The Christian Broadcasting Network

The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Mario Torres: Identifying with Christ

By Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club -Miami is well known by many people as the gateway to the perfect vacation.  But to Mario Torres, it was the gateway to crime.

“I hate this.  I ‘m freaked out,” Mario says as he looks out at the Port of Miami.  “I mean, it may smell nice, it may be nice breezes, ocean breezes, but it smells like a cesspool to me.”

Mario started working as a longshoreman when he was 19—and was quickly swept up into the seedy world of drug smuggling. 

He remembers, “We had access to the port, to get in, get out, and we knew who was who.  We knew who the cops were, who the cops weren’t.  Who could tell on us, who couldn’t.  It was just so much money.  There was a point where we didn’t even count the money anymore.  We weighed it.  What $100,000 weighs, take five dollar bills, weigh it, a hundred thousand weighs like five pounds.  That’s enough.  Okay.  Take that!”

While the lifestyle was lucrative, it was also extremely dangerous. “The risk involved -- it goes without question-- of prison,  you could be shot.  I mean the police and customs, drug enforcement agencies.  I mean every federal authority is on the port.  That’s where the importation of drugs comes in.  Is through the port.  So everything, you’re battling all authorities and if you can beat all authorities, hmmm… imagine how powerful you are!”

All Mario ever wanted was power-- and respect.  He moved to Miami from Cuba when he was six, after Fidel Castro overthrew the Cuban government.   And on his first day of school, a classmate called him a derogatory name and pushed him down--  just because he was from another country.

Returning to the school where this happens, Mario recalls, “I went home that night and I told my daddy, crying.  My daddy said, ‘You don’t cry.  Men don’t cry.’  He showed me how to make a fist and he put his hand up and he said, ‘Hit my hand.’ And I hit his hand that night for hours.  And he said, ‘You go back tomorrow, and you punch that boy in his nose.’”

He did exactly what his father told him to do.  “And that day, I got the respect that I always wanted. I had power now.”

And hatred toward anyone who tried to stop him from using that power.   “I could never go back to being that kid that got pushed. So I had to continue pushing forward,” says Mario.  “In my warped thinking, I thought that I was coming against those people that had come against me.  An example, my father had lost his county, and that wasn’t going to happen to me.  Authorities weren’t’ going to destroy my life. I thought I could do anything I wanted until one day the feds came knocking on the door.”

Mario left his wife and two young children.  He changed his name, took a quarter of a million dollars, and fled to South America.  That’s where he slowed down and started really looking at his life.  “Always inside of me there was that one guy that wanted to have a family.  To be with my wife and my children, like my father and my mother were. “

But after a few years of Mario’s absence, his wife lost hope and moved on.

“My time as a fugitive was spent crying, pain, struggling inside,” Mario remembers.  “Because now I didn’t have my crew around me, my folks around me.  Now it was just me alone.”

Ultimately, Mario got tired of running from the law and turned himself in. “A lot of guys inside prison were laughing at me. ‘How can you turn yourself in?  Are you stupid, what’s wrong with you?’”

But Mario says it was exactly what he needed to do. “I felt a sense of relief because now there is no more putting on this façade, this power thing, this respect thing, this tough guy thing.  Now I was really conceding.  I was surrendering,”

And not just to the federal authorities.  Mario says he surrendered to an even higher authority. “This fellow inmate told me God is looking for men like you.  I said, men like me??? I felt God speaking to me inside my heart. He told me ‘Yes, and I’ve always loved you.  As a matter of fact, I loved you when they pushed you in the first grade.  I was there.  I was there when you were growing up.  I was there in your rebellious years.  I was there when you were smuggling.’  I was on my knees and I was crying and I said, Lord I want to love you for real.  I want to know you.  I want to fall in love with you.  And I felt this overwhelming like a flow, a warm flow in my body, and I heard a voice, an audible voice that said ‘Yield.’ and I gave my life to Christ.  Literally gave my life to Christ.”

Mario still had 8 years to serve in prison, but that gave him a chance to study the bible -- sometimes 10 hours a day.  And when he was finally released, he was a changed man.

“Before I met Christ, I was self righteous, selfish, thinking of myself,”  Mario admits. “And when I met Christ now, I do things for Him.  And it’s so much better.  There’s no need for power; He has the power! Jesus gave me an identity. That little guy that didn’t speak the right language and was hated now had an identity now. I was no longer a Cuban, no longer an American.  Now, I’m a Christian. Now I am a beloved son of God. The greatest title anyone could have and the most power anyone could ever want is to be loved by God. I don’t deserve any of it.  I deserve to be dead for the crimes I committed.  But he forgave me and he set me on high.”

Today Mario works in the food industry and lives a simple life.  He finally has the close family he always wanted.  He married Dirce, and they had a daughter.  And he’s been re-united with his parents and grown children.

Mario concludes with a smile, “There’s no more running, no hating, just loving now.  To have Jesus in your life is just so much better than anything the world has to offer. And if he loved a guy like me that was loveless, he can love anyone.”

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