“… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:13)


God@Work in the life of Aaron Pacheco

“God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors.”

This is a phrase that many of us would never think of when we didn’t know God or weren’t walking close to Him. Aaron Pacheco would have never thought this as a child growing up. But today? This is a motto that he lives by.

Aaron grew up in a good home with caring parents. “I was raised in the Catholic Church, was baptized as an infant, attended CCD, and had my first Holy Communion, but church was never the focus of our lives. It seemed to get in the way of too many things like sports and football. Our schedules were always so busy, and there just wasn’t time. We never attended church between my second grade and sixth grade years.”

Bullying is something that most parents hope their child never faces. Aaron was picked on incessantly as a child, simply for being small. “All I ever wanted was to fit in and be like the other kids. It can be a lonely and depressing world trying to defend yourself. I would get into fights, run home crying, and thought often about changing schools.”

One of Aaron’s childhood friends, who remains his friend to this day, was Andrew Janus. “The entire Janus family played a huge role in my life. They were like a second family to me. I would go there often for dinner or to just hang out and talk to the family about life. When I was about 11 years old, Andrew invited me to youth group at their Presbyterian church.” Aaron now sees the Janus family as God reaching out to him. But there was a lot that happened in the middle.

On one youth retreat, Aaron was able to connect with other middle schoolers and to God. “I was so inspired and loved it so much that I ended up working there as a counselor from my sophomore year to my senior year of high school.”

Away from the retreats and the youth groups, Aaron still struggled. “I remembered the days of bullying that went on for years, and even though I had grown taller and played high school football, I still hurt deep inside.”

Aaron was a volunteer firefighter/EMT since the age of 14. However, he began drinking and smoking weed to hide his pain and continued through high school graduation. “After breaking up with my girlfriend, I started getting anxiety attacks and basically lost faith in humanity. I began “cutting” myself and continued drinking heavily. I lost most of my friends. I stopped attending college, and my parents never knew. I would leave the house each day and go drink by myself in parking lots.”

In October 2015, Aaron had come to the end of his rope and attempted suicide. He was found unconscious and was admitted to Virtua Mt. Holly where he was monitored for a week and released. Aaron went back to his old life. Nothing changed.

In December 2015, in a drunken stupor, Aaron intentionally drove his car into a tree. The people who found him were from FAC, Mark McGuigan and Rich Plowman. “I see now this was no mere coincidence!” Aaron recalls. “They visited me in the hospital often and were to play a major role in my life from that day forward. They became my brothers and mentors.”

Less than a week later, tragedy struck Aaron ― hard. Two of his friends, one from school and one from the fire company, committed suicide. Aaron was devastated. His world was closing in on him again. On Mother’s Day 2016, Aaron and his mother had a huge fight, and he was asked to leave the house. He stayed with his grandparents for a while and then with a girlfriend and her parents. But nothing really changed ― especially not his behavior. In June 2016, he moved back home.

A third attempt to take his own life landed him in the hospital again. “Mark and Rich visited me often and told me it was time to change my life or I was really going to die. They talked to me about God and invited me and my dad to Alpha. We both attended, and we loved it! God was really getting my attention. He was so real to me. I started attending FAC and that brought back all those good memories of the youth retreats.

“I was sitting in church one Sunday with my dad, Mark, and Rich; and Pastor Marty was preaching about starting a brand new chapter, a brand new life, and giving everything including pain and struggles over to the Lord. Then he invited anyone who wanted to be baptized to come forward.”

Feeling overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, Aaron knew he needed to do this. “I asked Mark if I should go and Mark told me to ‘go with the Spirit.’ So, I walked out the back doors, around the corner, got a robe, and the next thing I knew I was on stage with Pastor Don asking me questions. I couldn’t believe I was actually talking in front of all those people. But I knew it wasn’t me talking. It was the Holy Spirit!”

Aaron can hardly describe the feeling he had when he came up out of the water. “It was an amazing feeling. I was totally free from my past! I was new, and I had a new life ― in Jesus!”

Aaron’s story is far from over. Today, he no longer feels hopeless. Aaron knows he is here for a reason. “I want to help, to serve, and to love people. I want to help them when they are going through similar situations and feelings. I know why God saved me! And, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God had been with me all along!”

Aaron continues to work as a firefighter/EMT, volunteers on the medical team at FAC, is part of the Venture ministry led by Brian and Lisa Russell, and would someday like to become an ER tech and then, perhaps, a pediatric nurse or a full-time firefighter. At the age of 20, he is looking forward to what God has in store for him.

Aaron is reminded daily that God did battle for his soul and won. His favorite verse is Colossians 1:17 ― “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Aaron now looks at life as a gift that only God can hold together. He knows that God and church will always be part of his life.

“There is a purpose to everything in my life, and now I want to share my story to help others. I am Aaron Pacheco, and God is definitely at work in my life.”