“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” – Ephesians 1:1
“In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:27
In the early 1970s, a young man attended a large gathering hosted by the famed and controversial healing evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman. This young man had been invited to the event by a friend and was a pre-med student at Pasadena City College. He had just recently moved to the United States from Bolivia to receive his education. That night, this young man received Jesus Christ as his Savior, forever changing the fate of his home country of Bolivia. This young man’s name was Julio Cesar Ruibal, later dubbed the “Apostle of the Andes” by the press.
Ruibal’s conversion experience was marked by deep repentance, deliverance, and inner healing. He would lie on the floor in his living room and say, “Jesus I have found You; I have found everything.”
A month after giving his life to Christ, Ruibal went back to attend another Kuhlman event. The doors were locked at the Shrine Auditorium because the building was already filled with 7,000 hungry attendees, which was all the fire code permitted. Surrounded by several thousand other people who were also locked out of the building, Ruibal found a folding chair, stood up on it, and began to tell the large crowd in broken English about his marvelous conversion experience in the previous month. As Ruibal preached, God gave him the gift of healing! At the same time that many indoors were being healed by Kuhlman’s ministry, many outdoors were being healed by the new ministry of the teenager, Ruibal.
Within the next year, Ruibal returned to his home town of La Paz, Bolivia, and began to host a small Bible study and preach the gospel with some friends. God made a promise to Ruibal that even the stadiums would be too small to hold the crowds. This seemed impossible at the time. The largest evangelical church in the city contained only 90 people and missionaries from many different denominations had worked for decades in La Paz with little fruit. Ruibal took a different approach.
Ruibal, only 19-years-old, was a man of fasting, prayer, and obedience. He taught others to do the same. His small group would gather every night to pray from 10 PM until 2:30 or 3 AM. More and more people got saved until suddenly 5,000 had been saved!
Before he knew it, Ruibal found himself sitting before Bolivia’s president, Hugo Bánzer Suárez, and his wife. This meeting happened because the Lord had used Ruibal to heal a member of the president’s cabinet who had been paralyzed. After praying together, President Suárez gave Ruibal an open door to evangelize the entire country. He gave him access to stadiums across the nation and required the mayors of cities to declare a holiday when Ruibal was in town preaching the gospel. The president even allowed Ruibal to use his own personal jet.
Ruibal and his team started with the stadium in the capital city of La Paz. Thousands attended. Because of the thronging crowds, the police would escort Ruibal out of the stadium in an ambulance after he had preached. Ruibal would return to his home and listen to the radio for hours as the radio stations reported all of the miracles taking place in the stadium even after he left! Ruibal’s wife later stated that he would spend days fasting and praying behind the scenes.
Soon God fulfilled His promise to the young evangelist. One morning, when a gathering was supposed to begin at 10 AM, the police called Ruibal at 5 AM to let him know that the stadium was already full and there was an overflow crowd of 40,000! The crowd had spent the night at the stadium! Ruibal first preached to the crowd in the stadium and then preached from the stadium wall to the overflow crowd gathered outside. The stadiums were too small to hold the crowds. Instead, they gathered on mountainsides and in plazas. Because there was no sound system that could reach such crowds, the people were encouraged to bring transistor radios and tune-in to the radio stations that were broadcasting the preaching.
Over the next few years, hundreds of thousands came to Christ. Events were marked by the power of God as He accompanied the preaching with signs, wonders, and miracles too numerous to count.
God soon called Ruibal to Columbia.