Life is full of turns, spills, good times, trials, blessings and the inevitable consequences of our choices. Perhaps you have noticed that God has blessed us with fading, forgetful and forgiving minds. I am only 48, but this is already wonderfully obvious to me. I do not know to where God banishes so many of our bad childhood memories, but I am glad He leaves the good ones in the gardens of our minds to grow and prosper. Eventually we harvest those memories as a chapter in our lives for the next generation to share or endure!

I was born and raised in the Midwest, the son of a career police officer with a minimal income and even less faith. Vacations were a luxury seldom possible, even though both mom and dad worked at least two jobs. The summer of 1964 was a notable exception, leaving an indelible memory.

Despite the fact that summer was hot and muggy, my mom and dad loaded all three children into the family station wagon and off we went to Sandusky, Michigan, to visit my grandparents. Although there was no air conditioning, I do not remember the heat or the helicopter-sized mosquitoes. What I remember most are endless hours in the Black River, swimming ‘til my skin was wrinkled and tanned, and most importantly waking at 4 a.m. to find my grandfather on his knees crying out to God for the salvation of my family. Yes, 1964 was my first memorable encounter with a man of faith. There were no Christian camps, VBS or youth group meetings in those days of my life. I know today, however, that God had planned a vacation with memories that would never fade. I realized that summer that there was a significant difference between my grandfather and my father. My father was angry, frustrated and unpredictable when things did not go his way. My Grandfather just smiled no matter what happened. Years would pass by before I would fully understand why!

My grandparents went to be with Jesus in the late 70s. But in 1993 – at the age of 38 – my Grandfather’s prayers were answered. I became a child of God.

That same year, I led my mother to our Lord, and last year (2002), I shared the memory of my grandfather’s faith in prayer with my father. He died two days later, but not before he, too, accepted Jesus as his Savior!

Fermin Garcia , Pastor
Amistad, San Diego:

Most kids go on vacation to places such as Orlando’s Magic Kingdom, New York to see the statue of Liberty, Hawaii to enjoy the beach, or even Hollywood to see the stars. Though these things were done in our family, what made my vacations great were that they were mixed with seeing people come to know God.

When I was a child, my father, pastor of the largest church in Tijuana Mexico with over 12,000 members, would take us all on vacations, my older brother and a younger sister, my mom and I. We got to travel by car all the way to Florida and up and down the West Coast. We had the privilege of getting to see most of Mexico and Central America. What sights! How exciting!

The difference with my vacations is that in them all my father would travel and preach at different churches or would hold his massive crusades. He would have commitments to preach and I thought that was normal, everyone on their vacation did something with father that related to his job. In Palenque Chiapas, Mexico, in 1976, I was able to see the pyramids and also about 8,000 people who came to the Lord that week.

You may think of vacations such as this as dull, lacking life, yet today as pastor of Amistad San Diego, I remember these times and appreciate all that I learned from my father. I learned that it is great to see people come to know Christ, and it is awesome to see people healed. There is no greater vacation than to enjoy the parks, games, museums, while at the same time serving God. I missed out on nothing. I enjoyed life and had the privilege of knowing many came into God’s Kingdom because my father decided to go to Disneyland and Puerto Vallarta.

I want my children now to know that the purpose of life is not to live it without realizing that many do not know God, but to learn to serve Him everywhere they go. I want my children to travel and see the beauty of God’s creation yet on the way let someone’s life be blessed by that Creator. Now that’s a vacation!

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