This week Daddy was asked to write an article for our church magazine in Colombia. They requested that the article be on the story of his conversion. So for today's Devotional Post, here's his story:
Have you ever been in a place where you felt different from everybody else? And not in a particularly good way? That is how I felt the first time I visited the Seventh-Day Adventist Reform Movement Church which today I gladly call "My Church". But before I go into that, I will tell you where I come from.
I am the youngest of four children, and growing up, I was the only one still living with my mother; my two sisters were married and my brother was living with my father in Uberlândia, a town 600 km away from the small town in which I grew up and was still living in.
We were poor and in order to help support my mother and I, I started working when I was five-years old. I gathered old pieces of iron, aluminum, bones, glass etc. to sell to the local scrapyard. Then when I turned seven I began my schooling, and as soon as I learned to add and multiply, I got a better job; I started selling Popsicles. Two years later I got a job in a clothes store where I worked for five years.
Between school and work, there were hours spent playing with the neighborhood boys. We swam in the creek, we spent hours and hours playing soccer in the streets, and up to normal boyhood mischief. This was my childhood, and it was wonderful.
When I was ten-years old, I decided I wanted to be baptized. My mother was Catholic, but since my father was a Reformer both of them never came to an agreement about my baptism. But as I continued attending the Catholic Church, I understood that as I was not baptized I was considered a pagan, and that if I would die in such a state I would be lost; hence my desire to be baptized. So, it was decided that my eldest sister and my brother-in-law would be my godparents, and I was baptized. Soon after my baptism I began preparing for my First Communion Ceremony; to me it was all very exciting.
When I was fourteen, I moved in with my brother and father in Uberlândia in order to attend a school in electronics. Though it was hard to leave my mother, we promised each other that it would be only temporary. She would soon move to that city, and we would be together again.
Upon my arrival, my father and brother explained to me that they were vegetarians and did not eat meat, but that they'd give me money and I was free to buy and eat it whenever I wanted to. They kindly explained to me that they would also give me a pan that I could use to cook the meat in, and asked me not to use the ones they used to make their food. They did so with great love and care, doing what they could to help me understand and not be offended. This love and gentleness they expressed towards me, encouraged me to visit "their church".
The first time I attended the Reform church, I was wearing my regular clothes; jeans and a t-shirt. Entering the church, I noticed that these people were all wearing nice clothes, as if they were going to a special party. I felt embarrassed; it seemed I was not properly dressed. I felt awkward, as if everybody was looking at me. My father and brother always wore special clothes on Sabbath (Saturday), but I was comfortable around them. Now, seeing everyone in church that well dressed called my attention and at the same time made me feel as if I was out of place, different from everyone else. And not in a particularly good way.
The next Sabbath before going to church, I went to my closet and picked up the only long sleeve dress shirt I had, and I thought to myself, "Now I will feel better! Wearing this shirt I will fit in." It was the shirt I wore for my First Communion. When I put it on I noticed that I had outgrown it and the sleeves were short! I had an idea! I disguised the shortness of the sleeves by folding them up. There. Nobody would notice; they would think I was just wearing it that way. I felt much better.
From then on I continued going to church with my father and brother, (and from then on I also bought a church shirt that fit).
The things that most caught my attention during my first visits to the church were: the love and care of the members, and their knowledge of the Bible. Their knowledge and comfort with that Book motivated me to start reading the Bible. The pastor could call out the verses from the pulpit and the members would find it with ease. I wanted to be able to know my Bible that well too! Then, one Sabbath, the Bible worker explained the 2300 days prophecy, and I sat in awe of the wisdom of the people in that congregation. I felt even more compelled to study the Bible. My father had given me one, but I had never read it. I decided to begin doing so.
Soon I started preparing for baptism. As most Brazilians, I had a great passion for soccer; I was used to the competition, the rivalry, the challenge, the obsession. Therefore quitting soccer and meat eating were the two hardest things for me, but thank God I received enough help from my father, my brother, the young people of the church and from studying the Bible, as well as strength from Above to help me overcome. "So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Romans 10:17
It was a very happy day when I committed myself to serving the Lord and was received into His family. I remember coming out of the water, what a feeling!-- the feeling of being His child, of being part of the heavenly family! I was fifteen years old then, and I am so thankful that I had the privilege of meeting the Lord when I was still young. He saved me when I was just starting to get involved with the carnival and alcoholic beverages. Praised be the Lord.
God not only changed my life, but also the life of my parents. After living apart for many years, now, right after my baptism, the Lord brought them back together, and today, twenty-seven years later they still live happily together.
I started working as a colporteur when I was fifteen; at seventeen the Lord called me to be a colporteur leader in the state of São Paulo; at twenty the call came for me to be a Bible worker, and at twenty-six I was ordained a pastor.
I thank God because in a world of over six billion people, He looked at a simply small town boy poor of a poor family, and said "I want you. You are my child."
Praised be the Lord, because He is able to use the weakest vases to glorify His name. May He use me and you always."
If you haven't yet read Our Story. then read it to see where the story went from there. Happy Weekend!