The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

A message of hope

Evangelist comes to First Southern Baptist Church


March 14, 2019 | View PDF

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Raul Perez with Pastor Jim Neal.

The First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter held an evangelistic event last weekend that drew a multidenominational crowd with Raul Perez, from El Paso, Texas visiting, bringing a message of hope.

The event began on Friday night with a service in the chapel, Perez talking about his journey from chains and shackles to a life of freedom in the Lord. Set Free, a singing family that performs a variety of music, began the service with a rousing set that included old-time hymns with a new twist to original music that had the attendees lifting hands and hearts.

Pastor Jim Neal introduced Perez, who had spent the morning at Shafter High School, giving the students a cautionary tale of letting others dictate what you should do, while not following your own heart and doing what is right. He also gave the students encouragement, stating that it is never too late to change your path to the straight one.

Perez was raised in a broken home without a father, which led to bad choices and turning to the streets. Perez joined a gang very young and found love with similar-minded individuals with the same type of background.

Perez started using drugs before he hit his teens, landing him in the juvenile system for the majority of his youth. By his early teens, he was on drugs. "I was addicted to anything I could get my hands on," said Perez. "But even in those years, God saw to it that many people I encountered told me about God and Jesus; but I just ignored them."

He was then shot in the street and almost died. He remembered all those who had talked to him about His message, and he called out to God for mercy. God answered his prayer, but, as sometimes happens, after the crisis was over, Perez went back to his old ways.

Perez ended up with eight felonies, two of which were capital murder charges. It was only then, facing what he thought was going to be a lifetime behind bars, that those words resonated in his mind and in his soul. "I began to focus my attention on the realness and power of God. I began to seek Him to change my life," said Perez.

About a year later, after having faithfully attending church services and being baptized, Perez received his own miracle. The State of Texas released from prison.

Unfortunately, being released with no family, friends or support around him, Perez eventually found his way back into the street life. Sometimes he would try to return to church, but, "Demons would tell me that I was a traitor and that God would never forgive me again after turning my back on Him."

Jamie Stewart | the Shafter Press

The band Set Free opened the service.

What followed was 14 long years of drugs, alcohol and crime. A lady gave him a tract and told him that Jesus was the only way to the truth and life that he was destined for. He then surrendered to Christ and feels free, sharing Christ with everyone he meets. He gave Jesus his life, and He gave it back to him and he has been praising Him ever since.

There was a diverse crowd on hand, all of whom were gathered as one, worshipping and fellowshipping together. On Saturday afternoon, there was a free lunch provided for those who attended before the service started.

"Raul is such a unique individual and kind soul. I have never met anyone like him," said Pastor Neal. "I believe that Raul touched so many lives, including kids looking for a word of encouragement who might be straying off their path, helping them right it before they fall."


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