I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to a kind, affluent family. I had a great childhood filled with good memories. Around the age of 13, however, I started drinking beer and smoking marijuana.

I liked hanging out with my friends and doing these things, but when I was 17, one of my friends showed up with cocaine. I had no idea how addictive this drug would be. After my first hit, I wanted more.

At the age of 18, I moved to San Diego, California, to learn English. Three months into my studies, someone encouraged me to take the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language). If I passed, they told me, I would be able to attend college. “Why not?” I thought. I passed without studying one single day. How, I do not know. I could barely speak the English language. God surely had a plan for my life.

I began college at San Diego State University and graduated with an international business degree. I was drinking heavily, growing and selling marijuana, and smoking heroine. My life was out of control.

Living on the coast, I liked to surf, but being out in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean magnified how insignificant and lonely I felt. I would often cry, then I would go home and escape feeling lonely with drugs.

On December 17, 1998, my roommate and I had a party in our house. We spent all night drinking and doing all sorts of drugs. By early morning, I realized I was in trouble. I lay on the floor in a puddle of cold sweat, and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. I could hear someone laughing at me, but there was no one there.

“Today, you are going to die,” a voice taunted.

“God,” I cried out. “If You really exist, save me…and I will follow You.”

Moments later, I fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I was completely sober. It was as if nothing had happened. I was a new man. I got on a plane that afternoon and flew to Sao Paulo. When I got to my parents’ house, I began to think about my experience, and I heard the sweetest voice say to me, “Cleber, open that drawer.”

I opened the drawer in front of me, and there was a New Testament. I started reading, and every verse spoke to my heart. I cried as I read about a man named Jesus who loved me so much. I said to God, “I want this Jesus in my life, and I want to be like Him.” That day, the Lord called me to Himself, and I answered His call. Nobody had ever told me the Gospel of Jesus Christ before. God Himself reached down from Heaven, answered my cry, and revealed Himself to me.