Day 20: Vlad Castillo

Ecclesiastes 3:11  
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end”

2023 was filled with moments to boast in the Lord!
But first... In 2022, one of the biggest blessings I had was participating in an intensive Bible Study started by some of the leaders at Devoted. For several weeks, we met, and went through a book together that tackled tough issues like identity, overcoming family sin patterns, healing wounds and overcoming fears. We committed to living life without secrets, and laid it all out on the table with one another. While I didn’t know it at the time, these men would end up becoming some of my closest friends.  That was truly the beginning of the Lord renewing my heart and allowing me to be surrounded by true men of God. “A friend loves at all times; a brother is born to help in times of need.” - Proverbs 17:17
To kick off 2023, the Lord made it very clear that we needed to start up the same intensive Bible study again, but open it up to those who hadn’t had the opportunity before. The Lord provided additional men that could help lead, and we finalized getting a Devoted men’s intensive Bible study. As I was announcing our plans for a men’s study, the Lord also made it clear to me that this needed to be extended to the women of Devoted. Yet again, the Lord provided women that could help lead a separate group. We had several brave men and women sign up for this nine-week intensive Bible study, and committing to living a life with no secrets. The Lord provided so much breakthrough during this time through repentance, reflection, and even pastor and elder guidance on more challenging topics. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” - James 5:16
Back when I was in middle school, our church would take an annual retreat to Lake Champion, where we spent two days hanging out, worshipping and listening to life-changing sermons. It was around that time that I started to know of Jesus, and eventually committed my life to him in seventh grade. I had so many core memories of going there and encountering the Lord. I was led by Pastor Sean McClain, who was one of our youth leaders at Princeton Alliance Church at the time and one of my small group leaders.
In April 2023, I was able to go back to Lake Champion, but this time, as a youth leader. Upon entering the sanctuary, I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion. There was a time in my life where I truly didn’t believe that I’d ever return back - to Lake Champion, to any conference, or even to the Lord. But the Lord welcomed me back with open arms, and used Lake Champion to remind me of His faithfulness, and now to use my story to encourage and train up the next generation to live sold out for Jesus.  “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.” - Luke 15:24
Throughout the remainder of the year, the Lord placed amazing men of God to speak life into me as I encountered hurdles in my personal life, work and entrepreneurial ventures. There was no limit to where these discussions happened - in the Round Room, gym sessions, Starbucks coffee, kitchens, cars, and sometimes at my rental property making renovations. Something about being real with men who had been serving the Lord for 10, 20, 30+ years, and being mentored; just by seeing their struggles, stories and testimonies, ignited my desire to serve the Lord even more. The theme was consistent - keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and keep an eternal mindset in all things. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” - Ecclesiastes 3:11
"Heavenly Father, Thank you Lord for your faithfulness, for your redemption, for your grace. I pray and ask for a sound mind heading into 2024. And to continue to be surrounded by incredible men of God who encourage me and that hopefully I too can encourage. Father, thank you for writing eternity on our hearts. That one day this will all fade, but You remain the same. In Your Son Named Jesus I pray, Amen."

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