“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968). This quote epitomizes the life, past, and present for CEO and Founder of the You Can Live Outreach Program, Rocquel McCray. As a law enforcement officer with Florida City Police Department for over 17 years and currently serving as a sergeant since 2003, Rocquel has seen just about all one can see. However, in spite of how much her line of work may have prepared her emotionally and mentally to manage any challenging situation that may come, nothing could prepare Rocquel for the phone call she received from her mother at approximately 3:30 a.m. one morning in 2007.
After getting home late from an especially long work day, the last thing Rocquel expected was a phone call from her mother in the early hours of the morning. Sensing something was wrong; Rocquel would soon learn that indeed there was something devastating that has occurred. Rocquel’s mother informed her she was sick and that she was HIV positive. All Rocquel could think about was that her mother; her best friend; was ill and was going to die. For two weeks, Rocquel lamented over this devastating news wrestling with her emotions and trying to prepare herself for life without her mother. Emotionally and physically exhausted, Rocquel asked God to please allow her to get some rest. In her sleep, the Lord came to Rocquel and in a thunderous voice asked her, “Why are you planning your mother’s death? Don’t you know that she can live?” Startled, Rocquel jumped from her bed and grabbed her bible.
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With guidance from God, Rocquel was directed to numerous scriptures and verses from the bible. Those scriptures advised her to trust in the Lord, let her heart not be troubled and that he would send a comforter. It was John:15 that was the most powerful scripture of all. Rocquel heard the Holy Spirit call out to her, “I want you to go back and tell your mother that there’s nothing wrong with that GREAT sickness that she has. Furthermore, I want you to teach people how they can live with this illness. “Through you I am going to use you to heal people.” was the message she received. In the moments following this revelation; Rocquel felt relief. Rocquel would later learn that the reason God called it a GREAT sickness was for its meaning, Grab Reality Enforce Aids Testing Now Enjoy Safe Sex (GREATNESS). When Rocquel shared her dream and conversations from God with her mother, Rocquel's mother elected to not keep her sickness a secret any longer. She began to open up to others. In the weeks that followed, the Lord shared numerous visions with Rocquel on what to do in order to teach others about HIV/AIDS. However, in spite of the guidance and instruction from God, Rocquel ignored the calling and set off in a different direction with her life.
She successfully graduated with honors and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration Cum Laude from Barry University in 2013. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree from Barry University with a specialization in Nonprofit. Rocquel elected an alternate journey for her life. The goals and dreams she had for herself were not coming to full fruition. Then, one evening in June of 2014, Rocquel was resting while her three-year-old grandson was playing on her computer. She was astonished by a female voice sharing her experience. This young woman had contracted HIV from her husband. He married her without disclosing to her he had HIV. It wasn’t until she discovered she was pregnant with their twins that she had contracted HIV from her husband. At that moment, Rocquel sat upright and proclaimed, “Lord, Oh My God! I have to do what you instructed me to do. I have to pursue GREATNESS.” Rocquel immediately began to take action and followed through with organizing the not-for-profit You Can Live Outreach Program. With help and guidance from God, Rocquel was able to prepare everything she needed to follow down the path that he was directing her to go on.
Through her journey, Rocquel immersed herself in learning all she could about HIV/AIDS. She became certified as a HIV/AIDS counselor and a condom distributor through the Florida Department of Health in Miami Dade County. As Rocquel pursued the work God was guiding her to do, it remained rooted in the back of her mind that he would send a “comforter”. As this journey would not always be easy, Rocquel had met some wonderful and influential people in the work she was undertaking. One person she met became extremely influential to her. A presenter at a conference she had attended at a local church. A woman named Lilieth was presenting during the conference about how she had been living with HIV for 27 years. Moreover, her testimony explained how God had delivered her from a Lesbian lifestyle. After Rocquel had shared her own personal journey at the conference, Lilieth and Rocquel became close personal friends. During their friendship, Rocquel would ask Lilieth about living with HIV and sought to educate herself about HIV/AIDS. It was during her research that Rocquel learned of a medication called PrEP that was a once a day pill that greatly reduces an individual’s chance of contracting HIV. This medication is for people who are HIV negative and considered high risk. Rocquel wanted to be able to share with others through her own self-discovery how difficult it was to obtain PrEP as well as the side effects and the impact it could have on their lives. She began to document her experiences for others and educate the public about PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylactic Pill). Rocquel and Lilieth grew closer to one another as a result of their own personal journeys being intertwined. They became increasingly aware that they had developed feelings for one another.
Although, Lilieth believed that her desire to be in a relationship with a woman had faded away. Rocquel couldn’t understand how she could have developed feelings with not only a woman, but with someone who was HIV positive. God set the wheels in motion so that Rocquel and Lilieth’s paths would cross. She felt that together, as a result of their own life experiences with HIV, Rocquel would be able to undertake God’s work and ensure that the You Can Live Outreach Program would become a place where love resides regardless of religion, culture, ethnicity or sexual preference.
Rocquel's greatest love in following God’s calling for the You Can Live Outreach Program is her ability to be an advocate. She is helping to heal the broken and restore hope. Rocquel's goal is to strengthen the community with love and eliminate stigma. Through a variety of services including feeding the homeless, mentoring youth, women and men about HIV; she is raising HIV/AIDS awareness to the public and has distributed over 50,000 free condoms. Rocquel aspires to help spread this message through her play, “Identity Theft”. This play was written after she had met a thirteen-year-old girl who had contracted HIV after having unprotected sex. Rocquel and her partner Lilieth hope that others can find inspiration in their journey and their story. They are hopeful that their story will help to eliminate stigma, raise awareness in the LGBTQ and heterosexual communities. She encourage individuals that are HIV negative to become educated on the HIV/AIDS virus so they can remain negative and give hope to individuals who are HIV positive. Most importantly, help those affected understand that one can find love and live a long healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.