Josh Quiros (left) spars with friend Charles Cagle at a mixed martial arts gym in Tampa, Florida.

Two Restaurants and the Sovereignty of God

words by

Mike Chapman

photos by

Guy Gerrard

WHAM! Twenty-seven-year-old Josh Quiros throws friend and mixed martial arts sparring partner Charles to the mat, getting him in a chokehold they’d been practicing. Twice a week, Josh, Charles and a few other friends meet regularly at Relentless Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Tampa, Florida, to sharpen their fighting skills.

Josh warms up on the weight bags at his MMA gym with two Bible study group members, Charles Cagel (left) and Chris Buxton (right), before sparring practice.

At Josh’s initiation, they also study and discuss the Bible together. Eight years earlier, no one who knew Josh could have imagined him even opening a Bible, but an encounter in a Gainesville, Florida, sub shop changed Josh’s life forever.

men sparring Charles (right) trains Josh on jabs and hooks.

Worst. Day. Ever. Mike Allen thought to himself. He owned and managed three Larry’s Giant Subs restaurants, which wasn’t easy, and had just fired an unreliable employee who’d run out of second chances. Now Mike found himself without a dependable person to slice meats in his store, and they were hard to come by.

“There’s a sharp young guy submitting a job application,” his assistant manager said.

“Have him leave it here. I’ll look it over later,” Mike replied.

“He really wants to shake your hand and say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity.”

The kid’s persistent, I’ll give him that, Mike thought, going over to the dark-haired, olive-skinned 20-year-old.

“Very nice to meet you, sir,” the young man said, shaking Mike’s hand. “I’m Josh Quiros. I have a lot of experience working in my dad’s sandwich shop, including using a meat slicer.”

“Really?” Mike said, pausing. Wondering if this was a divine appointment, Mike asked, “Josh, do you believe in God?”

Josh actually didn’t believe in God, but before he could answer, Mike said, “God sent you here” and hired him on the spot. Wanting to learn more about Josh, Mike scheduled them to work together. 

Thus, in January 2013, this skeptical, hard-partying, atheist college student began an unexpected journey. Initially writing off the Bible and Christianity, Josh found his heart and mind slowly changing — to the point of asking Jesus to reveal and prove himself, leading to an amazing answer.

No use for God

When Josh was 9 years old, his church-going, Asian-American mother left his Jewish Costa-Rican father. “I saw deep contradictions between the way my mother lived and what her church taught,” Josh remembers. “I’d never seen her open a Bible, and I knew a lot of church-going people who weren’t living by their faith, so I thought it was just a bunch of BS. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”

Growing up in Tampa, Josh was teased mercilessly at school because of his Costa-Rican/Asian heritage. After his mother left, his father opened the Take a Break Cafe, the first of a chain of four, which became a beloved haven for Josh to do homework and connect with his dad.

man preparing food Josh prepares meals for customers at his father’s Take a Break Cafe.
gloved hands make sandwich Joe Quiros, Josh’s dad, makes a sandwich during the lunch rush.

After Josh’s father remarried, Josh’s stepmother became like a mother to him and his siblings. They had great times together as a family, but something was missing. Toward the end of high school, Josh began drinking and partying. Graduating with honors wasn’t enough to get into the University of Florida. He enrolled at Gainesville’s Santa Fe College, planning to later transition to UF, but partying still took precedence over academics. Halfway through his sophomore year, Josh landed the job in Mike’s sub shop.

“He’s trying to convert me!”

As happy as Josh was to get the job, their frequent conversations about spiritual things offended and enraged him. His atheist friends deeply hated Christians, seeing them as the enemy: old-fashioned, uneducated, and out-of-touch. 

This guy is trying to convert me! Josh thought. I’m going to start reading the Bible to disprove it, and convert him to atheism.

While reading the Bible for the first time, Josh fired questions at Mike, like, “How do you know the Bible is true?” Mike, a long-time Sunday School teacher, was prepared.

“Every question I asked, Mike always seemed to have an answer,” Josh recalls. As the young man read through Genesis, Mike pointed him to online resources like Answers in Genesis. And Josh was amazed.

“I thought this was an imaginary book,” he said, “but there’s evidence for it!”

“OK, Jesus, prove that you exist.”

As his skepticism softened, Josh decided to visit Mike’s church. Without telling Mike.

“I wanted my experience to be unfiltered,” Josh says. “I didn’t want him to introduce me to anyone.”  

Josh was struck both by how happy everyone seemed and by the sermon. “It was like the preacher and me were the only two in the room,” Josh says. “He was preaching right at me, about things in my life he could never have known.”

That church experience increased his spiritual openness, but Josh also examined the religions of friends, including Buddhism, Islam and Hare Krishna, a branch of Hinduism.

“I just kept finding emptiness in it all, in contrast to my experiences with Mike,” Josh remembers. 

Mike challenged him to pray to God directly, so Josh says that he arrogantly did, not expecting an answer: “OK, Jesus, prove that you exist, that the Bible hasn’t changed and that there’s evidence it’s true.”

men behind food counter Josh (left) works alongside his father just like they did when Josh was younger.

Meanwhile, Josh’s father, Joe, was having similar conversations about faith with Jeff Ruby, a regular lunch customer at his cafe. Jeff, a sales trainer who worked three doors down in the business complex, began sharing his faith in Jesus with Joe regularly. One day, Jeff offered a copy of “More Than A Carpenter” — a compelling defense of Christianity written by Cru® author Josh McDowell. The book included exactly the kind of evidence Josh had just prayed for. So when Joe passed it along to his son, Josh began reading it.

An unexpected encounter

A week after Josh prayed for God to prove he existed, and only days after Josh started reading the book, a strangely familiar man came into the Take a Break Cafe for lunch. As Joe talked with his customer, he suddenly recognized him as the author of “More Than a Carpenter.” Later, Joe excitedly told his son about it, passing along the author’s business card. 

Josh Quiros was stunned. Out of all the restaurants in Tampa, how did he end up here? he thought. This is no coincidence! This is Jesus, showing himself to me, answering my prayer!

Almost convinced of Jesus’ reality, Josh was still struggling with Jesus being the only way. He turned to his boss and asked, “So, you’re saying that if I don’t accept Jesus, God’s going to send me and all my friends to hell?”

“No,” Mike responded. “The Bible teaches that we’ve all sinned and fallen short. God as the judge has to not only punish sin but separate himself from it. But because God’s merciful, through Jesus, He became one of us, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, and offers us salvation.”

For the next several weeks, Josh fearfully wondered, What would happen if I died today? I don’t know where I would go. One day while driving to work, he began crying and prayed, Jesus, I know you hear me. I’m looking for you, man, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve read and studied these books. I see that you’re real, but I’m not with you.  

All of a sudden, Josh says, he felt like his eyes opened in a new way and he felt like he’d just taken a breath of fresh air for the first time.

Arriving at work, Josh saw Mike’s sermon notes for his children’s Christian school sitting out in the open. The notes addressed how sin separates man from God. Josh’s face went white. This was exactly what I’d been praying about in my car! he thought.

“Mike, what do I have to do?” Josh said, eager for that relationship with God. “I’m ready.” 

Mike had Josh read several Scripture passages, including Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“Josh, if you believe this, then say it,” Mike said. Believing and saying so, Josh moved from skepticism to faith in Jesus right then.

Tampa city skyline The Tampa Bay skyline and riverwalk just after sunrise.

A new focus

Josh’s life didn’t suddenly become perfect, but his whole focus changed. He attended church at every opportunity. He spent hours reading his Bible. His friendships began to shift from old connections to new ones who shared similar spiritual interests.

man kisses dog Josh loves spending time with the family’s two dogs, including Azil, an Egyptian saluki.
man running with dog Josh takes Azil for a run in his dad’s neighborhood. In high school, he ran track and field and cross-country, and played soccer.

As his old lifestyle fell away, Josh sought mentoring from Mike and other leaders at his church, joining them on two mission trips to Africa. He even began reconnecting with his mother.

friends laughing in kitchen Josh’s church community group celebrates his Samaritan’s Purse internship in Colombia with a farewell dinner send-off.
men talk in living room Friend Jeff Ruby (left) talks with Josh at the farewell dinner.
man sitting by water During summer 2021, Josh served as a Samaritan’s Purse intern in Colombia. He plans to attend seminary and looks forward to a lifetime of ministry.

After graduating from college in Gainesville with his associate degree in Sleep Medicine, Josh got a job at a sleep lab in Tampa but lost the position when the pandemic hit. He returned to work part time at his father’s cafe and began a full-time degree program online in finance at Liberty University, because it would open doors to countries closed to the gospel.

He graduated from Liberty and now he's enrolled in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, studying Christian Ministry. 

He started the MMA training group as an outreach and continues to lead the Bible study with them. 

No one could have foreseen how faithful prayers and persistent conversations in a sub shop would so thoroughly change this young atheist and set him off on a completely new trajectory.

men sparring Josh catches Charles with a left jab to the face.
men sparring Charles surprises Josh with a right hook to the abdomen.
man holds opponent in choke hold Josh practices a Muay Thai choke-out on Chris.
man pins opponent Charles (left) evaluates Josh’s pinning technique on JJ Grippo.
men talking in office Josh (left) leads Charles and gym owner Robert Smilanich (right) in a weekly Bible study after training.

God intentionally, lovingly orchestrates circumstances and events to draw people to himself. In answering Josh Quiros’ prayer, God demonstrated his reality and love to Josh in a very personal way. Through “divine coincidences” like this, he frequently does the same for us.

Next Step

How often is God just waiting on you to step out in faith like Jeff Ruby or Mike Allen did
and reach out to nonbelievers?
You can “give an account for the hope that is
in you . . . with gentleness and respect”
(1 Peter 3:15, NASB). 


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