From a background of violence to international ministry, SP staff Gus Galvan finds himself in God's great story
GUS GALVAN wears a “Best Grandpa Ever” shirt and bright smile as he greets visitors to his church. Gus is on staff with Servant Partners in Lincoln Heights, where he serves as the Missions Director for New Life Community Church. He seems to emanate peace and light as he shares his story—but Gus is also intimately familiar with turmoil and darkness.
“My parents dealt with anger issues and alcoholism,” he shared. “I even remember running from knives that my Dad threw at us. It was so wild it was almost funny, but now it’s emotional to think of how scary my home was.”
Gus grew up in Los Angeles in the 1980s, a decade in the city’s history stained by the crack epidemic and gang violence. Gus began to sell and abuse drugs, and experienced the loss of close friends to gun violence. He sought escape in the military, but encountered many of the same problems there. When he returned, his anger and substance addiction grew worse—and reached new depths after the death of his daughter.
“My daughter only lived for six hours,” he tearfully recounted. “It’s always hard to remember that—the nurses telling me she’s not really alive, yet she’s grabbing my finger as I’m holding her. That experience left me with a lot of anger, and I used it as an excuse to dive deeper into drugs and drinking.”
While Gus didn’t want anything to do with God, his wife Isabel began to grow a curiosity for the Bible. She didn’t know how to read it, so she prayed to God for help. The next day, they attended a high school football program they were involved with, where they met SP staff and New Life Community Church pastor Chris Rattay. Chris had moved into the Lincoln Heights neighborhood recently, and was starting a church.
“I was like, ‘What’s this skinny white guy doing here?’” Gus laughed. “My wife spoke with him, but I just sat glaring at them. I didn’t want anything to do with church; I didn’t even shake his hand when we left.”
A few Sundays after Chris invited them to church, Gus felt oddly compelled to go with his family to church. That day, they participated in a Bible study. As Gus studied the scripture, it seemed to be speaking directly to him. Shocked, he turned to Chris: “How old is this book? This thing just happened to me last week!” Since that Sunday, Gus never wanted to put the Bible down.
In the years that followed, Gus hungrily read through the scripture and made decisions to follow Jesus with his whole life. He began to receive vivid images and words of different locations, where God would later send him to as part of missions teams. There, he witnessed stories of the Bible come to life.
Before Gus’ first trip to Malawi, he had dreams and visions of Jesus calling a Muslim man he had never seen before. On the first night in the village, an old man walked towards them and asked for prayers for healing. His name was Mustafa, and he was the man from Gus’ dream.
“I heard Jesus ask me to ask Mustafa about his dreams, so I did—and they were the same dreams Jesus had given me! Mustafa was amazed at Jesus and accepted him as his Lord and Savior. The next day, his whole family did the same.”
"I took Jesus’ grace and love to Malawi, and left with a deeper faith and testimony of how great Jesus is.”
Two weeks after this miraculous encounter, Gus received tragic news: Mustafa had passed away. He realized that God was using him to share Jesus’ love with Mustafa before his death.
“Every time Jesus sent me overseas, he would tell me that he has given me something to leave there, and something to bring back,” Gus said. “I took Jesus’ grace and love to Malawi, and left with a deeper faith and testimony of how great Jesus is.”
Since Malawi, Gus has done ministry work in Europe, Central America, North America, and locally in East Los Angeles. His passion is to partner with those with a calling for long-term missions work.
“Jesus has shown me different places around the world where he wants to take members of my church, but I’ve asked him: how?” Gus said. “I don’t have the resources or knowledge, and there’s a pandemic happening. I told Jesus, ‘If you want me to do this, I need help!’ A few days later, I received an invitation to join Servant Partners, where I could receive the resources and help I need to fulfill this calling. Now, a new journey and chapter in my life with Jesus begins!”
Indeed, Gus’ life with Jesus involves many chapters of new graces, discipleship, and gifts. As people respond to his story with praises, he insists: “It’s God’s story. I’m just living it.”