My dad's death gave me an excuse not to believe in anything. He was a man of faith, but I didn't want to hear about it.
I'd been to lots of churches, but I always thought it was boring. Then my dad died and I got really angry.
I got involved with men and drank all the time. I had 4 kids and was pregnant with my fifth when I got kicked out of my house. I lost everything. I had no friends; my family didn't care.
I was hungry and tired, and I would pray, "Show me the way."
Seeing a Sign for "Free Food"
I was on the bus with my kids, and I saw a sign at The Salvation Army about a video game tournament, and it said, "Free Food." So we got off the bus and went in.
We had fun, so that Sunday I came back to The Salvation Army for church, and they accepted me. I didn't have to dress or be a certain way. They welcomed me with open arms.
They were mostly black, and they didn't care that I was Mexican. It's like when you buy a ring and it's your size and you put it on and it just fits. I was home here.
I used to think Christian people were fake, but seeing them help around the community, like working in yards, started to change that. And everything they'd do, they'd back it up with the Bible.
I heard about living miracles, like a 17-year drug addict who recovered. It gave me courage. For a couple months I came to church and I would just cry. My soul was screaming out for peace and love.
Pulled from My Chair
Then one Sunday, it was like a veil was lifted. I understood what God wanted. I finally understood what His sacrifice really meant for us.
I used to think it was mumbo jumbo or a scam to get money, but that day I really understood that before we were born or existed, Christ died for us. I was practically pulled from my chair, and I went forward and the pastor prayed for me.
Since then, I've gained understanding and patience. I took classes with New Focus, a resource ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. The church taught me how to be humble, how to help people from my heart. I'd never really sat down and read the Bible, but now I read at least 2 to 3 sentences a day. I try to live it, even though it's hard.
I still cry at church sometimes, but not like I used to. Now I know that even in the smallest things, God's always there. If I call on Him, He'll be there.
Lupe Torres is currently the janitor at The Salvation Army Community Center in Compton, Calif. She has 5 children, ages 2 to 16.