I grew up in Puerto Rico where I was raised in a Christian family. We attended a Pentecostal church named “Christ is Coming Soon” where I accepted Christ as my personal Savior at the age of twelve. When I was fourteen years old my parents got a divorce and my family divided. My mother went to the United States while my brothers and I stayed with my father in Puerto Rico.
I continued to follow the Lord the best I knew until I was nineteen years old. I got a girlfriend who was not a believer and I began to fall into the things of the world. My mother encouraged me to come to the United States to get away from the bad influences that I had developed. When I arrived in the U.S., I found that no one knew the Lord. I got even further away from God and just had the most horrible experiences. All the good things of my early upbringing cannot be compared to the years of living in sin.
When I arrived in Waterloo, Iowa eight years ago I was married with several children and my life was still not good; that is until I met Missionary Miguel Quintana from Hispanic Baptist Church. He came to our house and challenged me to return to the Lord. I refused but Pastor was persistent. Even-though I would slam the door in his face, he kept after me. Finally, he sent a deacon who came and invited me to a service that Sunday. I attended and God worked in my heart causing me to repent and realize that I needed to get my life in order. Also, my wife eventually accepted Christ and we have been growing together ever since.
The greatest influence on my life when it comes to doctrinal beliefs was the hermeneutics class I took from the El Ministerio Bible Institute provided by Baptist Church Planters. When I heard how to correctly interpret the Bible (literally) through considering the textual, historical, and grammatical context, it really opened my eyes. I thought, “I have been teaching many errors for many years.” For example, the doctrines that I believed about prophecies and spiritual gifts were wrong according to the Scriptures. That Bible Institute class forced me to look into the Bible and to really study it. Because of it I have developed convictions in many areas such as eternal security, music, (how the words should be doctrinal), and what real revival means.
Now I know that God has called me into full-time ministry and I am being considered to be the first pastor of Hispanic Baptist Church. I would like to encourage churches in the United States to not give up on ambitions to reach Hispanics because your labor is not in vain. In our church we fellowship with many families that have been transformed by the gospel thanks to a missionary who planted the church and the several American churches who helped him.
Testimony by Fernando Gonzalez
Pastor of the Hispanic Baptist Church, Waterloo, Iowa