By Brittany Ruess
Domenic Mendoza walked into a friend’s house last year high, drunk and depressed.
His friend belonged to a Christian family. This was one of the many nights they took Mendoza in after he was kicked out of his house.
At 14, Mendoza’s parents divorced, which sparked hatred towards his family and God.
“My mom was crying a lot and so was my dad,” Mendoza, a 19 year old freshman vocal major, said. “They were scared of me. I was just being selfish.”
After the divorce, Mendoza said he was looked at by church members as a potential problem child, and to piss people off, he became a problem child. His addictions to drugs and alcohol landed him in St. John’s Mercy Hospital at 14. Years after that, he was still battling depression.
“I was a pretty dark kid,” Mendoza said.
Christian music played throughout the home of his friend. Mendoza, who was 18 at the time and a heavy metal fan, listened to the words of “Oh, How He Loves Us”.
This was the night Mendoza said he was introduced to God. “I just could feel God’s presence all over and God’s love for me,” Mendoza said. “I don’t know, I just couldn’t handle living without love from Him, that kind of love. You don’t find that love anywhere else.”
Mendoza felt inspired by the music, a genre unlike the anti-Christian heavy metal music he played.
“I felt like God was telling me to just stop, go ahead and express how you feel right now in poetry,” Mendoza said. “I felt peace, complete peace.”
Mendoza then thought to put a beat under the poem.
Mendoza went to the studio to record the poem, which was also his first Christian rap song, “Conversion,” about him converting to Christianity. “Conversion” became popular among his friends and Mendoza created a total of 12 rap singles.
Two weeks after that night, Mendoza called a schoolmate, Tyler Warne. Mendoza and Warne fought for years in high school and saw each other as enemies.
“All the girls wanted him,” Mendoza said laughing. “I hated him.” In the phone conversation, Mendoza explained his depression and family issues, and apologized to Warne for his past grievances. Mendoza told Warne about his convervsion to Christianity. He didn’t want to fight anymore. They reconciled. The two eventually became best friends, and Warne became one of Mendoza’s biggest fans.
“He wouldn’t let me hang out with him unless I burned a CD of my music to give to someone,” Mendoza said.
Warne, who was addicted to cocaine and drinking, was going to be a teen father and was failing his classes.
“And I thought I had it bad,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza took Warne to church and showed him the love of God he recently discovered.
“Once, he went into a prayer session for three hours,” Mendoza said. “He walked out saying, ‘I’m going to die soon.’ ”
Then, Mendoza said Warne began to accept Jesus.
“Things started getting back on track for him slowly,” Mendoza said.
Nights after Warne’s prayer session, Mendoza got a call from Warne at 2 a.m. asking for a ride.
“I told him, ‘I can’t get you,'” Mendoza said. “Then Tyler said, ‘Man, I love you. I’ll see you later.’ In the back of my head I thought, ‘that’s the last time you’ll ever talk to him.'”
But, Mendoza ignored the thought. Warne died three nights later on March 19, 2010 in a car accident.
“He was my best friend. I realized then everybody has a time limit,” Mendoza said, trying to hide the tears flowing from his eyes. “That’s when God became more real to me. That’s why I do what I do. Everybody has a purpose. His life helped give birth to my ministry.”
His eyebrows raised and eyes closed as Mendoza moved back and forth to the beat of his song, “Mirror Man,” during his rap concert at the Trinity Christian Reformed Church on Jan. 28. The song’s intensity reflected on his face. He remembered his dark past and embraced his enlightened present.
The song is his testimony, a way for him to reach out to others who doubt God like he did a year ago.
“I share my story just so people can know I’m not some religious freak that stands up with a mic and can’t relate to anybody,” Mendoza said. “I want people to understand that I’ve been at their level.”
“Mirror Man don’t even take me by the hand/
I see you, do you see me/
I’ve seen what you’ve come to be/
I see from all this broken glass/
You’re just a ghost that’s haunting me from my past/
Yeah, I’m staring at the man in the mirror”
“It’s about how I feel people look in a mirror and see all the crap they’ve been through,” Mendoza said. “I feel like God wants to shatter the mirror and make the focus in their eyes on Him to see what He has in store for their lives.”
A year ago, Mendoza didn’t know what was in store for his life. Neither did his family.
“I never knew if my brother was going to come home at night,” said Mia Mendoza, 16, Domenic Mendoza’s sister. “I thought, ‘What if he dies?’ He’d get so angry. I was on edge being around him.”
Their mother, Julie Picchi, said her heart used to break watching Domenic Mendoza fall off the path of God.
“When he performs like this I find out a lot about what he did,” Picchi said. “I just love seeing him like this. I just can’t believe this is him.”
Picchi opens her home to Webster students who want to attend church with Domenic Mendoza. After the rap concert, 20 Webster students approached Picchi, asking if they could tag along with Domenic Mendoza to the next church session. “This is the bottom line,” Picchi said. “He can tell where these kids are coming from because he’s been there. He can sense their doubts.”
After his final song, Mendoza walked to his mother. “I love you mom,” Mendoza said as he hugged her tightly. She kissed his cheek.
Sermons Mendoza teams with his pastor and holds a sermon every Wednesday in West hall, second floor south in the study room. “Let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven,” sang Mendoza, starting his sermon on Jan. 26.
He continued to strum his electric guitar.
“Sing it out like you’re proclaiming it,” Mendoza said above the chords of the guitar. “Like, you don’t have to see it to believe it.” Mendoza looked at his group of five and asked, “If you’re hungry, what are you going to do?”
The freshmen group, a mix of those new to Christianity and veteran Christians, glanced at one another, pondering the question.
“You’re going to seek for whatever to make you full,” Mendoza said. “The same thing works for Jesus. If you’re hungry for God, nothing else can satisfy your hunger.”
Mendoza also allows one on one time with anyone in the group who needs more guidance.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I put my group and Jesus first,” Mendoza said. “All my school and everything else come second. I’m glad that I help them but I’m gladder that I see Jesus moving in their lives. That’s the point of it all.”
However, Mendoza had some doubts of his own. He called Picchi mid-January and said he wasn’t sure if music, ministry and Webster were right for him.
“I’m helping people along the way,” Domenic Mendoza said. “I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Now, Domenic Mendoza said, he is moving onto what God has in store for him and doesn’t look back at his previously rebellious self often.
“I’m just glad God’s actually using me for something,” Mendoza said. “I’m just discovering my purpose more and more.”
Hear more music at his website: dominiofficialsite