By Melissa Chesnut
Juan* has lived a difficult life. As a child, he grew up in a home where his mother would vent her anger and frustration by hitting him, and his father was bound to alcohol. His parents separated when he was very young, and his mother left him in a neighboring community with his grandparents. After that, Juan never heard from his mother again.
Juan’s life didn’t get any easier over the years. “At six years of age … I became a practicing atheist,” Juan said. With nothing and no one to believe in, he began to act out towards his grandparents and was drawn to alcohol himself. By thirty-two, Juan was an alcoholic.
“I was losing my family, my friends, their trust, my community work, everything, because I had begun stealing things,” Juan said.
But God had other plans for Juan.
The Scriptures had been recorded in Chipaya, Juan’s language. Faith Comes By Hearing, a partner organization of Wycliffe, and the Bible Society had brought devices called Proclaimers that would play the recorded Scripture. Juan knew of them, but chose to give them no importance. After all, he didn’t believe that God existed. Sometimes, though, he would pass the door of the church on his evening walk around the city and stand by the door of a church, listening to the recording for a while before going on his way.
After several months of occasional listening, one night Juan heard something that really caught his attention. Afterwards, he went to talk to the pastor about it, sharing, “I heard some words that seemed so straightforward that it seemed like they were being spoken directly to me.”
The pastor told Juan that the verse played that night was 1 John 3:8. He showed him the verse in the Chipaya New Testament. It read, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Those words made an impact on Juan’s heart.
“I could not understand how God could speak to me so directly,” Juan reflected, “and how He could change my life that was so full of problems. I have to say that every time this device was turned on and sound came out, and when it proclaimed the Word, my body shook. Because of this, the next time I stopped by there, the pastor invited me to repent.”
So that day, Juan—an atheist for most of his life—believed in God.
“I didn’t know at the time what was happening,” Juan said, “but I remember being prostrate and crying like a child receiving God’s love in my life.”
Now Juan encourages other people to listen to this device. “…I have told the people they have to listen to this device because God is speaking to us in our language and He is speaking clearly so that we will understand Him,” Juan said. Juan, a professed atheist, confessed that there was a God after he understood, and now he hopes that others too will surrender their lives to God and receive His love themselves.
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