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Gang Life Loses Luster in Light of Illness

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Bobby Barrera’s earliest memories in Saginaw, Michigan were of fear, death, and crime. He was born into the notorious Barrera family, who lost many of their own to rival gangs. Bobby never knew when he might be next. “I always remember every time in the car, on the way there, I would always have these butterflies, like this feeling in my stomach,” said Bobby.

Bobby was six when his parents divorced. Living with their mom, he and his two brothers rarely saw their dad. When they did it was at the penitentiary where he was serving a life term for multiple crimes. 
Bobby said, “It was like the love just wasn't going to be there. Like, that wasn't an option to seek, like, being embraced.” 
By the time Bobby was 18, he was fully vested in the “family business” - dealing drugs, constantly on the run from police and rival gangs. He also had three children with his girlfriend, Sherry. 
“Houses getting shot up, kids couldn't sleep in the room. I would put them in the basement, thinking that they would be safer down there in case the house got shot. It was just real bad,” recalled Bobby.
It wasn’t long before Bobby was hooked on cocaine. He said, “All of those things combined. You know, to just medicate myself to maybe be at some peace." 

There was one person in his life who tried to convince Bobby there was a better way - his Aunt Becky. A once violent gang banger herself, she had found faith in Christ while serving time. 

She said, “I told him, this is not life. I said, 'You, you just got to know Bob, look at me. Look what God did for me, Miho.' I said, 'Can't you see how good He is and what He can do for you guys?'” 

Even though Bobby wanted to believe her, he couldn’t pull free from the life he knew. “So, it was like the street life was pulling me this way, but wanting to be that father in my kids' life was pulling me the other way. So it was like a battle, like a tug of war,” said Bobby. 

In 2010, after both his brothers landed in prison, Bobby, now 32, decided it was time for a fresh start, and moved his family two hours away to Grand Rapids. Nonetheless, he went back to what he knew – selling drugs. His addiction only got worse.

Bobby said, “The fear of being broke and, and not being able to pro-, I started providing for my kids at such a young age, it was something that always, that's what drove me was if I don't do this, what are we going to do?”

Now it was Sherry who was talking to Bobby about Jesus. They had started going to church on occasion after getting an invite from their new neighbors. 

“Sherry would always tell me, 'Bobby, God told me that if you would just do the right thing, that our lives would change.' But I never listened though,” he said. 

Bobby would continue ignoring Sherry, and God, for seven more years. Then in 2017, she was hospitalized with kidney failure. Doctors were not sure she would live. Bobby said, “None of the shootings, none of the drug raids, none of the, the violence, none of that stuff ever compared to this. This was a whole different kind of battle. I felt like it was my fault that she was in the hospital. It's my fault because I didn't want to do what's right.”  

There was only one thing left for Bobby to do. “I had to surrender. Called out to Jesus,” said Bobby. “It was just strictly between me and Him saying, 'I’m, I’m ready. I’m ready to, to just let go of my will. I’m ready to let go of these drugs. I’m ready to let go of this lifestyle. I’m ready to serve You. I’m ready to, for whatever it is that You have.'”

Bobby said he was delivered from cocaine instantly. Now sober, he began to understand what Sherry and Aunt Becky had been saying all along.    

“I started to realize that God really loves me,” said Bobby. “It was so real. Like I felt it. I’m like, He really loves me. Like He and me, after everything I did my whole life, all these, all these things that I did and this lifestyle that I’ve been living, I’m like, but You're still speaking to me?” 

Three months later, Sherry was released from the hospital and remarkably recovered. Bobby got a job and started making honest money. The Barrera’s married in 2018 and their whole family, nine in all, including two grandchildren, are benefitting from what God has done. 

“He filled me, He filled me with something that the money, the drugs, the reputation, the name, the whatever I thought I had back then, it was a whole different kind of love, confidence, courage,” said Bobby. “This is what it feels like to be sober, to be a man. This is what it feels like to be loved.”

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