The text message visibly shook Pastor Rodrigo. It said the rebels wanted to kidnap his wife and stop her from teaching the Christian ways to school children. He knew to take the threat seriously.
When he was 16, Rodrigo’s father died, leaving him to fend for himself on the street. With his strong determination to survive and a natural ability to sell anything, he quickly became a successful newspaper salesman. However, he also became involved with drugs and developed an addiction that lasted for two years.
A faithful friend
At school, Rodrigo had a Christian friend who openly shared his faith with him, saying, “I will not give up on you and I will continue to pray for your salvation.”
One night, Rodrigo was invited to a youth meeting. He answered, “You know who I am. You know I am involved in gangs and drugs and have a reputation on the street.” But his friend persisted, and Rodrigo went.
“Looking back, I now believe I was sent there by God to hear the message,” Rodrigo said. “I accepted Jesus that night, asking Him to release me from the bondage of slavery.
“I found a job as a cleaner at the church and the pastor gave me a room I could live in. This took me off the streets and away from my old contacts. I tried to contact my mother, but she rejected me because of my new faith in Christ. I felt that nobody loved me, but deep down I knew that God had not given up on me and through His love and the sacrifice of His Son I was determined to continue the Christian walk.”
Preparing for ministry
In 1999 Rodrigo’s church supported him to study at the Missionary Baptist Seminary Bible School. After graduation, Rodrigo was assigned as a pastor with the task of re-establishing an abandoned church. He eagerly took up the position and began winning back families.
Because Rodrigo was still relatively young he faced different forms of persecution. This first came from within his family. They rejected him for his betrayal of the Islamic faith. As much as he prayed for them, they continued to persecute him. “I got to the point that because they rejected me and my God, I shook the dust from my shoes and kept walking forward. In rejecting me they also rejected my Lord.”
“Please pray for us”
One day, one of the church members told Rodrigo he had a disease the doctors said they could do nothing more for. The doctor even said, “Talk with your pastor and he might pray to his God for you.”
The man had been paralysed for a long time and his condition was growing worse. Within seconds of praying for him, the man got up. Many people in the hospital then asked Rodrigo, ‘Please pray for us.’ The man who had been paralysed testified to his family what God had done for him and his whole family was saved.
During this time, Rodrigo prayed that God would send him a committed Christian to marry. Two years later, he met a Christian teacher, the only one in her family who had become a Christian. Some time later they married and now work together for the glory of God.
Dedication brings opposition
It is common for the church to be stoned on a Sunday. Not only the building, but also the church members are stoned while walking to church or to a midweek meeting.
“I try to bridge our relationships with those who persecute me by sharing God’s love with them, and also giving them rice as they are very poor. They accept this with one hand but still pick up a stone in the other to throw at our church. But I continue to pray for them, and I will continue to show the love of God to them no matter what the cost.”
Kidnapping threat now dismissed
When Rodrigo received the text messages threatening to kidnap his wife, it was a very difficult time for both of them. “I was very afraid for my wife and found it hard to sleep. My wife was always weeping with fear. I felt a tremendous responsibility to protect her and we continued praying to the Lord for His wisdom.”
Two weeks after receiving the threat, the education department sent a letter giving Rodrigo’s wife a transfer from the jungle school some distance from their home, to one right on the highway. They both rejoiced and thanked God. When they received this confirmation of a new school placement, the threatening text messages stopped.
Rodrigo declared, “God is our Shepherd and He delivered us out of the valley of death.”