Alfie Safa - God Uses Broken People

“I was nine years old when my parents got divorced. We three kids were living in Arizona with my mom and we saw how difficult it was for her to provide, even though she worked full time as a cashier at the market. When my brother was 11 years old and I was 10, we started shining shoes at the Greyhound Race Park on the weekends. We had a cabinet maker build us a shoeshine stand and we made a few hundred dollars each weekend. This helped my mom with the bills and put food on the table. We did this every weekend until I was a senior in high school.”

Today, forty-three-year-old Alfie Safa serves as pastor of Crossroads Christian Fellowship in Cave Creek, AZ. Graduating in June from Golden Gate’s Arizona campus with a Master of Divinity, Alfie’s journey from shoeshine boy to pastor has not been easy.

He became a Christian just before he went into the Marine Corps, when he was 19 years old. “I’d been going to church with my girlfriend, Melanie, for a while,” Alfie recalled, “and in December 1988, her dad and I were driving in a pickup truck down I-10, heading to church. I had been out late the night before, and almost missed getting that ride. We were talking about the Lord and I realized I was ready to ask Him into my life.” His girlfriend’s dad was the church’s pastor.

Alfie saw four years of active duty while in the Marines, and four years inactive. He was involved in Desert Storm; holding Bible studies in a fighting hole (though not while there was fighting). “Every morning about 10-15 guys would get their coffee and meet there. We’d read our Bibles, devotionals, and discuss a spiritual question or topic,” said Alfie, who is of Lebanese and Spanish heritage.

While still in the Marines, Alfie married Melanie in 1991. They moved in 2000 with their two children to Mill Valley, CA, so he could attend Golden Gate Seminary. “I chose Golden Gate since my professors at Wayland Baptist University recommended it because of my gift of evangelism,” said the California native. “They said Golden Gate is on the cutting edge of missions and evangelism.”

While a seminary student, Alfie injured his back at work as a supervisor for Wal-Mart’s shipping and receiving dock. In addition to that job, he was also a restocking clerk at Safeway on the nightshift. “The back injury caused a lot of pain and affected my sciatic nerve. The pain and the fact that I was not able to work - and not able to do much of anything - brought on a lot of extra stress to my marriage,” Alfie said. “I was attending Golden Gate hoping my back would heal without surgery, but that wasn’t the case.”

He and Melanie were divorced just after the surgery in 2001, and he left Golden Gate at that time. “I moved back in with my family in Arizona while I was still healing from the surgery, and Melanie moved to her family in New Mexico. Neither of us was working, and we had joint custody of our two kids. I was out of work for a year. It was a hard and dark time in my life.”

Alfie knew he “needed to be in God’s house after the divorce.” He explained how “I felt a responsibility to my kids to show them they needed a relationship with God. I wanted a big church to get lost in, where no one would bother me.” He went to North Phoenix Baptist Church and sat as far back and high up as he could go. “Someone made a point to walk over and greet me, and invited me to attend a Sunday school class.”

After a while he was asked to teach a small Bible class. “I wanted to return to seminary but I didn’t think God could use me in ministry. I learned if God’s calling you, there’s a place for you. I didn’t think God could use me because of the divorce. I learned God uses broken people.”

In 2004, Alfie’s sister-in-law suggested he become a car salesman. He gave it a shot and discovered he had a knack. He was successful. Today he is a Credit Resource Center (CRC) Director at Larry Miller Dodge in Peoria, near Phoenix.

“I met my wife, Ruby, while sharing the gospel with another salesperson at work,” said Alfie. “She overheard our conversation and told me I couldn’t talk about the Bible at work. I told her I sell 20 cars a month. They aren’t going to fire me.”

They started going to church together, taking her kids. Their friendship deepened. They’ve been married for seven years, with a blended family of four children. Ruby strongly encouraged Alfie to go back to seminary, which he did in 2008.

The opportunity to preach at Crossroads Christian Fellowship came earlier this year. Alfie credits his seminary education in providing him with the knowledge he needed. “Everything I learned in seminary is immediately applicable. The professors, as well as other students, are living their ministries. The professors are preaching as well as teaching, so they have real world experiences to share and learn from.

“One of the reasons I recommend Golden Gate is that the professors really do care about you,” Alfie explained. “They’re concerned for you spiritually, and want to see you grow in all aspects of your life, and help you any way they can. At the same time, they hold you to a high standard, and don’t let you skate through.

“Today my ministry is to people with any type of brokenness. I explain how they need restoration between themselves and God, and then restoration between themselves and their family, their friends. I know that at first you don’t want to be a part of anything. But restoration starts with liking and forgiving yourself. Once you realize God has forgiven you and loves you the way you are, it paves the way for you to forgive yourself.”

This new pastor says, “We serve an amazing God who is able to use us even when we think we’re broken and useless. God finds a way and uses us.” God has prevailed in Alfie Safa’s life!