As the clerk with the genuine smile hands you your bag, grabs your receipt, and wishes you a great day, you may have heard her ask, “Is there anything I could pray with you for?” In somewhat of a state of shock that someone in the mall just offered you prayer with your purchase, you kindly say, “I’ll never turn down prayer.” Then it happens. She drops everything, letting the phone and other customers wait as she begins, “Dear Lord, we come to You today in the middle of this shopping center to thank You . . .” You have just been prayed for by a mall employee. Not just any employee, however, one that is, simply put, Not Of This World.
Although the Not Of The World (NOTW) mall store inside the Galleria at Tyler in Riverside closed in May, the last of the retail locations owned and operated by C28, the parent company to NOTW, the brand and the mission of the global outreach live on. Aurelio Barreto, founder and CEO of Not Of This World, says the business of retail has changed dramatically over the years. “We were up to 14 retail stores and we were doing really well. One of the big changes that happened was in the music industry. When we were doing well, 25 percent of our sales was music,” Barreto says from his NOTW headquarters in Corona, California. “People would come in and they would buy a CD and look at other products in the store . . . it just went well together. With the advent of the iPhone and iTunes, the music just went away. So, I have 14 retail stores that were dependent on music and Jesus, and the music was gone overnight. Music went from 25 percent of our sales to three percent, down to two.”
Still, it’s almost impossible to drive for more than a few miles without seeing a vehicle with a sticker shining NOTW at every car that passes. The presence of this sticker has become an emblem of Christian faith, stating that either the driver of this vehicle is Christian, or at least the vehicle belongs to one. In Christian retail sales, NOTW is the number one selling brand and logo of its kind, and even at Walmart, NOTW stickers are one of the highest sold stickers in America, with sales figures that keep pace with brands such as Tinker bell and Hello Kitty. But if you ask Barreto about the brand, he offers no hesitation that it’s not about stickers on cars, it’s about bringing people to Jesus Christ.
“The mission of our company is to share the grace, the truth, and the love of Jesus through the products that we make. We know that God’s Word is real and it changes our lives. Through the ministry of Not Of This World, there has been over 18,460 people who have prayed to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. If it wasn’t for that, I would not even be in this industry.”
In addition to vehicle stickers, t-shirts from NOTW, which stand bold, refusing to deemphasize Christianity, have been seen to make a difference in lives as well. “We hear stories all the time,” says Barreto, “there was a kid sitting on a bus, behind a lady with the Romans Road that we printed on a shirt. And the kid gets off the bus and starts bawling and he gives his life to the Lord because of what he read. T-Shirts are billboards.”
Hearing from youth who are suicidal, cutting, or involved in drugs and alcohol is not uncommon, nor is it foreign to Barreto, who at one point was four days away from taking his own life. It took a bold Christian to save his life and his soul. “For 38 years, not one person shared the gospel with me. This would have been my 14th year in hell, because 14 years ago I didn’t know the Lord until this guy shared the Gospel with me. He told me, ‘First, let me tell you what the penalty of your sin is. It is hell. That’s where you’re going. God forbid you die today, Aurelio. You’re going straight to hell. But, I’ll give you a solution and some really Good News, and the Good News is that through Jesus, all you have to do is believe in Jesus and put your faith and trust in Jesus and you will be saved. Ask Him to forgive you, and ask Him to come into your heart.’ I did that 14 years ago, but it would have been 14 years in hell [if I hadn’t accepted Him].”
The Good News of Jesus Christ is echoed to the nearly 400,000 people who follow NOTW on Facebook. “It’s a big church. There are people that we know wake up on Saturday morning and they want a message. We have to deliver at 8 o’clock,” Barreto continues. It’s the team who manages the NOTW social media that he calls their staff pastors. “They are actually ministering to people who need the Lord and we have a zeal to share the gospel. We are also very bold about the fact that there is only one way to God and that’s through Jesus Christ. We don’t sugarcoat it; we just preach it. We just preach the truth.”
While the retail side of business is changing from C28 owned stores in malls, customers can still find brand merchandise in many places, and can still hear the Word of God and receive prayer. A visitor to NOTW.com will find links in the top left-hand corner of the website for prayer and for more information about knowing Jesus. “It’s going to be different,” Barreto says. “Without the retail stores, [our sales] are going to be online and wholesale, but the main thrust now for people coming to the Lord will be through speaking engagements. I speak at churches, companies, maybe a mayors prayer breakfast, or for the Marines. God opens up doors for me to speak. I’m an evangelist. I’ve grown over the last 14 years to know that God uses me that way.”
NOTW t-shirts and stickers are still only a click away. Prayer is still offered by staff and a caring heart remains at the helm of the NOTW brand. It’s still more than a sticker or a shirt; it’s still all about Jesus. Recalling his life and his calling, Barreto says with authority, “I was what you call a white-washed moral guy, doing all the right things according to the standards of this world. But, I was paving my way right into hell. The fact that God can use us to change people’s lives is real, it’s significant, and it makes a difference. That’s why we do this, that’s why we did it. Bottom line. Beginning of Story. End of Story.”