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Geronimo Aguilar, 37


Richmond Outreach Center

Sometimes it's difficult to see God's work in your life. Sometimes God makes himself hard to miss.

Geronimo Aguilar was just a teenager when, as a drug-addled, dropout gangbanger on the streets of Los Angeles, he stumbled into a church. Abandoned by his father, he'd seen his mother shot and killed when he was 8.

"I was high as a kite," Aguilar says. "I'd never been to church in my life -- something prompted me to go over there. I didn't even know if it would be open. It was Tuesday, and I thought God only worked on Sunday."

The pastor there shared his story with Aguilar: broken home, drugs, gangs, prison and redemption. Aguilar asked the man's name. Phil Aguilar was the answer. "Pretty freaky, man," he says.

It was a wakeup call not to be ignored.

Pastor Geronimo Aguilar now ministers to thousands of young Richmonders each week through his Richmond Outreach Center (ROC, for short). Most are from the city's poorest housing projects. His youth programs touch lives every day, and the ROC's fleet of 20 old school buses patrols the city looking for lost souls to bring back to God.

"We work with thousands of at-risk youth," Aguilar says, "to let them know they don't have to live a life on the street and that God has a plan for everybody."

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