John: A Life Transformed
John Raymond was born in El Salvador. When John was born, both his Mom and his Dad were homeless. At the time, El Salvador was undergoing a Civil War which pushed many of the kids out of the country, including John. He came to the States and lived in a Catholic orphanage. In 1984, he was adopted by Dr. & Mrs. Raymond from Michigan, and his new Mom introduced him to God.
While in Michigan, he learned to play ice hockey. When he was 14 or 15 years old, he moved to Ocala and began to work with horses. However, it was also during this time that John got into drinking and drug usage. At the age of 17 years old, John continued to drink alcohol and also began to experience with ecstasy, coke, weed and crack. While his life was on a downward spiral, his adopted father passed away in 2005, and things became even worse for John. In fact, he shamed his entire family who lived in Ocala and was forced to leave home. He then went to Virginia to rekindle his relationship with his daughter, who was nine years old at the time.
In 2009, John tried to quit his drug and alcohol use cold turkey yet went back after a couple months. But then one day, he made a deal with God. He told the Lord, “If You will find me a job, I’ll go to church.” However, in 2011 he quit going to church and went back to drinking and using crack. Between 2011 and 2015, he made a lot of really bad choices, experimented with drugs and hung around with the wrong kind of people. At this point, he cried out to the Lord and said, “I have no friends; I want out. I need You! I can’t do this alone. I am so thirsty that I feel like I am in the desert!” In 2016 he began studying for his GED and passed. He also began to learn how to stay sober with the Lord’s help. His friend, Steve, began to take him to Celebrate Recovery. At that moment, John says he felt like demons were all over him.
He soon got arrested and while in prison, he met Pastor Pete and told him his story. He also learned that his friend, Robert, had graduated from our Men’s Residence in 2014. He soon met Men’s Residence Director Jay Walsh, Men’s Residence Assistant Director Joseph Ishak and Christian Care Center Executive Director, Bill Jones.
When John was 41, he entered our Men’s Residence program. While he was here, he spent seven months learning a lot about himself and especially how to love himself again. In his third month here, he said that he looked in the mirror one day and did not like who he was, yet the Lord really began to transform his life! In 2018, he graduated from the Men’s Residence and went to Lake Tech’s welding school. He now works for Tucker’s Machine & Steel Service here in Leesburg, where he has been on staff since he graduated from the Men’s Residence.
John says he now knows the beauty of a life of routine, free from worry. As he has grown closer to the Lord, he has realized the foolishness of life without Jesus. He has also learned that the way to be rich is to have a rich relationship with the Lord, and he never wants to go back to the person he used to be. He now lives on his own and is actively involved in the Men’s Residence. He leads a Bible study on Friday mornings, counsels the men on Saturday and even takes the men out for dinner when he can. What a blessing it is to see the Lord at work in John’s life! He truly is a life transformed, and we are so thankful!