Lynwood, Calif.: a town tainted by extreme gang violence, but also where a church has been planted that offers truth and grace. Rudy Rubio is the lead pastor with a muddy past washed clean. Pastor Rudy Rubio will be speaking at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12 in chapel to tell students and the Northwestern community his story and how it laces together with God’s story.
It took 25 years for Rubio to leave behind a life spent in the depths of drugs, gangs and multiple prison cells, but now he has planted and pastors the Reformed Church of Los Angeles in Lynwood. The first several years of his life, Rubio lived in some of the grittiest neighborhoods in LA: Huntington Park, Watts and South Central. When he was only 13, Rubio became a part of a street gang—a decision that would define the next quarter of his life.
Following a shootout with the Drug Enforcement Agency and local police agents during a drug bust, Rubio was arrested but then incorrectly released. He used this opportunity to flee to Mexico. In order to stay hidden and avoid being tangled up in another arrest, Rubio tampered with birth dates on documents in order to acquire his great-grandfather’s identity. Rubio spent six years living in Mexico, where he met the woman he would eventually marry. His children were born in Mexico, but Rubio and his family would later return to the U.S., where Rubio would again become involved with drugs and violence. He was arrested three more times before he chose to give his life to God.
“I cried out to God, asking him to deliver me from that situation, promising I’d serve him all my days if He did. God being God, He did rescue me and got me out of that situation, and I’ve been serving Him ever since,” Rubio said.
This monumental moment happened at the age of 35, after Rubio had spent years in the depths of street violence and multiple prison cells. Upon surrendering his life to God and putting the last 25 years behind him, Rubio was sitting in a seminary class listening to a lecture on church planting when he felt the call to plant a church.
“It seemed everything the professor was saying was directed at me!” Rubio said.
After serving as the Celebrate Recovery ministry leader and as the director of congregational care at Emmanuel Reformed Church, Rubio decided to start a church of his own.
“It’s amazing that no matter how ugly our past is, no matter how much we’ve done, God can and will use it for good.”
-Pastor Rudy Rubio
“It’s amazing that no matter how ugly our past is, no matter how much we’ve done, God can and will use it for good, His good. There are so many biblical references of the least likely being used, and now that’s me! I used to hide from cops, now I bring them together for community peace meetings. I never finished high school because I was always in jail, and now I’m working towards a doctorate. My parents divorced, but my wife and I have led marriage ministries,” Rubio said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve done. That doesn’t define who you are. What Jesus did on Calvary defines who we are—and that is our identity.”