Joseph Rojas, lead singer of Christian rock band Seventh Day Slumber, pals around with a new friend on a recent Compassion-sponsored trip to Ecuador.
Joseph Rojas is used to being looked upon as an outcast. His tattoos and body piercings attract stares. His baby mohawk haircut induces whispers. But on a recent trip to Ecuador with Compassion, Joseph, lead singer of Seventh Day Slumber, received a look he wasn't prepared for - the gaze of God's love from hundreds of squirming children.
When Joseph walked onto a dusty, crowded playground at the Huerto de los Olivos Student Center, he transformed from outsider to inside man. He became a playmate and a human jungle gym. The children hung off of his tattooed arms and climbed onto his back. They proudly showed off their drawings and laughed when he couldn't keep up with their rapid-fire Spanish. But mostly, they just loved him.
"The whole experience made me realize something - these kids were Jesus to me," says Joseph. "These kids didn't look at my tattoos or my hair. They just loved me, completely, like Jesus. That day (at the playground) I hugged Jesus, I played with Jesus, I laughed with Jesus, I held Jesus. I felt the hand of God touch me."
Helping the Hurting
Growing up overweight and without a father, Joseph was shunned as a child. The isolation hurt him, and he turned to a $400-a-day cocaine habit to fill his needs. But an overdose during a suicide attempt put him in a receiving mood and he cried out to the Lord. Now, as the front man for the Christian rock group Seventh Day Slumber, Joseph and his three band mates travel all over the country spreading the Good News through rock.
"We meet a lot of hurting people while we're on the road, so we try to do our part to minister to those people we meet daily," says Joseph. "But we also realize there's an enormous need outside of the United States where they don't have the kind of governmental programs that we have here. We've always wanted to make a huge impact on the world, and Compassion gives us the opportunity to do that."
After talking about Compassion from the stage and encouraging fans to sponsor a child, Joseph says that he and his band mates wanted to see Compassion's work in action. That's why they decided to tour Compassion's program in Ecuador.
"We want to tell people that we've seen it," says Joseph. "(That) we didn't just read about these children in a magazine. We've laughed with these kids and we've cried with them, and it's real."
"... Because I Have Jesus"
Compassion's work was never made more real than one spring day in Ecuador. On that day, Joseph and the band were touring homes of Compassion-assisted families. Joseph walked into the home of an elderly man. The house was nothing more than a shack. It was so small that Joseph's broad shoulders seemed to fill its entire space. The band leader met the father of the house, a father of nine. As Joseph sat on the concrete floor, he couldn't help but stare.
"This man had the most beautiful smile that I've ever seen," Joseph says. "I couldn't turn away from that smile . it just grabbed me. I didn't want to offend him, but I asked him how he could smile like that in the midst of his trials. The man just looked at me and said, 'Because I have Jesus.'"
"Because I have Jesus." That simple statement reminded Joseph of the time he discovered that Jesus was the answer. Life on the road, the music business, and the general "busyness" of life had blurred Joseph's memories of God's grace. But there, in that small home on the Ecuadorian hillside, the picture of Jesus' love came right back into focus for Joseph.
"While I was in Ecuador, I was reminded that Jesus is enough," he says. "At every turn, I was shown that Jesus is sufficient, that he's enough for me. He's enough."
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