By Melissa Simmons

Carlos Avendano grew up in Columbia attending Catholic schools for many years. He considered religion an outdated belief system with unreasonable rules and demands. Carlos believed he knew all there was to know about religion and God, but he regarded his beliefs as his parents rather than his own.
As he grew, his focus was on his pleasures and talents in the pursuit of happiness. Music was a large part of his life, and playing the violin was his comfort and joy. At 13 years old, Carlos began having pain while playing and was diagnosed with a disease that made it impossible to continue. Angry at God, mad at life, Carlos turned away from any belief that a God who would take away his greatest joy could care about him and his happiness.

At 16 years old, Carlos dove deep into agnostic beliefs. Even though he had experienced healing and resumed playing the violin, Carlos refused to acknowledge the existence of a God who would have allowed him to go through such a significant loss, even if it were only temporary. When the time came for Carlos to pursue a college career, his dream was to continue to play the violin. He was accepted to Lynn University Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, and was chosen to receive a special scholarship limited to only one recipient. During this time he met another young man attending the university names Sebastian, who Happened to be a Seventh-day Adventist. They began having many conversations together, and God began to work in ways that
neither of the young men could imagine. Carlos took pity on Sebastian because he felt sorry that his life was controlled by rules and regulations. Still, Carlos also noticed a peace and calm about Sebastian that he had not seen in many people, let alone people their age.

There were times that Carlos would hear other so-called Christians at school arguing with people debating their faith and beliefs, but he also noticed that Sebastian never discussed or stood up for his beliefs. Carlos asked Sebastian why he did not stand up for his beliefs, Sebastian simply said, “I don’t need to defend my faith; God will fight for me.” That response changed something inside of Carlos, and the desire to know more about Sebastian’s beliefs became a genuine need. As Sebastian shared his faith, God continued to work on Carlos’ heart. Even though the pandemic closed the door of many churches, Carlos wanted desperately to learn even more than Sebastian was able to share. As Sebastian and Carlos searched online for virtual church services, they came across the Forest City Spanish SDA Church service, and Carlos felt the presence of God in a way he had never felt before. One sermon, in particular, ignited a spark within Carlos and he realized the God he was denying and running from his whole life had never left his side. All the answers he had been looking for were right in front of him, and the realization that he could have an unbreakable relationship with Jesus Christ led him to give his life to God in baptism on December 5, 2020.
Carlos once believed that God was angry and did not care about this life. What began as a small spark went on to ignite a fire within; a desire to walk closely with the patient and loving God who had undoubetly been by his side all along. All of the mistakes Carlos had made in his life didn’t matter anymore; he had given his life to Christ, and he was a new creation.
Praise to our God who makes all things new.