A Light in the Darkness
Ernesto Zubia was in a dark place. He was in prison, facing five to 20 years on drug-related charges. He knew he had made some very poor decisions.
Hope was faint.
When Zubia’s wife sent him a Bible, he began to read it, searching for that hope.
“I had read the Bible a little bit before, but when I was in prison, I was looking to it for help,” he said. “Sometimes you read the Bible just to learn what’s in it, but this was more personal. I wanted to know in what way the Bible could be true to me, or if it could be true to me.”
In John 6, Zubia read about Jesus being the bread of life that came down from heaven for all men. The next time he picked up his Bible, he read John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”
One night as he was reading, Zubia began to pray, “If you are real, if you are the bread of life that can give life to men, and if you’re the light that can take me out of the darkness, then forgive me.”
He began to cry.
“Since that day, my life was changed, totally.”
The next morning, Zubia called his wife. He told her what had happened and asked for her forgiveness for everything he had done. He confessed that he had been a bad husband and a bad man and told her to go and live her life. She did not need to worry about him or visit him. He was sorry.
When his wife began crying, Zubia thought she was going to say goodbye. But instead, he witnessed God’s grace once again.
“She started crying and she said, ‘Last night, I asked God to forgive me and to save me and to give me a new life.’ So at the same time that I [was praying for forgiveness], she had surrendered her life to Jesus,” Zubia said. “It was the best thing because now we were of the same mind.”
When Zubia was released from prison, he returned to his hometown of Marfa, Texas, where his mother-in-law had begun a ministry in her home. Eager to share the Gospel that had changed his heart, Zubia and his wife joined her in her work. Soon, the house was overflowing with people who had come to hear the Good News, particularly spoken in Spanish.
Zubia knew that their church needed its own space, and God soon provided. A friend Zubia had made after leaving prison wrote him a check for $30,000, allowing him to purchase a church building for his growing congregation.
“In the beginning, most of the people who would come to church to find out about the Gospel were mainly people that I used to sell drugs to. They wanted to find out what had happened to me to change my life in such a radical way. That’s how we started,” Zubia said. “So then I knew that I needed to learn more. I had read the Bible and other books by myself, but I knew I needed to find a place where I could be instructed in how to read the Bible and theology.”
A friend recommended a list of places where Zubia could pursue further instruction. The Truett Seminary Certificate Program was on that list. After speaking with the program director, David Tate, both Zubia and his wife began taking courses within the program in November 2015.
“The program has impacted me in every way — at the church, preaching and working with people, with my marriage, with my children. The more we look into ourselves, the more we learn to love other people. It has helped me to be more merciful and more understanding.” –Ernesto Zubia
Two years later, Zubia completed his Certificate of Christian Foundation, and after another two years, he completed his Certificate of Ministry, the primary-level of achievement in Truett’s program. Today, he is just a few courses away from earning his Advanced Certificate of Ministry. A grant received from the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation has helped to make Zubia’s continuing education even more affordable.
“The program has impacted me in every way — at the church, preaching and working with people, with my marriage, with my children,” Zubia said. “The more we look into ourselves, the more we learn to love other people. [The Certificate Program courses] have helped me to be more merciful and more understanding.”
According to Zubia, one of the greatest strengths of the program is the opportunity to learn within a community. He notes that it is a different experience to read a book or take a course by yourself than to do so alongside and engaged with a group of people from different backgrounds and with different ideas.
“When we come together during the course, you can see how different we are, but the most important thing is that we were brought together by the Gospel,” he said. “Sometimes we’re just stuck with our own views and have our minds made up, but when you listen to what other people have to say, you can really learn from them.”
In addition to the online classes, Zubia has participated in several of the program’s in-person seminars on the Truett campus. He found these opportunities to be especially encouraging as he was able to really get to know his classmates and to hear about their experiences.
Zubia believes it is important for people to know that Truett’s Certificate Program not only helps students to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and theology, but that it also nurtures their faith.
“It brings you closer in your relationship with God. It reminds you that the Gospel is the most important thing. It helps you to grow in your faith and to stay centered on what the Gospel is all about.”
It has now been over six years since Zubia’s heart was changed in prison and five years since he began his studies with the Truett Certificate Program. As he continues to grow in knowledge and faith, he shines brighter and brighter for the people he serves in Marfa, Texas. As he encounters others struggling in the darkness he once knew, Zubia introduces them — with a heart full of conviction and compassion — to the Light of the World.