by Edwin M. Cotto
–quote from this testimony
I thought it appropriate to share my testimony with the readers of my website so that all may know who this writer was, and how he got to the place where he is today.
My journey began from the time that I was an infant. My mother and father were already having marital problems by the time I was but two or three months old. This led to their separation, and finally to their divorce, all before my first birthday. Custody was given to my mother, but of course my dad, Edwin Cotto Sr., wanted to be with his son as well. So they arranged it as follows. I would live with my mom, he would keep me for the two day weekend, and they would alternate on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. My father was a Seventh Day Adventist, and part time minister. My mother, although a believer in God and the Adventist faith herself, did not involve herself in ministry work, and sometimes showed no interest in religion. My father saw this as a danger to my spiritual health, so he took advantage that when I was with him on the weekends he took me to church on Sabbath mornings. He’d teach me bible stories about David and Goliath, Samson and the Philistines, Moses and the Israelites, Jonah and the big fish, etc. I did, as a child, like those stories, but as I grew older I manifested an uncaring spirit towards those things. Perhaps it was do to the environment I was then being raised.
My mother was a great woman. She taught me not only how to defend myself in times of need, but also to respect women and elders. In my teenage years, I’d lose much respect for my elders, but for older women I always had a certain level of respect. Perhaps it was because of my mother teachings and influence. However, it wasn’t always bright and sunny at home. Although she always stuck by me, and loved me as a mother should, she did make her own mistakes. My mother got involved in drugs. She did try her very best to hide it from me, but it definitely showed. Sometimes people think that because a child is but 3 or four years old that certain things won’t affect them. Well, they do, whether you believe it or not. I might not perfectly remember seeing her use the needle, but I remember some things, and certiantly felt the effects as I grew older.
Mom did some other things I don’t care to share here, that I do believe influenced some of the decisions I would make when I got older. If only our parents would follows God’s counsel, to raise up a child in the way that he should go, that child would in turn grow up and do the same, and the child afterwards, and so on. We could thus, by God’s grace, avoid so many misfortunes. But if we chose to follow our own ways, we should not then be surprised when our children come out the same way.
From the moment I stepped into school I had problems. At grade two I got left back… twice! Paying attention was difficult. And I loved having girlfriends. Some of this lasted for some time, until the beginning of my high school years, by which time my mind did not care for religion. I still believed in God, and still had a certain fear of him (which stopped me from making some even worst decisions), but I thought that if I simply asked for forgiveness every time I did something I thought was wrong, everything would be okay. After all, I was baptized at age 14, so I was saved! Amazing how people manifest a similar lifestyle, thinking that once their saved they will never lose their salvation, despite living in sin.
By this time my dad had left his factory job and became a full time minister. He went traveling the world, preaching the good news. Sometimes I went with him, but most of the times I cared simply for doing my own things. Mom met another gentlemen and got pregnant with my baby brother, Gabriel Rojo, and, while pregnant, shoveled ice in the food department of a local supermarket. Although my dad sent us money, and was always there when I needed him, we were still considered very poor. For some time we even lived off foods stamps, a government funded program which helps low income families with food and drink.
When I finally entered my High School years, I got introduced into drugs. Many of my new friends were involved in things to graphic to mention here. I had cousins here as well, who started a street gang among themselves which got so big, so quickly, it split up into two sections. The main object of this gang was protection from rival gangs, and drug trafficking. As a family member I had no choice but to be a part of it. This led to an infatuation is gang activity and drug dealings, which further led me to joining a bigger, more national street gang. I became the second in charge, and managed to recruit other members. The leader of our set (sub-section of the gang), who I will here call G., was a very good friend, but one that deserved much respect, as did every other member of our crew.
At this point I was not doing to well in school. I became very violent and got into many fights with other classmates. I disrespected many of my professors, and cut classes almost every day. The principal of my school seemed to get fed up with my behavior and sent me to another high school, which, maybe having heard of my reputation put me in a program of troubled youth which would pick us up at the front of the school and take us to another building in the city, away from the school properties. This is how I finished my final year in high school.
By this point, God was farther away from my mind then ever before. But to my surprise, God started working in mysterious ways to bring my attention back to him. One day I found my friend G. reading the bible. I looked at him, and with an angry and mocking tone I asked him why he was reading that. “It’s the bible bro!” he yelled. This caught me by surprise. It should have been me reading that book.
Mom came home from the doctor one day. She did not know what I was involved with, except for the drugs. She called me by her side to give me some news. My younger, female cousin was next to her. I asked her what was wrong, and what the doctors had told her. She told me they ran some tests on her… “and they told me…” She couldn’t finish her sentence. I asked her again, and at her second time she again choked in her own words. Worried, I asked her a third time, and my cousin interrupted, jumping up and saying, “your mother has breast cancer.” If seeing my friend reading the bible didn’t get me to look for God, this certiantly did.
Her cancer lasted for about four years, in which time I seeked God like never before. For the first time, I tried fasting. I got online, entered some chatting programs (yahoo chat, paltalk.com, etc), and with my $15 computer microphone I argued the bible with other Christians. I learned much about the Sabbath, about the truth on the state of the dead, about the second coming, and these I debated vigorously. Perhaps this was not all to wise of me, but it certiantly helped me in taking my mind off of the problems I had at home.
I never could remove my membership from off the gang I was involved with (removal meant injury or death), so I moved away and disconnected myself from everyone, whether in my gang or not, who would take my mind off of bible things. By God’s grace, our leader was sent off to the military, where he found God as well. He became a believer in Jesus Christ, and joined a local Baptist church where he now lives. God’s finger was maneuvering things in my life, while at the same time using my mother’s sickness to make me seek him more. I wanted to know more about Jesus, and I wanted the entire bible in my brain. I read, and read, and read some more. But in reality, I was not really converted. My character was still stained with the habits of my past life. My vocabulary was uncalled for. In my mind I still had evil feelings towards others I thought were a threat to me, mainly other people who were as I was before my mom got sick. I stopped doing drugs, but would occasionally have a drink or two. And I still had a problem with girls. It wasn’t until that one day, while researching religious things online, that I finally gave my heart completely over to Jesus Christ. You might be surprised as to how that came about.
While surfing the net, I came across a website which was extremely critical of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Ellen G. White. I read that Ellen White was actually a mentally disabled women, whose visions were the result of this mental problem. That her visions were false, and that her predictions had failed. That she was wrong about the health message. That many of the doctrines of my church, especially the sanctuary doctrine, were erroneous. And to my surprise, these words were coming from the investigations of a former Seventh Day Adventist. He should know, he was one of us!
What confusion. My mind went all over the place. I didn’t know what to believe. I kept reading the articles at this website. Day by day I’d read more and more, which only confused me, and caused me to doubt my own beliefs in the Adventist message. I knew what the bible said, and I thought that our positions were so biblically sound that it would be impossible for there to ever be a former Adventist. This nearly drove me crazy, and I knew that my help could only come from one person, Jesus Christ. In my despair, I cried out to him, worried that I was in falsehood, worried that my dad was leading people into untruth, worried that my mom would die an Adventist! I ran to the bathroom, knelt down, and begged Jesus to forgive me of all my sins, to take over my life, and to help me understand his word better. He did, because from that time forward I determined to investigate for myself if whether these accusations were true or not, but this journey could not begin, unless I had truly given my life over to Jesus Christ. I have to give thanks to the authors of ellenwhiteexposed.com (which by my time was simply ellenwhite.com). Although they set themselves out to destroy the Adventist message, in their folly they succeeded in bringing a soul back to Jesus Christ, and to the Adventist faith.
My research began by simply asking questions, and looking at every possibility that my opponent might have not considered. For example, he said that Ellen White taught that Jesus would come in her days. In her visions she described herself as being part of the time when Jesus would return by using words like “we saw a small black cloud,” or “we were caught up to meet him in the air,” etc. I thought, is it possible she was given her vision as if she were part of it, so that her description of the events could be more detailed? Did some of the prophets in the bible describe themselves as part of these coming events? Well, yes, Paul did, he also described the second coming of Christ as if he would be present:
(15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
(16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
(17) Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
So I simply applied some logic, because I believed that God was a logical God and he wanted me to be logical as well. If Ellen White was wrong because she described herself as involved in those events, then so was Paul. My critic put me in a dilemma. If I reject Ellen White because of this, I must also logically reject Paul. But, if I reject Paul, I must also reject the rest of the bible, and I wasn’t ready to do that!
I began to get the impression that maybe my opponents were the ones mistaken, but my research didn’t end there. I read where my opponent accused us Adventists of always claiming he was taking her writings out of context. So I put this to the text as well. I read a few of his accusations, and went back to read them in their proper context. As an example, there is a quote where Ellen White supposedly said that Jesus was not God. I did pay some attention in school, so I knew that when a sentence is missing a period, either the author made a mistake in grammar, or he did not finish the sentence. Here is exactly how it appears on their website:
1903 “The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty” (ms 150, SDA Bible Commentary Vol. 5, p. 1129)
When I looking up the quote in question, I learned he did not finish the sentence, thus he took it out of context! Here’s my analysis of this accusation: 7. Is Jesus the Almighty God?.
Apparently, the originator of this accusation must have caught on to us, so they changed the way they quoted it and finished the sentence. Not that this helps them in any way, but if you want to see how he had it before, simply copy paste the quote as it is quoted above into a search engine, and you’ll find it preserved in those other anti-sda websites who plagiarised our critic. (yes, they do exactly what they accuse Ellen White of, click here).
I was then put into another dilemma. Either I join my fellow Adventist friends and risk being also accused of having nothing else to say but that he is out of context, or simply take what he says and run with it. I could not intelligently choose the former. Especially since I found that this wasn’t the first time he’s done this (see Critic #1: Dirk Anderson).
By now I have a bad taste in my mouth. I determined never to accuse my critics of purposely misleading people, but I sure was tempted to. The final straw, however, was when I realized that many of their attempts at debunking our Sanctuary message, Sabbath message, and so on, were so well put that if one doesn’t really study these issues for themselves they will surely be swept away. How easy was it for my opponent to tell me that, since the earthly sanctuary’s cover was made of goat’s skin, that therefore there was no heavenly sanctuary because it would be absurd to believe that a sanctuary in heaven had a roof made of a dead animal’s skin! If only my opponent truly understood that a “type” is simply that… a type, not the actual thing, we wouldn’t be having this problem!
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but even if I didn’t have an answer, the extreme and in many cases out-of-context claims made by these critics gave me the impression that somewhere out there there was a response, and it was simply a matter of researching it out. So I got to studying more. I search out well learned individuals and tested their response. I compared scripture with scripture. I research the background of certain events. Some, not all, of my research is found today in the form or articles on this website.
As the years went by, I learned that the Lord wanted me to work for his cause. I was alone, because I left all my friends from my past behind. So the Lord introduced me to other individuals who were just as dedicated into bible truth as I was. We decided to form a ministry, and named it Our Higher Calling Ministry, inspired by our desire to teach people that there is a higher way of living, which was allowing the transforming life of Jesus Christ to manifest itself through you, that you may be found as one who truly believes and obey God’s every commandment. By this time my mother had already lost her battle with cancer, and gave up the ghost. I got married to my lovely wife, and started typing down my thoughts and research into my Microsoft WORD program. Although I always wanted a website, I had no intentions of building this one. My articles were for me only. They were my way of researching and learning truth. Soon after they became the articles you now find here. Contributions and encouragements came from other fellow believers, which motivating to move forward with this project. The Lord opened up opportunities for our ministry to travel to other locations and share the word with those in need. To my surprise, Jesus led us to a high school for troubled youth, some of which where placed there for doing some of the things I did when I was their age. My experience gave me an advantage, and I witnessed to them that they can have victory over their sins, despite what my evangelical friends tell me. It was this truth, victory over sin in Jesus Christ, that led many of us members of Our Higher Calling Ministry to understand that we can live a victorious life. If it wasn’t for this knowledge, some of us would still be struggling with our addictions and sins:
(13) I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
(24) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
(25) To the only wise God our savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
I understood that if I did not abide in Christ, as he told me to do, I would not bear forth fruit (John 15:4) which fruits are the very characteristics of God, including righteousness, joy, peace, longsuffering, and so on (Galatians 5:22). I learned that I truly was in danger of falling away from the Lord if I abode rather in my old habits and sins, therefore I must move forward in my walk with Christ:
2 Peter 3:17
(17) Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
To this end has my experience led me. The Lord allowed me to commit the mistakes I committed when young, that I might learn from my mistakes, and have the experience necessary to reach out to others. He removed from my life those who would keep me in my old habits, and even touched the heart of one of them. The confusion my critics caused me, he used to his advantage also, leading me seek him for help, and helping me understand that I cant receive from him that which I desired, unless I desired more a relationship with him. I thank God for everything he’s done in my life, and I pray that my short testimony would encourage you to move forward in your Christian walk despite the many obstacles the enemy will throw your way.
God bless you.
In Jesus, the Solution,
Edwin M. Cotto
NOTE: Names have been changed, and some events of my personal life as a child, along with some information about my father and mother were purposely kept back.