About eight years ago I left everything I knew in search of something better, something deeper. I was eighteen years old, living in my hometown in Puerto Rico. I wasn't satisfied. I didn't know what to do.
I didn't even know what praying was, but at this time I remember asking something greater than myself for some kind of direction.
Finally, one day, I heard in my heart that I needed to leave this small island. Somehow, I just knew I had to leave, but it wasn't clear where I should go. There had to be a place, a solution, an answer, something. There had to be truth somewhere. I was hoping and wishing for more meaning, some sort of answer, some sort of water that would quench my thirst for the truth--the truths about everything: about why the world was the way it was, why there are things like divorce, broken hearts, confusion, pollution, war...
We all know these are serious problems, but many people don't want to face them. My heart ached to think about this, but I know few want to admit the obvious truth, that things are not working and they need to change. Something needs to happen. But those who ask and are willing to seek for answers are thrown into a search that can only have one end for those who are sincere.
So I left.
At first I traveled to Ohio to work with my uncle. I spent some time there with him, first helping him with his small plot of land, then in his little ranch in western Ohio. But it didn't take long before reality started hitting me, and all my dreams of traveling to far-away lands to learn-long lost skills started getting further and further away. Would I just stay on this little farm forever? Is this what life was really about?
One day, out of frustration, I followed my uncle to his friend's wedding in Washington, DC. It was there that I decided I would leave and travel, work, save some money, and eventually go to Thailand. My friend picked me up in Washington, DC and we drove to Virginia. We planned to hike through the Appalachian Mountains and eventually find my friends somewhere in Washington. We bought food, packed our hiker's packs, and called it a night. But as I laid there I could not sleep, for I was very troubled in my thoughts. My heart ached as it told me I was taking the wrong turn. Somehow I was compromising. I was following my good ideas and not my heart. Once I finally decided to go back with my uncle, I fell asleep.
Returning to Ohio, I continued my search. But what did I really want? I had dreamed of settling down in rural Thailand, where I could learn how to farm from an authentic Thai farmer, and learn how to love from the true Buddhists at the local temple. At this point my dreams were feeling very far away. It felt as if what I was experiencing was the opposition of some force much greater than myself. I knew somewhere deep down in there, in that place called the heart, that there had to be more to life, some sort of truth that would quench my thirst, answer every question, a place that would forever be enough. It just could not be possible that I would never find it. There had to be something. So I followed my heart.
But in doing so came much confusion. On a small dock behind a cabin I was staying in, I cried out, "Where is it? Where is it!? Where can I find the way out?" I was going to find it. I had to. I would die if I didn't, or at least something in me would have to die. I would have to compromise my heart. But that could not happen.
So many people have compromised their hearts. They gave up to the system, to an idea, to a religion. They gave up, surrendered to the lesser, were satisfied with what does not satisfy, became part of what they at first hated, convinced themselves it was "okay." But no! It can't be! There has to be somewhere, something, a place where we don't compromise, where everything that we ever dreamed of or desired deep down, in the deepest part of our being, we can live out, be totally satisfied in every way. There must be a place where we will never thirst again, desire anything different, want anything more, because it is the end, the answer, the fulfillment of the truth -- the thing that sets us free.
As Ohio got colder, fall came upon me and the reality of traveling to far-away places was still a far away thought. I decided to travel to California so as to be able to continue learning how to farm through the winter. I would go there as a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), which meant working on farms in exchange for food and a place to stay.
On the way there I stopped in Illinois for my cousin's wedding to meet up with my parents. I thought I'd be different after all the traveling, the experiences, being away from them. Surely it had changed me. Then one day before the wedding, as my father and I took a drive through the countryside, we got into a big argument. It broke my heart. I faced the reality of my condition. My problem was from within. Traveling didn't fix it, or having different experiences. It was something deeper that I couldn't change. I sat down during the whole wedding under a small gazebo pondering, "What should I do? What now?"
I continued traveling to California, but things were different now. I had not much hope in my travels or in really being able to change. Was this it? I visited a small farm near San Diego, staying there for a couple of weeks. It was from the couple I stayed with that I first heard about the Morning Star Ranch.
I remember coming for my first visit, riding up the driveway to the farmhouse. I was at the end of my own strength, as one who had run a race, but not won it. I was tired. I was coming just to see the place, just to see a community. All the thoughts and worries we can all imagine when we think of community ran through my head. But what I saw was beautiful. I saw people sweeping under their lunch table, saw them being real, saying sorry for the wrong they did. It was amazing. There was something different here.
I loved it.
I loved talking to the people about real things, and how everyone always had an answer. No matter what, there was always an answer. It satisfied. It was real. I sat down at lunch and heard truth. I worked in the garden and heard truth. It resounded deep down in there. It made the same sound my heart was always saying. It matched. It was as if there were a people of the same heart who all had the same cry of their heart and they were willing to give up everything to follow that cry, to live by it. I heard stories from the people there that were so similar to mine. It was as if I could have told them myself. People from every place had been gathered. They all had the same story: one of searching, hoping, crying, pain... It was so beautiful. It was undeniable.
I fell in love with the life that I saw. I understood that everything I went through had all been orchestrated by a power so much bigger than me, that I had been brought here, guided here from so far away, from the little island where I sat on the top of a mountain crying, knowing there had to be something more. I often looked out to the sea after school, staring into the distance. Dissatisfied. Hungry. I tried to find some fulfillment from nature.
Finally, I was brought to a place that could finally quench the thirst of my soul. I wish you all could understand the relief. It was as if I had been trapped my whole life inside of myself, desperately searching, crying out for somebody to open the door. I was screaming inside for most of my life.
Yes, I had fun. Yes, I did lots of things. Yes, at times it felt okay. But deep down in there, in that place called the heart, I cried. "Open the door! Please! Somebody, open the door!" But when I came to the farm it was like the door opened and light shone in... I could see it was pretty outside. There were trees, grass, the sun, a blue sky... There was a truth that refreshed my soul.
I realized that there was a Creator who had brought me here, and that throughout my whole life, He allowed certain things to happen the way they did. He gave me parents, wonderful parents that gave me the best they knew. They protected me the best they could, even keeping the television out of our home in order to preserve me. I know our Creator protected me throughout my life and drew me here out of His great kindness.
Then I understood the one true God, the one who created all of us had made a way out. That there was a man who lived His whole life as a clean and spotless lamb, suffering every day to not sin, to not fall, to walk perfectly, blamelessly before our Father, being clean, being able to hear His voice in order to have the truth for others, so that our Father in Heaven could use Him to restore His people again. He could be a sacrifice for sins for those who would obey Him. I understood deep down that was the only way, and that He had done all of this because He loved us, because He wanted all of us to find what He had with His Father, to have truth, to be able to know it, to be able to be pleasing in our Creator's eyes -- just like a son whose peace is found in doing what makes his Father happy.
And I responded with my heart and I made a covenant with Him, the one true God and His Son, Yahshua. I made a vow that I would live the rest of my life to do what He wanted me to do, to do what pleases Him, and that I would walk as best as I can to be like His son, and repent when I wasn't. This was all I could do. What else I could do after understanding in my heart that he had brought me here and had made a way to be set free to be able to love. So I gave my word. I gave my life in response to His love, to live so that He can get what He deserves.