me. It had the address handwritten on it. The paper said: “Palmetto and 67th Avenue”. I was amazed. The address she wrote was the same of the bright blue card!!! My heart was beating faster... Could it be the same place? Could this be another coincidence?


I told Pita about my asking God for a sign, then receiving the odd card in the mail, and now this address for the football-star preacher being the same address of the card... I told her that this was too much to be a coincidence. She replied:
-Nothing in life is coincidence. God is knocking at your door.

What do u think? Could I continue to be skeptical after that? Sure, I guess, but then I thought: "What are the odds"?


So I drove home considering all the things that had happened ... and as i was driving, i took my leap of faith and I prayed, and I said: “Thank you LORD, for answering”.

When I got home, with tears on my eyes I felt the urge to pray and talk to God about so many things that opressed my soul. I knelt and I asked the two most important questions I could think of, and guess what? I got answers!!! 

I cant explain everything that happened, but I promise that I’ll try. I told God that I believed and then I began asking forgiveness for my skepticism, for my sins, my mistakes, my doubts, forgiveness for having chosen the easy path and abandoned my faith when I was 12 years old just to enjoy all the pleasures of this world... I promised to do my best to be good and not fail Him again.

I pledged my life to him. I asked Him to guide me, to show me the difference between good and evil, and to keep sending me signs. I also had one more question so I asked the Lord straight to the point: "is the Bible your word? is the Scripture divine truth, or just a juiced up history book with some fact and some fiction?"
Amazing enough, God answered again. I wont say that I heard a powerful voice from heaven, but two words came to my mind and Im pretty sure it was Him, because they were certainly not my thoughts. The two words that popped up in my brain were: "Clear and eloquent".

I realized that the Bible is also a clear message, one God wants me to read, and I would understand it. Back then I didn’t know how eloquent the Book could be, because I didn’t have one, but later I discovered that God speaks to us when we read it. It’s a mind-boggling experience. For example, I asked God about the Messiah, and He showed me the prophecies in Scripture that reveal everything we need to know about Him.


The football-playing preacher

The next day I was supposed to meet Pita at Palmetto and 67th because she was going to introduce me to the football (soccer) -playing preacher. I got there first and waited for her in front of the main building. It was a High School. That didn’t make sense to me but I waited anyway. Pita showed up, and then we were told that we could find the preacher at the cafeteria. His name was Silvano.

We went to the cafeteria and Silvano was talking to a large group of people. Preaching and teaching! Then he asked me to come forward and join him in prayer! Any other time, I would have been so embarrassed, but not this time, I was glad to do it! We started praying and tears welled up in my eyes again, because we were basically saying the same things I had said to God the night before. Then he told me to go sit down and wait for him to be finished so we would go elsewhere to talk privately.

If you are wondering, as I was, why would this guy teach and pray in a high school cafeteria and not in a proper auditorium, all I can say is this was no orthodox preacher… and I liked that. He finished and came over. I said I was so happy that I could pray in front of everybody because I had prayed the night before, in private, but for some reason I wanted to show my new faith to other people, to show them that I was a believer. Silvano replied that is what God wants, because if we should acknowledge the Lord in public, so will He recognize us when our time comes.

I told him that I didn’t use to believe but I felt that God had sent me a sign, and that he (Silvano) was part of it.
-Sure! –he said, and then repeated what Pita told me– God is knocking on your door!

I said I had tried to tell my father but he would not accept it. Silvano told me it had been just the same with him about 20 years ago, that he used to play pro soccer and behaved very badly, but when he accepted the Lord he was so excited that he ran to his mother to let her know, and all she said was that he had gone mad. Silvano said it would not be easy for others to understand, but God would guide us.

Well, I sure can testify that He has been guiding me ever since. I have witnessed amazing miracles (God healed me from a heart condition, and He healed my daughter from epilepsy, and I could go on and on with more examples, but then this would become a long biography)

I will finish with something that I did read that same day that my new life started, in an abandoned little book I found at work:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)


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