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How this former gangster turned his life to God

Spirit, Together inspired, 2018, Inspiring Stories

When Esteban Solis was in high school, he was given an ultimatum: Choose between playing sports, or joining a gang. While he loved playing basketball, Esteban chose gangs. He became destructive, a felon and drug abuser. It wasn’t until after his 13th arrest years later—and a conversation with God—that Esteban would completely turn his life around.

Esteban was court-committed to a rehabilitation program named Victory Outreach in Simi Valley, California. Seven months into the program, Esteban wanted to leave. “I told my counselor that I was tired and I didn’t want to live this type of life. I wanted to go back to jail, where at least I knew what to expect.” Esteban’s counselor, who had once gone through the program himself, told Esteban that he needed to look towards his future and stop running back to the past.

“He said to me, ‘God has a plan for you. He can do more for you than you can ever imagine,’” says Esteban. He was skeptical and still wanted to leave the program, to return to his life behind bars. His counselor nodded, and then tossed a set of keys to Esteban, saying that as long as he was leaving, he may as well humor him. “He said, ‘Do me a favor. Go to the church and sit there for a half hour.’” So he did.

“As I walked in, worship music was playing,” says Esteban. “I sat down. After 10 minutes, I started crying. I didn’t understand what was happening. I thought, ‘What the heck is wrong with me, I’m a rough-and-tough guy’—but I was crying uncontrollably. I knew it was God, telling me to stop running. That’s when my life changed.”

Esteban went back to his rehab program. In 2004, he found a temporary job at Adventist Health Simi Valley. After nine months, Clif Patten, the vice president of the hospital at the time, recognized Esteban’s hard work and offered him a permanent job. “He looked me in the eyes and told me he believed in second chances,” says Esteban. “He was willing to take a chance on me, and he told me not to let him down. I am still doing that to this day—not letting him down.”

Esteban is now the lead plant operations technician at Adventist Health Simi Valley. He loves working for Adventist Health because he gets to help people. “Even if I don’t ever meet them, by doing quality work, we’re helping people get better,” says Esteban. “Even if it’s something as simple as making sure the air conditioning works properly, or there’s power outlets they can use—we do everything we can to help make their experience better.” 

Nearly 15 years later, Esteban is still an active member of the church where God first told him to turn his life around. After graduating from the rehabilitation program, Esteban moved into an apartment attached to his preacher’s house. He lived for two years until he married his wife, who he describes as the joy of his life, along with their two children.

Today, Esteban is an inspiring mentor to others that are facing the same challenges that he faced for so much of his life. Now he’s the one with the apartment attached to his home that he rents to graduates of the rehabilitation program. He is a shining example of what incredible things God can do for us, if we are just willing to look towards the future and listen to what He has to say.

“I give all the glory to God,” says Esteban. “I’m honored to be a positive influence to those that come from similar backgrounds. I’m happy to help them see—it’s not just talk. This is who I was, and this is who I am now. God’s able to do it for them, too, if they give Him a chance. God works.”