Finding the Lord at The Rock
by Glen Doss, Major –
At the sound of the thud, the child flinched. His face clouded as he methodically made his way to the front door, and opened it to an all too familiar sight: sprawled out upon the floor lay his father, intoxicated. With a profound sigh of resignation, the child, 11, hoisted his dad’s body upon his own slight frame and bore him off to bed. He knew that the following morning his father would have no recollection of how he got there.
As Nemecio “Junior” Ocreto relates this haunting memory from his childhood, he adds: “My dad drank a lot, but it was mostly him who raised us kids in the projects of Honolulu. My mom had a gambling problem and would stay away weeks on end.”
Junior, 36, and his wife Bridget, 35, with their two sons playing in the background, review their lives for me. We are outside at a table at Camp Homelani, Waialua, Hawaii, the site of the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division’s annual Family Camp. They glance reassuringly at one another as they relate how they found the Lord, how they found each other, and how they each found peace of mind.
By age 11, Junior was drinking alcohol and using pakalolo (the Hawaiian name for marijuana). By 16 he was using cocaine and by 18 had moved on to crystal meth. When at 20 Junior met Bridget, he had held only one job, working at a laundry, which lasted just two months. “When I didn’t show up for three days, they fired me,” he explains.
As her youngest son, Bronson, 8, cozies up to her, Bridget runs her fingers through his hair and reflects upon her childhood. “When my parents divorced in 1976, my mom brought me from Ohio to Hawaii,” she says. “She remarried when I was in the fourth grade. It then became very chaotic at home; my stepfather drank and did drugs; he was a violent man. In my senior year my mom took my little sister and me to Houston. I accepted Christ at a Baptist church there.”
Returning to Honolulu, Bridget got a job as a live-in nanny. She and Junior met when she was 19. “When we met we just talked and talked and talked. We hit it off right from the start,” she says with a smile.
Although she loved him dearly, Junior’s lifestyle of drinking alcohol and using drugs troubled Bridget a great deal. “I always stuck by his side,” she adds. “I had a praying partner, and I called many other people to pray with us. I was crying and crying out to the Lord. I pleaded with Junior to please change.”
On his 25th birthday Junior and Bridget were married. After their first child, Benjamin, was born, Junior checked into an outpatient treatment center, began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and enrolled in college. After just 23 months of sobriety, however, he relapsed. “Bridget never stopped praying,” he emphasizes.
Then Bronson was born. “I was 31 and I didn’t want to continue that lifestyle—my kids growing up seeing their father using drugs and always away from home. Once more I checked myself into a treatment program. Alcoholics Anonymous talks about seeking a Higher Power; in my own way I was seeking that Higher Power.”
Learning that Al-Anon might show her how to better support her husband’s recovery efforts, Bridget went looking for an Al-Anon meeting. It was in this way that she inadvertently stumbled upon The Salvation Army Waianae Outpost where Rob Noland was in charge. “I thought that since I’m here I might as well enjoy the church service,” she says.
Appreciating all she heard and saw, Bridget continued to attend the weekly meetings and began bringing her sons along. Eventually she confronted her husband. “I finally told her that I would attend the service following my AA meeting,” he says. The following week, during the altar call, Pastor Rob asked: “Is there anyone here who would like to accept the Lord as their personal God and Savior?”
“I went forward, and Rob prayed with me,” Junior recalls emotionally. “My experience was like that described in the Scripture that Rob shares: ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.’ It was a very meaningful experience for me. That was almost four years ago.”
Today Junior sees the world in a whole new way. “The desire to use drugs stopped; it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. What appeals to me today is loving the Lord and loving my family. I come home after work and see my family. It’s so important that my kids see me. God has blessed us so.”
“The Rock” is the new name for the Waianae Outpost where the Ocretos worship. Glancing about at the Camp Homelani grounds, Junior remarks: “The Rock is like this—it’s set up beneath a tent at the beach; it’s all open. Our kids love it there. They learn Bible stories; they play games. It’s a very family-oriented church. My wife and I feel comfortable there because we have come to know the people. We’ve come to love them as our own family.”