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  December 12, 2015      
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Pastor Angel Zapata

"My Story is about Love."

I was the eleventh child of Jorge Zapata-Laujier and Isabel Velez-Hernandez. I was born on a rainy Thursday in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and not breathing. My mother cried out, prayed for me, blew breath into my mouth and God gave me life that day.

We came, penniless and in poverty, to the United States in the early 1950s and lived on West 51st in a slum area known as Hell's Kitchen. When I was five years old, we moved to the Alfred E. Smith Housing Projects in Losiada on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When I was 13 years old, my mother and father separated and I started to drink, and use and sell drugs, mostly marijuana. When I was 14 years old, I joined a Gang called the Horsemen, and rose in their ranks and rumbles to become their violent and crazy, War Counselor.

When I was 18 years old, I quit school, got married, joined the Army, and was sent into the front line horror that was combat in Vietnam. Consequently, I fought in many firefights and I was wounded severely when the Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) that I was riding in hit a mine, went off a cliff and burst into flames.

I spent the next few years in and out of various hospitals and suffered from depression, anxiety attacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for which I was never treated. Subsequently after that, I became a practicing Atheist and led an angry life of violence, alcohol and drug abuse, constantly losing jobs, schooling, and opportunities -and fighting with family, policemen and strangers, and finally, my marriage ended in very painful and bitter divorce.

During this time, my brother Moses and his wife Luz, became Christians and tried to witness to me of God's love, but in my Atheistic anger, I did not want to hear it. He continued for the next ten years to speak to me of the love of Jesus Christ even when I would curse at him and kick him out of my house. But, he was the first person in whom I truly saw the love of GOD.

Eventually, I attended a church service were the Pastor was preaching about the prophet Elijah leaving to go to heaven and his servant Elisha, asking for a double potion of His Spirit before he left. And the Pastor asked the congregation, "What do you want from God?" I answered in my mind, "Whatever that Preacher has, I want twice as much." And I believe that God spoke to me and said, "It is yours!" That day, I stopped abusing drugs and alcohol and became a Christian and entered into recovery.

Moreover, I have obtained my General Equivalency Diploma (GED), acquired an Associate Degree (AS) in Liberal Arts (Magna Cum Laude), a Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA) in Sociology (Magna Cum Laude), and a Master of Social Work Degree (MSW) (Magna Cum Laude) from Yeshiva University. I have also been elected to the International Honor Society in Social Science (Phi Gamma Mu).

Subsequently, I have studied Theology at Antioch Bible College, was Water Baptized, and I have been a Bible Teacher and a Ministerial Leader at various churches. I am also a credentialed Chaplain and I was ordained as a Pastor in December of 2006. I am currently involved in the Federal Prison Ministry, where I facilitate a group of thirty men, many of them in Recovery, and I am the leader of the faith-based, "Celebrate Recovery" Ministry at The Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.

I have been happily retired for the last 10 years from 25 years of Federal Government Service and have been in full-time ministry, preaching and teaching ever since. I am also a published poet and my autobiography, Dark and Devine Faces, is being published and will be released in January 2010.

I am the proud father of eight children: Angel, Michael, Celina, Shaila, Angie, Natalie, Sarah, and Arianna and the very proud grandfather of Zachary David Zapata and Christian Elijah Rogers.

Lastly, I have been very happily married for the last six years, to my wonderful wife and very best friend, Rosita. I would also like to say that I appreciate all of the grand blessings that have been a great part of my Recovery, and for that, I am very grateful to God!

My name is Angel, and my story is about love. What's Your Story?


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