A Long Road to Freedom

"One Army, One Mission, One Message! Glory be to God!" by Lieutenant Omar A. Lugo

To properly explain my testimony, I must go back to a time in my life when I couldn’t care less for the things of God, others or myself. It was a dark time where nothing really mattered except instant gratification – what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it. Even though I traveled this road, I realized that God never abandoned me. As selfish as I was, He refused to treat me the same way. I do not deserve any of the accomplishments I have achieved, because if it were not for Him, I would not be here today to share my testimony.

I am blessed that I grew up in a Christian home full of love and discipline. I also grew up in an environment polluted with hate, crime and drugs. We lived where God and the Army needed my parents. Little did I know how that would impact my future. In 1981, as a second-generation Salvationist and Junior Soldier, I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. Six years later, I truly affirmed that relationship as a Senior Soldier.

As I traveled life’s road, I faced many challenges. As an Officer’s child, I was never in one place for long. The challenges of adjusting and being accepted by those around me became increasingly difficult. During my early teen years, I was faithful and fully involved in the Church, camp programs, band and sports. I also recall becoming more defiant with my parents, the Church and God. 

After high school, my lukewarm Christian life took form. As a stubborn young adult, I fully believed that I was a lower-class citizen because of my complexion and Hispanic heritage. Feeling victimized or profiled for much of my life caused me to not see that Jesus Himself was also victimized, profiled, persecuted, accused and ultimately murdered. He willingly came down to die on my behalf and to set me free from the hate, sin and sadness in my life as we read in John 10:14-15 (NIV).

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me –  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Meeting my wife, Erika, saved my life. God used her to speak to me. I think of the story of Esther and King Xerxes, not that I was a king although Erika is my queen. In the story, Esther was God’s way of calling attention to what He wanted done. Because of this, I saw the light and realized that I was not alone, but rather that I was loved and important to God’s Kingdom.

2007 is marked in my heart as the year my life was changed forever. The Holy Spirit helped me forgive myself and others. It was the last step on a long road. I was finally free! I felt clean and new, no hate, anger or sin! Overwhelmed by the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father, who through His grace and love sanctified me, setting me apart being made holy to be used as He saw fit. 

In 2016, I joined our youth group for Youth Councils. It was an amazing weekend that made me realize that I was too comfortable and wanted to do more. I felt a fire and knew that the Holy Spirit was alive and well within me. That was my calling to serve! The Lord chose that moment to say that I was finally ready to do His will. 

In 2018, already believing that the Lord had a special plan for me and my family, we accompanied our teens to Youth Councils for another blessed weekend where God confirmed my calling, designating me as a leader that was meant for greater things, His things!

Paul’s words to Timothy have had a significant impact on my life. As it is written in 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (NIV),

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

Fast-forward to 2021, and here we are. God is amazing, and there is never a dull moment. I give Him all the Glory! There is no way I can ever repay Him for the sacrifice that Jesus made. How fitting it is that as a Messenger of Grace, I can now share the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human need in His name! 

I will leave you with this scripture that speaks loudly to my walk, understanding and gratefulness. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

As a good Soldier for Jesus Christ, who better than The Salvation Army to do His Will? One Army, One Mission, One Message! Glory be to God!

Lieutenant Omar A. Lugo completed training and was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Southern Territory in June. 

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