My name is Agustin Torres. I’m involved with the Salem Dream Center, which was started by West Salem (Salem West Foursquare Church) in Salem, Ore., and is now an independent non-profit Foursquare ministry that continues to serve the community. I’m a 16-year-old high school student.
My dad was never in my life. He came home once a month, and fed us and brought us money to support us—only enough for a week. Growing up without a dad was hard. I didn’t have anybody to play with; I didn’t have a dad to hug when I’d come home from school.
I started getting into gangs in the fourth grade. I wanted to support my family because we didn’t have any money. The gang helped us, and they were like family; they protected us. But it wasn’t a “free money” thing. We needed to work for it, like by going to schools and stores to steal random stuff they would ask for.
Craig Oviatt, a Foursquare credentialed minister and the executive director of Salem Dream Center, first met me when he knocked on our apartment door to invite me to the Dream Center. I slammed the door in his face.
The next week, Craig visited with some friends of mine, so then I said I’d go. So I went to the Dream Center. When I started going there, I was a kid who was angry, always fighting with other kids. I was very unhappy.
I didn’t have purpose in life, I didn’t have hope, and so I didn’t even try. I had failing grades and was in the principal’s office every day. I was lashing out, and most people just saw that I was angry, but I really was screaming for help.
When I was living at home, my big brother was always mad, too, and beating me up. One night I needed a safe place to stay, so I went to Craig and Renée’s house. I fell asleep on the couch, and when Renée tried to wake me up, I started throwing punches in my sleep. The next morning, Renée talked with me about it, and I told her that I was never able to sleep soundly; I was always scared in my sleep.
I started asking Craig questions about anger and about how not to be angry. The big pivotal point in my life happened on a Saturday at Dream Center. They had been working with me a lot on anger issues and triggers, and how to handle things. When I would get upset, I would hyperventilate. And so we worked on breathing.
One day, at the gym, I was underneath the basketball hoop, holding a ball in my hands, and my knuckles were white, and I was taking deep breaths. Craig walked up, put his hand on my head and softly said, “That’s how a man handles a problem.” Then he walked away.
Instead of lashing out, I discarded the ball and followed Craig into the hallway. We sat down and he told me how proud he was of me. It was the first time he saw me make the right choice with anger.
Today, I’m a complete opposite of who I once was. My whole demeanor is different. I used to be violent, but now I’m the one who stops fights. I’m concerned about others.
Now I’m with football and track, and I have all good grades. My last report card was all A’s and one B, and all my teachers like me now.
Before, I figured I would be dead by the time I was 18 or in prison. But now I want to be a youth pastor, I want to be a cop, and someday I would love to run a Dream Center.