By: Bryce Johnson
Bryce is the Recruitment Coordinator at Northpoint|GR and contributes to the Northpoint Press as a reporter and editor.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Northpoint freshman Roberto (Tito) Perez to ask him a few questions about his family, his calling, and the place that God has him right now. While each student's journey is unique, the overarching theme that we hear consistently is that God's provision exceeds our expectations. From finances to life-giving mentors, Tito's life is an example of God's ability to prepare those He calls.
Bryce: Tito, thanks so much for taking some time with me today to talk about how you ended up here at Northpoint Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I know you're originally from this area, so what was it like growing up here? Can you tell us a little bit about your family life?
Tito: I grew up in the Burton Heights area of Grand Rapids on Andre St. My mother and my father got married I think a year or two after I was born, so yeah, they've been married for twenty-four years. My mother had me when she was 15. Growing up, it was a more "religious" home to be honest. We were going to church Sunday and Wednesday. It was just like "we're going to church, and that's final," and I learned a lot of stuff about the Bible, but I didn't know about having a relationship with God. My father was really religious and used to try to talk to me, but I would never listen.
B: When did that change for you?
T: That changed when I went to Grand Rapids First, and I ended up committing my life to Christ. I got married, and I got baptized with my wife. It was good, but that didn't last for too long. Eventually, I put myself in a hole with sin, and that caused a lot of stress in my marriage. It came to a point where I cried out to God to save me from myself because I couldn't do it. The stress in my marriage led me to church again. At church, I went to my knees at the altar and got prayed over, and Pastor Jeremiah (Community Outreach Pastor at GR First) met with me after the service. We exchanged numbers, and he invited me to a men's group. I went, and I learned how to pray, and I learned what it's like to be transparent with other men and actually communicate instead of bottling up emotions. Before that, I hadn't had anyone hold me accountable.
B: How did you get from the altar to pursuing ministry then? Was there a specific moment that you felt, as we term it, "called" to ministry?
T: When I first got saved, I thought about ministry for a while but ended up scooting it to the side, and I didn't go through with it. That changed for me when I had a dream that I was on a platform speaking to people. I didn't know what it meant, but since that moment, with the direction of Pastor Jeremiah, I knew I was called. When I had that dream, all of the memories and everything I learned from going to church came back to me. It was almost like scales fell off from my eyes I was able to see.
B: I love that! It's amazing that God was able to use something like a dream to inspire you toward your calling. So now you're in Bible college as a full-time student, and you're also married with children. How many kids do you have, Tito?
T: I have four kids now; Ezequiel, Mia, Maleah, and Roberto III.
B: And Roberto III was still practically a newborn when school started correct?
T: He was born June 15th, 2019, and then a few months later, school started.
B: I imagine that it has been somewhat of a challenge. What has it been like being a husband and the father of four children while going back to school and still working on top of it all?
T: The first three weeks were difficult, but again, having Pastor Jeremiah share wisdom with me has helped. He had been sharing that wisdom with me before I even thought about coming to school. He's shared a lot with me about family in general and being a father and being a husband and balancing time. Also, in Pastor JP's class (Foundations of Life Calling), he's helping us balance our calendars and our budgets and stuff like that.
B: The NxtGenNow Scholarship has been a game-changer for many Northpoint students. Tito, you were one of the recipients this year, what did it feel like when you learned that you would be receiving the scholarship?
T: If I could be really honest, I remember I was at work, and I got the email, and I started to cry. Man, I called my wife, and I told her, and she was ecstatic, and you know I told one of my co-workers, and he was super happy. I started to cry because God's been so good to me, and he's been setting me up for success. On top of the Pell Grant, having the scholarship that paid off the rest of my tuition, I don't even have to pay a penny to be at school. I was like man, God is so good.
B: Pastor Jeremiah has been an important influence and mentor in your life. Now you are interning with him at First Hope (one of the ministry opportunities at Grand Rapids First) as part of your scholarship. What are some things that you've learned so far?
T: I love Grand Rapids First, they're about excellence, and Pastor Jeremiah is a reflection of that. Pastor Jeremiah is a good man, he's taught me how to love people, and he's a real bold guy, but at the same time, he's still loving and compassionate. I've learned a lot from him about being a father and being a husband and being a man of God. He's taught me about going around the community, loving people, and learning.
B: What has the response from the community been like?
T: It's been good. When people see us come out and clean or paint over graffiti, you know something has to pop in their minds like, "Why are they doing this?" or "What are they doing it for?" I just want to see people experience the love of Christ, and hopefully, our involvement can make that happen. I was already learning that before the internship, but with the internship, I'm actually learning about what Pastor Jeremiah does behind the scenes. So, I'm actually getting to see what he does that nobody else can see. There's a lot of little stuff that most people don't even really think about. I've learned that preparation is an ongoing thing; I'm never going to be done with it; it's a process. Pastor Jeremiah taught me great leaders never stop growing.
B: What are some of the more memorable meetings or activities you've been able to engage with through the internship?
T: Actually, last week we had a meeting with Pastor Sam and Brenda, the lead pastors at Grand Rapids First. It's really cool because Pastor Sam mentored Pastor Jeremiah and Pastor Jeremiah's mentoring me.
B: Tito, I just want to say thank you for your time and sharing part of your story. Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers of the Northpoint Press?
T: One thing I tell my brother, and I need to tell myself as well. You either learn from mistakes or from wisdom. Learning from mistakes hurts; I recommend learning from wisdom. I ran from the call of God for a while; I ran and hurt not only myself but everybody around me. I wish I could have avoided that, but now I plan to live differently, love God, and love people.
Apply for the NxtGenNow Scholarship