I was honored to have known him and to have worked with him. He was a very simple person. He had little education and no real skills other than those needed to survive in the Jungle/Prairie region of Southeastern Colombia. He lived in relative poverty and suffered much in this life. He had a severe case of epilepsy that could not be controlled with medication. Yet from the very first day he heard the Gospel, he had given his whole heart and life to the Lord.

When other people found reasons to complain and to exit the church, he stepped up and soon was leading the congregation. He never complained about his medical handicap and he never worried about tomorrow. He accepted the good and the difficulties in this life with a firm confidence that God would provide and that someday he would be given a glorified body that did not have the many infirmities that he suffered from in this life. He was the sustaining leader of the small church in Altamira for many years. He involved himself in the ministry without regard for the obstacles he faced.

He preached, even when he knew his sermons would often be interrupted by a grand mal seizure. When he would collapse under the effects of his epilepsy, the church would gather around him and pray as any visitor would be shocked and surprised. But in most cases, after a period of time, he would recover and pick up where he left off. He did his best to provide for his family and for the Lord’s work at the same time. When there were no offerings to pay the bills at the church he would provide out of his own pocket. While a small man with an infirm body by this world’s standards, he was a strong in the faith and a gentle giant of a man in the church.

Day before yesterday, he went down to the nearby river for some errand. He went alone as he had done many times before. When he did not return shortly, his wife became concerned and went to look for him. He was no where to be seen. She alerted the town folk and they immediately began to search for him. He was loved in the community by both the church members and non-Christians alike.

This morning they found his body, which had been carried by the current a good ways down the river. Apparently he had a seizure and had fallen into the river and drowned. Church leaders from all over Colombia are heading to the dusty little town out in the sweltering heat of the tropical lowlands so they can console the family and the church. Today they will bury Brother Mario and pay their respects to a simply man who had every reason to complain but never did so. Because this area still has some guerrilla activity, I do not dare join them. But I have been honored to have known and worked with this dear brother. We will miss him and mourn for him. It will be hard to fill his shoes.

But our lives have been enriched by having known and worked with him. And today his dream has come true as he has that glorified body and is no longer attacked by Satan’s messenger. Goodbye Brother Mario. We will honor you by carrying on the work you dedicated your life to doing. We look forward to seeing you again in the Lord’s presence.