According to Psalm 32, I am a blessed man even though in my lifetime I have committed many grievous sins. For them, I deserve death and condemnation (Romans 6:23). But God, so rich in mercy, has chosen to forgive my sins, to cover them with His blood, and never count them against me again. It’s a gift too incredible to comprehend.

I grew up in Culiacan Sinaloa, Mexico. My father died in his early forties, leaving my mother alone to raise their eight children, of whom I am the youngest. We were very poor, and life was hard.

Because we had no father figure in our home, many people disrespected my family and abused us. Even as a youth, I recognized the injustice of our situation and the great needs of our family. I grew up feeling lonely and insecure, but I was unable to express my emotions to others, not even to my family. People made fun of me because of my inability to communicate my feelings.

I often wondered what would become of my life. Would I always be poor and at the mercy of those around me? But then, at 12 years old, I felt an impression in my heart that my life would be good when I was an adult. I tucked that impression away to keep.

I came to the United States when I was 23. I was already heavily influenced by the mafia cartels in my homeland. A friend and I began working for a very powerful man, but his people ran into trouble and had to leave the country. I stayed in America to work so that I could provide for my family back home.

I quickly saw the potential to make a lot of money through a criminal life, and I began selling kilos of cocaine with a friend. Not long after, I set out on my own. The money didn’t come as fast as I’d hoped, so I started taking riskier “suicidal jobs.” I became known as a straightforward man of his word, one who got the job done. I even saved lives of people when their enemies tried to kill them. This opened doors to work for bigger clients who bought enormous amounts of drugs. Soon I had many people under my command and others who wanted to work for me. Powerful mafia bosses sought me out, but where there is a lot of money, there is a lot of envy. Great and powerful enemies began looking for me too. I was headed for destruction—which, of course, was what the devil had planned all along (John 10:10).

At the highest point of my criminal career, something strange happened. I met this couple on the street one day. I had spoken to them for only a moment when the wife told her husband that the Lord was telling her to anoint me. She pulled out a small bottle of oil and asked if she could anoint my forehead. I agreed, but I wasn’t a man who believed in God. Minutes later, they left, and I’ve never seen them again. It was a strange encounter, to be sure, but I recognize now that it was the hand of God in my life. Already, He was setting me apart for His good work.

A week later, I was arrested and sent to the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona. Bibles seemed to be everywhere—on the tables and on the floor. I was bored, so I took one and started reading in the book of Genesis. I was surprised by what I read, and I liked it.

Through the Bible, God began to teach me about Himself. Many verses spoke to me, but Isaiah 45:1–7 caused my heart to leap. When I read about God’s ability to open doors and use His servants for His great purposes—even those who had never acknowledged Him—it was like something pierced my heart. It’s so hard to explain, but the same thing happened when I read about God’s good plan for His children in Jeremiah 29:11. These verses reminded me of that impression for a good life I’d had in my youth.

I didn’t surrender to God right then, but I did begin to understand that He existed. I was sent to prison for five years. Without consistent Christian services, I became disconnected from what I’d been learning about God in jail. I stopped reading God’s Word and thought only about my old way of life and its offerings. In my ignorance, I asked God to give me a second chance to continue working in the drug world—I promised Him I’d only sell marijuana instead of more dangerous drugs. I was so deceived and naive!

Once released, I immediately sought out old clients and reorganized my business. Large opportunities came, just as they had before, but then a so­called friend set me up, and I got busted a second time. It was the bust that saved my life.

When the sheriff’s transport van arrived to take me to jail, the numbers on the license plate caught my eye—666. I had read enough of the Bible already to remember those were the devil’s numbers.

It was like Satan was taunting me, saying, “I got you again!”

Anger rose up as I suddenly recognized the evil I had been allowing to rule my life. Satan had been out to destroy my family and me from the beginning. I started thinking about those verses I had read at Maricopa and God’s promise of a good future. Standing there in those handcuffs, I said, “Devil, you’ve messed with the wrong guy! I’m coming after you with everything I’ve got!”

I was done being deceived and led down destructive paths.

When I arrived at the county jail the first night, I joined an inmate Bible study. I accepted God’s forgiveness for my sin and surrendered my life to Him. Right there in that jail, because of the blood of Jesus, my wretched life was made clean and blessed forever. I became God’s son, His heir, and finally, I was ready for His better plan. I was ready to go to war against the unseen enemy who had been at work in my life. In God’s eyes, I was without fault. (See Ephesians 1:4.)

Much of the world looks at my life and says I have nothing. After all, I am an incarcerated man without material wealth or power. But they are wrong. I am rich in every way because I have Jesus. He has forgiven all my sin and made me the righteousness of God. He has secured my eternal future and opened doors for me to show His lost children the way home.

I am living the good plans God revealed to me in my youth. Every day, those good plans continue to unfold. One day, I hope to return to my homeland and share the Good News there that Jesus Christ loves and He saves. I want to help people understand God’s desire for relationship, not religion. In the meantime, God is preparing me—He’s teaching me to fight the good fight of faith, and He’s opening my eyes to the spiritual war that occurs every day in this world. It’s a war I’m now winning.