April 6, 2017

A Television or a Keyboard?

A simple choice and the difference it made.

Sandra Blackmer

When 34-year-old Josias G. De Trinidad sits down to play the piano, listeners say they feel transported to heaven’s throne room.

“He is awesome proof that God is with us,” says Lael Caesar, an associate editor of Adventist Review who was in the audience during De Trinidad’s performance at the Adventist Church’s world headquarters on September 15, 2016. “God has placed His hand of blessing on Josias’ shoulder.”

Because he’s so highly skilled, it wasn’t surprising to learn that De Trinidad first began practicing on a keyboard when he was only 12 years old. What is remarkable, however, is that he’s had virtually no formal musical training.

A Life-changing Decision

De Trinidad, one of five children, was born in Nicaragua and raised in Guatemala. He was a shy child who stammered and was partially blind. His father, Guillermo, was a pastor; his mother, Andrea, a stay-at-home mom. The family owned only one television—which was black and white and boasted only two channels.

“Two channels were enough to waste the time of us five kids,” De Trinidad says.

One day the TV burned out, and Josias’ father had to make a decision: “Should I buy a new television or a keyboard?” Guillermo chose the keyboard. His hope was to have one of his children learn how to play it so they could provide music to accompany his sermons. Josias accepted the challenge.

“All we had at home was the Adventist hymnal,” De Trinidad says. “My dream was to play hymns for the Lord. My father’s dream was to have music wherever he went to preach. So I opened the Adventist hymnal and prayed, ‘Lord, I want to play the piano for You, but we don’t have money to pay a teacher, and there isn’t a teacher in this area anyway. I don’t have a real piano; I just have a simple four-octave keyboard. So please help me understand music, because I want to play hymns for You.’

“I can’t explain what happened,” De Trinidad says, “but I think that maybe God sent an angel, because after a year I could play every hymn in the entire hymnbook—without having a teacher. It was as though someone was telling me, ‘You have to put your hands here, and you need to play it this way.’

“I believe that once you give your life to serve the Lord, He will train you.”

On to Medical School

When he turned 16, De Trinidad left home to enroll in medical school at Montemorelos University in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León. In 2008 he graduated summa cum laude, earning such high grades that he was exempted from taking his licensing exam. Desiring to remain faithful to God, he chose not to apply for residency in Mexico because he would have been required to take the admission exam on Sabbath. Instead, although he spoke very little English, he decided to pursue an opportunity offered to him in the United States. In June 2016 he completed his residency in internal medicine at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio. Amazingly, however, while most medical students sacrifice all other pursuits to study full-time, De Trinidad continued to develop his musical gift by practicing one hour a day.

“I learned that one hour with God’s blessing was better than many hours without His blessing,” he says. “When you are busy working for God and faithfully keeping His Sabbath, He is busy working for you. He has performed many miracles in my life.”

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The first time De Trinidad played a piano rather than a keyboard was at Montemorelos. After arriving at the school, he met some people who wanted to begin a singing ministry and were looking for pianist. To accommodate them, he had to be able to play by ear, but he knew only how to play by note. So he did what he had often done before—he prayed.

“Lord, I want to help these people who want to sing, but I can’t play by ear; will You give me the skill to play by ear?” he asked.

De Trinidad again is unsure of how it happened, but after six months he said he began hearing the music in his mind and could envision what chords to play.

“That’s the reason that even with my career in medicine I can’t stop playing—I believe that God gave me this skill for a purpose,” he says.

An Exhausting Schedule

De Trinidad is now working in Browning, Texas, providing medical care for the underserved through a network of community clinics. A believer in treating the whole person, De Trinidad tries to meet not just the physical but also the emotional and spiritual needs of his patients.

“My first goal is to be a friend to my patients, to develop a relationship with them and learn about their lives, how they feel, what they believe, what needs they have,” he explains. “I provide them with access to other types of health counseling and spiritual care, and at the end of every session I ask if I can pray with them. I also invite them to my concerts. We become friends.”

Even amid his taxing medical practice, De Trinidad still finds time to share God’s love through music.

“Sometimes, medical emergencies mean that I barely have time to go home, take a shower, and drive to a local church not only to play but sometimes to preach and teach,” he says. “Sometimes I work from Monday to Friday, then on Friday I drive or fly to another place to do musical performances on Sabbath and Sunday.”

De Trinidad admits that to maintain such a schedule can be difficult and requires sacrifices, but “when I go and share, I come back refreshed,” he says. “I am ready to begin the next week.”

Crediting His Parents

De Trinidad credits his parents’ consistent encouragement and their faith in God for his successful ministries in music and medicine. His father, he explains, came from a poor family of 10 children, of which he is the only Adventist. He has served as a pastor in Guatemala now for 33 years. His mom joined the Adventist Church at a young age, a decision that resulted in her being forced to leave her parents’ home. She was unable to finish high school until she was 25. Of the couple’s five children, however, four are now physicians, and one is an engineer.

“My mom sometimes feels bad that she doesn’t have a career, but I’ve told her that we are her five diplomas,” De Trinidad says.

“My parents taught us the best lessons for life,” he adds. “They taught us that if God is with us, we should always do our best and dream big. I remember telling my father, ‘Someday I would like to play a real piano.’ He said, ‘One day you will play a real piano.’ I said, ‘Someday I would like to make a CD.’ He said, ‘Someday you will make a CD.’ Nothing was too big for the God of my father. The God of my father became my God.

“I remember my father every morning kneeling down and praying and studying his Bible. I am so grateful for that. I encourage all parents to make the home a place where you can lead your children to Jesus. I tell young people that the best way they can enrich the gifts that God has given them is to determine to serve Him. He will never let them down.”

De Trindad has performed with renowned Christian musicians such as Jaime Jorge, Junior Marchena, and Ysis Espana, and has recorded two instrumental CDs. He has ministered to hundreds of churches in numerous countries, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the United States. During his internship in Mexico, and following a most-welcome donation of a missionary piano—an electronic, portable, full-size piano donated for mission use—he founded 3M Ministry (Medical, Musical, Missionary). Through this organization he travels to wherever he is invited to preach, give seminars, play concerts, or raise funds to support missionaries and medical students.

To learn more about De Trinidad’s musical ministry, e-mail [email protected].

Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor for Adventist Review.