Church Planter / Pastor - Rosario, Argentina
Nicolas is one of the two founding pastors of Iglesia Familia de la Gracia (Family of Grace Church) in Rosario, Argentina, which was planted in 2010. Nico spent the better part of 2011 studying at a ministerial academy in Lima, Peru, before returning to continue pastoring the church in Argentina.
Testimony of Conversion
I want to share a little bit of my background before my conversion in order to give you a more precise description of the transformation that God brought about in me. I was born into a lower middle class family that was irreligious. My family was culturally Catholic, but was not practicing. Both of my parents simply imitated the pattern of life they had seen in their parents, and consequently, it was not long before their marriage ended. When this happened I was twelve years old and my sister was six years old. So, this is the context in which I grew up, and as a result, at a very early age I had to shoulder the responsibility of helping to provide for the family.
Before moving on, I want to share about something that happened when I was eleven years old that God used to affect my conscience and to instill in me a degree of fear which kept me from many sins. Since I attended a Catholic school and had not been exposed to atheistic ideas, I simply accepted innocently and without objections the idea of the existence of God. One day I came upon a Gospel tract that said that the Bible was the Word of God. This really motivated me to want to read the Bible. I remember thinking, “If the Creator of all things speaks in His own words through this book, then I’ve got to read it.” So I began to read the book of Matthew and I accepted everything that I was reading as the Word of God. I became deeply convicted of my sin, and even began to believe that there was no way that I could ever be saved. I remember very clearly thinking, “I already sinned; there is nothing that can be done. Now all that is left for me is the expectation of going to hell… If someone had warned me, then I would not have sinned; but it’s too late!”
I remember spending hours every day reading the Scriptures. I don’t know how this came about, but one day I shared with my grandmother what I was going through. She told me that she was praying for me, along with a group of other elderly ladies (my grandmother is the only professing believer in my whole family). She told me that Jesus had died for sinners and that there was forgiveness for me, and I remember that immediately the hair on my head stood up. I left her house and ran all the way home (over 1 mile), being carried along by adrenaline.
I began to go with my grandmother to her church, but I only went for a couple of months. I proved be the kind of soil that Jesus describes, which, after receiving the word and producing some fruit, then ceases to be fruitful due to the cares of the world.
Although I was involved in several sins from that time in my life until about six years ago (when I was converted), I am not exaggerating when I say that the experience that I had when I was eleven had a life-changing impact on me. The experience left such an impression that literally every day when I woke up and when I went to bed, I thought about God and about my miserable condition before Him.
I remember that I used to look at the dogs on the street and think, “What am I doing so far away from God? What use is it to gain the world and lose my soul? Even if I were like this dog that doesn’t have anywhere to sleep or anything to eat, if I had Christ I would have everything. I would have the only true treasure.” But I continued to try to satisfy my desires for happiness in the things of the world. I believed the lie of the Devil, that eventually I would find that happiness if I kept looking. So, I sought my happiness in many things, from soccer and sports to music. I had a very extreme personality. Everything I did, I did to an extreme. I gave all of my strength to the things that I thought would fill my heart. Due to the awareness of sin that God had instilled in me, I never fell into any grave sins, but I did hang out with those who were involved in all kinds of sins.
Often, I lived in depression due to the family pressures that I carried, my heavy work load, and the torment of being aware of my sins and my fear of hell. I remember thinking that there was no longer any hope of forgiveness for me because I now knowingly committed sin.
In the time leading up to my conversion, I began hanging out with a group of hippies. I practiced with my rock band four hours a day and I was very excited about the fast-paced style of life that these people lived, doing crazy things and even committing crimes. I even began to scare myself because I was doing things that I had not done before. I began to realize that if I kept going down that path, there would be no turning back.
God did two things at this point that helped me to “return to God.” The house where our rock band practiced was involved with a cult, and one day some supernatural things happened that really scared me. I had already participated in some spiritist type games before and I had experienced perceiving a malevolent spirit. One day while we were at this house I had a similar experience, but this time it was more intense than before. I became very scared because several things began to happen. Not long after this the owner of the house tried to commit suicide.
I thought I had drifted beyond the hope of recovery, but then God sent a friend from grade school to me, who began to follow me everywhere in his attempt to share the gospel. He got involved with all of my different groups of friends, he came to my house, and he constantly insisted that I hear him out. This young man was not really well equipped to share the Gospel with me, but he was very persuasive in convincing me to leave the life that I was living and to seek God.
I began to go with this young man to a small home group from the church he attended. They preached emphatically about Christ and submission to His lordship. They also emphasized holiness, evangelism, personal relationships within the congregation, and worship.
At some point (I don’t remember the day, but I do remember the time period), I was convicted of my sins and I truly repented. I also genuinely believed in Christ, and in His love and forgiveness. I desired Him above all else and I committed myself to serve Him all of my life. I began to spend hours in my room reading the Scriptures, praying, and worshipping.
The change in my style of life was extreme. My mother was very opposed to my new faith. She was scared and thought that I had turned into a fanatic. Those who had been my friends had interventions where they tried to tell me that what I was doing was not good, and they even read up on atheistic arguments to try to get me to return to my old ways. Since I was converted during my next to last year of high school, my friends at school also tried to get me to turn back. But, by the grace of God, I was able to share the gospel with many and to give a good testimony with my life in those places.
Call to the Ministry
From the time that I was converted I have had a burden both for the people of God and for the lost. I believe this burden springs from love and zeal for God. Although I was aware of these burdens soon after my conversion, two years passed before I came to the definite conclusion that God had called me to the ministry. It took that long for me to be convinced because I was afraid of being mistaken. I was afraid of assuming such a responsibility and I felt very unequipped.
Several things helped to confirm my call to ministry. I seemed to have the gifts and the qualifications to be a pastor, and the brothers at the church often came to me and pointed out things they saw in me that made them think God was calling me to the pastorate. These things had to do with character requirements for the ministry and also evidences of gifts, such as the ability to teach, to counsel, to disciple, and to lead. Of course I do not possess any of these gifts perfectly, but they are discernible and being developed.
Something else that has affirmed me in my calling is the way that I have seen God, in his mercy, use me as an instrument to bring about the salvation of the lost and the edification of believers. Most of all I have seen God’s blessing on our church plant in Rosario.