‘The Emptiness Was Gone’

By Bob Paulson   •   May 27, 2009

Like many of their neighbors in the small Uruguayan town of Punta de Diablo, Willian and Claudia had little interest in church or God. Uruguay tends to be an easy-going place, relatively free from the natural disasters and conflicts that plague many other countries. Many Uruguayans simply don’t see the need for God.

But at times Willian and Claudia sensed that there must be something more to life. “Financially, we had no problems,” Willian says. “But we always lacked something. We felt an emptiness in our hearts.”

The feeling was not enough to spur them to church, however, even though in the past Acosta had invited them to come. Claudia worried what people might think if she went to church. “I was very hard,” she says.

But now, as Willian worked on Acosta’s water pump, the pastor issued a different invitation. He asked if Willian and Claudia would come to his home to watch a television program. The program was part of BGEA’s World Evangelism Through Television project, My Hope. Willian found himself agreeing to go. But when he told Claudia about the invitation, she declined, saying she would stay home and watch her favorite soap opera.

So Willian went without her. As he sat in Acosta’s home, listening to the testimonies and then to the preaching of Franklin Graham, he realized that he needed to confess his sin and put his faith in Jesus Christ. After the program, he prayed with Acosta.

Willian didn’t know how to explain to Claudia what he had felt when he saw the programs, because of her lack of interest. The next day she was going to visit Willian’s mother in a different town. And when she arrived, she found that Willian’s aunt had invited his mother to watch the next night’s My Hope program. Claudia could either come along or sit at her mother-in-law’s home by herself. She sighed. It won’t hurt me to watch this half-hour program, she thought.

As she heard the testimonies in the program, she began to soften. By the time the broadcast ended, she was ready to ask Christ to forgive her sins, like her husband had done the night before. She called Willian to tell him the news.

“I was happy,” Willian says. “I really felt in my heart that I needed to go to church, and I didn’t know how I would do that without her. We talked about it and agreed that we would go to church the following Sunday.”

Claudia had no hesitation; she was a different person now. “We felt like we wanted to get together with people who were feeling the same thing we were feeling,” she says.

The couple started going to Bible studies. “During the Bible studies,” Claudia says, “we also started praying together. And then the Lord sent a missionary, a woman from Montevideo, who taught us about other things we could implement at church. For instance, we started meetings for married couples as well as all-night prayer meetings.”

Claudia began to serve on the praise and worship team. Willian began counseling others in the couples’ meetings.

Acosta watched with joy as Willian and Claudia grew in their faith. “I really thank the Lord for this couple,” Acosta says. “I’ve found in them people to whom I can transfer my knowledge and with whom I am able to work. In a year and a half, they have grown a great deal.”

This past March, Willian and Claudia attended the Festival of Hope With Franklin Graham in Montevideo, along with Acosta, members of their church in Punta de Diablo and members of another church Acosta serves in nearby Castillos.

Sitting in the stands at Charrua Stadium, the couple reflected on how God changed them when they committed their lives to Christ. Willian recalled the emptiness they had felt in their hearts. “In a single moment, the emptiness was gone,” he said.

During the Festival, they watched as thousands responded to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ. “When I see people coming to the Lord, I feel a great joy,” Claudia said, “because we were just like them. And now we know freedom. When we see so many people coming to the Lord, we feel thrilled that they are also going to know what we know!”

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