Last week I shared the first part of an interview with Ruth Ruibal, the widow of Bolivian evangelist Julio Ruibal—who was known as the “apostle of the Andes.” Ruth described for us how the gospel transformed Bolivia in the 1970s. In this second segment she tells about the sweeping conversions that happened during that revival and how this sparked church growth. She also offers some words of warning to the American church.
Charisma: You lived through an amazing season of revival in Bolivia. What led up to it? Was there a lot of prayer and fasting?
Ruth Ruibal: Before the revival the largest evangelical church in La Paz, Bolivia had about 90 members. Missionaries from many denominations had labored for decades with little results. I know that the Lord honored those decades of labor, perseverance and prayer.
“We desperately need a revival today in the United States. However, historical revivals start with repentance.”
Julio’s conversion experience in California was one of deep repentance, deliverance and inner healing. When he returned to Bolivia the year after his conversion he found some missionaries, but they thought he was false because he shared a promise he got from the Lord that “even the stadiums would be too small to hold the crowds.” After all, the missionaries had been there for decades and the results were few.
Julio was a man of prayer, fasting and obedience even at the age of 19 when the revival started. When we started the church in 1974 we would teach the young people and then in the evenings they would go to home groups to teach what they had learned. We would then reunite after the meetings and pray for the people in the meetings. This meant we prayed from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. every night. There was a lot of prayer.
Charisma: Obviously when revival broke out there were many conversions. Tell us about the numbers that came to the Lord.
Ruibal: It started in the stadium in La Paz, with thousands attending. After the meetings, the police would take Julio out of the stadium in an ambulance for his safety and he would go home to listen to the radio for three or more hours. He would hear about all the miracles still taking place in the stadium! Behind the scenes he would spend days in fasting and prayer.
One day the meeting was to start at 10 a.m., but the police called Julio to ask for his advice. The crowds had come around 5 a.m. to get seats in the stadium, but when they arrived they found the stadium was already filled. People had spent the night there, and the overflow crowd was now at 40,000. The police feared a riot. That day Julio preached to the crowd within the stadium and then from the wall of the stadium to the overflow. Miracles took place as people repented and came to Jesus.
From then on the stadiums were too small to hold the crowds. The meetings were held on mountainsides and in plazas. There was no PA system at that time large enough to reach the tens of thousands of people, so the people were encouraged to bring their transistor radios and turn them up as loud as possible.
Since the meetings were being broadcast, everyone could hear the preaching. The Assemblies of God sold 33,000 Bibles and New Testaments in only two weeks. In fact, the Bible Society of Argentina and other outlets had to send them their stock of Bibles as well.
Charisma: What would you say was the most astounding miracle that occurred during those years?
Ruibal: Julio used to come home and say [to me and my daughters], “Girls, you won’t believe what Jesus did today!” And he would tell us how the Lord had touched some need in someone’s life. However, the greatest, most outstanding miracle for Julio was always how the Lord can come into our lives and transform us.
Conversion is really the greatest miracle. And isn’t that what Jesus said? He told us: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20, NASB). That was truly Julio’s greatest joy—the miracle of a changed life, not only the physical miracles.
Charisma: Church planting is also a byproduct of revival. Do you have any idea how many new churches were started as a result of what happened in Bolivia?
Ruibal: Ekklesía, the church we started in La Paz, has more than 23,000 members today. Ekklesía now has daughter churches in every state in the country of Bolivia. There are also churches in the United States, Colombia and I think Argentina that spread from that church. They may not be organizationally connected to the church in La Paz, but they came out of that church. There were about 15 churches started in the city of La Paz alone as a result of that revival.
Charisma: You and your husband moved to Colombia, and then he was martyred in 1995. Persecution and martyrdom is also a byproduct of revival that we don't talk about much. How did your husband's death spark revival in Colombia?
Ruibal: After Julio was killed, the church in the city of Cali, Colombia, united in prayer, first in the coliseum with 20,000 people in March 1995 and then in the stadium with 40,000 in August and 45,000 in November. After we started praying together, several things took place:
• The churches started to grow and the gospel reached to another strata of society—businessmen, lawyers, teachers, politicians, news anchors, and others came to know the Lord. The general atmosphere of the city changed and there was a new hunger for the Lord in the general population.
• In those first nine months (March to November) six of the seven major drug lords in Cali fell and the last one turned himself in nine months later. The crime rate began to drop and we had a different city.
• One of the most historic events took place at Julio’s funeral. The president of the ministerial association asked that since Julio was so strong about unity, we should make a covenant of unity right then. All the pastors came forward, we embraced one another and made a simple covenant that is written profoundly in our hearts even today: “We are one and we will let nothing divide us.”
• Cali in general has experienced a new day. We have seen crime reduced, we have seen people come to the Lord in large numbers and we have a fine Christian councilman in office. However, we know the Lord has much more for us.
Charisma: What would you say to the American church today as we seek to pursue genuine revival?
Ruibal: We desperately need a revival today in the United States. I think most of us are in agreement with that. However, historical revivals start with repentance. We need to move beyond the generic needs of the church and become more personally involved in seeking His face. Once we see His holiness, we can truly repent.
We live in a day where much of the world has filtered into the church. Paul tells us that the last days are dangerous days, but it is not the same kind of danger as terrorism. The danger of the last days is man’s own heart, which is selfish, self-loving, self-gratifying, independent and disobedient. Man’s heart loves the Lord yet loves pleasure more. The last day people are a religious people (you can find them in church and Christian meetings!), but they deny the power to live the true Christian life.
The Word tells us that holiness is not an option. I am not referring to a list of dos and don’ts, but of the heart. When we come into His presence and see more of His holiness, we realize how unworthy and sinful we are and yet how great His love is. When we experience deep repentance, we can know His healing power—first to the inner man, then to the outer man.
We need to learn to seek Him for Himself and not what He can give us. Once we have our priorities right, once we really come to our knees in repentance, I do believe a revival will come and with signs and wonders that will follow. And the revival will affect all of society and heal our land as well.
True revival would change the direction of our nation. If we don’t have such a revival, I am afraid we are on our way to destruction. May God bless America and have mercy on her.
Taken from Charisma. July 2 2008. J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
5 years ago