One of the Many

In my last article, I profiled Missio Dei Oakland. In this article, I write about how I joined the church.

Entering the darkest phase of my existence in 2015, I had developed the mentality of encountering things with no expectation of a positive outcome. The tragic death of a loved one opened a gateway for me to enter a dark spiritual abyss where there wasn’t any light or hope of an escape. I was in a state of utter agony but perfected the illusion to one’s naked eye that there was nothing wrong in my life, that everything was essentially going well.

When I reached the holiday season, a sign of good fortune came in the reconnection of one of my best friends, Danny. Danny took me along to a Christmas party where I was introduced to the Thursday house church of Missio Dei Oakland (MDO). I had a pleasant evening with the group and was invited back to attend their Thursday services, but not feeling a spiritual connection I didn’t accept it. The following year I became an isolated dark- spirited person and lost sight of my morals and direction. I would once again join Danny at MDO’s annual Christmas party and this time accepted an invitation to attend Thursday services.

What I had perceived in my mind to be an easy transition turned out to be the most excruciating spiritual experience that I have ever had to endure. I struggled immediately upon entry. A month and a half in, I felt that my whole world was collapsing before my very eyes and there was nothing I could do to save it. I lashed out negatively during each week’s group sharing and consistently lost patience with some of the other churchgoers. The Bible lessons were not getting through to me and all of my prayers felt that they were being left unanswered. Failing to see any form of progress, I contemplated quitting,  but having that desire to change, I didn’t.

After a self evaluation, I realized that my failure to improve came down to a lack of sincerity and wholehearted commitment. Without completely opening my heart to God, I was never going to get my life back together. Knowing what I needed to do, I prayed to God and he immediately answered. The following day when I woke up in bed, I felt that the presence of darkness was gone. I could breathe and have a thought in my head, in what felt like the first time in eternity, that wasn’t  surrounded or taken over by negative energy. My aura was calm and collected and I felt like a new person.

I would pick up vast amounts of knowledge each week from the Bible lessons and worked on implementing those teachings in my daily life. Looking for more guidance, I took up any opportunity to participate in any church activity, such as going out of town with the group on spiritual retreats and joining Danny and the lead pastor for morning discipleship. It didn’t take long for family and friends to notice the change in my personality as everything for me was coming back together. I spent time repairing damaged relationships with loved ones and became fixated on my immediate future which ultimately led to my decision to go back to college.

My mentality heading back into school was to do good and move forward. Since returning, I have been able to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, something that I don’t remember ever doing. Struggling to find a profession that satisfied my personal needs, the church aided me in choosing a career. I selected law enforcement as I viewed it as a way to positively reach out to the community, looking to help repair the broken relationships between police officers and the people. But during my fall semester in college I changed to journalism through the guidance and support of my English teacher who opened my eyes to the quality of my work as a writer and the potential I could have as a journalist. The decision was well received by family and friends.  Being selected as a community correspondent for Oakland Voices served as the final culmination for the year where everything for me came back together.

Without MDO, guiding me towards God, I never would have been able to regain my grasp on reality and escape from the spiritual hell that I was living in. Since returning to my life, I have been able to meet many wonderful individuals who have left an everlasting impact on me. Through them I have gained a better perspective of my community and accomplished many feats that once appeared to me to be impossible to achieve. MDO has touched many lives in East Oakland and I am forever grateful to be one of the many who have been blessed.

Author Profile

Ryan Barba is an Oakland native who is following his passion of writing. It has lead to his desire to further his knowledge and insight in this profession by learning and sharing with others. Ryan attended primary and secondary schools in Oakland and has ties to various community outreach programs throughout the East Bay. Having spent his life in Oakland, he looks forward to using this opportunity as a platform to tell stories that are occurring in his wonderful community.


  1. A wonderful way to see that you can change who you are. You realize you can’t change your past but you can change your future.

  2. Sounds like an amazing story. You finally found your way and found how to fix or change some mistakes. It’s sad but amazing to see how you can change and really see it in yourself.

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