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by Ron Cruger
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The Bronx Connection
2008 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
The pump was vacant on my side of the driveway. On the other side of the gasoline pump
a slight man, wearing a pork pie cap, in his forties was pumping gas into his five year old white van. I opened the little door covering
my gas cap, unscrewed the cap, slid my credit card in the indicated slot and removed it quickly as instructed by the computerized
pump. I lifted the handle and pushed the button for the medium priced petrol. After inserting the pump nozzle I watched the dollars
add up on the meter.
I felt a pair of eyes on me so I looked up and found the slight man
on the other side of the island looking at me. I offered a small grin and so did he. Then I nodded and so did he.
I was about to turn away and stare at the meter when the slight man said, “You a Yankee fan?” I shrugged, not knowing why the slight
man was asking me about what team I rooted for. After a few seconds delay I said, “Oh, yeah. That’s my team, always has been. Why
do you ask?”
The slight man didn’t answer. He just pointed to his forehead. Then I remembered
that I had a Yankee baseball cap on. The dark blue cap with the white NY in front.
stood there as the gasoline pumped into our vehicles. He said, “I’m from the Bronx.” I said, “Me too, Hunt’s Point.” We shook hands
and each took a step closer to each other.
“I’m Freddy, he said.” “I’m Ron, nice to meet
Freddy, took off his cap, smoothed his dark hair and said, “I’m a minister. I bring
the word of Jesus Christ to people in Tijuana.” I smiled at Freddy, not quite knowing what to say or do.
Freddy flicked a speck of dust off his cap and said, “I was born in Puerto Rico, lived in the Bronx and then grew up in Spanish Harlem.
I had eight sisters and two brothers. One of my sisters and one of my brothers died from AIDS. When I was ten I started doing drugs
and drinking alcohol. Before long I was addicted to drugs and couldn’t stop.”
“I was just
a kid when I joined up with the Latin Kings, one of the baddest gangs in New York. By the time I was 25 years old my whole life revolved
around drugs and alcohol. I took the drugs and sold them to others so I could afford my habit.”
By now our tanks were filled but we just stood there, with the nozzles sticking in our gas tanks.
One day, Freddy told me, he found himself in the hospital detoxing from drugs. He was depressed and physically and emotionally spent.
He had reached the lowest point in his life.
“While I was detoxing in the hospital my friend
Wilson came to the hospital to see me. I used to get high with Wilson. Now, he came to visit me every day. He talked to me about Jesus.
One day, on March 14, 1984 at 1 p.m. I accepted God as my Lord and Savior. I was born again.”
Ever since that day Freddy has been serving God.
“Right after I received Christ in my life
I met Rachelle and we got married in 1988. We’ve been blessed with five beautiful children. The Lord took my daughter Chelsea home
on August 13, 1993.”
I had forgotten my car and the gas pump as I listened to this short,
thin engaging man. He was totally open and honest.
He told me, “Because I took drugs at
such an early age I got Hepatitis C, with the HIV virus. God has kept me alive to spread the Gospel. He wants me to tell people who
will listen that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Also, I want to bring the ministry of restoration to the body
of Christ. If he healed yesterday, he can heal today and tomorrow. Amen.”
I watched Freddy
closely. His eyes had gained a faraway stare, as though he was someplace else. He told me about the terrors of his childhood. How
a policeman had beat him for having firecrackers in his pocket. How he had sold drugs and roamed the streets of New York. How his
every moment year after year was devoted to women, drugs and alcohol. He told me his life was empty but for women, drugs and alcohol.
“On that day in 1984, when I found Jesus, I learned what love is. I had never known about
love until Jesus came into my heart. I was the lowest of the low until that day I found Christ. Now, every day I wake up and thank
the Lord that I am alive to feel his love. I had nothing before – now I have all I need – the love of Jesus.”
Tears gently flowed down Freddy’s cheeks as he said, “I gave my life to Jesus and his love fills my heart every minute of every day.”
Freddy’s thoughts wandered to some other time, another place. I reached out and touched
his shoulder. He gazed at me. Still not fully there. More tears.
I took another step towards
Freddy and put my left arm around his shoulders and hugged him. He returned the hug and said, “Bless you.”
I looked at his eyes and said, “Freddy, you’re quite a guy. I’m so happy for you.”
returned to me, dried his eyes with his sleeve and said, “Sorry, man, sorry.”
Then he told
me, “I’ve been on missions to Puerto Rico and Cuba and now I’m working in Mexico. I want to build a temple for the Lord there. I want
to build a bible institute and a children’s academy.”
I told Freddy that I was sure his
dreams will come true.
I could still see some tears on his cheeks.
I gave him another hug and he returned one. We both took steps toward the nozzles and our gas tanks. We put the hoses away and returned
the caps on the tanks. We stood and looked at each other and then reached out for the other’s hand. We shook hands tightly. I said, “Freddy,
you’re a good man, Keep on going. Share your love.”
Freddy, still holding on to my right
hand with both of his said, “Thank you brother. I will, I will. God willing.”
We both got
in our cars and drove off.
I’ll never forget Freddy.
Freddie found Jesus.