Former L.A. Gangster Helps Run Adventist Hospital in Mexico
Robert Gonzalez Medina goes from gangs to God.
Robert Gonzalez Medina liked to tease his mother. Whenever gunshots were fired at their home, he would cry out, “Mom! Mom! They hit me!”
Mother was a good sport, and she played along with Robert’s game.
“Oh no!” she said every time. “What will we do?”
But the gang violence was no joking matter. Robert grew up in a violent Los Angeles neighborhood. When he was 5 years old, his older brothers joined a street gang. People from other gangs drove by their house and shot at it, trying to scare his brothers.
“For me, the shooting was normal,” Robert said. “I took it as a game.”
The constant violence, however, caused the boy’s heart to become hard. As he grew older, he stopped teasing his mother. His smile was replaced by an angry scowl. He began to play with real guns.
When Robert was 14, his parents joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Robert sometimes went to church with them, and they talked about the sermon around the dinner table.
Even though he acted like a tough guy, Robert grew tired of the violence. He married a woman from Mexico and decided to go to Mexico to meet her family.
Robert liked the quieter life in Mexico, and he opened a store selling construction materials.
His wife, meanwhile, started going to the Adventist church every Sabbath. She had learned about the Sabbath from Robert’s parents, and she wanted to obey the Bible. She begged Robert to go to church with her.
After many days, Robert finally agreed to go to church but under one condition: He would only go for the sermon. He didn’t want to go to Sabbath School.
That first Sabbath in the Mexican church, Robert’s ears started ringing. His shirt and face became very wet. He was sweating terribly. He was having a panic attack.
After 15 minutes, Robert whispered to his wife, “I’m leaving.”
“But we just got here,” his wife said.
“I know, but I’m leaving,” he said.
Later at home, Robert couldn’t explain to his wife what had happened. He was sad. He remembered going to church with his parents when he was young. He worried that maybe he had sinned so much that he couldn’t go to church anymore.
He prayed to God for help.
Robert decided that he would try to go to church again, but this time he would go for Sabbath School and the sermon. He didn’t tell his wife until Sabbath morning.
“We’re going to church today!” he told her.
She smiled happily.
Everything went fine during Sabbath School, but then the preacher gave the sermon. Robert was surprised as he listened.
“It seemed like the preacher was talking directly to me,” Robert said. “He was talking about my life.”
On a Sabbath afternoon, Robert went to a relative’s house to study the Bible. As they read about forgiveness, Robert began to wonder again whether he had sinned too much to go to church. He couldn’t believe that God would forgive him for all the bad things that he had done. Suddenly, Robert heard a voice inside him say, “You are forgiven.”
Robert was a big, tough man, but he started to cry like a little baby. He hadn’t cried for many years, and he didn’t even know that he still could cry.
“At that moment, I knew that God had forgiven my sins,” he said.
Robert’s tough face melted away. He began to smile through the tears. He knew God had forgiven his sins.
Robert gave his heart to Jesus.
Today, Robert is 35 and the chief financial officer of the largest Adventist hospital in Mexico, Southeast Adventist Hospital in the city of Villahermosa. He also is the father of two young boys, and he is glad that they have never heard shooting like he did when he was a child.
“When my kids fight, they fight over who will pray first at a meal,” he said. “I feel that God is taking care of me, and I am grateful.”
Part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for first quarter 2018 will help the Southeast Adventist Hospital construct a new building where more people will be able to learn about good health and the Creator of health, Jesus.