By Mark Pomerville

As a child, Joey Venegas’s life was in a shambles. Born in Pomona, California, Venegas grew up in an impoverished home filled with substance abuse, physical violence, and emotional torment. Nearly every week he would watch in horror as his dad and brothers emotionally abused his mother, smoked meth, and sold the few possessions their family had in order to fuel their destructive habits.

Even though he eventually fled his home to live with his grandmother, it wasn’t long before he followed in the footsteps of his family. “I started doing drugs when I was 11 years old,” says Venegas. “I would constantly smoke weed and drink alcohol to numb the emotional pain that I was experiencing as a kid.”

By the time he was 19 years old, he had turned to harder drugs, as well as excessive partying and sex. Nothing seemed to fill the empty void in his life. “One night, I was outside sitting on the sidewalk and drinking alone. I was completely wasted and didn’t know what I was doing with my life,” says Venegas. “I woke up the next morning and thought, ‘I need to change my life. I’m going nowhere.’”

In an effort to regain his sobriety and remove the scars from his past, Venegas began attending a local church. The first night he sat in a pew, his life was changed. “I started crying during the service because when I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, I knew that I was never going to be ‘good enough’ on my own,” says Venegas.

“I knew I needed to repent, take up my cross, and make Christ Lord of my life if I was ever going to truly change.”

Shortly after being saved, Venegas started reading his Bible and regularly attending church. Before long, he felt called to pursue a lifelong career in ministry and actively participated in his local church community. Wanting to further his biblical education and understanding of God’s Word, Venegas followed up on the suggestion of a fellow Bible study member to check out Providence Christian College.

In Spring 2010, he attended a campus visit day at Providence and was immediately impressed with the level of education that the students were receiving. “I remember sitting in one of Dr. Swanson’s Old Testament classes, and his teaching blew my mind,” recalls Venegas. “Providence was exactly what I was looking for. I knew that if I attended Providence, my faith would grow, my understanding of God’s Word would increase, and my love for Christ would deepen. Ultimately, my life would change for the better.”

In Fall 2011, Venegas enrolled at Providence with an emphasis in biblical and theological studies. “Providence was theologically sound and offered me a place that was Christ-like in every way. No matter what subject I was taking, whether it was history, math, or English, I learned wisdom, discernment, and how to view my world through the lens of the gospel. Providence prepared me to be salt and light to the world.”

After graduating from Providence, Venegas continued to pursue a career in church ministry. Today, he is married with two children and serves as the Director of Ministry Oversight at Oasis Community Church in Hesperia, California. The church offers countless ministries, including a thriving youth group and a drug addiction restoration program. While at Oasis, Venegas has witnessed to countless young people who are enduring struggles similar to those he experienced as a child.

“I’ve seen the worst in humanity,” says Venegas, “but God used the pain from my past, as well as the tools I gained at Providence, to minister to the lost. I am able to empathize with the men and women who come through our doors, and I have watched God take lives like mine, filled with sin and despair, and restore them into something amazing.”