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Adolescent Preacher

Adolescent Preacher
Dr. Antonio Cruz

“How well that child recites!” This was heard in the old evangelical church, while the little boy clearly enunciated the inspired Christmas verse of Almudevar:

Bethlehem, humble village hidden among the green hills of Judah, violet love that one day you could see the great wonder that for centuries the land admire.

Bethlehem man will be blessed, village of Judah, between the mountains shepherds your docile lambs, in whom so good Pastor was born, the Savior of poor sinners
Redeemer of a sad slave world, the comfort of all who mourn their sin, God and Man desired, that the Son of Heaven who loves all sinners and saved.

A smile of satisfaction lit up the face of Doña Lidia to hear this kind of exclamation. She, as a Sunday school teacher, had been in charge of helping the children memorize Christmas poems and dialogues in the past weeks and be as expressive as possible. It was nice to hear that the listening audience enjoyed it and a clear stimulus to keep on. Of course, the audience was made up of the parents and friends of the little children, and demand of the performance level wasn’t very high. Some children got applause just by babbling a few words that hardly anyone could understand. But just the same, their families were happy just to see their little ones lit up in the improvised scenery and applauded more for joy than for the merits of the little poets.
Just the same, that little boy of 10 years recited his differently. He understood very well everything he was saying. He paused in the right places. He wasn’t in a rush to finish. His voice was clear and well modulated, realizing his young age. It was logical that he got the most emotional ovations from the crowd.

In the past 60 years, Pastor Samuel Vila, the husband of Doña Lidia, has continued to raise up many evangelical congregations throughout Spain. Thanks in part to the help that came from outside the country, but also because of his tenacity and ability to work. Since he traveled so much to all the churches to preach as well as help in legal matters, his church realized he needed to find another pastor to help preach in his absence.

So a new pastor came, named Sixto Paredes, a humble man from La Mancha, Spain. He’d studied theology with Ernest Trenchard and entered the ministry full time in the Terrassa church. He had great vision for the future and dedicated a great majority of his time preparing young people for the ministry. His idea was that if at any time the preacher would not be able to preach, there would always be someone prepared who could. It was inevitable that with this sensible approach to train leaders, that little kid who recited poetry so well was a possible preacher and the preparation and planning began.

The boy became an adolescent and he was the youth leader in the church. When he turned 17, he made a public statement that he wanted to be baptized by immersion and Sixto baptized him an April Sunday in 1969 in the Baptist Bethel Temple of Terrassa. The same day, the pastor began to motivate the young man to speak not just at his youth meetings but at prayer meeting and then even on Sunday mornings to the entire congregation. That invitation presupposed an important challenge that the boy would have refused with joy, to have to be under the constant watch of the pastor.

The important day came when the young man stepped behind the pulpit. He’s prepared a message well rehearsed and structured. Sixto personally supervised and approved his work. The congregation was excited to hear his first sermon. Not even five minutes into his sermon, something happened he never could never have imagined. His nerves were on edge; he lost his thoughts and got faint realizing how high the pulpit was. That experience traumatized him for years, and the congregation had divided opinions about this boy. If it was the will of God for him to be a preacher, why had he lost his courage? And others, including Sixto, thought he could conquer his nerves and believe that with the help of the Lord, this boy would some day become a good expositor of the Bible.

This nervous and inexperienced preacher’s name was Antonio Cruz, the one writing these words. Forty years have gone by since those first beginnings and today I can strongly tell you a wall or impediment doesn’t exist in our lives that God cannot eliminate if we learn to be faithful to Him and continue to develop the talents He has given us. The young pulpiteer began to change and mature little by little at about the same speed gray hair appeared and life changed, without asking, and he turned into a patient and relaxed grandpa. Nevertheless, after many sermons and conferences, I have to confess that my nerves have never abandoned me. To tell the truth, I’m convinced it’s necessary to maintain a reverent tension for any preaching done in the name of the Lord. An excess of ease in preaching can be dangerous, above all it allows us to say undesirable things. Nerves always keep you on edge and make you do better.

My theological formation was through Pastor Sixto, who introduced me to thinking logically as his teacher, Ernesto Trenchard, taught him. But also other Spanish writers like Jose Grau, Jose Maria Martinez, Francisco Lacueva and more. A little while later I discovered self training theology from protestant authors, Germans and Englishmen who were translated into Spanish by Catholic editors. I also enrolled at the same time in the University of Barcelona (Spain) where I completed my love for theology and science. I earned my degree in Biology and then my doctorate, which allowed me to teach science.

When I began my university studies, controversial arguments also started up with my long suffering pastor. In those days, the young people vehemently defended evolution, which I was being taught in the university. It was totally against creation that Sixto believed. I have to say that even he hadn’t had any scientific studies, his respect for the Bible and how the world began impacted me so much that I had to study more and over many years I was finally convinced that, if there existed undeniable variety I all living things, the method of mutation was random and natural selection proposed by Darwin could not be the way divine creation occurred. Today I know that Sixto, that simple pastor from La Mancha, a man like Sancho from Don Quijote, woke up convictions in my life that made me who I am today.