By his own admission, Jose Valentin’s testimony is straight from an “action movie where the leading actor was me!” Midway through his 16-plus years as a police officer, one “routine” S.W.A.T. team day in 1997 changed everything.
“My squad arrested one of the most dangerous drug dealers on the island (Puerto Rico). I went to my house and when I was opening the gate a man came in a car and hit me,” Jose explains. “When I was on the pavement he ran over me again and then sped away!”
Jose knew he was dying and didn’t want to leave his family behind.
“I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital and I prayed, ‘God, if You’re real, let me see my kids grow up!’”
Jose then passed into a coma. When he awoke two days later, a fellow police officer and close friend led him in the sinner’s prayer.
“That was the way I accepted Jesus into my life and Savior and Lord.”
Jose goes on to explain that before his conversion—even though he was living his passion as a police officer—“I always had a void in my heart that I did not know how to explain and I could not understand. It was impossible to fill.”
Jose was invited to an evangelical church as part of a “Police Officer Week” observance. The pastor saw “something” in Jose, and told him, “God has a purpose in your life!”
“I could not understand that and I said to myself, That is crazy; what is wrong with this pastor?”
Jose continued his career as a police officer until 2004, when his dad—a man that had abandoned Jose as a child—was dying of cancer in Florida.
“God gave me the opportunity to ask him to accept Jesus as his savior and he did before he died,” Jose says. “After I returned to Puerto Rico, I didn’t feel the same passion for being a police officer. I just wanted to tell everybody about Jesus Christ!”
This change of ambition made Jose’s squad captain mad to the point that he told Jose, “If you want I can change your pistol for a Bible because you no longer look like a S.W.A.T. officer—you look like a preacher!”
Those harsh words notwithstanding, Jose told his wife he intended to quit his job as a cop. After a move to Pasco County in Florida, Jose and Yamira still did not know what kind of ministry to pursue.
The family struggled when the economy collapsed in 2009. They were going through what he describes as “the most difficult times of our lives.” While holding a garage sale to raise money, two ladies stopped by for a bargain. They happened to be soldiers of the Pasco County Corps of The Salvation Army. The younger of the ladies, Lucy, invited Jose and Yamira to church that Sunday.
The Army’s Dual-Gospel ministry—worship and service—impressed the Valentins. But what also impressed Jose were the uniforms! Seeing people in a God-loving organization wearing uniforms really appealed to Jose—harkening him back to his 16+ years as a policeman.
“I told my wife that this is a perfect combination: God, and a uniform!” he says laughing.
Still, Jose was in a spiritual battle, he admits, because he wasn’t sure that God wanted them in The Salvation Army. Jose accepted that confirmation at the Florida Division’s 2010 Youth Councils.
Jose and Yamira entered the Evangeline Booth College in 2013 as members of the Heralds Of Grace Session. Today, Lieutenants Valentin are Corps Officers in Marietta, Georgia.
It seems for all his adult life, Lieutenant Jose has devoted himself to serving the community—whether as a S.W.A.T team member or now as a Salvation Army Officer.
“People in any community are always in need, but particularly youth because I know what it is to grow up in hard conditions and the pain that comes with it. I want everyone to have a firm relationship with Christ,” he says.
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications