Testimony of Conversion

I was born on the coast of Colombia, but when I was just a year old, my parents crossed the border into Venezuela in order to escape all of the guerrilla conflicts in our country. They were hoping to find a better life for us in Venezuela.

They brought us here to live in the city of Caracas, specifically in a neighborhood called Petare. This neighborhood is known for being the largest in Latin America and the most dangerous in all of Venezuela. Here we lived with several of our relatives who had also crossed the border looking for work. There were more than 10 people living in a small house. We slept on the floor for many years, in the midst of frequent water shortages and high levels of crime surrounding us.

I give these details because it was here where I learned and practiced many of my sins. The first thirteen years of my life were calmer. I studied in school and obeyed my parents. I tended to be a morally upright kid. When I was 14, during a break in classes, my father took me along with him to paint houses. That was the first time I had ever had money in my hands, and I began to give in to the lusts of my heart. 

Little by little I became entangled in different sorts of sins. My friends offered me alcohol and at the time I gave in easily under the pressure. What I did not know was that little by little I was becoming an alcoholic. I remember that I would ask my parents for money, telling them that the money was for school expenses when really it was to buy alcohol. Each morning classes began at 8:00 am, but by 7:00 am I was already getting drunk. I would do this every day from Monday to Friday. I was only 16 when my addiction to alcohol began to take over.

Along with this addiction came the suggestion from some friends that we begin robbing in order to make money more easily. For a year we took things that did not belong to us from students in other schools. Until one day, as I ran with a pair of shoes in my hands that I had stolen, the police caught me and pointed a gun at my head. Never have I been beaten as badly as I was beaten that day. That day I said, “I have to stop doing this.”

A short time passed in which I did not get drunk and it was then that I received another proposal from the devil. This proposal was to begin involving myself in spiritist rituals alongside other friends from school. I decided to get involved. I traveled across the city two days each week to a mountain where I did the rituals. I offered sacrifices to these spirits. One day, I even used a gun to threaten someone at the request of one of my “spiritual leaders.” 

Every day I was getting deeper and deeper into it. Between the alcohol and the spiritism, I was enslaved. I was seeking more and more pleasure in my sin and looking for every possible way to satisfy my craving. I was 20 years old.

But one day, the woman who is now my wife offered me some tickets for a theatre show that was going to take place at her university. I bought all of the tickets only because I wanted to impress her since I was physically attracted to her. We met one another through a close friend of mine.

Since I was immersed in alcoholism at the time, I missed the theatre event. To make up for it, I invited her to dinner. During that dinner, she saw that I had certain necklaces with witchcraft symbols. When she saw that, she took out a small Bible from her purse and she began to talk to me about the greatness of God and how fragile the gods were that I was worshiping. I tried to argue with each one of her points and I was angry because I had not gone on that date in order to be preached at.

After speaking about the greatness of God and my sin, she began to talk to me about Christ. She told me about His life, death, and resurrection and about the possibility now to find forgiveness in Him. That day, when the conversation was over, I was very disappointed and immediately went with other friends to a club. 

Some months later, a terrible financial crisis hit my life, all as a result of my own sin. My “gods” did not respond to me and the situation got more and more complicated. But it was then that I remembered that great God that Katherine had preached to me about. I contacted her and asked her if I could go to her church. She immediately told me I could and she gave me the address.

The church was very close to where I practiced spiritism. I traveled across the whole city just like before, but this time it was in order to listen to the Word of God. I was attending for a month and a half and nothing seemed to be happening in my life. But one Sunday, the pastor opened his Bible to Isaiah 53 and he began to preach the gospel with great clarity. As I listened to every detail about the death of Christ for our sins, it was like a movie passing through my mind showing me all of my wickedness. I wanted to run away, and yet, it arrested my attention.

After the service, I went immediately to my home. As I was on the bus headed to my house, I was thinking about all of my sins, which is something that I had never done. At the same time, I was thinking about that great love that the preacher spoke about, that love of Christ shown on the cross on behalf of those who only deserve condemnation. 

When I got home I went to my room and fell to my knees and wept. I asked God to forgive my rebellion. It was a bitter-sweet feeling. I felt like I had killed someone, but I also felt joy because that same person would forgive me.

I gathered everything I owned that was attached to witchcraft and I threw it in the trash. I called Katherine to tell her what had happened. Since that day, by the grace of God, I am no longer an enemy of God but one of His children.

Call to the Ministry

In 2010 was the first time the pastor of the church I attended asked me to preach a sermon to the church while he traveled to another town. The first time in the pulpit was a fearful experience because I recognized that I was expounding God’s Word in the sight of God and on behalf of God. At the same time, I was excited to preach the Word of God to God’s people.

After that, I continued helping with the preaching and my love for preaching and for the church of the Lord grew more and more. In 2011, while I was studying in a seminary, I spoke with a local pastor about my desire to serve in the ministry. This desire overcame me even more as I studied the Pastoral Epistles in my seminary classes. 

This pastor and friend opened his Bible to 1 Timothy 3 and he showed me the character that is required for a pastor. He told me that the men that serve the church as pastors, that guide the church and minister in the church, should be qualified to do so. He told me, “The Lord calls and He determines who He calls. And this is the character that He has required for someone who desires to serve in the ministry.” I understood that day that it was not just about preaching. I understood that while what is required of a Christian leader is not perfection, it is a character that shows maturity appropriate for such a solemn calling.

I arrived at my house and spoke with my wife about my conversation with this pastor. We prayed and I determined that I would sit down and talk with the pastor in our church about my desire to be an overseer. When I spoke to my pastor he simply told me that the church was not in need of another pastor and that for now, I should not worry much about ministry. He did not open his Bible, he did not guide me through a passage to explain to me what the other pastor had explained. I talked to him about 1 Timothy 3, but he did not pay much attention to what I was saying. Instead, he said, “I believe you do have the character, but we do not need another pastor.”

After some time, he organized a special retreat where he invited many pastors from other countries and since I often preached in the church, he invited me also. In the midst of that retreat, he began to talk about the pastoral ministry. That day, I became even more convinced that I wanted to serve the Lord in the ministry.

After that, I was sent to a very poor area to preach the gospel in a small church for five months. For five months I traveled two hours by bus with my wife to preach. I was very happy. This church did not even have a pulpit. My pulpit was a table that hardly stood up. I preached under a dying olive tree and before many brothers and sisters hungry for the Word, yet with not much education. Some of them did not know how to read. I loved being there, preaching the Word, and serving the brothers and sisters.

My pastor began to give me more opportunities in the pulpit in our church in Caracas. I started asking myself, “Why is he doing this?” One day, he invited me to his house and told me that he was going to talk to the church about going on a mission trip, but really, because of the terrible crisis in the country, he was organizing the trip in order to leave the country to look for a better life for his family. I left his house disappointed and confused. Weeks later, many things began to come to light. There were many ways that he had taken advantage of the flock, both in our church in the capital and in other congregations.

The church came together to call him to repentance, but he only hardened himself more. And as time passed, more things came to light that had happened over time that clearly disqualified him. Many families had been hurt by him.

Following that, he left the church along with his family. The question on everyone’s mind was, “What now?” Immediately I asked for help from other pastors. Many of these pastors were professors in the seminary. They guided us for some months in the process of evaluation for the ministry.

After months of instruction and prayer, the church began to evaluate my character according to 1 Timothy 3. The congregation confirmed that according to these texts I was qualified for the ministry. In November of 2012, I was ordained to the ministry. Christ called me into the ministry through His church that day. He called me to serve the church with faithfulness and with reliance on His grace. 

I assumed the pastoral responsibility in the midst of all of the disappointment that the church had experienced as a result of the hurt caused by the previous pastor. During this time, the country was also experiencing a serious economic crisis. There were not many brothers and sisters left in the congregation, but we had a great desire to serve the Lord.

From that time I have served the Lord with great joy. It is a solemn and beautiful calling. To care for Christ’s sheep is a weighty responsibility, but it is also an honorable work.

Mission Updates by Plinio Orozco

Mission Update Latin America

Theology Books Distributed in Venezuela

Mission Update Peru

A Strong Desire for Gospel-Centered Preaching

All Updates by Plinio Orozco