Tony Gomez came into the world fighting the odds. He weighed 2 1⁄2 pounds when he was born and spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator. His parents say Tony was so tiny, he could fit in a shoebox. Eventually, overcoming all odds, Tony began practicing karate with his dad and his love for sports developed. He found a natural talent in wrestling and went on to compete in national competitions; he would eventually win a myriad of highly respected awards in the wrestling world and receive scholarship offers to top universities.
On September 12, 1997, Tony and his cousin, Manuel, were shot at while driving which caused them to crash into a brick building; Manuel did not make it. Tony was rushed to the hospital to find out that he suffered a fractured L2 vertebra. The doctors said that there was a real possibility that he would never be able wrestle again. Faced with the murder of his cousin and the loss of his athletic scholarship, Tony entered into the beginning of great pain and loss of hope.
"I was faced with the loss of my identity. It was disheartening with all the accomplishments I had achieved I realized they had no real power to help me find hope during such a dark time. I became depressed and physically suffered for the next 8 months. I was confined to a bed and needed constant care. I was confused and desperate. Many attempts were made by family and friends to reach out to me but it was my mother’s prayers and words of faith that broke through the darkness. She would often tell me about Christ’s power to heal the brokenness. The depression remained but I was now given vision of a new future. With my Father by my bedside at night, He held my hand as I clasped with a white knuckle grip, agonized by the pain in my lower back, that I was able to make it through one day at a time. My faith in Jesus Christ and the love of my parents proved to be exactly what I needed."
Tony rededicated his life to Christ and began to find the strength to endure the long recovery process. Though his physical healing, Tony experienced spiritual restoration in God. Three long years later, after being told that he would never wrestle again, Tony not only was able to wrestle again, but also won his very first tournament back!
"I remember my mom’s words: ‘Jesus Christ can heal you and He has a plan and purpose for your life.’"
What Tony did not realize was that God was planning to use his personal tragedy to bring glory to Himself and prepare him for a life of full-time ministry.
Tony graduated from Latin American Bible Institute in La Puente, California and transferred to Vanguard University to continue his education. Tony made time to volunteer as an assistant wrestling coach at Santa Ana High School where he introduced the students to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Today, Tony is going on his 10th year as a full-time urban missionary with FCA which has the opportunity to outreach to 15,000 plus students each week on the public school campuses throughout Orange County.
Tony is also one of the original core team members to plant Emmaus Church Santa Ana.
Tony’s favorite verses:
Joshua 1:8-9 // “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 // “For God knows the plans that He has for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 // “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Whatever tragedies that were meant for your destruction, God can use for His glory and your spiritual maturity. Keep running the race and never give up—if life knocks you flat on your back and you don’t have the fight to go on, submit to God and He will give you the Holy Spirit to empower you so that you can be a light in this world. May God’s love be seen and experienced by those around you.