He ran from death squads, sought help from the occult

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta | Guatemala - Ismael Rodas
Ismael Rodas (right) with Tino, a man he evangelized and got free from 40 years of alcoholism. He now attends the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta Church in Zone 1 of Guatemala City

By Michael Ashcraft —

With one wrong turn, Carlos Rodas found himself wrenched between university protesters and gun-wielding police forces of the most repressive regime in the Americas at the time, that of Guatemalan president Romeo Garcia.

Police riddled his car with bullets and arrested him. The next day, Carlos was dead, after having been accused of being a communist subversive. He had $3,000 in his pocket at the time of his arrest, but now the money was gone.

Carlos’ brother, Ismael, was infuriated. Both he and Carlos had run a thriving bakery business and steered clear of politics.

Revenge with a machine gun

“In the cemetery, I expressed my rage and my pain to my other brother,” Ismael says. “I wanted to know who the killers were and kill them and myself. I wanted to buy a machine guy. In those days you could still buy a machine gun. I wanted to waylay the chief of police because I knew where he passed every afternoon. I knew they would kill me, but that’s what I wanted to do.”

But Ismael worried about his wife and children, so he never executed his desperate plan.

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta Zona 1 Guatemala | Ismael Rodas
Ismael Rodas (right) liked to motorcycle around the countryside as a successful young businessman.

Then the phone calls started coming in. It was always a stranger’s voice threatening him roughly. He had to leave the country within one month or he would be taken by a death squad. Suddenly severe anxiety mixed in with his anger and grief.

Ismael had studied with the Rosacrucian esoteric society and had also availed himself of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in this new crisis, these networks offering various mental and psychological tools were absolutely useless.

Ismael consulted experts in the occultic arts. A palm reader told him, without knowing his circumstances, that he was condemned to death. A “doctor” of yoga inquired supernaturally on his behalf but could offer no solution.

A consultation with yoga

“You’re problem is very serious. If I place you in the North, there’s no room for you. If I place you in the South, there’s no room for you. Neither is there a place for you in the East or West,” the yoga man said, referring to metaphysical concepts. “You should leave the country, but it’s going to be difficult.”

Guatemala Alcoholics Anonymous
Ismael when he attended AA. Now he attends church.

But Ismael, was wary about leaving the country, even though he had U.S. residency. He worried that the military might ambush him en route.

The days passed and a death squad actually showed up at his home, but he wasn’t there. They ransacked the house. Security forces broke into his bakery, but fortunately Ismael had left. They tied up all the bakers and stole his money, Ismael recounts.

Seeking solace, Ismael turned to a warlock named Saoquin in the Florida neighborhood of Mixco, a city contiguous to the capital.

“He was Satan himself,” Ismael says.

When he entered the warlock’s cove he saw statues of Catholic saints, and Saoquin bragged about nuns and priests who prayed with him regularly, Ismael says.

A devilish plot

As he showed Ismael around, he pointed out “four mysteries,” ornate statues of the Virgin Mary and other prominent figures. “Which do you like?” he asked, treating him like an old friend.

While desperate for a solution, Ismael was skeptical of charades and shenanigans. None of the “mysteries” appealed to him, but to be polite, he picked one.

“It’s yours,” Saoquin said, “because you’re my successor.”

Door Church Guatemla City Zone 1
Ismael with his wife Elisa

Ismael almost laughed. He wanted only rescue from the death threats, not to become a warlock himself, but the devil was campaigning to capture his soul permanently.

“You’re in my hands now,” Saoquin said. “Nothing is going to happen to you. Before they kill you, they’re going to have to kill me.”

Saoquin rinsed his mouth twice with special water and then took a sip. He put his mouth on Ismael’s wrist and sucked. When he backed away, he spat in his hand. Ismael saw blood in his mouth and a bunch of needles. Ismael didn’t know if it was some sleight of hand or a demonic miracle.

It was freaky enough for a horror film, but Ismael was beyond being scared. What still frightened him the most were the death squads.

They found witchcraft candles

For a month, Ismael continued to consult Saoquin. One day, he drove him to Zacapa, east of the capital. As they neared a bridge, the warlock suddenly asked: “What happens with you that you get these heat flashes so strongly?”

Ismael hadn’t mentioned heat flashes to Saoquin before.

Saoquin pulled them both over, and they walked some 30 yards from the main road to a cove-like place. There, they found a bunch of thick candles used to practice witchcraft. “This is where they are ‘candling’ you,” Saoquin pronounced.

Ismael with his son Carlos, named after his beloved brother, with Carlos' family.
Ismael with his son Carlos, named after his beloved brother, with Carlos’ family.

It was night, and when they returned to the car, Ismael saw a dark shadow in the form of a horse with its head inside his window.

“Do you see that?” Saoquin asked him. “That’s the witch who’s cursing you.”

Saoquin told him to close his eyes, but Ismael didn’t care what might happen and kept them open. Saoquin began to cuss out the horse, who turned and slowly walked away, disappearing from view.

A woman who talked with God

Back at his bakery, a friend told him about a poor Christian woman, Naty, who “talked to God” and lived in a dilapidated hut. Ismael decided to go see her.

When she opened the door, a sudden wind knocked her down. “These souls are mine,” a voice said.

She stood up and was knocked down a second time by the wind. “No,” she said. “They’ve come seeking God.”

She stood up and went out to Ismael and his friend. They got in the car, and she prayed for him.

“I see many demons with rifles,” she said. “They want to kill you.”

The following Sunday, Ismael attended the Prince of Peace Church in the capital. The service was underway when he got there, and as soon as he stepped into the sanctuary, someone raised his voice to deliver a prophecy.

He described Ismael’s life perfectly, although he didn’t know to whom he was speaking. He promised that God has a purpose for the trials and prophesied deliverance from the threats.

Meanwhile, Ismael began to feel a “delicious” sensation bathing him from head to toe unlike anything he’d ever felt before. “I began to cry and to cry and to cry,” he said.

After months seeking “spiritual” solutions, Ismael had stumbled upon the Truth, and he was born again.

“All these things happened to me because of the hardness of my heart,” he says. “Some people have to be hit over the head with lumber to understand. That was my condition. God made me born again right there by His mercy, by His love, because I was lost. God changed me. As soon as I set foot in that church, I was transformed.”

Gone was the lust for revenge, as was the fear of the death squads.

An explosion of soul-winning

Ismael, who today is 75 years old, has served in many churches, evangelizing souls, teaching against the false doctrines of cults.

In the first three months following his salvation, 73 people got saved after Ismael witnessed to them!

Ismael married and had a child. He continued to work in his bakery, which curiously was located on “Prostitute Row.” He untiringly evangelized prostitutes, children of prostitutes, thieves, drug addicts, gang-bangers and drunks.

There are hundreds of people who see him on the streets and thank him for bringing them to the gospel. Ismael jokes with them, as he always does. “I’m glad you’ve seen me,” he quips. Also: “I’m proud of how humble I am.”

Last year, his wife, Elisa, passed on to be with Jesus, and Ismael has all kinds of aches and pains, the consequences of years of wild living before he knew Christ. But he always smiles, jokes and teaches people about Jesus.

“I’ve enjoyed the Christian life,” he says.


If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here


  1. God truly does work in mysterious ways. So glad Ismael found the church and entered it when he did. 🙂

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