Ariel Umaño was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina; he came to experience and was met with 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
I was born in Buenos Aires into a family that attended an Evangelical church. My parents began attending church one year before I was born, but their local church became more and more liberal over time. For much of my childhood, I lived a moral life—until I was about 13, when I got involved with the punk and anarchist movements 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, which says “there is no future,” began to produce a meaninglessness in my life. Friendships were pointless, and alcohol and a libertine life could not 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” (Matthew 5:4). That sentence devastated me, because I found myself incapable of weeping or feeling anything, much less weeping for my sins. I thought all I could do was wait for His condemnation.
Still, in that moment I did what they had taught me to do—I prayed a prayer of faith, giving my life to Christ. The following Saturday, I was in the youth group of my parents' church. There I was received as if I were a Christian. I began to acquire Evangelical lingo and started to live a moral life again. Soon, I was leading a group of young people and studying theology in seminary.
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, even in the country. All the while, my conscience was dead; I simply thought I was a Christian because I had made a decision in a prayer and because I had separated myself from the more obscene sins. But I was plainly 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 that same church, looking to be fed.
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 our local church. By the end of that year, I began to seriously question my profession of faith, since I did not have any devotion to the Lord or desire for His Word. I simply did not know Him; therefore, I did not 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 could not find a solid answer to the question. Reading the Scriptures, praying, attending church, doing good things, attending seminary, believing that God exists—none of this could make me a Christian.
In this state of mind, I began to read the book of Ephesians like I never had 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 around that same time that I got to Ephesians 2:4-5: “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 a fountain of life for my dead soul! Nevertheless, I still did not understand the depth of what this text was saying.
Providentially, an email was sent to me with sermons from Charles Spurgeon (with whom I was totally unfamiliar until that point). For the first time in my life, at age 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 through 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 had no healthy teachers or pastors to whom to turn—when I had gone to them before, they only assured 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 often 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 those sins 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
I was in my second year of seminary in Buenos Aires when Christ gave me new life. The seminary embraced things like higher textual criticism, liberal theology, open theism, and the like. So, when I was converted, I left my seminary studies and instead invested that money in books, especially books on systematic theology, church history, and pastoral theology. For the next three years (2009-11), I devoted myself to studying theology; reading the Scriptures from start to finish; diving into the sermons of C.H. Spurgeon and the Puritans; learning from contemporary preachers like John Piper, John MacArthur, Paul Washer, and others; and reinforcing the essential doctrines of the gospel.
My wife was also awakened to the historic gospel at that time, and—in the midst of our own immaturity—we started to proclaim the gospel in the different ministries we had been given within our local church (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 we eventually began to experience opposition from some of the teachers in the church.
In the middle of 2011, we spoke with our pastors and left the church. We had nowhere else to congregate, so with fear we began to meet in our own home to study the Scriptures and pray. At that time, there were about twenty 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. Nonetheless, 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 the Apostle Paul were made 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 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.
This has been a month of great joy for our family. The Lord, by His mercy, has given me the opportunity to begin working full-time as a pastor, which is a great responsibility and an enormous privilege that we assume with great joy, gladness, enthusiasm, and sobriety. For our family, the month of November was a month of many adjustments, preparation, visits, and attention given to members of the church; and even though it was a month of intense work, we have been able to see the hand of the Lord in every detail. He is a God who dwells close to His children!
I ask you to pray for my family, for this time in particular of new responsibility. Pray that we are free from temptation, that we remain physically strong, that the Lord would give us wisdom, and that our hearts and minds would delight more and more in Him.