A Prodigal Sees His Reflection

By Teófilo Stegens   •   June 7, 2005

I lost my parents when I was a child because of a revolution in Paraguay. The war had left me and my grandmother, who raised me, in poverty. Because I had to work to survive, I had a lot of hate and anger and grew up a very rebellious child. At a young age I began to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and spend nights in the game room. Because I had no orientation from my mother or father, I had no direction. Though my grandmother tried, it was not enough.

When I was about 16, I became interested in girls. A Christian family invited me over, and they had a girl working as a housekeeper in their home. I liked her, so I got to know the Mura family, and they invited me to go to the Billy Graham Crusade in Asunción in 1962.

We went on a bus together to the stadium. I think because of God’s specific planning I somehow was separated from the girl at the stadium. An usher seated me, so I ended up sitting by myself. But I was very interested in what Brother Graham was saying.

The message that he brought made mention of the prodigal son, and I saw my reflection. When he asked us to come forward, I did, and there I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. A kind counselor spoke to me and took all of my information.

I went back to my town without any discipleship at first. Later, a pastor, Mosei Shuk, came to my house to visit me. About that time there was a lot of persecution against Christians. Pastor Shuk could see that I had great spiritual need, and he taught me about a verse that I have claimed ever since: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). Every Saturday Pastor Shuk taught me about Jesus, and he invited me to his church, where I started learning about God and about the Christian life.

I was 17 and still taking my first steps as a Christian when I was drafted to the military and served on the ship Ca–onero Humaita for seven months. I took my New Testament on the ship and read it whenever I had free time.

In 1965, when I was 20, a Baptist school in Asunción invited me to work as a caretaker for the building. I had never completed school, so I went through elementary school, secondary school and high school studies. Then I went on to study political science at the university.

At age 29 I married, and my wife, Miriam, and I started a family. Our first daughter, Dania, had health problems when she was born, and she died at age 8. When Dania was very sick and in the hospital, there were times of doubt, but later on my faith was much stronger for what God brought us through. She was of God, and God took her back. After Dania, we had three more children: Ruth, David and Ingrid.

Throughout my life I’ve had jobs in marketing, and for 10 years I was the chief of a bank’s marketing section. In 1995 I left the bank and worked as a marketing consultant, then in sales. Now I mainly work with various non-governmental organizations. I have been at the same Baptist church for 40 years. I started by sweeping the church, and now I am working with the church’s administration and its social program. We go to the interior of the country–the poor areas of Paraguay–and we take doctors and medical assistance with us.

When I found out that the son of Brother Graham was coming to Paraguay, I thought, “This is my opportunity to give back in some way what Billy Graham has done for my life and for my family’s life.” At the Festival of Hope With Franklin Graham, I was involved in security, and my family was involved in counseling.

I am what I am today because of what Christ has done in me. My philosophy in life has been to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all the rest of the things will be added to my life. What God can do is infinitely big. There is no limit to what God can do.

The one piece of advice I have to give the world is that the best business a man can do is to give his life to Christ.

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