Lester Miranda was your regular teenage rebel. But what happens when the “bad boy” of school encounters the good shepherd? He shares with Joseph Anthraper about his roller-coaster Christian journey and how his heart is full now

Lester Miranda is a Jesus Youth former full-timer who lives in Leicestershire,UK with his wife Yonyta    Miranda and his parents.Having encountered Christ in 2009, he has been actively involved in Jesus Youth in the UK and served his commitment year in Australia.He recently got married to Yonyta in July 2018.

Dear Lester, thanks for taking the time to talk to us for Kairos Magazine.Could you give us a bit of background about yourself?  

I was born in India in a place called Daman (Union territory), and we moved to England in 2002. I have two lovely siblings – a brother and a sister, who are both older to me.Both are married and settled with    their own family. I am very blessed to be a practicing Catholic and I am a Motor Mechanic by profession. My parents are both from Daman and having a Portuguese lineage,our mother tongue is Portuguese.

Tell us about your encounter    with Christ? 

My journey with Christ began when I was about 18. For most of my    childhood, we lived in India and for    as long as I can remember – though it pains me to say this, but the truth was that I was an absolute rebel.    My parents, especially my mom    tried many things to prevent me    from getting into trouble, but the    more they tried the more defiant    I became, and once we moved to    England, things just took a turn for    the worse.

I was 12-years-old when we    moved to the UK and initially I was    quite excited about the change.    However, everything started to    change as I began school. During the first couple of months things were alright mostly because I did    not understand what was going on around me. I did not realise when I was being bullied nor did I understand when someone made a racist comment or joke on me. However, I quickly picked up the culture and the language, and soon reality dawned on me. Moving to year 8 and throughout    secondary school, I somehow just wanted to fit in with everyone else. So, I started getting into fights, backchatting and swearing at teachers. It went downhill very fast – before I knew it, there I was    bullying other kids, smoking,drinking heavily, indulging in pornography, girlfriends and what not. All of it just to be the “coolest guy” or to be called the “bad boy.” By the time I finished secondary school, I was notorious in school – yes, everyone knew me, but for all the bad reasons. Now that I think about it, I feel I probably even had no sense of shame then. After school, I carried on with things as before, and life was getting worse.Of course, during all this I was still a catholic – going regularly for    Sunday mass and even being an altar boy. But as time went on, I began cutting down on church also.

In a moment I realised that t he emptiness of
my heart cannot be f il led by any thing or anyone
except G od himself

Yet, even after trying all these things, I still experienced an emptiness within me – a feeling    that something was still missing.When I was 15, I got introduced to a Protestant Christian who used to    take young people including many of my friends, to boxing training sessions. He would talk a lot to us    about Jesus and was always inviting us to their service. I ended up going for one such service, and I did have some sort of an experience over there, but at the same time, I left feeling very awkward. However,after this, I began questioning the Catholic Church and its teachings – the images and idol    worship and the usual protestant objections to Catholic faith. Deep down I began to wonder whether    God even existed or not. It was 2008, and at around this time, a group of young people came to our    parish from Jesus Youth, wanting to start a prayer group. Through a friend’s cousin, myself and all    our friends were invited for the introduction at our local parish church. They gave an introduction to Jesus Youth, mentioning the catholic charismatic spirituality of the movement. Most importantly, they invited us for the next prayer meeting happening at the church. As many of my friends were going, I    too decided to go for that – just for the sake of going.   

Though I went for the following prayer gathering, I just found most things funny – whether it be the    action songs or the praise and worship. However, I continued going and gradually got more and more    involved with the prayer meetings,yet still not experiencing Jesus or even convinced that God existed.   The following year, in 2009, there was a JY national conference, and I was looking forward to attending it.I went for the conference with a very open mind. So far, I had tried a lot of    things in life, but was still extremely unhappy and for me this was the last chance – to try God! I resolved to do whatever they told me at the conference, even if it was going to be difficult like waking up early or sitting and praying – all to know if God really existed and if He did, whether he would intervene in my life.

All through the conference,I stayed true to my resolution and did whatever was asked. On the penultimate day, I went for confession and afterwards there was a time of adoration before the    Blessed Sacrament. During the Eucharistic adoration, we were asked to totally surrender our lives to Jesus and I did – I raised my hands and with a heavy heart  kept repeating, “I want to know you God.” Suddenly, I experienced  what seemed like an electric shock going through me (the anointing of the Holy Spirit) and tears started flowing down my cheeks. But above all, for the first time in my life I felt    completely loved. In a moment I realised that the emptiness of my heart cannot be filled by anything    or anyone except God himself. This was the beginning of my Christian journey and during that conference,I gave my heart to Jesus.

After your encounter with Christ,    can you remember how the Jesus    Youth movement helped you to    sustain this new life?  

After this initial encounter with Christ, I was over the moon and I decided to make radical changes in my life.Of course, it started  well, but as time progressed, the decisions faltered and many of my old ways and addictions began making their presence felt.This is where Jesus Youth played an even    bigger role.Through fellowship and helping me live the Jesus Youth  six pillars, a few of my JY friends    and families really shouldered me, to nourish and sustain my faith in many different ways including by keeping in touch and regularly following up on me on a personal level. I also got the opportunity to    attend many training programmes as well as retreats helping me root myself in the teaching of the    Catholic Church.

Slowly and surely my addictions began subsiding and I began to experience a new freedom. Even    though I still fail, the one thing I am absolutely sure is that our God is a merciful God whose love is    unconditional.Though my sins put a barrier preventing His merciful love to flow in and through me,I remind myself to always take recourse to the lovely sacraments Jesus has instituted in His Church to get back on feet and keep moving closer to our loving God.

Please tell us about the miracle in your life while on the full-timer’s training. 

During the training in Thailand, I contracted dengue fever and was in a critical condition with my platelet count having dropped below 20,000 (the normal count needs to be above 140,000). I was hospitalised and they tried giving me a platelets boost, which was not effective. All through my illness, people from around the world were praying for me round the clock with Masses offered and sacrifices raised up. I too was praying really hard and after a few days my platelet count began going up.Though it was a scary experience, God was once again assuring me that He is in total control of my life and that He has a definite purpose and plan for me. After I got back home from Thailand, I spent a month in England before going off to Australia for the rest of the year for my mission work.

Even though I still fail, t he
one t hing I am absolutely sure is
t hat our God is a merciful God
whose love is unconditional

  You have known and experienced God in your life.How do you want to share this God to the peoplearound you?  

I would like to share the God I have experienced – the God of love to people around me by letting    Christ be the center of my life and by practicing Christianity through my words and my actions.I also    try to make use of every opportunity available to me to share the wonders my Lord Jesus has done in my life and is still doing.

Lester, it was an absolute privilege to speak with you. We assure you of all our prayers for you and Yonyta, and may God bless you both abundantly.

Joseph Anthraper lives in Southampton with his wife Mahima and kids Anna-Claire, John-Paul and Samuel-Joseph, and loves reading, movies and theology. He is part of the Kairos Global Editorial Council.