September 6, 2021

Out of Darkness Into the Light

The family I was born into was Protestant Christian. My parents and grandparents were all believers, and my father was a pastor who founded our local church. We lived in a small village in the northern Andes Mountains of Peru, at a time when Protestantism was not accepted. Only the Catholic religion was protected by the state, and evangelicals were considered heretics.

Witchcraft was also practiced in our region, and when I was seven, an aunt took me to my first spiritualism session. When the man leading the session saw me, he called me to his side and said, “This will be a great man. No one will overturn him and he will have power over all the spirits.” I did not understand what was going on, but my aunt began taking me to these sessions frequently and my understanding grew.

Abandoning home

At age thirteen, I decided to leave home. My father tried to dissuade me, but I was determined. With no real plan of what to do, I went to some nearby cities looking for work. Most would not hire me because of my age, but a man in a coastal town took me in to work on his ranch.

There, I began to expand my understanding of the art of witchcraft, working with at least five different occult teachers. There was a restlessness inside that drove me, and I studied several different types of magic. I was trained to use local herbs and a variety of instruments to make concoctions for rituals, and learned incantations that summoned spirits.

Six years later, in August of 1953, I returned home to see a cousin, and she told me that a group was planning to hold a session that night to cast out a spirit from one of our aunts. Since I knew what to do, I went to assist. The witch who was leading the session was a well-known medium. She did not know who I was, but she called me over and was able to tell me about my past. Then she called my cousin, and told her that her uncle and aunt (who were my parents) had been harming her. This upset me because I knew she was lying; my parents were honest, upright people. Indignant, I took her own instruments and used them against her to call for her death. She immediately fell ill and quickly died.

This was the first time that I would use spiritualism to bring about another person’s demise, but sadly it was not the last. Looking back now, it is painful to recall my evil deeds and to know that I was a tool of Satan.

This was the first time that I would use spiritualism to bring about another person’s demise, but sadly it was not the last. Looking back now, it is painful to recall my evil deeds and to know that I was a tool of Satan. But thank God, He did not give up on me.

As time went on, my life became totally reckless. I was an alcoholic and a fraud. Friends abandoned me because I used illegitimate money, and I became enveloped in debts I could not pay. My employer discovered that I had defrauded him of a large sum of money and began to pursue me for what I owed. To top it off, my occult books, which I considered valuable, were lost in a house fire.

Around that time, my father sent me a letter that impacted me deeply. It included these Bible verses: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11) and, “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Revelation 22:15). Those words pierced my heart. I said to myself, “Agustin, stop and consider! You are one of those!” I felt so badly.

My father said he suffered to see what I had become. Yet, my family could not turn me to the true path. Satan had captured my mind, and darkness covered me. I sought refuge in the mountains, at the coast, and in the jungle, but everywhere I went, my reputation preceded me and I found no place to hide.

A decisive night

Eventually I was sent to jail in the city of Cajamarca on charges of fraud. A friend who was a lawyer helped arrange for me to work off my penalty. The deal allowed me to work during the day as a custodian at a parish, and in the evenings I returned to a jail cell.

One day, I happened to notice a flyer in a waste bin. The subtitle asked, “Are You Happy?” and that question resonated in my ears from 3:00 in the afternoon until 10:00 at night. I was not happy. There in my cell, I finally began to pray. My father had said that God was powerful, and I told God that if my father was right, then I would serve Him and suffer for His cause. That night, I was born again! My debt of sin was truly more than I ever could have repaid, but Jesus paid the penalty of my sins on the Cross, and He forgave me of all. The Lord freed me from witchcraft, idolatry, alcoholism, and so many other vanities. My spiritual chains were broken by the power of Jesus Christ!

I realized that happiness could not come from work, money, or friends; only Christ satisfies, when He reigns in our hearts.

When the sun came up the next day, I had a new mind. I was a new creature, a new man! I realized that happiness could not come from work, money, or friends; only Christ satisfies, when He reigns in our hearts. The darkness in my life had disappeared and God’s light was shining. It was thrilling!

Miraculously, only two days later I was granted an early release from my jail sentence. I arrived back home on April 1, a different man than when I had left. My old friends thought the change wouldn’t last more than a week, but months passed and I never went back. Christ had made a change that neither my father nor the pastors who visited our village could make. Christ transformed my whole being!

God has not changed

A few years later, I felt led to move to the town of Bagua Chica. I was offered a place to rent in a home where the current tenants were being evicted for not paying their rent. When I visited the home, the old tenant served lunch to the landlord and me. However, the food tasted strange and I could not finish eating it. Immediately I felt sick and excused myself to get some fresh air. I walked a ways and then collapsed under the shade of a tree, and for four hours I suffered there, thinking I might die. When I was finally well enough to walk back, I found the landlord and told him what had happened. He explained that the man’s wife was a witch. She had poisoned me out of spite.

The whole next week, I continued to feel unwell and could not attend church services. Finally, I asked my pastor to pray that God would show me what was going on. I did not pray for healing because at that time I thought divine healing had only been a sign for the Apostles. Well, I was very mistaken. That night, I had a dream that God healed me, and when I woke in the morning, my body was whole! God convinced me that divine healing was for yesterday, it is for today, and it will be for tomorrow. God is the same and He has not changed.

Doors opened

After that healing, something arose in my soul that I could not keep quiet. I wanted to go tell everyone in every place what Christ had done for me. I had no money for transportation, but Christ was by my side as I travelled by foot to hundreds of villages, entering homes and sharing my testimony. God also confirmed His Word; through prayer, many sick individuals were healed, souls were converted, and lives were transformed.

At age twenty-seven, I married a young lady named Maria Lastenia, and together we had seven children. I found Maria to be a person given to prayer, and to caring for our children and the brethren who would visit us. She became a great help to me as I continued sharing the Gospel in the villages of Peru.

After we married, we lived near the coast in Monteseco. That town was known for people who lived on the margins of the law. The major employers there bribed the police to stay away so that criminals could work without fear. I had also lived there during my most reckless years, and when I returned as a Christian, they resented and persecuted me. They would wait at night to try to attack and kill me. That was a very difficult time and could have been disheartening if God hadn’t protected and encouraged me.

We started a church in a small room in our home, and in two years’ time, we had opened three more churches in other villages. Though I had never been to seminary, truly I had the best Teacher—the Holy Spirit. We encouraged evangelism following the pattern of Biblical examples, and the work expanded rapidly. We especially utilized printed literature in the form of tracts, and saw Isaiah 55:11 fulfilled: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

One time, villagers rose up to kill me, but in a miraculous way God caused some of the most feared men of the village to come to my defense, and no one touched me.

Some villages were opposed to hearing the message of the Gospel, but I had no fear to preach in those places. Where pastors had been rejected in the past, the Lord opened doors for us. One time, villagers rose up to kill me, but in a miraculous way God caused some of the most feared men of the village to come to my defense, and no one touched me. In the hardest places, God was glorified.

In one home, a child had fallen sick with a deadly disease. The parents had no hope; they expected he would die within a day. After prayer, God healed him, and then with tears his parents gave their lives to Jesus. That miracle affected the whole village, and soon a church was established there.

On another occasion, I was bitten by a snake and in moments my hand and arm swelled. Pain shot through my arm. I rushed to the hospital, but the doctor would not help me. He said, “Let your God heal you.” I left his office and in the waiting room encountered a couple whose child was hospitalized because of a bullet wound from a hunting accident. I shared with them the love of God, and as I spoke, I felt my arm and fingers loosening. The swelling disappeared. God healed me right there in front of them! I told them, “Christ did this in your presence so you would believe.” Weeping, the parents and the son all asked Jesus to be their Savior and Healer. Truly, God uses diverse circumstances to show His love.

My desire to see God’s kingdom expand only grew, and the Holy Spirit continued urging my life more every day. In 1970, I talked to my wife about dedicating myself to full-time evangelistic work. She agreed to it, so we closed our business, cancelled our accounts, paid off our debts, and acquired a stock of Bibles and Gospel literature.

Only three months later, I made a huge mistake that nearly stopped me in my tracks. At the start of a ministry trip, I left my belongings in a hotel room while I went to breakfast. In that short time, someone entered my room and stole all of my money. I was devastated and had to borrow money just to get to my destination. However, once I arrived, a young boy greeted me and shook my hand. He said he had to leave right away, but in the handshake he had given me something—it was the money I had borrowed, plus what I had spent since leaving home. I asked around who the boy was, but no one seemed to know him. I learned that Jesus knows our needs and He supplies them.

A new home

When I was forty-five years old, my life changed paths again. My desire was to support the Gospel work in the native communities in the Amazon jungle, so our family relocated from the coast to the jungle. Those communities were largely overlooked by society. The living conditions there were extremely primitive, but I did not mind because my dream to reach these distant areas had come true. God opened doors there as well, and we saw the Gospel message transform lives.

On the day of the surgery, after removing my bandages the doctor was surprised to see that the flesh had finally started to heal. The amputation was cancelled.

A little over a year after we moved, I was in a traffic accident that fractured my left leg in multiple places and nearly severed my foot. Doctors felt it was impossible for me to regain the use of my foot and scheduled an amputation. Then, on the day of the surgery, after removing my bandages the doctor was surprised to see that the flesh had finally started to heal. The amputation was cancelled.

A few months later, I received an invitation to preach at some special services. The church members who invited me did not realize how poor my condition was. Though still dependent on crutches, I agreed to go.

For the first service, I preached seated from a chair. At the next service, I preached standing, and I was able to stand for all of the rest. The following day we had a water baptism service, and I was the only minister who was able to attend. I rode on a mule to the site and a brother helped me get into the water. I was able to baptize twenty-five candidates on my own, and while in the water, I felt that my bones were being rejoined. By the time I arrived back home to my wife and children, my foot was no longer crippled. Christ had healed me again!

These are only some of the marvelous things God has done in my life. At one point I was used by Satan for evil purposes, but Christ forgave me, and today I am His servant. I am a witness that Christ is greater than any idol, more powerful than any principality, and He is Lord of all. God convinced me of these things, and my life is a testimony of His power.

apostolic faith magazine