What Time Is It? It’s 11:28 Omaha!
“I am a simple guy who has a heart for his community.”
As a Mexican, it was a hard challenge when Arturo Mejia had to leave his country at the age of seventeen. “Like a lot of people, I immigrated to this country with the desire to find that thing that our countries cannot offer. Some come to find success, others come for security and stability, and some just want to have fun. Me, I came looking for freedom.”
Why was Arturo looking for freedom?
“It’s not that I was imprisoned by my parents. My life was dedicated to study and education. There was no time out of school for me. I was full of responsibilities and duties while at school and while at home. I never had time for fun or partying like other young guys my age.”
In the spring of 2000 Arturo graduated from high school in Mexico. His goal at that time was to graduate from college and find a good job that would allow him to leave his hometown and live on his own. But his plans got changed when his parents told him that they couldn’t afford the expenses of college or any kind of education for him. “I was jobless and without any skills to find one, at least a descent one.”
He found a part-time job in a hotel as a dishwasher but the money he was making was nothing compared with the money he needed for college tuition. “I did think about quitting the idea of school, but inside of me was a big desire to get a professional degree in marketing or business administration.”
There were no more options but one: Emigrate out of his country.
In the fall of 2000, Arturo arrived in the United States and settled in Portland, Oregon. “I was in a new place where everything looked totally different. “Soon after my arrival, I found a job as a dishwasher again. It wasn’t that bad. I started to earn good money. At first I was saving all my earnings with the purpose of going back to my country in less than a year. But suddenly everything changed in my life.”
Arturo started hanging out with friends who taught him how to party. “They taught me how to have ‘fun,’ how to drink beer and little things like how to invite a girl to dance. It was totally a new world, a new life for me. So I decided to stay a little longer in that city by enjoying and doing things that I never had done before.”
Soon Arturo was spending his savings on clothes, alcohol, girls, and parties. “I found myself doing what I wasn’t supposed to do. I couldn’t stop it because I was really submerged in that kind of life.”
Everything started to turn wrong. “I left my job because I wanted more free time. I wasn’t making enough money so I was frustrated and mad.”
When Arturo’s friends saw that he didn’t have much money, they abandoned him. “They stopped hanging out with me because of that.”
Jobless and without money, Arturo slipped into depression. His uncle didn’t kick him out of their apartment but gave him time to find a job and continue living with him.
“Emotionally I was devastated. I felt like my life was wasted. The depression was growing inside of me really fast. I tried to overcome it, but it was too hard.”
Finding another job gave Arturo a new opportunity and a new start in life. “I thought everything was going fine, but I was feeling empty. I felt that I was missing something to be completed.”
Confused about what he really wanted to do with his life, Arturo considered the idea of returning to his country and continuing his education. But he was also struggling with the idea of losing the freedom he had. Or what he thought was freedom.
Arturo decided not to go back to Mexico but remain in the States, living his life in his own way. “During the next five months, my life was full of really tough situations and many personal issues. Things got so bad that I needed to leave Oregon and run away to Nebraska.”
Once again Arturo was looking for a new beginning. “I tried so hard to make a 360-degree turn in my life and start from zero to make everything right. Sadly, nothing changed. I was the same, doing the same, only with a big difference: I was immersed in very bad things. I became an alcoholic, addicted to pornography and witchcraft. I was so full of anger and hate. I started to blame my parents for my situation. I started to hate the world and myself.”
After three failed suicide attempts, Arturo began to get the idea that it was not in God’s plan for him to leave this world at that time.
“Empty and lonely, I fell into a big depression. Nothing that I used to do or have could make me feel happy and peaceful. Soon after my failed suicide attempts, I lost my job. At that time I was without a penny in my pocket. I sold my minivan to get money to survive, but I didn’t find any other job. I spent all my money and finally the people I was living with kicked me out.”
Arturo went to all of his friends and family members, asking for help. But none of them reached out their hand to support him. Three day later he found himself homeless and forsaken.
“All my so-called friends I used to party with turned their backs at me. I was hopeless and desperate. I had in my mind again the idea of suicide, but it was so difficult for me at that time to do something like that.”
One day Arturo went to the park and started to walk around, just thinking and looking for a solution. “I remember putting my hand in my pocket and I finding a piece of paper. At first I ignored it; but when I looked at it, I realized it was a flyer. Then I remembered that a week ago, a pastor had given it to me, inviting me to his church.”
When the pastor answered Arturo’s phone call, the two of them agreed to meet in that park.
“He came to me and I told him my entire situation. I cried and I opened my heart to him like I never had done before to anyone else. I remember that he laid his hand on my shoulder and started to pray for me.”
Although his problems didn’t go away right then and there, Arturo’s feeling of helplessness and despair was gone. “I felt so relieved. The pastor told me that if I really needed a place to stay, the church had a rehabilitation center for addicts and I could stay there if I didn’t mind. Right at that moment I agreed to move into that center. It was like an answer directly from heaven.”
Arturo has been walking with Christ for twelve years now. “There have been many ups and downs, but I’m still on my feet, ready to keep walking forward.”
Introducing the image of a protestant Christ to a culture full of traditions and pre-Hispanic notions has been really difficult for Arturo. But he keeps right on teaching the Christ that the Bible shows, hoping that people will come to know the Lord Jesus as the Man who died to set them free from the condemnation of sin. He wants to take them beyond the traditional religious way of thinking and learn what it means to be born again.
“I have learned that, as a human, it is hard to get involved in everyday situations without the risk of being rejected because of different thinking. But what’s even harder is to just watch my community (the Hispanic community) vanishing because of the ignorance, fear, and insecurity of living in another country.”
Arturo funded a Bible Group named 11:28 Ministry where he leads and teach the good teaches of Jesus Christ.
11:28 Omaha comes from Matthew 11:28“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“As that verse says, I want to bring rest through the power of Christ to those who are restless. Our Latino community needs a lot of people who really have the desire of share the gospel. But sadly there are not many people who would like to do it.”
The need for Spanish-speaking evangelists led Arturo into prison ministry. After experiencing new life in Christ, he wanted to bring that same hope to inmates through the teaching of God’s word.
Working with inCOMMON Community Development, located at 1340 Park ave Omaha, Ne. Arturo offers counseling and teaches Bible classes. He also helps people prepare for the GED exam.
Helping others find a better way of living is Arturo’s way of giving back to God, who rescued him when he was in trouble.
“One of the things I teach people is that there are no borders that can separate us from our dreams.”
inCommon Community Development is a nonprofit organization that strengthens neighborhoods by uniting residents and teaching them how to work together to overcome poverty and homelessness. Programs include The Listening Project, Community Meals, CommonLife, Park Ave Commons, Neighbors United, and Collective Impact.
To learn more about opportunities for involvement, visit their website: http://inCOMMONcd.org