My name is Anthony Huerta and I am a YWAM Missionary.
I grew up blessed in Lubbock, Texas. Looking back I see God’s hand all around my upbringing. Sure, my parents have had their issues; definitely, there were some questionable role-models along the way; absolutely, my family liked to have a good time, but overall, the issues were no different than nearly all American families.
No poverty, no abuse, no neglect, no one holding a gun to my head to drink, yet, somehow between the ages of 18 and 23 I was arrested 8 times in 4 different states and suffered 4 seizures from alcohol withdrawals. Sitting here, it is wild to think that those weren’t the greatest consequences. When I consider it, I am filled with gratefulness that He kept me alive through it all.
I really started drinking heavily at the age of 16 when I was given my first fake ID. True to West Texas stereotypes, there wasn’t much to do in our town outside of high school football, basketball, and baseball. It began as it does for everyone ~ socially on the weekends, centered around some event. It was like a carnival ride I had never experienced because of height restrictions. My entire life I had seen the people I looked up to, my family and my role-models, having a blast on the ride, and now it was my turn. When finally able to experience it for myself, boy did I love the ride. Everything about it was exhilarating! From the moment I illegally walked into the liquor store and looked the cashier in the eye, to the way I sauntered back to the car packed with friends, carrying a “handle” of vodka and a 30 pack of beer. The pride-induced euphoria was like none before. It was a set-up! Satan had it all planned out, down to the last detail. It was all part of his much larger, conniving, deceitfully designed plan. His plan that feasted off my insecurities and need to be wanted. It was genius and the outcome was death.
Unfortunately I never truly pursued a relationship with God growing up, despite going to a “Christian school” until eighth grade. Things like “God created the Earth in seven days” and “evolution is bad”, were ingrained in me. I went to sleep hearing stories of God bringing two animals of every species onto a boat a guy named Noah built. Every spring was the routine of picking out a new pastel shirt, hearing about Jesus dying on a cross, and chasing a saltine with some grape juice. All were familiar stories to me. It was just assumed I was a Christian kid that would end up okay. But one thing is certain: there was never any personal responsibility impressed onto me to seek HIM out for myself. So I continued life, getting into a little trouble throughout elementary and junior high. There was the occasional “disrespect,” “tardy,’ “excessive talking,” but nothing out of the ordinary for a young boy. No blatant warning signs, no tweenage crisis, no desperate outburst’s for help, just a normal kid growing up in West Texas. I went to church on Sundays and church camp during the summer. Someone would have been able to say, “The family’s healthy, successful, and respected; Anthony is fine.”
I guess I had always somewhat known I was out-going, smart, and athletic, but I went to a small private Christian school. How popular, bright, and able was I really? So in the summer leading into my eighth grade year I made the decision that it would be my last year at that small, underwhelming Christian school. My pride had told me I needed more competition. I was getting overlooked. I was being kept from spreading my wings. I needed more opportunity. I had to know what it was like outside of that “little Christian bubble.” My class went from 80 students, to 800 students over a summer. I was like an Arab woman dropped into a swimming pool in the middle of Las Vegas! I was far from being sheltered at home, but it could not have prepared me for what was about to unfold.
Fast forward to the spring semester of my sophomore year in 2008. I was 16 years old, newly elected to Student Council for the upcoming school year, and dating a girl from the rival high school. I was excelling in school, athletics, and popularity. At that point it seemed like the future was in my hands; possibilities were limitless, especially in sports. I grew up playing soccer competitively. It was my life, and I was good at it. From a young age, the plan was for my family to invest their money then, so I would get a scholarship in the future to pay for my education. Everything was going according to plan, until that spring. Life was too good during that time. The devil was handing me all the pleasures of the world on a silver platter: money, popularity, influence ~ all self-gratifications. It was impossible for me to attain all those things without the repercussions that accompanies sin. I saw exponential growth in all the wrong areas: selfishness, vanity, envy, greed, control, PRIDE.
In March of 2015, I was standing ten feet away from a former principal that I had spent every day with for a year. I had been up since dawn that morning drinking and wandering around my neighborhood, like most days. My level of concern for seeing someone I knew depended upon the number of pints I had drank in the day. This particular day ~ “Who cares?” It was around lunch time when I decided to enter a restaurant. It was a popular place in the impoverished area of my apartment building; I knew there was a good chance there would be a familiar face. I don’t remember exactly how drunk I was, but I remember being totally embarrassed after initially noticing her. “Should I wave? Smile? Turn and leave?” Then we practically brushed against each other and all of those insecurities vanished into shock when she turned, made eye contact, and left. Never saying a word. The only explanation is that I was unidentifiable.
Months, and months, and months of black-out drinking had worn and torn my body apart. Despite only eating a meal every other day, I was bloated. My mornings were filled with vomiting and shaking until I could get my hands on alcohol, any type of alcohol. There was no appetite until a half-pint of Everclear, or cheap vodka was down my neck. Any idea of a job was contingent on me being able to suffer through about 3 days of intense withdrawals in order to be able to sit in front of an employer without showing blatant signs of substance abuse. If I could get to the interview and manipulate my way into a position, I was moments from my next binge. Then, drinking on the job was the only way to functionality. Needless to say, there was a 2+ year period from the winter of 2012, to the spring of 2015 when I walked into that burrito shop, where I did not keep a job longer than 3 months. Who was I? What had I become? How did I get here? Sitting in that restaurant hurt, I thought back to just a few years prior when that same principal had exhorted me, “You’re as gifted as any student. And you can do anything in this world, as long as you don’t kill yourself first.” Something had to change because I was moments away from killing myself, or worse, someone else.
Throughout the remainder of my junior and senior years of high school everything escalated. There were moments when I felt I was growing up too fast and doing things I shouldn’t, but those quiet convictions were quickly shouted down by the attention, glamour, and excitement of it all. Satan was having a field day with my insecurities, and I was insulating his advancements in my life with my pride. “Everyone’s doing it. Partying isn’t affecting my athletics or grades. Aren’t those the standards we live by?” There was always a justification and these were a few I used. It is remarkable that I had genuinely duped myself. The “Father of Lies” had a son named Anthony. I had justified and rationalized my behavior so many times in my mind that I genuinely believed I was an exception. My reputation as the “good kid” from a Christian school was quickly replaced as the guy that throws all the parties. I was living day-to-day without regard for myself or others. Consequences were viewed as opportunities I could manipulate my way out of, and to that point in my life there had not been any serious consequences. That was all about to change.
It was the Fall of 2010, and I was freshman at Auburn University. I made the decision during my junior year of high school that I would not pursue a college sport; instead I would get out of town and strike it big at a school all had heard of. Even the college decision making process fueled my ego. It was glamorous to me that I would leave Texas and go to a popular school no one I knew had gone. That is important to understand because again my pride would insulate me from admitting failure, mistakes, and desperation. It took about three months before I was calling home from a jail cell in Athens, Georgia. A group of friends and I were in town for a big football game when I drove into a DWI checkpoint. Of course I went straight to jail. Though it was the second time I was in handcuffs headed for jail, it was the first time I did not have a plan for a way out. The only people that cared enough to pay for something like that were 24 hours away, and there was no getting a hold of them. I was scared. How long would I be here? What would come out of this? Was my future in jeopardy? Many promises were made to God that night, yet none were upheld. I was bailed out by accident, and five hours later I was getting high to numb the mistake I had just made. That night was a foreshadow of the next four and a half years. I had zero coping skills. I was so out of touch with reality that when a consequence would show up, I lost my mind. My emotions were a roller coaster because I never saw the world through a sober lens. The only thing that felt better was exactly what put me into those situations, making the issues even more compounded. From that night in Athens until April of 2015, I was arrested 6 more times. Each time drove me deeper in despair and helplessness. I was suffocated with embarrassment, self-pity, and shame. The arrogant pride I had developed and nurtured in previous years, was slapped, mocked, and trampled upon. The glass house I had customized was shattered. I woke-up hating the position I put myself in, but in actuality I was loathing myself.
Then the ultimatum came which saved my life. My family was at their wit’s end. Within the month I had been arrested for Public Intoxication, wrecked a vehicle, threatened suicide, and was a week from being evicted. I was backed into a corner. I couldn’t go to the street. That would not look good in court for the Felony DWI case that had yet to be resolved. I knew I couldn’t get a job and stay clean, and my health was deteriorating. I was terrified to be alone without alcohol, for fear of having a seizure with no one around. I didn’t have a hand to play; it was either go to some Christian rehab in Houston for a year, or risk a consequence I was not willing to face. So I went, not fully convinced that God was a solution, but fully convinced that I would use the year to get my feet back under me, heal up, and get this case behind me. Even to the end, my ego was letting me believe that from the position of “rock-bottom” I somehow had leverage and was in control.
The truth is-God was in total control. It took two weeks before I was at the altar repenting before God. What followed was the greatest, most productive year of my life. I committed my life to Christ, and allowed Holy Spirit free reign to expose and heal any area from the inside-out. I was blessed to spend a year at Shiloh Ministries and glean under the leadership of YWAM Alumni. God had it all planned out. His plan was, “good-not evil,” and HE wanted to restore my “future and hope.” During the year at Shiloh I was introduced to YWAM for the first time. Several teams of YWAM Tyler missionaries came to teach throughout the year. They simplified life for me and cleared up stereotypes. Explaining that not everyone is called to a lifetime of international missions, but everyone should carve five months out at some point to wholly devote to God. The coincidental thing about my life was that I did not have a “life” to go back to, so I went for it. I joined the Summer 2016 Discipleship Training School.
I have been at YWAM Tyler since June 28th, 2016. It has been far more than I could have designed for myself. Truly, with all the resources in the world at my disposal, I could not have set myself up to see the beauty and majesty God has allowed me to experience over the last 15 months. DTS Lecture showed me what a lifestyle in communion with God looks like. Through the hundreds of missionaries that call YWAM Tyler home, I saw first-hand how the Bible describes a living and active life directed by God. Because I had never lived on my own sober, it was vital to my transition back into society. I need the Godly role-models to off-set 23 years of selfish desires.
I came to YWAM Tyler with what I believed at the time to be healthy and pure motivations: live for God, stay sober, find a Godly wife, be involved with Church, etc. All were absolutely fine, but God had other plans for my future, and DTS Outreach Trip was HIS big reveal for me! HE blew me away. I went on an eight week adventure with God that covered over 20,000 miles. Finally towards the end of the trip, while sitting on an over-crowded subway in Asia, after a long day of incredible ministry, I was overcome with the most fulfilling feeling of my life. I had put my selfish ambitions and desires aside and was walking in the middle of God’s plan for my life. I could see myself living and breathing the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” I was nearly dead a few months prior, now HE was trusting me with HIS Son’s story. Only God could do that. It was the most sure moment of my life. There I knew, this is what I was made for. I believe God has specific plans for each of us which peak our talents and gifts, and if we experience a glimpse of our individual calling, it is an indescribable feeling that is undeniable. I had that experience and am hooked for life. There is nothing like seeing other people overwhelmed by the love of God.
Over the past 12 months I have worked with un-reached people groups, children, youth and college age groups, foreigners, and Americans. I have done street evangelism and addiction ministry in several of the largest cities in America, and I have been in disaster relief zones and refugee camps. I’ve developed plays and acted in skits, spoken in front of thousands, and traveled to four countries on three continents. However, the most memorable aspect of it all is the people I’ve met along the way. These are God’s children, and whether you’re on an isolated mountain in Southern China, or a college student on Bourbon Street, God’s desire is the same: to be in a relationship with them. International missions may not be for everyone, but it is irrefutable that we are all called to make disciples of all nations. Whether in your hometown or to the world, we all have a story that has been created with God, and it must be shared.
My name is Anthony Huerta and I spent six years in deep addiction, and to tell you the truth, I would not have it any other way. This has been my story.
Glory to God.