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Ecuadorian tells of release from the grips of alcohol & persecution

QUITO, Ecuador (BP)–When Manuel Pumisacho accepted Christ as Savior, he was so drunk he could barely walk.
Pumisacho, a Quichua Indian from Zambiza, Ecuador, had just left his favorite bar. His shirt was torn and bloody from a fistfight.
As he staggered down the street toward home, Pumisacho began to sense God’s presence. “Why am I like this?” he thought, remembering times his Christian brother-in-law had shared his faith with him. “If there’s a God who loves me, I’d like to know him.”
Pumisacho started crying and fell on his knees. “Lord, forgive me of my sins,” he prayed. “Change my life. I want to be a good man.”
Immediately, Pumisacho no longer felt drunk. “In that moment, a miracle took place,” he says. “I sensed that alcohol no longer had control of me.”
His wife noticed the change as soon as she saw him. Often when he came home drunk, she’d run to hide so he wouldn’t abuse her. But tonight it was different. “I told her Christ had changed my life,” Pumisacho recalls. “I said, ‘Please forgive me. I’m not going to hit you anymore. I love you.'”
As Pumisacho tells this story more than 20 years later, his voice shakes with emotion, and he wipes away tears. Missionary Mark Robbins, translating for him, pauses as Pumisacho regains his composure.
“It’s amazing what God does when he touches a life,” interjects Robbins, Pumisacho’s prayer partner and a Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary from Pensacola, Fla.
Before his conversion, Pumisacho was following in the footsteps of his father, who died of alcoholism when Pumisacho was 13. His mother died the same year. But when he met Christ at age 24, Pumisacho’s life took a dramatic turn.
Soon he got a job as a janitor at a Christian school in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Later school officials trained him as a mechanic. While in that job, Pumisacho felt God’s call to preach.
Since he had only an elementary school education, he went back to school at night. He couldn’t afford school supplies, so he got paper from used notebooks other students had thrown away. Later he became the first indigenous student to attend the Baptist seminary in Quito.
He even earned a law degree so he could stand up for the rights of Ecuador’s indigenous evangelicals, who often experience religious persecution by followers of a religion that mixes Roman Catholicism and indigenous beliefs. Pumisacho himself has suffered persecution while sharing the gospel among indigenous people, who comprise about 40 percent of Ecuador’s population.
The first time it happened was during a service at Belen de Cocotog Baptist Church near Quito, where Pumisacho now is pastor. A mob of townspeople burst into the sanctuary and began hitting the congregation with sticks. The attackers — who included some of Pumisacho’s relatives — brought with them the community band, which played during the beatings. Later four police trucks arrived to dispel the violence.
Another episode occurred about a decade ago in the town of Chachas while Pumisacho was leading a home Bible study. A drunken crowd stormed the house and began beating the worshipers, including Pumisacho’s pregnant wife.
“The children were screaming,” he recalls. “We were crying and praying for God’s protection.”
Meanwhile, their opponents doused the house with gasoline to set it on fire. But when they began striking matches, none of them would light. “We believe nothing happened because we were praying so hard,” Pumisacho says.
During the confrontation, Pumisacho dodged a blow that accidentally hit another attacker. Soon the mob began fighting each other. In the chaos, the believers fled. Pumisacho and his family spent the night hiding in a field. Later police escorted them out of town.
Pumisacho stayed away from Chachas until earlier this year, when local officials allowed a team of Florida Baptist volunteers to lead evangelistic medical clinics there. Through the team’s work, 15 people accepted Christ. A week later Pumisacho, Robbins and International Service Corps worker Mike Biggio, a former Roman Catholic from Montgomery, Ala., returned to Chachas to lead a Bible study. Forty-five people showed up.
Today Pumisacho teaches a weekly Bible study — without opposition — in a home within view of the place where he was attacked years before. “After some suffering, I feel real joy knowing the Lord opened this door,” he says.
“I thank God for the persecution,” the pastor adds. “Now I fear no one. I don’t worry about anything. I have complete trust in the Lord.”

    About the Author

  • Mary E. Speidel