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A Sweet, Soft Voice Saved His Life

Eduardo Rocha shares his dramatic testimony in an issue of CT magazine:

It was March 13, 1986, I was all alone and getting high. But I had also gotten drunk on fantasies of somehow becoming a drug kingpin at age 18. Earlier that night, I had left my brother’s house to deliver 4.5 ounces of cocaine to one of his customers. I hadn’t noticed the headlight out on Dad’s 1978 Plymouth Volare, but the New York state trooper sure did. After pulling me over, he also noticed that I was driving under the influence, not to mention the lump protruding from the left pocket of my leather jacket.

I was young and naïve, clueless about what lay ahead. But the stark reality caught up with me later as I sat in a cold cell at the Orange County Jail, where I wrapped a bed sheet from an old cot around my neck and began tightening it. Death seemed like the only way out of this mess. I was trapped. Hopeless. Finished.

As the sheet got tighter, the world started fading away. But just before succumbing to the darkness, I heard a voice in my native Spanish: “Eduardo, no lo hagas. Hay esperanza para tu vida.” (“Eduardo, don’t do it. There is hope for your life.”) That sweet, soft voice saved my life that day. After hearing the voice that stopped me from killing myself, I said, “God, if that’s really you, please help me.”

Eduardo was facing a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. When a guard gave him a Bible, he started reading the Gospels. He was captivated by the stories of Jesus—how he would speak to people in great need and meet those needs in miraculous ways. But the verse that made the deepest impression was 2 Corinthians 5:17, where Paul promises that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” And so, at a church meeting in the jail’s gymnasium, on October 6, 1986, he surrendered to the love of Christ, accepting his offer to be his Lord and Savior.

In a sequence of seemingly miraculous events, his sentence was reduced and he became eligible for parole after just three years. In March of 1989, Eduardo was released but he was immediately taken into custody by an immigration official. He was deported back to Uruguay (where he had been born) and banned from returning.

Over the next 21 years Eduardo never gave up his goal of returning to the US. While he waited, he attended Bible college and began preaching. He married and started a family, but the US Embassy in Uruguay denied his repeated requests to immigrate to the US. Finally, after writing an extensive letter to the US attorney general, he received a pardon from the State Department and a tourist visa was approved.

He returned to the United States in 2010, and connected with a church near Nashville. In 2012, this church hired him as the pastor of an on-campus Hispanic church. Over time the Tennessee Department of Correction hired him to serve as psychiatric chaplain in a maximum-security prison.

In January of 2022, God finally granted my fervent wish for full US citizenship. That sweet voice that cared enough to whisper encouragement into my prison cell still cares deeply for me now. Life has not been easy, but I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, even to those who make terrible mistakes like mine.

Editor’s Note: Today Eduardo Rocha is a corporate chaplain for Charter Construction in Tennessee and a military chaplain for the Tennessee State Guard.

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