Pastor - San Martin, Peru
Arturo and his family live in the northern jungles of Peru in the department of San Martin. He pastors the Baptist Church of San Rafael and also helps train other pastors in the region.
Although I was born in the jungles of San Martin, my family moved to Lima when I was very young. When I was twenty years old I came to know Christ, but before that I did not want to know anything about Him. I was a young man seeking after all the vanities of this life, and I would have remained lost, but God had me thrown into one of the worst prisons in South America – the prison of Lurigancho in Lima.
One Sunday (7:30pm, May 29,1988), after being beaten by the police, I received Christ as my personal Savior. I was filled with joy and my life began to change immediately. Nine months later I was pardoned and let out of prison fully exonerated. I had been arrested because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My sister-in-law had been doing some kind of illegal business and I happened to be in her house the day the police arrested her, so I was taken as an accomplice in her crimes. After 9 months of investigation my name was cleared and I was allowed to leave as a free man.
Immediately after leaving prison I began to attend a Baptist church where a missionary named Carlton was pastoring. His life and preaching had a great impact on my life. Through brother Carlton, I met a pastor named Jonas who also helped me greatly in my spiritual growth. In 1993, the church where I was a member started several new works, and I felt God’s call to serve him as a pastor, but again God had other plans. The very night that I was to preach at the new mission, I was stopped at a police check point and asked for my documents. The police immediately detained me. At first I thought it was because of my past jail record, but then I discovered that the police suspected that I was personally involved with a gang of drug dealers! The year before, my documents had been stolen and used by terrorists and drug dealers to falsify their own identities. As God would have it, once again I found myself in prison. I told myself that I was dreaming and that it could not be possible. I was in seminary and looking forward to pastoring, but once again God had me thrown into one of the worst places in the world.
For the first 47 days of my imprisonment, I was in the prison that’s located directly below the Governmental palace. As I look back, this was—besides my salvation—one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to see first hand how so many people need the Lord and the salvation that only comes through the Son. I was able to witness to four of the main leaders of the “Shining Path” terrorist movement. One of them was an engineer, the other one was a professor in the university and the other two were students. They were desperate because they were going to be in jail for thirty years to life. When they saw me in the prison preaching to sixty or seventy men everyday, they began to see their great need for Christ. One of the men approached me and told me that Christ could not forgive him because of all the terrible things he had done. He was second in command in the “Shinning Path” terrorist movement. I sat there and spoke with him until five in the morning and then he finally broke down, crying like a baby. He was saved by God. He later introduced me to others that were in jail for the same reasons. Some of them were saved and some rejected the message. Due to the law of repentance afforded by the State, some of these men were allowed to leave the prison, but I never knew anything else about them after that.
Never before had I been given the opportunity to speak with men like these. They were intellectuals and terrorists, but God changed some of their lives. There were days in which I stayed up until two in the morning sharing the good news with these men. During those days I did not know much about what was happening outside or with my case, but after 47 days I was once again taken to the worst prison in South America at Lurigancho. In that prison it’s common to see dead people every day, and most of the inmates are filthy and sick with TB.
Before going to prison, I had always doubted God’s care for me. I had seen other pastors suffering, and I doubted His care and provision for my life. In prison I learned that I would never have to doubt God’s faithfulness. I entered prison weighing 145 lbs. and left weighing 190 lbs. I always had enough food to give to others in the prison because of loving brothers and sisters that would come to visit me and bring me food. I was able to evangelize many people with the Gospel and even started a church in one of the sections of the jail.
As it turned out, God transformed a living hell into a blessing that changed my life. I was able to preach day and night and experience the joy of seeing the lives of men changed. What beatings and bars and years of prison could not do, the Word of God was able to accomplish in the lives of men. Many of those who were converted are now preaching the Word also. Time went by very fast because I was preaching and ministering around the clock. Before I knew it, a year had past.
In the prison of Lurigancho, the authorities are very corrupt. It does not matter if you are innocent, you have to pay to get justice or nothing will happen. The authorities asked me for $3000 in exchange for my freedom. They told me that my lawyer was being paid by the drug traffickers so that my case would remain hidden and I would stay in jail. For these reasons my case would not move. After six months of prison, my church and my family could no longer pay for a lawyer. It was then that a missionary friend of mine found out about my situation and was able to pay a new lawyer to keep my case open. I thank God for this because I would have been in prison for twelve years if HeartCry had not helped me.
The day that I was released from prison I was preaching an open air service to the men in prison. I did not know that I was going to be released, but after my sermon the authorities came and told me to leave. I could hardly believe my ears. As I have said before, there are innocent people who spend years in jail because of the corrupt lawyers and authorities who use the innocent as a way to make money. Through all this, God showed me that He does provide for all of our needs.
While I was in jail I had been praying for the jungle region of San Martin where I was born. After prison I traveled there and saw that there were no evangelical churches and that the Word of God was not preached. There were many cults moving into the area and it broke my heart because the true Church was not doing anything. I presented the project of starting a mission in San Martin and my church in Lima told me they could not support me or be involved in this type of work because they were focusing more on the city area. However, the Lord eventually provided the necessary support through HeartCry, and I am now serving as a pastor and missionary in the jungles of San Martin.
This is my testimony, and if God gives me many years of life I want to use them all for His glory. I know God will use me and that He will carry out His will in my life. May God bless you!