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Benial (on the far right) at his church in Poza Verde

It is with great sorrow that MRI recognizes the passing of our dear brother Benial. Please pray for his family and community. His loss is great!

On a gloomy, rainy night in the sordid squalor of the Indian slum on the outskirts of Santa Cruz where he lived, an Ayoré chief’s son Benial called out to God on behalf of his cousin, a pregnant young woman, who writhing with pain, was struggling in labor for the third day. Her body was wracked with pain and fever, and death seemed to hover close in the shadows.

When Benial, in desperation, finally called out to God, God answered. Miles away, in a quiet “barrio” of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, husband and wife missionary Doctors Placido and Toni Mercado, arrived home after a strenuous day of travel. Toni felt urgently impressed to go once again to the Ayoré slum encampment. Though Placido thought going out on such a night was a little crazy, he respected his wife’s strong conviction and went with her. When they arrived so unexpectedly at the slum entrance, Benial, using earthy terms that would make a sailor blush, praised God in heaven for answering his cry. The Mercados took the young woman to the hospital and delivered a lifeless fetus. But the mother’s life was spared, and Benial came to believe in Jesus Christ: this Jesus of whom the Mercados had so often told him. Benial found that Jesus is the true God who answers prayer.

A radical change occurred in Benial. He stopped his destructive drinking and drug habits immediately. A hunger to know more about this prayer-answering God took him to the Ammi Bible Training Center in Brazil for five years. As he contemplated the greatness of God through Bible study, his language cleaned up, his arrogance faded, and a concern for his people grew. Back home after graduation, he began sharing the hope and strength received from God, who had pulled his own life out of a horrible pit. Drug abuse, prostitution and begging were normal life for the Ayoré living on the outskirts of Santa Cruz. Benial’s heart was heavy for his people. Benial and his wife Leoncia, the first couple to go and graduate, live in Poza Verde now and are in charge of the church there. They also participate in evangelistic trips to other villages where there are believers, but no trained leaders.

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