Monday, April 19, 2021

Not Forgotten

By David A. Sargent

     Substitute teachers can face many challenges. Sometimes they can be taken advantage of or be the recipients of some student pranks.  Some substitute teachers, however, are deeply respected and make a profound and lasting influence on the lives of their students. Jose Villaruel, affectionately known as “Mr. V” by his students, was one of those beloved substitute teachers in the Fontana (CA) Unified School District.
     One of Mr. V’s former students, Steven Nava, recently re-connected with his former teacher. Nava has many good things to say about Villaruel. He said Villaruel always acted like a “family figure” to his students. “[Villarruel] was just someone that kind of wanted you to stay on and guide you on that right path.” Nava added: “Mr. V has influenced [me] … to be a better person. He’s taught me to have that drive and that ‘never give up’ attitude whenever facing a struggle in my life and that’s what’s helped me be the person I am now.”
     Those powerful lessons from his teacher were re-emphasized when Nava was recently reunited with him in Fontana. Nava saw Villaruel rummaging in his car, recognized him, and stopped to ask how he was doing. Mr. V, now 77-years-old, opened up to his former student about his struggles. He had been living in his car for the past eight years trying to make ends meet. The pandemic had made his situation worse because he had not had opportunities to work as a substitute teacher to supplement his Social Security income. He had been sending most of his money to help care for his sick wife who was living in Mexico.
     Nava, 21-years-old, was heartbroken to see his beloved teacher going through such a difficult time and vowed to help. Nava created a GoFundMe account and asked his followers on social media to help Mr. V. In just a few days, thanks to the generosity of people throughout the world, Nava was able to raise $27,000 for Villaruel. He presented a check for that amount to Mr. V on his 77th birthday. With the money, Villaruel was able to pay off some debts and prepare to return to his family in Mexico.
     When we were destitute and alone due to our sins, Someone came to our rescue. That Someone was Jesus, the Son of God. He paid our sin debt by dying on the cross for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). He invites us into His family in which we can be under the watchful care of the Father and enjoy fellowship with other members of God’s family, the church. When our situation is bleak and hopeless due to our sin, Jesus offers grace and life, eternal life.
     God will save, add to His family, and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin and prepare for a heavenly home those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     Alone and struggling because of sin, we have not been forgotten. God loves us and desires to save us. And He will, if we will only submit our lives to Him in trusting obedience.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website:

* Information gleaned from “California substitute teacher living in car gets surprise $27,000 check on 77th birthday from former student” by Daniella Genovese,

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