“Do you want to go to a Philipino Thanksgiving?”
The little Peruvian man beamed with excitement, waiting for my answer. I was standing in the foyer of Rosemount Bible Church. All around me, people were shaking hands and wishing one another “Happy Thanksgiving!” I had been in Montreal for one week and had expected to spend the holiday alone. Until now.
The first thought to cross my mind was, Why is a Peruvian inviting me to a Philipino Thanksgiving?
My second thought was, Why not?
I had met Arturo briefly the week before, but our conversation basically consisted of me asking him where his accent was. He knew nothing about me, other than I was a traveller who had been in the city for a week. I knew nothing of him, other than he was from Peru. But that didn’t seem to matter. Within minutes, an elderly black woman and I were climbing into his car and headed down the streets of Montreal.
A few minutes into our drive, Arturo asked me, “Cynthia, how did you become a Christian?” Once again, the question took me off guard. I roughly explained how, as a little three-year-old girl, I once pushed my sister’s stroller over and she fell out. I learned that day what sin was and I prayed to Jesus that he would take all of my sins away.
“You hear that!” Arturo exclaimed to the woman in the seat beside him. “The gospel is so simple, even a little child can understand it!”
Arturo then went on to explain the full gospel. With a chuckle, I realised that Arturo hadn’t asked me my salvation story because he was personally interested. He asked to hear my story so he could use it as a tool to evangelise to the woman sitting in the seat beside him. I later learned that she lived in the same apartment building as he did. He had been witnessing to her for months and she finally agreed to come to church with him. When he stopped speaking, I finally asked the question that was burning inside me.
“Arturo, you’re from Peru. What are you doing inviting me to a Philipino Thanksgiving?” Arturo’s eyes gleamed in the rearview mirror as he smiled.
“I break boundaries.”
That was the only explanation I got. As he drove the woman back to their building, he began to recount his family’s story.
Arturo grew up in a small city in Peru. His parents were not Christians, though his father had a co-worker that had given them a Bible and often shared the gospel. One verse he would repeat in particular was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Arturo’s father was an alcoholic and, unfortunately, would often become violent when he was drunk. When he wasn’t working, he would go into the mountains to search for Incan treasure.
He and a friend travelled up to a mountain overlooking the city. They were digging a deep hole when, suddenly, Arturo’s father felt sick. He told his friend that they needed to get out of the hole right away, and the two of them scrambled out.
The moment that they pulled themselves out of the hole, an earthquake struck. The two men watched as the city below them crumbled. The hole they had been digging caved in. As the earthquake subsided, the men rushed down to the village to find their families.
Arturo’s father came home to see that his family was safe. Their home had been spared from the damage. He went immediately to the bookshelf and grabbed his Bible. Not knowing where to turn to, he flipped the book open randomly and read the words Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
He fell to his knees and prayed that God would forgive him. From that day forward, he was a changed man. He told his co-worker what had happened and they began attending church together.
He shared his faith with his wife, Arturo’s mother, but she wasn’t convinced. She had lived for too many years with this tempestuous man to believe that his transformation was legitimate. “If you do not drink for one year, then I will go to church with you.” He kept his promise. A year later, Arturo’s mother agreed to attend church with her husband and soon accepted Christ as her saviour.
After we dropped off his neighbour at their building, Arturo also shared his personal story.
Many years later, Arturo’s father was an elder at their church. Arturo was also very involved in children’s ministry. When he was 17, a missionary visited and asked Arturo if he’d ever made a personal decision for Christ. Arturo thought carefully and couldn’t remember ever making a choice. The missionary was appalled.
“You mean to tell me that you’re working in ministry and you’re not even a Christian yourself?”
Arturo had never really thought about it that way before. He realised that if he wasn’t a Christian, there was no reason to act like he was. He started visiting bars and discotheques, which was extremely taboo for Christians in Peru.
Arturo was never interested in alcohol or cigarettes. He’d tried them as a young child and was completely turned off. But he loved dancing. He became addicted to dancing. Every Friday and Saturday he would go out, and throughout the week we would think about nothing else. His whole world revolved around waiting for the weekend to come.
After a while, he started to question what the purpose of life was. He was tired of being consumed by his desires but had no other idea what to do with himself. During this time, a friend gave him a tract. On the cover, it read, “What is life?” Arturo was excited. Finally, he could find an answer to his questions! The inside of the tract was filled with only Bible verses.
By now, he was 18. He had his eyes on a young girl in the village. She invited him to her birthday party, and he hoped that this could be the start of a relationship. A few days later, another friend invited him to go to a gospel campaign at his church on the same night. Torn between his two options, Arturo gave his brother a gift to give to the girl and went to the gospel campaign. That night, he gave his life to Jesus.
When we arrived at the Philipinos’ home, they welcomed us and served rice and chicken. The families chatted quietly and I struggled to fit into the conversations. That is, until they turned on the karaoke. Then I watched as the formerly quiet people transformed into loud and glorious stars.
During those hours together, Arturo mentioned event after event that I should join.
“We’re going to Upper Canada tomorrow. You should come!”
“On Tuesdays, we have Espace Louange, a worship session. You should sing with us!”
After Thanksgiving, I didn’t see Arturo again until the Sunday before I left Montreal. He shook my hand and immediately began explaining about the French Bible study he was leading that night.
“I don’t speak French very well, but none of these people are Christians and they need to hear the truth. You should come!”
I’ve never met anyone who lived a missionary life here in Canada more than Arturo. He lived to spread the gospel. It was a fire that nobody could extinguish. Every conversation turned to Jesus. Every person he encountered soon heard the good news. His zeal for the gospel only enhanced his love for people, and every person I saw him interact with could not help but love him too. It wasn’t something he had to intentionally think about. It was a lifestyle of faith.
The Holy Spirit is a force that will transform the world and Arturo was totally intoxicated with it. I believe that people like Arturo have the power to change the world. Not because of their political influence or grand personalities, but because they live and breathe Jesus.
Have you ever known anyone like this, an everyday evangelist who lived daily by the power of the gospel? Tell me about them in the comments below. How do they live and share Jesus?
This post was shared on the Grace and Truth Link-Up.