Last summer, radios at The Oaks frequently broadcasted something such as, “This is Snapchat to Zip,” or “This is Laffy-Taffy to Little Mermaid.” At The Oaks, the summer staff gave each other funny nicknames for the summer-camp season. They communicated over radios and in normal conversation using the nicknames, some of which seemed hilariously unfitting, such as Gerald’s. Gerald was about thirty years old and appeared intimidating, at least on the outside. And at The Oaks, everyone called him Woo-Woo.
Gerald used the Spanish word “woo-woo” as we use the English word “etcetera,” thus earning his nickname.
Since the summer theme revolved around Woo-Woo’s testimony, he and other summer staff acted out skits that shared his story for the summer-camp kids. In addition to watching the skits, I got more details from him afterwards.
At about six or seven years old, Gerald moved from Guatemala to Los Angeles. He felt that a good God wouldn’t have let his family move away from everything they knew. Because of this, Gerald began doubting the Christian principles his mother taught him.
Once he began attending school in Los Angeles, his mother instructed him to act kindly to other people. However, Gerald found that the other children wanted friends who would play mean pranks, sell drugs, or do other bad things. Since he had no success making new friends while acting kindly, Gerald succumbed to the peer pressure of his classmates.
Though Gerald’s father worked hard, a new life in America proved arduous for them. Because he never knew whether his family could pay the next rent for their house, Gerald took responsibility into his own hands and began selling drugs. His father strongly disapproved of this, but Gerald believed that if a father couldn’t even provide for his own family, his advice and instructions must not be worth following.
Gang involvement followed drug-dealing a few years later. Reflecting on this time, Gerald described his activities as “the absence of truth in a young person’s life.” Gerald also says that the path he trod was “a one way road” leading to death. In fact, one day a friend died fighting police while trying to rob a liquor store. His friend’s death made a deep impression on him.
Gerald wanted to advertise his drug-dealing. He already made loads of money, but he wanted more. So he decided to start screen printing his logo on clothes.
Not long after his decision, someone offered to fund the launch of his screen printing business. Gerald accepted without knowing the dark side of the man. God would use this evil being to teach Gerald an important lesson. But for now, Gerald and the individual had a mutual relationship. His funder would profit from the investment and Gerald could start his business.
Both men met to talk about the business. They became high on strong drugs during their meeting though and made no progress. Due to his altered mental state at that time, Gerald couldn’t recall details when he tried to. But he does remember that God revealed the ugly spiritual side of the funder during that meeting.
In the skit, actors cloaked in black surrounded Gerald as his funder tried to convince him to reject any mercy God offered. Gerald’s final and last opportunity to choose between good and evil would affect him permanently. Time ran out as cloaked demons pressed around him. Just then, Gerald shouted for Jesus to save him, and the demons fled from the omnipotent power that saved him. Though the drugs meddled with his memory, Gerald believes this to be the moment he became a Christian.
For his family and many others, Gerald’s salvation was a major answer to prayer. They had interceded for months beforehand that Gerald would repent.
After becoming a Christian, Gerald became an intern at The Oaks, needing a job and wanting Christian training. He drove by my house at The Oaks in a golf cart, and I met him.
Gerald would’ve worked at a warehouse after his year internship, but they called, saying, “Sorry, someone else took your job even though we agreed to let you work here.” So Gerald became a summer staff at The Oaks instead. I witnessed many kids give their lives to Jesus after he shared his testimony through skits.
Gerald has advice for children and young adults:
It is good to learn how to be your own authentic self while following Jesus’ calling instead of pursuing interests of the flesh. Additionally, don’t let emotions trick you to believing lies.
God can transform someone even as tough as a gangster into a soft-hearted Woo-Woo.