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My dad’s death made me hate God

Luis Valverde didn’t know how to work through his pain until he discovered a community that would embrace him and his questions

I wasn’t there to watch my dad take his last breath.

We were all the in the room waiting. I had been up for 18 or 19 hours and had been so tired that, sitting in the chair, I fell asleep.

My mom woke me up in tears, telling me my dad had moved on. He was 49.

I looked at him as he lay on his bed. I just touched his foot and told him, “See you later,” and walked out.

My dad, Luis Angel, was a pastor in the Nazarene Church since he was 18 years old. Most recently, he was traveling three states planting Hispanic churches.

Why would he take away a pastor? Someone who was trying to share the Gospel?

He had been diagnosed with liver failure in mid-2008. We just thought it would be a simple transplant, and we would be back to a normal life.

But things got really bad in early January 2009, when my dad got an infection that put him in the Intensive Care Unit. The doctors gave us the ultimatum of keeping him on life support or not.

My dad asked me to promise him we wouldn’t do that. If that was his time, that was the Lord calling him home, he said.

So, four days later, after lots of prayer, we decided to “pull the plug.”

It was very difficult to watch. I literally ran out of the room.

Myself; my sister, Melissa; my mom, Dianey; and my dad, Luis, at a show in Columbia

My Hero

I was a preacher’s kid. I had a good Christian mask on. I was saying the right things. But inside I was hating God.

My dad was a man of very, very strong faith. Why would he take away a pastor? Someone who was trying to share the Gospel?

We moved to Florida from Costa Rica in 1999, when I was 9, and then to Columbia, South Carolina, in 2002.

The church there started with 10 or so people, and it grew to 175 in a meeting. My dad began just by walking around, letting people know there was a Spanish church in the neighborhood.

After I met Jesus at a church camp when I was 17 years old, I had the incredible opportunity to have my dad baptize me at that church.

Deep down, I didn’t want to do anything to glorify this "God" who had taken my dad.

My dad was my hero.

When I was a child, He would open up the church and let me play the drums. He would stay in his office, just next door, but he never asked me to stop. That was a miracle in itself!

My dad would do whatever he could to help somebody. When my sister and I asked for toys, he would explain to us that he wasn’t going to able to do that because someone had a need. That was very, very meaningful to me.

Faking It

For about a year and a half after his death, I went into a rebellious state, doing anything negative I could think of because I wanted to get back at this “God” who took my dad.

I was still playing drums at church — putting a smile on, acting real strong. But deep down, I didn’t want to do anything to glorify this God who had taken my dad.

I faked community. I felt if I even spoke out that I was angry at God, I would not be allowed to play, and I would be sent away.

Dad's death felt like God was punishing me.

I always put on that "I'm-a-Christian" face because I didn't want to disappoint anyone, including my mom and my sister. I was able to hide my feelings very well.

During this season of rebellion, I was constantly out with guys from work, drinking at their houses, playing video games until we blacked out — sometimes waking up the next morning not knowing how I got home.

The anger was something I was able to tuck away in a dark closet on Sunday mornings.

Hanging out with members of the NewSpring Columbia band between services helped us bond like family.

Walls Torn Down

Eventually, I realized that was not something my dad would have wanted for me. I didn’t want to show up to church knowing I had gone crazy the night before, and that pushed me to make a change.

It was around that time one of my friends invited me to come to church with him at NewSpring for Christmas 2011. It was a completely different style of church. I wanted a fresh start, and NewSpring made me feel like that was possible.

Dad's death felt like God was punishing me. But at NewSpring, the big point I kept getting in challenging ways was that God was not against me. He was after me — to get me and bring me home!

I was attending NewSpring every now and then until late June when I decided to try out for the band as a drummer. From then on, I started to see Jesus for who He was.

I was able to open up and be set free.

The band got to hang out and play together and share fun times and hard times. I was able to learn about community from them, and that was a big step.

The band and the production staff became true friends and a second family. They were people who truly cared about my life and how I was doing; people who wanted to see me grow closer to Jesus.

I saw God as a murderer for a long time, but my community helped me tear down the wall of negativity and anger and focus on the joy that He is bringing me.

My dad encouraged me to learn the drums. God used my musical gift to lead me toward healing by playing with the NewSpring Columbia band.  

Through the Valley

I can’t be mad at God for doing the things He does because I know, in the long run, it will be the best thing that can happen.

Through the thing He gifted me with, playing an instrument, I was able to open up and be set free.

I came to realize how God, by "taking" my earthly father, showed me much more love than I could ever imagine. I am able to focus on the good, not the bad, and that’s how I know the Lord has moved in my life.

I am completely at peace with what the Lord has done.

I will remember what my dad did for people. I can follow in his footsteps and leave a small amount of legacy like he did.

It’s definitely a fight to follow Jesus, but I know I am completely at peace with what the Lord has done. Now I know my dad is seeing Jesus face-to-face, and I know, truly, the Lord has looked at him and said, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.”

My goal now is to share my story and my dad’s story. People need to understand that things happen, and they are not going to be easy, but the Lord is going to be with them through it all.

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