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About 25 years ago, Cruz and Debbe Santiago met at Coney Island beach in New York City. They were homeless. They were addicted to drugs. They were experimenting with witchcraft. They were involved in gangs. They lived in the meager shelter underneath the Coney Island boardwalk. That was their home, except when they were in jail. Jail was their second home—their home away from home.


Then, one evening when Debbe was in jail, something happened. It was a little thing—such a little thing that you wouldn’t think it would make a big difference—but it did. The little thing that made a big difference was a Bible. A jail matron handed Debbe a Bible.


What about that matron? Did she expect her two-dollar Bible to make a difference? She had given Bibles to prisoners before. She had seen them leave without changing. She probably felt like you and I feel sometimes—that we do our best, but nothing happens. Perhaps she still feels that way, because Debbe didn’t change either—not right away.

While she was in jail, Debbe read the Bible. She read it every day. It fascinated her—and what else did she have to do? But then she fell into using drugs again. She ended up in the hospital in a coma. She woke up to the hissing rhythm of the respirator at death’s door. She woke up to the path of death on which she was walking. She had been there before. But this time it was different, because she had been reading the Bible. This time she knew what to do. This time, she asked God to release her from the drugs—and He did. This time, she dedicated her life to Christ—and Christ made the difference.


When she was released from the hospital, Debbe went to the jail to visit Cruz. Cruz noticed the difference. He said, “She was clean. She talked about the Lord. She left me a Bible.” Cruz became a Christian. In 1988, Cruz and Debbe were married.


But there’s more! (If Paul Harvey were telling this story, he would say, “And now the rest of the story!”) The rest of the story is that Cruz and Debbe started the “Salt and the Sea Mission” near Coney Island. They’re helping people just like the people they used to be—homeless, addicted, headed for jail. They preach the gospel. They feed anyone in need—60 on an ordinary day—hundreds at Thanksgiving. They operate a latchkey program. They help 350 children in a nearby welfare hotel. Every Sunday after church, they walked down to the beach—and poke into the secluded places—and give people a piece of bread—and give them the Bread of Life.


All because a jail matron gave a Bible to a junkie. All because a woman kept on handing out Bibles! God will bless our loving service.

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