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I Find Confidence Through My Family

Sam felt like an awkward kid because he grew up with a speech delay. But he finds confidence through the love of his family and his faith in God.







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Brother Joe Velasquez (Minister of the Gospel): Our very first speaker, grew up feeling awkward and shy because of a speech delay. But listen to how God helps him find confidence. Welcome, Sam Atencio.


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Sam Atencio: …That is how I “communicated” up until I was 2 or 3 years old. I could not speak because I had a major speech delay and because of that I always felt shy. I had no confidence. 


I wasn’t the best or smartest student in school. In fact, it was very hard for me to make any friends. Everytime I would try to say something I would stutter. It’s like I have the words I wanted to say in my mind but nothing will come out. This speech delay was partly because of some brain damage from a near death experience – Yeah, I almost died. 


The year was 2002 and my mom went into labor during worship service. Luckily, she was able to get to the hospital just in time. But there were complications. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. And it was so bad that the doctors told my dad to make a choice. Who should they save, the child? Or the wife? The child? Or the wife? 

I think my dad wanted to save his wife. I’m kidding. Of course, He wanted to save us both.


He prayed really hard, that he’d be willing to do anything for the both of them. 

In just a couple of moments God answered his prayer and gave me a second chance.  He named me “Sam” because he thought I was going to come out during the worship service; or the “pagSAMba.” Pretty clever right. So thank you dad, thank you mom. 


All jokes aside, I was born with challenges. So I was always told to work harder than everyone else and I always wondered, was it because I wasn’t normal? Was there something wrong with me? Will I ever be good enough?


When I was learning how to pray, I asked God to help me find the right people. People who would accept me for the way I am. And I believe God has answered my prayer in 2 ways: 


  1. Through my family because they inspire my faith and they help build that confidence.
  2. A family that encourages me to get into music. Music was my way to communicate to the world. A way for me to express myself…and those sounds that I made when I was younger, it actually turned into this: 


[starts beatboxing]


That took me a while to learn. In fact, It took me a while to learn a lot of things. It was my mom who helped me realize that just because I was slow that doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn things. She taught me a very important lesson about resilience – that you should do your best, regardless of the outcome. At the end of the day, you’ll be happy that you’ve given it your all. 


I remember mom worked with me on my Sight words. Sight words are those flashcards you got from elementary school that have those simple words; for example, should, could, can, would etc. All those simple words to help build that simple sentence.


And she put it everywhere in the house. And when I say everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. My room, the bathroom, the kitchen, in the car, even my toys would be labeled with them. But eventually, I was able to get it. And it paid off. By the time I went to first grade, I was the spelling bee king! Thank you mom for always believing in me, and never giving up on me. I love you mom.


But being the spelling bee king doesn’t make you popular. In fact, I was still the weird/quiet kid. The school bullies would say that I was dumb or too slow because I couldn’t  read at my current grade level. But everytime they messed with me, my brother Sean was always there. Sean is 2 years younger than me and has been my best friend since day one. He was able to decipher my own language of different sounds and understood what I needed or wanted. He was my bodyguard and my translator.  


One of the things I’ve always admired about him is his own self-confidence. Just seeing him going out of his comfort zone comfortably. It inspired me to do the same. So thank you bro, for believing in me as well, and for helping me not be so self-conscious, but to just do the things that make me happy.


And what makes me happy is being on the stage with you, proving to you that confidence can be learned. And this confidence building isn’t an overnight thing, it actually took a lot of patience, it took years of my family’s guidance, and lots of trusting in God. Which you can say, it started on the day I was born.


Remember when the doctor’s gave my dad a choice? My dad put his faith in God that both mom and I would be ok. I’m so thankful that God answered dad’s prayers and gave me this opportunity to live, despite these learning challenges. 


I’m so glad to be here today with all of you. I’m very thankful for every single one of you who came. I’m thankful for the challenges because it taught me how to lean on God and my family. So never give up. Your flaws, your mistakes will not define you. Never lose hope because God has a plan for each and every one of us. So you’re never, never alone.


Thank you so much.

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Faith Speaks

San Diego


Brother Joe Velasquez (Minister of the Gospel): Thank you, Sam. You’re so talented, I would never have guessed you had a speech disability growing up. But just how God help his servants, like Moses and Jermiah; we can see how God helped Sam as well – to find the words and courage to speak. 


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I Find Confidence Through My Family