In the midst of a professional soccer career in Spain, Igor was converted to Christ and sensed an immediate call to the ministry. After several years living and serving in Peru and Brazil and after completing a five-month internship with Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., Igor returned to Spain and now serves as a teacher and evangelist in the Iglesia Evangelica de la Gracia (IEG) in Barcelona, Spain. He is working with David Barceló, Samuel Barceló, and Jairo Chaur.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in a middle-class home and was raised under strict discipline with regard to morals and family life. My family is Catholic and of German descent. When I was seven years old, I began to train to play soccer. I gave all of my strength during my childhood and my youth to becoming a professional athlete. My parents supported me in this dream, and I ended up playing for several well-known teams such as “Gremio” and “Internacional” of Porto Alegre. Although I was attaining my goals, I lived a perverse life because in the world of soccer there are many temptations and all kinds of sins. In other words, you have at your disposal all that the world offers you: the vanity of fame and lots of money.
I was in the world, sinking in my sins, empty, without hope, and feeling like a product whose purpose was to make money for the team. However, one day I was invited to take part in a religious group called “Athletes for Christ.” There I was taught a gospel that told me that God loves me as I am and wants to forgive me. All that was necessary was that I let Him “enter into my life,” and then He would give me all of the desires of my heart. I was never told about my sin and rebellion against a holy and righteous God. They never told me anything about God’s hatred for sin or His wrath directed against the sinner. Because of this, I continued with my life, playing soccer, believing that God was going to help me with my career, and make me prosper. I worked with the young people at our church, and I invited many of my teammates to “make their decision for Christ.” However, I also continued desiring sin. I loved my body. I idolized it. I wanted to be the best at everything.
I was living a somewhat moral life, and I thought that I was a Christian. When I was 19 years old, I received an offer to go to Spain to play soccer with a minor league team. When I got to Spain, I was given a tryout with the major league soccer team “Real Mallorca.” I did well, but since I did not have my visa, they put me on a minor league team called “Poblense.” While I played for this team, I had to practice at night and work during the day harvesting oranges. This was the only job that I could find as an illegal immigrant. At that point I began to realize that I was nothing.
After working in Spain for one year, I returned to Brazil to see my family and to wait on my work visa and my European residency. There, I fell in love with my beautiful wife, Eliane, and after three months we were married. Not long after, we received our Spanish Visas and returned to live in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. There, I began to train for soccer and to work in the fields. Eliane worked as a nanny for a Spanish family. The husband and wife of this family loved us very much and even called themselves our parents.
In time, we found a small traditional Baptist congregation, but we had many struggles because there was not much good teaching; everything was very cold, and most of all, they did not evangelize. We began to be concerned because we could not find a good congregation where we could be fed and encouraged to live according to the Scriptures. We thought about what would happen if the Lord gave us children. We wondered how we would be able to educate them in such an idolatrous and pagan country. And yet, things were getting better for us and our financial situation improved. We were able to buy cars and we changed apartments. But then, in September of 2009, everything changed. As I was going to work on my bicycle, I was hit by a truck. There was a police car and an ambulance nearby, and I was rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, I just had a fracture in my neck and in my shoulder. I did eight months-worth of treatment and then I began to play soccer again, but it was never the same. I became dizzy easily, and I continued to feel that I was not pleasing God with my life. I realized that nothing mattered if I was not serving God with all of my being. Because of this I began to pray that God might show me His will.
At that time, I was offered two opportunities. The first opportunity was to play for a German soccer team. The second opportunity was to be a part of a sports ministry called “Sports Ambassadors.” As I prayed about it, I thought that the opportunity to serve the Lord through soccer was from God, so I left the German team to follow this path. However, my wife and I soon realized that the “Christians” we worked with dressed very immodestly, did not pray or read the Scriptures, and treated “ministry” as if it was just a means of making a good living. They had a joy that did not come from the Lord but rather from sports and from motivational talks.
Because of this, we found ourselves in a great struggle of trying to decide what to do with our lives. My wife and I did not want to be a part of this ministry, but I wanted to serve the Lord. It seemed like nothing made sense, until my wife suddenly became sick and was bed ridden for three days. During that time, she cried out to the Lord because she also wanted to serve Him, but she did not see any clear options. She asked the Lord to show us His path for us. She prayed and then searched online for a good sermon to encourage her. She found the “Shocking Youth Message” by Paul Washer. She immediately called me, and I came home and began to listen to all of the sermons about the true gospel. We thanked the Lord for opening our eyes to the Scriptures. It was wonderful.
While we were still living in Spain, my wife’s boss needed a kidney transplant, and I offered to be a donor. This was a time of many tests and confirmations of the Lord’s work in our lives and of showing us whether or not we were really saved. Thankfully, the surgery ended up not being necessary, but the Word of God was shared in the hospitals where we had tests done and this served to increase my conviction that the Lord had done a great work in my life. God was working, but we did not know what to do. This problem was even more difficult because we could not find a biblical church in Mallorca. Finally, we decided to call the HeartCry Missionary Society, and they put us in touch with missionaries in Peru. We asked for their help, and we shared with them all of the struggles that we had. We shared that we wanted to give up everything in order to learn more about the gospel and to proclaim it. We were passionate because we had lived for so long under the deception of a false gospel. Finally, the Lord confirmed to us that we should go to a ministerial academy in Peru in order to learn about the wonderful God who had saved us by His grace. We praise God that we were now among godly brothers who love the glorious gospel of our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus. Each day the Lord was humbling us and showing us our weaknesses. We are so joyful because of such a great salvation!
In Lima, we saw the effort, love, fear of the Lord, and wisdom of the pastors and missionaries. It gave us joy in knowing that my calling and desire for the ministry was being fulfilled by the grace of God. It also formed in me a fear of not pursuing ministry for my own sake but for the glory of God and for the good of others. As I spent time with believers in Peru, I grew in my love for the lost and in my desire to take the gospel to them. Also, my daily classes and fellowship with other missionaries awakened in me a desire to teach true doctrine and the true gospel. It also gave me a desire to know more of this great and beautiful God.
In light of all of the love, grace, and knowledge of the Lord that He has poured out in my life and in that of my wife, we cannot live a “normal life” as Christians who simply attend church services. We cannot keep to ourselves in our own little world. We cannot watch many people dying while we continue to live our nice and neat lives.