When Henry Sanchez ’14, M.A. ’18, interviewed for his first position at Azusa Pacific, he worried about explaining the blank spot on his job application where his education experience should be listed. He was straightforward with the interviewers: “I don’t got no education. But now,” he continued, “I’m in a relationship with Christ. God is using my life, and I really want to be a part of this APU community.” He landed the job.
Today, Henry is lead custodian for Facilities Management and a more-than-familiar face around the university, known widely among students, faculty, and staff for going the extra mile and demonstrating faithful service at every step.
At one point, Henry’s journey to finding his calling at APU looked like a bleak impossibility. In what he describes as a “fatal decision,” Henry joined a gang at a young age and spent years lost in a cycle of substance abuse and incarceration. He overdosed on drugs twice, recognizing on several occasions that he was near death. “That was the blindness that was over my eyes, and I did not want to stop,” he said.
“I’ve always looked at my job as a place of honoring God.” — Henry Sanchez ’14, M.A. ’18
In 1993, an encounter in an alleyway with a close friend who had become a pastor changed the trajectory of Henry’s life. “God told me to come back after you,” said his friend, who had once played a role in Henry’s decision to join the gang. Now, the friend tried to draw Henry toward a different community: a church. Henry agreed to go with him to a service. “I knew that I was hurting,” said Henry. “I knew that I was searching.” At the service, Henry opened his heart to God and asked to feel His presence. “Show me that you love me, that you’re able to forgive me,” he said. “I’ll lay it all down right here.” Henry was overcome by a sense of peace and comfort, and he committed to a new walk with God. “I want You to be in my life,” he prayed—and a transformation had begun.
After Henry started working at APU, he saw an opportunity to fill in the blanks that were missing from his life story by going back to school.
“No one in my family has ever graduated,” he said. “No one has accomplished things like this. I’m going to go for it. I know that God is on my side.”
He attended Citrus College and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from APU. Henry is currently completing his master’s degree in the same subject.
In 2014, Henry received the Vivian Felix Staff Award, given annually to an APU staff member whose Christ-honoring service provides inspiration to the entire APU community. I’ve always looked at my job as a place of honoring God,” said Henry. “The relationships that I’ve built here and the students that I’ve impacted—those that I’ve led to Christ—God has just really used me in a powerful way. This is my community. This is my home.”
It seems like a lifetime ago that Henry received quite a different message about his life and purpose: “Henry, you’re a high-school dropout.” “Henry, you’ll never amount to anything.” “Henry, you’ll never live past 20.”
He hasn’t forgotten his path through the darkness, but neither has the One who redeems the broken. “My relationship with Christ totally transformed all of that,” Henry said. “It showed everyone that what is impossible with the world is possible with God.”