Gustavo is a church planter in the city of Melilla, an autonomous city of Spain on the north coast of Morocco. This is his story.
One Friday night when I was 16, some druggie friends and I couldn’t find our dealer so out of pure boredom we went to a free concert at a new church. Halfway through the concert a gringo got up and shared his story.
I was born outside Santiago, Chile, on June 17, 1972. Both my father and mother rejected me, so my grandmother raised me, and she reminded me daily that I was an unwelcome burden. I grew up dreaming that someday my father would walk through the door and take me with him. We would play together, live in the same house, he would teach me things, and discipline me when I acted badly—the things I saw in other families in our neighborhood.
When I was 10 years old, I stole a bottle of Martini [vermouth] and drank it. It was my first act of self-destruction, and there would be many more. When I was 14 years old, I spent four months sleeping under my aunt’s bed on the concrete floor with a blanket. There was so little space I could not turn my body. I was hiding. My uncle did not want me in his house because of my life of drugs. Everyday when he went to work, I would come out from under the bed and run to school. Eventually, I just stayed on the streets. Life had no value for me. I did not care if I was on drugs all day, or whether I ate or not.
Gustavo with his grandmother and the missionary family that adopted
him as a teenager.
Going to Church Out of Boredom
One Friday night when I was 16, some druggie friends and I couldn’t find our dealer, so out of pure boredom we went to a free concert at a new church. After a number of bad experiences, I had sworn I’d never step foot in church again—but we were really bored! Halfway through the concert a gringo got up and shared his story. I identified completely with the emptiness, bitterness, and loneliness he talked about suffering. At the end, there was a call to give your life to Jesus and let him change you. I couldn’t help myself from taking that step because God’s love pushed me forward. That night marked the beginning of my new life with Jesus.
After giving my life to Jesus, a Chilean pastor looked after me and helped me in my first steps as a new Christian. He encouraged me to finish high school. Another missionary family helped me during this time. They took me in and I became part of their family, and today I have a mom and a dad and five wonderful siblings. Through my life with them, God restored my belief in family and gave me hope for the future. My grandmother Maria has also been redeemed by Christ!
Growing as a Husband, Father, and Missionary
I left Chile in 2003 to join a missionary team located on the coast of North Africa, church planters working primarily with the Rif Berber people group. Within the Rif Berber population, less than 1 percent proclaim the name of Jesus! Today, I serve alongside the woman I love, the one who motivates me and helps me grow as a husband and father. I come home to my children playing, and when I walk in they scream, “Dad’s home!” I sit on the floor with my son when he says, “Dad, do you want to play cars?” I can hug them and say, “I love you so much, but Jesus loves you even more.”
We walk by faith and seek to bless our community with the love of Jesus. God has used many people as he has transformed and healed my life and given me a heart and vision for the world.
Gustavo and his wife, Karissa, have two children, with a third due in November. Please pray for their new ministry center, Regeneración, which is scheduled to open in September. It will be home to a community center and a new church plant, supported in part by Mars Hill Global, to serve the city of Melilla. To support him and other planters across the globe, give today.