“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord (Isa. 43:10). In this chapter of the Bible, we see the Almighty God looking for support, solidarity, and help to execute His mission through His team on Planet Earth. Who are the members of His team? Who are those He calls His friends? Who are those included in the fine work to testify on His behalf? “You are my witnesses,” repeats the Lord for the second and third times in verse 12 and in chapter 44:8. He is not looking for lawyers, but witnesses. He is not looking for judges, but witnesses. He is relying on sinners who have been saved by His grace, who already have experienced His love, favor, and mercy, so He can proclaim to others His everlasting plan of salvation through them. Yes, He is looking for witnesses. He is looking for you and me.
In one of my last visits to El Salvador, I had the privilege of meeting a young man named Leonel Arteaga. Leonel was a faithful Seventh-day Adventist employee in the San Salvador City Hall. While working there as a young professional, he was informed that, eight years earlier, the local conference Youth Ministries Department had asked the city of San Salvador for permission to erect and unveil a monument of the Ten Commandments in the Central Square. But the request was tabled and forgotten by the authorities. Leonel, who was a well-respected employee in his office and a good witness for the Lord Jesus, decided to request a personal interview with the mayor of the city, who graciously received him in the highest office of that government building. After introducing the main reason for his interview, Leonel gave the mayor a copy of the original request and presented the project on behalf of the Adventist youth in El Salvador. To make a long story short, when I was youth ministries director of the Inter-American Division, I had the privilege of unveiling an impressive monument of the Law of God, which had been erected 10 days prior to the arrival and public homily of Pope John Paul II in the same Central Square of that capital city. Since then, millions have received the impact of Leonel’s leadership by reading the Ten Commandments posted there—something Leonel never imagined!
I interviewed Leonel Arteaga during the Second Pathfinder Camporee of the El Salvador Union Conference in the city of San Miguel, where I was invited to serve as guest speaker and chaplain in the same territory where I served as the director of youth ministries many years ago.
As we talked about Leonel’s life and ministry, I was delighted to learn that he served as youth evangelist, an elder, accepted the call to be a pastor, went to the Central American Adventist University in Costa Rica to pursue his theology studies, married, became a pastor, was ordained to the gospel ministry, and now serves as president of the Central El Salvador Conference, which is growing at a strong pace. In my files, I now keep a copy of the permission granted by the authorities of the City Council, duly signed and sealed, that Leonel gave to me and to the leaders of the original El Salvador Conference, which has since been re-structured into five conferences with a strong Union Conference of a fast-growing church—presently with more than 200,000 members! In the photo above, Leonel is shown at left with some of the conference youth ministries directors—Pastor Luis Aguillon (third from left), director of the event, followed by the chaplain, and Pastor Abel Pacheco (right), president of the Union. He is portrayed during the impressive Investiture Service of more than 3,700 Pathfinders and Master Guides, where more than 4,000 individuals completed the Prayer Honor in that historic event celebrated from April 1-5, 2015, in San Miguel City. God has preserved Leonel’s testimony in a marvelous way, even to the point that the monument of the Law of God was declared and listed as part of the National Heritage of El Salvador.
Leonel’s witness reminds me of an inspired quotation that I joyfully ponder with our fellow ministers, elders, deacons, and deaconesses around the world: “In the closing scenes of this earth’s history many . . . children and youth will astonish people by their witness to the truth which will be borne in simplicity, yet with spirit and power.”1
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 166.
Alfredo Garcia-Marenko has served as elder, pastor, administrator, departmental director, and editor, and is an international speaker with wide experience in youth leadership and family life. He is editorial assistant for the Elder’s Digest magazine in the General Conference Ministerial Association. Alfredo was trained as an associate trainer for the Million Leaders Mandate of John C. Maxwell and EQUIP®.