By Michael Ashcraft —
Julio Moraleja ran from the cops when he was a communist in post-WW2 fascist Spain, so running an illegal underground church when he converted to Christ was no big deal.
“I just ran really fast,” says Julio, who became a Christian during the repressive, anti-Protestant government of Francisco Franco. “We hid from the police. They never caught us.”
In Spain, Franco infamously stamped out evangelical churches, suppressed freedoms and tried to drive born-again Christians out of the country.
But the crackdowns on house churches, the raids and the secret police did not intimidate Julio, who was accustomed to subversive activities as a communist factory worker trying to overthrow the capitalist dictatorship.
Julio Moraleja Arias (Spaniards use both the last name of Dad and that of Mom), now 67, was raised in a family who believed in atheistic communism.
“For me, the world needed a social change that only could be carried out through the communist philosophy,” Julio says.
His father, who fought in the Spanish Civil War with the Communist Youth, was arrested and the usual death sentence routinely given to communists was commuted to life imprisonment. He served 11 years in jail before his release.
In spite of Franco’s crackdown on communists, Julio became a card-carrying communist. He got work in the Chrysler automobile factory and began to agitate to form a labor union and propagate communist ideals.
A friend, José Aguilar, who was Christian, began to explain to him another way to save the world: Jesus.
“Logically, I didn’t pay any attention to him because I didn’t believe in God, since communism is based on scientific atheism,” Julio says.
But he received a cassette tape from Julio, partly to humor the man.
The following Saturday he had nothing else to do, so he played it out of curiosity.
“As I listened to the tape, something began to move in me and I didn’t know what was happening,” Julio remembers. “The message pierced my soul. When I finished listening, I was broken.”
Just then there was a knock on the door, and his buddy came in and began to tell him about Christ once more. This time, Julio accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and was born again. It was September 1978.
To completely transform his thinking from atheist communist to Christian was no small matter.
“Those were days of great battles in my mind,” he muses.
He began attending services in a home in Fuenlabrada, in the Madrid metropolitan area. He felt such a strong presence of the Holy Spirit during worship one Sunday that Julio was smitten.
“I fell on my knees, broken, crying uncontrollably,” he recalls. “There was a presence of God so strong that the Holy Spirit came over me. When I got up from my knees, I was a new man. It was as if a huge weight had been taken off of my heart. It was an experience that marked my life.”
He switched his philosophy for saving the world. Instead of winning followers of communism, he began to win converts to Christ.
“I began to serve God with passion and began to preach to my neighbors,” he says. “Some families got saved, and the house church got filled up.”
The house church was an illegal meeting — as was the evangelism. Franco’s regime has zero tolerance for communists and Protestant Christians. The dictator was staunchly Catholic and was determined to impose his system of belief on everyone in the style of the Spanish Inquisition.
“Those were difficult times in Spain,” he says. “There was no religious freedom.”
When Franco died, things only got worse as his successors tried to shore up their regime.
Persecution of the church intensified, and Christians were deprived of their properties. Christians had to meet clandestinely.
As democracy slowly came to Spain, the iron hand of persecution lifted. Rights were granted to Spaniards, and church members could legally take to the streets to preach the gospel, Julio says.
In 1983, Julio was ordained pastor and launched a church in Granada.
“I saw the hand of God raising a glorious church,” he recalls. “From being a communist who wanted to change the world with my ideals and communist philosophy, I became a preacher of the Word of God. It was glorious to see how souls came to the feet of Christ, and lives were transformed.”
A woman from Almeria visited and, impacted by what she saw, offered her house to open a new work. Young and enthusiastic, Julio accepted and began pastoring two churches in distinct locations. His labors continued for years until he felt the call to the mission field and raised up a church in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and another in Quevedo.
Julio became gravely sick and returned to Spain to heal. He is now an evangelist. His son is pastor of the church in El Ejido, Almeria.
“For 41 years, it has been a privilege to be part of the work of God,” he says. “There have been moments of storm and moments of calm, but I never abandon the grace and the mercy of God.”
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