Church Planter/Pastor - Rosario, Argentina
Ariel Umaño was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and experienced the saving grace of Christ when he was 22 years old. In 2014, Ariel and his wife Jesica moved to Rosario where they became members of Family of Grace Church. In January of 2017, Family of Grace recognized Ariel as one of the pastors alongside Nicolás Serrano.
Testimony of Conversion
One year before I was born, my parents started attending an evangelical church in Buenos Aires, but in time, the church became more and more liberal. My childhood was characterized by a moral life until I was about thirteen and began to get involved with the punk and anarchist movement in Argentina. My involvement in that movement let loose the evil that was in my heart and I fell into a life of drunkenness and worldly pleasure. The philosophy of the punk movement that says “there is no future” began to produce a meaninglessness in my life. Friendships were pointless and alcohol and a libertine life couldn’t satisfy.
When I was 18 years old, in a state of depression and apathy, I read a portion of a Bible that was in my house: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4). That sentence devastated me because I found myself incapable of weeping or feeling anything, and much less weeping for my sins. As far as I could tell, the only thing I could do was wait for God’s righteous condemnation.
Still, in that moment I did what they had taught me to do—I prayed a prayer of faith saying that I was giving my life to Christ, and the following Saturday I was in the youth group of the church that my parents attended. There they treated me as if I were a Christian. I began to speak the evangelical language and live a moral life. Soon, I was leading a group of young people and studying theology in seminary. So, I spent a couple years of my life in that church where they preached ecumenicalism and pluralism (this was one of the most influential churches in Buenos Aires, and even in the country). All the while, my conscience was dead; I thought I was a Christian simply because I had made a decision in a prayer and had separated myself from the more obscene sins. Put plainly, I was a Pharisee.
When I was 21, I married Jesica. She came to know the Lord in a very extraordinary way. Without having any evangelical background, the Lord led her to experience grief over her sins and to embrace the righteousness of Christ through faith, simply by means of her reading the Bible. After her conversion she came to the church, looking to be fed—which is how we met.
During the course of our first year of marriage, my conscience began to be awakened through the testimony of her life and her spiritual incompatibility with me and with the church. By the end of that year I began to seriously question my profession of faith, since I didn’t have any devotion to the Lord or desire for His Word. I simply didn’t know Him, and therefore I didn’t love Him.
A question began to torment me for several months: “Why do you think you’re a Christian?” I walked the streets like a madman talking to myself and refuting the different questions that came to my mind, but I couldn’t find a solid answer to the question. Reading the Scriptures, praying, attending church, doing good things, attending seminary, believing that God exists—none of these could make me a Christian!
In that context I began to read the book of Ephesians like I had never done before (verse by verse and within its context). At the same time, my wife began to read about the history of the church. When she got to the first councils and explained them to me, we came to understand that the church has always had to defend the truth, which caught our attention because of the pluralistic context in which we were living. We discovered that many of the heresies that the church refuted in the first century were being openly preached from the pulpit in our own church.
It was at that time that I came to Ephesians 2:4-5 in my studies: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” What fountain of life for my dead soul! Nonetheless, I still didn’t understand the depth of what this text was saying.
Providentially, an email was sent to me with sermons from Charles Spurgeon (whose name I had never heard of until that point). Through those sermons, for the first time in my life, at the age of 22, I came to understand the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. I began to grasp truths that were so essential, like the cost of the sacrifice of Christ, the new birth, and justification by faith alone. My heart clung to the righteousness of Christ through faith and to His Word as my only authoritative guide.
I walked through much of this process on my own because I didn’t have any healthy teachers or pastors—before, when I had gone to them, they only told me, “Remember, you made a decision to put your faith in Jesus.” I fought for many months to find assurance of my salvation, and I would ask myself, “How do I know that I am not deceiving myself all over again?” After about six months I was able to begin seeing the work of the Lord clearly evidenced in my life. For years I was the slave of certain hidden sins, but now, moved by His love, I was able to put them away because I sincerely wanted nothing to do with the sins I once loved. Now, I loved Him whom I once hated so much.
Call to Ministry
When Christ gave me new life, I was in my second year of seminary in Buenos Aires. The seminary embraced things like higher textual criticism, liberal theology, open theism, etc. So, when I was converted I left my seminary studies and invested the money in books instead—especially books on systematic theology, church history, and pastoral theology. For the next three years (2009-2011) I devoted myself to studying theology, reading the Scriptures from start to finish, diving into the sermons of C.H. Spurgeon and the Puritans, and learning from contemporary preachers like John Piper, John MacArthur, Paul Washer and others, and reinforcing the essential doctrines of the gospel.
Along with my wife—who had also been awakened with me to the historic gospel—we began proclaiming the gospel in the different ministries we had been given in the church. We shared the gospel in prison ministries, evangelism in the streets, and small group studies. Some of the people that heard us were uneasy with the gospel we were preaching and eventually we began to experience opposition from some of the teachers in the church.
In the middle of 2011, we spoke with our pastors and decided to leave the church we’d been attending. We knew we didn’t have anywhere to congregate, so with fear and a sense of our need, we began to meet in our own home to study the Scriptures and pray. At that time, there were about 20 people meeting with us in our home. The Lord was impressing on our hearts more and more a longing for His word, for the exaltation of His Name, for the edification of His church, and for the salvation of the lost. Still, my character and maturity had much room to grow.
With time, and through many afflictions, the Lord continued pouring His grace on me, molding my character for the work of the ministry and making it more and more evident that He had called me to this work. The brothers and sisters that were close to us began recognizing the gifts that the Lord had given me and affirming my calling. At a personal level, the sense of calling was getting stronger and stronger. The words of Paul were made very real to me: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).
In the middle of 2014, Nicolás Serrano invited us to come to Rosario in order to be trained and discipled at Family of Grace Church. Originally, the idea was that we would spend a year or two in Rosario and later return back to Buenos Aires as missionaries sent out by the church. I understood that I needed to be discipled, that I lacked the necessary theological maturity to be able to pass on the full counsel of God to the next generation. Even though Jesica and I felt a great burden to continue serving the Lord in Buenos Aires, we decided that we would be much more useful in the ministry after a process of discipleship. So, with great expectation and joy we moved to Rosario and became members of Family of Grace Church. The church has been a great instrument for edification for me and my family.
The church confirmed my gifts and calling, and in January of 2017 I was recognized as one of the pastors of Family of Grace.