Overcoming Life’s Challenges"I hope to be faithful to that call with the help of God and bring His gospel to every heart."
We all face challenges that make us better or make us put aside our dreams. There is no doubt that life’s challenges are designed to strengthen and reaffirm us as a person. Our attitude determines if problems help us grow or surrender and stagnate. To overcome challenges, we must develop an approach of not just letting life roll over us, but instead face our problems head on. What can we learn from conflict? In my experience, I have found that taking problems as opportunities to grow is the best way to face a challenge and develop a stronger character.
My life has been characterized by facing challenges that have gotten me where I am today. I was born in Communist Cuba in a Christian home. Being a Christian in a communist country means that you will experience persecution for being a Christian. In some way, they will try to destroy your faith. In my childhood, I was persecuted and questioned for believing in God. I remember being challenged by teachers regarding my faith, and they tried to convince me that ignorant men wrote the Bible, and that they had written legends, myths and fairy tales.
The Cuban State in its constitution is considered atheist, but in 1992, it changed to a secular State. That means a total separation between Church and State. It was a name change because the government was still atheist, materialistic and humanistic in its philosophy. As Christians, we were severely repressed because the Cuban government said we supported the United States. I experienced hunger and suffered shortages to the point of not having shoes or clothes. I grew up in that environment and fought to keep going. Today, I see that God kept my faith during so much pressure.
I accepted Christ as Savior when I was 11. But at the age of 15, I left the Lord and the church because of difficulties I faced in my home. My parents had divorced and my family was destroyed. It left me without direction. My father came to the United States when I was 17, and my mother came two years later. I, however, stayed with my brothers in Cuba.
My most significant experience with the Lord happened in 2008 when I was 27. God started calling me to return to Him. At first, I wanted to get out of the lifestyle I had. At the same time, I didn’t want to. I had a constant struggle in my soul. But God in His mercy began to work within me in a way that took away everything I loved in the world until emptiness and despair overwhelmed me.
Finally, in August of 2008, I fell on my knees before the Lord, desperately broken. In that condition, I surrendered completely to Christ. I confessed all my sins and repented. God began to rid my heart of past hatreds and resentments. He taught me to apologize to my friends and enemies. He began to heal my soul and completely restored my marriage.
In 2016, I arrived in the United States as a refugee. I did not speak English, and I did not understand it. My challenge then was to learn a new language. I was discriminated against by people who made fun of me because I did not speak English fluently. What was my attitude? Faced with this challenge, I tried harder to learn, demonstrating that I was not what people thought I was. Instead, I forged a different destiny in life with God’s help.
My first encounter with The Salvation Army was in June 2016, when I visited The Syracuse Temple Corps. My mother and grandmother were already members for several years. My grandmother told me that she chose to be a soldier of The Salvation Army because of her husband. When he was 14, his father was very sick and was in the shelters of The Salvation Army in Havana where he was cared for until he died of tuberculosis. She told me that my grandfather was always very grateful for that help. In gratitude to my grandfather’s memory, my grandmother became a Salvation Army soldier.
God called me to be a pastor in 2009. At first, I was surprised. However, I was more surprised when God confirmed my call, not only to be a pastor but also to be an officer of The Salvation Army.
My final challenge is to believe. Believe that with the help of God, we can go forward and fulfill the call to be faithful. Believe that everything is possible with Him at our side. God gave me this promise:
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9 NLT
I hope to be faithful to that call with the help of God and bring His gospel to every heart.
Lieutenant Renato Sarmiento completed training and was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Eastern Territory in June 2021.