I love remembering people who have helped shape me. Ninth grade had been my favorite year in school up to that point. It was a year of self-realization, learning more about God and having my best friend, Alina Zuniga.
Alina and her family were from Cuba. They left when Alina was just a baby to get away from Castro's rule. Her father was a dentist and her mother taught Spanish at a local high school. I always loved going to Alina's house because they spoke Spanish to each other (duh) and her mother made wonderful fried plaintains (like large bananas) and her brother Manny was soooo cute.
There was an infinitely more important reason I loved going to Alina's house. It was a time that we would have intense conversations about God. We'd listen to "Bread", get all mellow and talk about all the higher issues of God the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. It was out of those conversations that we started a group in our junior high called J.O.Y. We thought we were being so revolutionary. Of course, you know it stands for Jesus first, Others second and yourself last.
Our little J.O.Y.group met a few times. I don't really remember doing anything much that made too much of a difference, but I did realize that God's power through me . . . when I'm HIS tool, is a powerful thing.
The next year we went to high school. Alina went to Berry High School where her mom taught and I went to Shades Valley. We didn't see each other much after that, but I'll forever be grateful for Alina and her willingness to share her faith with me. Such beautiful boldness she showed through our friendship. Thank you, Alina.