Beat Down . . . Now Upbeat!
On December 16, 2010, Freddie Navas stepped off the train at the Irvine station with no family, no car, and no one to meet him. Financially broke from brain surgery, he had little more than his drum sticks and a California dreamin’ smile.
“What brings you here?” the security guard asked.
“This may seem crazy,” Freddie said, “but I came to be with my family.”
The guard inquired, “You have family in Orange County?”
“No, but I came to be with God’s family at Saddleback Church.”
The security guard, a compassionate believer, offered Freddie his lunch and allowed him to spend the night in the train station.
Freddie is a professional musician and recording artist. Born in Puerto Rico, Latin rhythm captured Freddie’s fancy early on. At age 10, he built his first drum set from a laundry washtub, aluminum cracker cans, and tree twigs for drumsticks. During his formative years, he learned piano and a variety of percussion instruments, but his favorite was the timbales—the Latin drums. After studying music at the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico, he signed a contract with the Puerto Rican Army National Guard Band—a band that was invited to play at the White House and Pentagon. He also performed with Latin music icons Celia Cruz and Tito Puente.
Coming to the United States, music was Freddie’s life—even more important than God. Moving from one relationship to another while experimenting with alcohol and drugs, he realized it was time to change. In 1987, he surrendered his life to Christ. In 2003, a lady handed him a book and said, “You need to read this.” The book was The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Initially, he read just two chapters—39 and 40, but they gripped his life. He began to place God first and music second in his life.
While teaching music and performing with Lakewood Church and the Joel Osteen and Marcos Witt Ministries, Freddie developed an involuntary eye twitch. As it grew worse, the spasms impaired his ability to read music. Threatened with the loss of his career, he called out to God. Without insurance, he did not have the money for a $50,000 surgery. On July 2, 2009, God miraculously provided, and Dr. Peter Jannetta, a leading innovator in neurosurgery, performed brain surgery to correct Freddie’s hemifacial spasms. God brought healing and a renewed passion to minister through music and lead music groups.
After that night in the Irvine train station, Freddie walked to the Saddleback church offices and asked to meet Rick Muchow, the worship pastor. As a complete stranger, Freddie looked like a drifter passing through. Despite the pressure to plan all the Christmas services, Rick Muchow invited him into his office and welcomed him with a warm embrace. That weekend, Freddie started worshipping with his new family—a family of thousands at Saddleback Church. The Saddleback Peace Center helped him with food, rent, and medical care. He completed Classes 101, 201, 301, and 401, and today, Freddie is the Associate Community Leader for the Spanish online small groups and a Purpose Driven Initiative Trainer for the 12 Cities Missions.
Freddie said it this way: “Saddleback is my home and my family forever!”
When we gather in heaven with the “vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language,” (Revelation 7:9 NLT), I expect to see Freddie with his big Latino smile . . . beating the timbales with all his might.
Pastor Dave Beckwith
© 2013, Dave Beckwith and Freddie Navas