Julio Ruibal, who was martyred for his faith in 1995, left us a legacy of revival. His widow, Ruth, shares in this interview how the gospel transformed Bolivia in the 1970s—and then Colombia in the 1990s.
Most American Christians today are unfamiliar with Julio Ruibal, the humble Bolivian preacher who was known in South America as “the apostle of the Andes.” He was martyred in 1995 in Cali, Colombia, where he and his wife, Ruth, planted a church and were mobilizing unity among churches in order to stop the violent drug cartels that controlled that city.
Years before criminals shot Julio in the streets of Cali, he was used by God to ignite a spiritual awakening that shook his native Bolivia to its foundations. In the early 1970s, after his conversion in Los Angeles, Julio returned to the city of La Paz, Bolivia and began to share Christ. After a core group of young people came to the Lord, conversions began to multiply exponentially until there were more than 5,000 new Christians.
After word of this spiritual outbreak spread in the predominantly Catholic country, Ruibal found himself in a meeting with Bolivia’s president, Hugo Bánzer Suárez. The president and his wife prayed with Julio and then gave him an open door to evangelize the entire country—giving him the use of stadiums and asking mayors to declare a holiday when the young evangelist arrived in their cities to preach.
“Churches sprang up everywhere and poverty was diminished, especially among Christian families when they learned to tithe.”
During the next several years, hundreds of thousands of people were converted to Christ. Those who study the history of missions there draw a clear line between the days “before Ruibal” and “after Ruibal.” Today the evangelical population of Bolivia has grown to more than 11 percent.
Ruth Ruibal carries her husband’s torch today. Besides leading their ministry in Colombia, she speaks all over the world about the need for genuine revival and its transforming power. In this two-part interview, she shares with Charisma about what she believes we should expect when we pray for revival to sweep our own country.
Charisma: Repentance seems to be a hallmark of true revival. What level of repentance did you see in the Bolivian revival?
Ruibal: Julio’s conversion was dramatic and his repentance was deep. He would lie on the living room floor saying, “Jesus I have found You; I have found everything.” Up until then, Julio was supporting himself by running a yoga academy. He told all his students about his conversion—and half the students were saved while half left. He closed down the academy and from that day, for the rest of his life, he lived by faith.
Most people would have tried to save the academy or wait until they had something else to do. But Julio was drastic in obeying. I saw the fruit of repentance in Bolivia. People were getting right with others, making restoration for prior wrongs and dramatically stepping out from sin. Since repentance was part of Julio’s life, the people saved under his ministry saw that as well. Repentance was his lifestyle.
Charisma: How did the Bolivian revival affect the nation and the culture?
Ruibal: This was a sovereign move of God over a nation, not just one church being revived. Up until that time, Bolivia had had more presidents than years of independence. There had been so many coups. At one point there were four presidents in one day.
However, when President Bánzer opened the country to the gospel, he stayed in power for eight years. That was a first for Bolivia. Bolivia experienced its first economic boom. Churches sprang up everywhere and poverty was diminished, especially among Christian families when they learned to tithe.
Charisma: Many believe that supernatural signs and wonders must accompany a true revival. What kind of miracles took place in the Bolivian revival?
Ruibal: The miracles were so remarkable and abundant that it is hard to adequately describe. One of the outstanding miracles involved a woman who was dying of bone cancer. She was bedridden and her upper leg could not be moved for lack of bone. Her sons asked Julio to pray for her.
He led her to the Lord and then prayed for healing. Then Julio felt the Lord telling him to lift the lady to her feet. He helped pull her up and she stood. God had replaced the bone eaten away by cancer!
Another type of miracle took place in Santa Cruz, a city with a warm climate. On this particular day the multitudes were waiting for the meeting to begin, but it was a very hot day and some began to faint and ambulances would carry them away. Seeing this, Julio was moved with compassion for the people and prayed that the Lord would change the weather.
The Lord sent clouds from the north to confirm that it was the Lord bringing relief. (Normally that area would get cool winds from Antarctica in the south, but not from the north.) Also the Lord sent a light mist that proved to be a type of air conditioning. This was so outstanding that the secular newspapers showed pictures of the clouds and reported the miracle.
We saw clubbed feet made straight. The lame walked, a hunchbacked man’s back was straightened, people who were brought in blankets or sheets got up and walked out healthy, the blind were given sight, the deaf were able to hear, diseases were healed with medical certification, the mute spoke, legs grew out and people were delivered from demons. At one point people were healed even when Julio’s shadow passed over them.
There were other types of miracles, too. Food was multiplied supernaturally. At a dinner, fish appeared on a plate in front of several elders. Once, money multiplied so that we could feed some leaders who had come to minister.
Charisma: There is much emphasis among charismatics today on seeing angels and communicating with them. Was this a factor in the Bolivian revival?
Ruibal: I believe we all experience angelic ministry more than we are aware of. How many times have we been saved from an almost certain car accident—and then we realize it was a miracle. Probably angels were sent to help us.
Julio told me of someone who offered him some free wood for a building project that he was working on. When he and his friends went to the establishment to pick up the wood, they found it at the very bottom of a pile that reached almost to the ceiling of the shop. Julio and the young men discussed what they should do and prayed. It seemed impossible to get to the wood without days of moving all the wood on top of the pieces they needed.
When they went back to re-evaluate the situation, they found their wood was now on top of all the other wood! They could only assume an angel had moved it there. However, they never saw angels, never talked to them and never acknowledged their presence—other than to comment, as in this case, that it would have had to be an angel that moved the wood. All the praise and thanks went to Jesus. He was the One they loved and acknowledged.
Charisma: There is also an emphasis today on exotic manifestations such as gold dust, feathers, oil appearing on Bibles, or gem stones appearing on church floors. Did this happen in Bolivia?
Ruibal: There were all sorts of miracles from the beginning and that continued throughout Julio’s ministry to the very end. They were mainly signs, wonders and different kinds of healings. Sometimes people fell when we prayed for them, but this was not something we looked for or particularly wanted. We did not have gold dust, feathers, gems, orbs, oil oozing from hands or any other such thing, nor did we seek it. We sought Jesus and His will.
Taken from Charisma. June 25 2008. J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
5 years ago