From Hopeless Junkie to Lead Pastor
A Q&A with John Alarid
INFLUENCE: You come from a strong Hispanic background. How did that shape your early years?
ALARID: My father grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. His family is from the New Mexico area, the offspring of Spanish immigrants and Native Americans. My mother is originally from San Diego, and we came back to the United States so my parents could raise money for their work in Latin America. I have a rich Hispanic history, and it is dear to my heart.
Your problems with drugs and alcohol began at a relatively young age.
I remember coming home drunk at 16 and my friends had to carry me to the door. I would use a fake ID to buy alcohol for me and my friends. My parents decided to send me to New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico, my junior year, hoping the discipline would wake me up. But it did the opposite. It was there that I began to use and even deal drugs heavily.
After graduation, I attended the University of New Mexico, but it got even worse. I went from a 4.0 student to a hopeless junkie in a very short time. I began to use more and more drugs. I smoked pot daily and dropped LSD. I bought pounds of pot and supplied them to other college students. When I saw there was money in it, I started dealing in cocaine as well.
“I have found that I share a natural affinity with inmates when I go to speak in prisons, especially among Hispanic gang members.”
— John Alarid
What was the breaking point for you? I never expected to live to the age of 30. All around me, friends were dying while I was still alive. I lost 16 friends to the streets. Most were overdoses to heroin, but three were shootings.
In 2007, I was arrested and sent to prison to serve eight years in the New Mexico State Penitentiary. During my stay, I was sent to solitary confinement because I was bringing narcotics into the prison. It was there that I started to feel the presence of God in an incredible way.
I had followed Jesus when I was young, but was now far away from Him. I spent five months in solitary, just my Bible and me. I got down on my knees and cried out to God, “Lord Jesus, if You are still there, I need You!”
That’s the moment God radically changed my life.
You’ve gone on to get a seminary degree and now serve as a lead pastor. How has your Hispanic background helped you in your ministry?
Speaking Spanish is always a benefit. I have found that I share a natural affinity with inmates when I go to speak in prisons, especially among Hispanic gang members. It’s part of my identity, who I am culturally.
God allows me to use my past mistakes in ways I never dreamed possible. I can speak to inmates on their level, but also show them how to rise above it.
John Alarid is lead pastor of CR Church (Assemblies of God) and director of addiction recovery for Hope Homes in Springfield, Missouri. He is also area manager for Prison Fellowship.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Influence magazine.