In search of the true lighted path
Call it a serendipity. Call it just an accident. To me, it is a sheer miracle. Thirty-five years ago, while living in a small town of the Peruvian Andes, I was searching through my father's old papers. Just why, and why then, I cannot say with certainty. Perhaps that's part of the miracle. Among those papers I found an enrollment card for the Voice of Hope Bible correspondence course. Was this an answer to a deep and longing desire gnawing at my heart for months? I filled out the card and dropped it in the mail. Three months later, I received the first two lessons. That was all the jump start I needed to start my spiritual engine. I studied each lesson as carefully as I could. New vistas of truth opened before me and gripped my soul.
Meanwhile, I completed my secondary school in 1975 at the top of my class, and traveled to the costal city of Trujillo to begin advanced studies at a public university. I went to study engineering, but chose mathematics instead. Although I had not worked with computers, I dreamt about learning all I could about their operation. At the time, my fellow university students were very involved in political action both on and off campus. I slowly became part of political discussions and was elected by the leftist group to represent my class before the faculty council.
I survived in precarious financial circumstances, since my parents had very limited resources, lived far away, and could not help me even for basic necessities. Prompted by circumstances and in order to remain in school, I worked first as a carpenter and then in a pharmacy to continue with my studies.
In the leftist group, I was considered a serious student of political theory and a young man with a bright future. Among my main assignments was serving as liaison with the municipal employees' labor union, the largest in the city at the time. By 1977, I was already taking part in secret conversations sponsored by the budding radical group called Sendero Luminoso (The Lighted Path) on techniques of urban and rural warfare. The plan was to launch, in the near future, “a true revolution of the Peruvian proletariat to free the country from imperialism.”
My ideals of justice and my political naiveté were leading me toward a dangerous future. About the same time, I was finishing the correspondence course that dealt with Bible prophecy. The amazing accuracy of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation brought coherence and clarity to my mind grappling with troubling social and political issues. The study of prophecy led me to question the materialistic theories advanced by Marx, Lenin, Mao, and the evolutionary concepts of Darwin. I continued to read voraciously world history, the sciences, economics, and religion. Finally I began to question some of the statements made by my university professors. I also decided to talk with my “comrades” about my growing convictions about what I discovered in the Bible. Naturally, they were concerned about the influence my critical questions and statements were having on my classmates and teachers. Just about that time, I finished the last available course from the Voice of Hope and received by mail an attractive card inviting me to meet a person at a specific address in town in order to continue my study of the Scriptures.
Finding the way
A few weeks later, a classmate at the university invited me to visit her church the following Saturday. Since I was the only person in her class who had not visited her congregation, I accepted. Early Saturday morning, I searched for her church in the city but could not find it. On Monday morning, my classmate complained that I had not followed through on accepting her invitation. When I explained to her what had happened, she told me that I had looked for the church in the wrong block, and gave me more specific directions.
The next Sabbath morning, as I prepared to leave, I remembered the card I had received from the Voice of Hope and soon discovered that the address was the very same my friend had given me. I took the card with me, and when I arrived at the Central Adventist church, my friend was waiting for me. I asked her if she knew a man by the name of Rodrigo Gutiérrez. She was surprised by my question, so I showed her the card, and she told me he was her pastor! A few minutes later, we were introduced and we made a midweek appointment.
When the pastor visited me, he was surprised by the number of Voice of Hope Bible diplomas I had earned through the years. During a second meeting a week later, he asked me many questions about my religious convictions. Noting that I was well versed in the fundamentals of the Bible, he wanted to know if I would like to be included in the baptismal service the following Sabbath. Right then I made my decision. So it was that on June 24, 1978–the second Sabbath I attended an Adventist church–I walked into the baptismal pool to seal my covenant with Jesus Christ and to begin walking in the true Lighted Path.
Three months later, I was named secretary of the Adventist youth group that met in the church, and soon after was chosen to be its leader. The following year, several of us began the Master Guide training course, and in 1980 I completed it. About that time, I was involved in the foundation of an Adventist secondary school in town and became its mathematics teacher. God was opening new opportunities to serve Him. In 1981, I was named the first young single elder of Trujillo's Central Adventist church. Together with two gifted young leaders, we organized several youth camps, spiritual retreats, Bible seminars, and two-week Voice of Youth evangelistic campaigns. These activities deepened my knowledge of God's Word and strengthened my spiritual convictions. At that point, the administrators of the North Peru Mission offered me a scholarship to study for the ministry at our college near Lima. However, I asked for a postponement so I could finish my studies.
In August 1982, two weeks after obtaining my university degree, I was invited to teach in three of the best universities in Peru, located in the capital city. Because of better salary and working conditions, I chose the National University of Engineering (UNI), in Lima. Soon I joined one of the large Adventist congregations and decided that my new missionary field would be the university students and the center established for them. With the Adventist students, we organized several camping trips and public meetings on Bible prophecy. At the same time, I was active in the teachers' federation at the university.
By the end of 1985, I married the fellow-student who had invited me to her church. The following year we traveled to Porto Alegre, Brazil, where I began my studies toward a Master's degree in applied mathematics. In 1987, I started another graduate degree in computer science, and finally got a doctorate in that field in 1995. My wife also completed a doctorate, in mechanical engineering.
In the meantime, we were able to assist public education in northern Peru by contributing to the establishment of the National University of Trujillo and by designing the internet connections for that large region of the country.
In 1988, my wife and I returned to Brazil to teach at a community university. For three years we enjoyed many professional satisfactions. We were also active in our small Adventist congregation. However, we were anxious to provide to our two sons an Adventist education, which was not available in the town where we lived. So God opened a new opportunity. The Adventist University Center of Sao Paulo invited us to join their faculty. It was the third time an Adventist institution of higher learning approached us to teach. This time we accepted the call and moved to the huge metropolis of Sao Paulo.
Since January of 2001, I have served as a teacher in software engineering, computer graphics, and telecommunications. I'm active with my sons in the Pathfinder club, serve as an elder in the campus church, and as leader in the Master Guide club. My wife also teaches on campus and coordinates the Spanish Sabbath school.
As I look at the past, I am immensely grateful for all God's blessings. He chose me when I was still in my youth and protected me through the turbulent university years. He has granted me the privilege of witnessing for Him in many situations. I know we shall always have to make decisions, but I pray that the Lord will continue to guide us in each of them. Every time I face an important choice, I find myself confronted by the words of my Lord: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).
Ausberto Castro teaches at the Sao Paulo Adventist University Center. His email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.