By Julieta Murillo as told to Hellen J. Kuleskey
Poverty and hard work are all I knew in my life. I was born into a poor family in Ecuador, South America. We were six children—four girls and two boys. I am the second oldest. We spoke Spanish in our home, but we are of several races—Ecuadorian, African and European.
My paternal grandfather worked very hard in a factory. His wife was a nurse. My other grandfather was a fisherman. My maternal grandmother is still alive, though she is blind. She was and is very poor. She used to work for other people cooking and washing clothes. My mother earns a living cleaning in a hotel. My father, an artist in his youth, now paints houses.
My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. My father had become an alcoholic and made life very difficult for us. He beat my mother and us children. For about three or four years we kept running from house to house to get away from him. It was very traumatic. Not only was Father abusive, he was also involved with other women. I hated him for his unfaithfulness. Finally Mother decided to divorce him. I was so angry I told my mother not to marry again or bring another man into our house.
A few years later, Mother did bring a man home. She was only 31 and was raising six children. She wanted someone to help her. She worked hard full-time to make it possible for us children to go to school. I didn’t understand; I was just in my early teens. When the man moved in, I ran way. My two brothers also left the house. One brother went to live with a close family friend; the other one went to my grandparents. (My mother faithfully continued to pay for their schooling.) My oldest sister ran away with a man when she was only 15 to get away from the problems in our home. I went to a Christian family. Although our family was Roman Catholic, I had been attending an evangelical church since my parents divorced. So I went to live with my pastor and his family.
The man who came to live with Mother left after a couple of years. A short time later, I returned home. Even though we lived in different homes, my siblings and I were always close to our mother. She continued to take care of all of us. Through her hard work, Mother was able to buy some land. We built our own home and finally had our own place to live.
When I was only nine years old, I started to work at odd jobs to help my mother with the family income. Mother taught us always to do our best in whatever menial job we did. She taught us never to beg, but to work for our food. I had to study at night most of the time. Because we had moved around so much, I was never in one school for long. However, Mother made sure we studied.
My parents did not go to church, but they sent us children every Sunday. Mother taught us the Lord’s prayer. She was not Catholic as were my grandparents. One night as I was praying, “Our Father in Heaven,” I realized that the picture I was praying to was only of Jesus and His mother. There was no Father in the picture. So I said to God, “Your family looks like my family; we are without a father. But I hear that You are a good Father. I want to meet you as a Father.” God answered my childish prayer.
A couple of weeks later, a lady from the Baptist church came to my neighborhood to invite all of us children to a Vacation Bible School. My brothers, sisters and I all attended for the week. That week I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and God as my Father.
The church was having evangelistic meetings at that time, and as I sat in the church service, I heard the pastor talk about God’s love. He read John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Those words really spoke to me. I cried and said, “God how can you love me and everybody in the world and send Jesus to die for us?”
I was just a child, but I knew I needed to be saved and cleansed. I hated people and I used to fight the boys in my neighborhood to protect the younger children. I knew I was a sinner. When I heard that Jesus loved me and that His blood would cleanse me and make me His child, I stopped crying. The pastor then called for any who wanted to know Christ to come to the altar. I went forward.
I said, “Yes, I want to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I believe He died on the cross for my sins.” A number of other people also came. The pastor and other Christian workers came to lead us individually in prayer to ask for forgiveness of sins and to invite Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives. That day I committed my life to Jesus.
The church folks gave me a Bible and literature explaining what the church believed, what it means to be a Christian and how to walk by faith. The people in that church were faithful and continued to teach and disciple me. I went to class every day. Although I was only 11 years old, my family saw a change in my life. I was shy, but I was serious in my decision to follow the Lord. I prayed for my family so they, too, would be changed by the Lord. And I wanted to work for Him.
One day, Mother asked why I went to the Baptist Church so often when I had not completed my Communion classes at the Catholic Church. When I finished all the classes, she gave me permission to attend the Baptist Church regularly. That church is still my home church.
Every Saturday was a cross-cultural service Day for all ages, from children to adults. We had Bible study first, read a biography of a cross-cultural worker, then prayed for current workers. When we read about William Carey, the first ambassador of Jesus to India, his life really impacted me. I faithfully prayed for India, China and the Islamic countries.
When I was 14 years old, I attended youth camp. A daughter of a cross-cultural worker gave her testimony. We also watched a movie about the five young men who were killed by an Indian tribe in my country. The testimony and the movie moved me to tears. I said, “God, I want to work for You.” When the camp director asked if anyone wanted to attend their Baptist Seminary, I replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
When we returned to the city, I told my pastor I wanted to work for the Lord full-time. He gave me a job at the church. I cleaned, ran errands, and did odd jobs as needed. Then he gave me a job as a full-time secretary. I also taught music and Bible to the children in the church primary school.
I attended high school in the evenings and then university for two years where I studied accounting. Instead of completing my university degree, I went to the seminary. After four years of study, I earned a degree in Theology. Women students usually studied Christian Education, but I challenged my principal to allow me to study theology. I wanted to be an ambassador for Jesus or an evangelist and pastor. I was the first lady in my country to study theology at the Baptist Seminary.
I was still praying for the countries of the world, but especially for India and the neighboring countries. I prayed fervently for the Lord to send workers there. The churches in Ecuador were not yet ready to send their own members out, so they would not send me overseas.
I applied to do ministry in my country. I was not accepted because I was not married. It was too difficult to send out single ladies.
I started to teach at the seminary and traveled around the country with my church in evangelistic work, church planting and youth work. In 1995 I took some of my friends and traveled to the country of Argentina to a youth conference. In Argentina, someone gave me an invitation to a conference in Costa Rica the following year. When we arrived in Costa Rica in January 1996, we learned that it was a cross-cultural service conference. When I saw the photos and heard about the peoples of the world who are unreached for Christ, I wept. I prayed, “God, is that what You are calling me to do?”
After the conference, the Lord spoke to my heart not to return to my country, but to stay in Costa Rica. I asked Him for confirmation because I knew no one in the country, had no job and no place to live. All of this was a very big challenge to me.
During the conference, I noticed a lady using a lap-top computer. I had never seen one before, so I asked the lady what it was. She asked me who I was. I explained that I had come to the conference from Ecuador. She spoke to me for about five minutes and then apologized that she had to leave. She was going to neighboring Nicaragua for a two-day retreat. She gave me her business card and said, “God sent you here for something. If He is asking you to stay in Costa Rica and you need a place to stay, please contact me and I will be happy to help you. My church sends out cross-cultural workers and we can support you.”
When she left, I cried. I said, “Lord, You answered already.” I began to write letters to my family, to the church and to the seminary to resign from my job.
The lady I met was a pastor/evangelist. When she returned she took me into her home and gave me a job in her office. Then she sent me to a organization named FEDEMEC to tell them God was calling me to serve Him cross-culturally. The people there received my testimony and said I could study with them. They gave me free tuition, obtained a student visa for me and allowed me to study about cross-cultural service for two years.
The Lord wonderfully opened the hearts of the pastors in several churches in Costa Rica and in my home country, Ecuador. I finally arrived in India in September, 1997. I have since learned English and the local language, Hindi. I am now busily engaged in church planting work again, helping in a school and planning for an orphanage.
In spite of my background and the grinding poverty, God has given me the greatest desire of my heart. Nothing can keep us from God’s will when He steps into our lives.
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