The Story of Leyl Valdez
As told to Grace Roscia Estuesta
As I listened to my eldest brother’s tape playing the song “World’s Apart” by Jars of Clay in 1995, the seed of intimacy was planted in my heart. Love notes filled the room, and this paved the way for my encounter with the Lord. The pursuit of my Father God marked my seven-year-old heart in the absence of my earthly father.
My name is Leyl Valdez. I’m a wife, a worship leader, and a full-time church worker in Jesus’ Flock Gateway Church, Jesus Revolution Now (JRev), and the Gateway House of Prayer (GHOP). I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a pastor and my mom worked as a bank manager to send me and my brothers to a Christian school.
In my childhood, Christian home paraphernalia surrounded me—our house was filled with Bible verses and Christian songs. However, sin caused brokenness in our family. My father committed adultery with different women and subsequently abandoned us. I was only a toddler when my father left for the first time, but even at the tender age of 2 or 3, my mother did not keep my father’s transgression a secret. Through the years, my father met and spent time with my brothers and me once every three years or so. We had dinner together or went somewhere to spend time with each other. Despite being a single parent, my mother faithfully did her best to provide for our family. At some point in our lives, she even forced us to go to church, and that turned out for the best.
In my father’s absence, I went through a bullying phase–one where I bullied and teased a classmate. I forgot about this incident until this very same classmate and I reached high school, and she reminded me of what I did. Eventually, this led to our reconciliation.
Away from the Light
In the 4th grade, I found out the meaning of my name. My two older brothers casually laughed at my name “Leyl,” because it meant “away from the light.” As opposed to my name, the meaning of their names was positive; Jesiel (Yash) meant “made by God” and Adriel meant “belonging to God.”
My father, who was a pastor at that time, chose my name. He chose this name as a reminder to himself of the seeming darkness that he experienced in the season of my conception. My father accused my mother that I was a child from another man to justify and cover up his affair with other women.
I did not know how to respond when I found out the meaning of my name. I went to my room and cried. I drowned in my thoughts as I grasped the weight of it. I remembered my mother saying that my father did not want a daughter who might “pay” for his sins.
“Lord!” I cried. I felt really unwanted and rejected. In my mind, I wondered what I did to deserve this. My eyes caught the prayer of Jabez posted on the wall of my room. It said:
“…his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” –1 Chronicles 4:9-10, English Standard Version
I cried out to the Lord and pleaded never to be away from Him. I claimed the memory verse that I had in school as my own that I would be the “salt and light of the world” and not move “away from the light.”
By the grace of God, these circumstances did not become a hindrance to my knowledge of Jesus because I witnessed my lola (grandmother) pray every night.
The Power of a Praying Woman
My relationship with God grew gradually, despite the Enemy’s attempt to turn the anger and rejection that I felt in my heart towards my earthly father into rebellion and sin. As I witnessed from my prayerful lola, I realized that my pursuit of the Good Father in Heaven could happen because He pursued me first.
It wasn’t easy for us, but my lola was really prayerful. I saw my lola pray in the wee hours of the morning. She hugged her knees and prayed, sitting on the bed. Tears flowed from her eyes. I was moved to tears at the sight of my lola praying even if I did not really understand it. I witnessed my lola carry the burden and pain in her heart even if she was just my mom’s aunt who was a spinster. What happened to my mother was also painful for her, but I believe that I experienced the presence of the Lord in those moments of brokenness and vulnerability.
This also gave me an understanding why at times my mother was angry and frustrated, and my siblings and I became the receivers of these emotions because hurt people hurt people.
The prayers my lola uttered, the worship songs that played in our house, and the Word of God ministered to me and kept me. I believed this birthed my encounters with the Lord. Through it all, I believed that God pursued us. God was really after us. He was after me. But God’s work in me remained hidden until I transitioned from elementary to high school, and when I went to camp in church.
I believed that my lola’s powerful intercession was pivotal to the unfolding of events.
Leyl Valdez is a wife, worship leader, and full time staff worker at Jesus’ Flock Gateway Church, Jesus Revolution Now, and Gateway House of Prayer. Her encounters with Jesus through worship and the Word fuel her to serve and minister. She enjoys spending time with her husband at home, especially during moments when he paints and she sings and plays the piano.
END OF PART 1
Grace Roscia Estuesta
Grace is a child of God and a lover of Him. She is a graduating student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Convergent Media Track) in Far Eastern University.