Home > For NAD Pastors > Articles >
Harold Altamirano Interview
Watch video interviews at the end of this article.

I was born in Nicaragua, Central America. My mom accepted Jesus when I was five years old. Then Communism came into the country and my family went through hell, and that's how I ended up leaving Nicaragua and moving to Miami when I was 10 years old. However, my parents didn't come with me. They could only send my younger sister and I. We lived with my oldest sister, but she had to work really hard to bring food to the table, so we pretty much grew up on our own.
I was invited to a party and for the first time tried alcohol—when I was just 13 years old. My dad had been an alcoholic most of his life, so it didn’t take much to hook me. I literally became a teen alcoholic.
A few years later, I met and married a beautiful woman. She knew that I drank, but she didn't know how much until after we got married. Five years into our marriage, it all exploded. I have very little recollection of it—I had been drinking for over seven days. All I remember was coming back to reality, sitting on the bed, and seeing our bedroom in a total mess. I stumbled around the house—it had been destroyed. My knuckles were bleeding. I called for my wife, but there was no response. She had left me—some of her stuff was missing. The person I loved the most was gone. I felt so defeated.
I remember a strong presence of Satan there. He pointed me to the drawer a gun and put it to my head. I honestly thought of ending my life,  but I had what, I tell people, an E. G. White moment. I had some sort of vision, a memory that came back to me from my early childhood. God took me back to a Sabbath school room, and a teenager—a favorite teacher, who told me stories of how Jesus came to save us. At that moment I felt hope, so I put the gun down.
Time went by and I was able to work things out with my wife. She had talked to my sister, and learned that I had grown up as a Christian. She told me, “If you really want to work things out, you need to come to church with me.” She had grown up in an atheistic home, yet here she was initiating our contact with the church. I agreed to go to church with her. I hated the idea but I said “yes, honey, whatever you say.” She made me go every Saturday. I hated church. The sermons were boring, but I was doing my duty.

Some months later, I got in trouble again. I got extremely drunk and ended up in jail. While in that jail cell, God brought to my memory a bit of a sermon I had heard. The pastor had said, “Hey, if you really want God to change your life, you've got to do three things; you've got to go to church, read the Bible, and pray. If you do, God will change your life.” So I got on my knees in that jail cell and said, “God, I don't even know if You're real or not. If You are, if You're listening to this, change me. I'm going to do the three things that the pastor says. I'm going to test You.”
Every single day I would read one text in the Bible, I would pray that same prayer, and I kept going to church. Six months later I gave my heart to Jesus. My wife and I were baptized together. God worked on our marriage and things were awesome at home after our conversion.
We started the process of getting to know what church life was all about—getting involved, and learning so much. I got involved in many different ministries including Pathfinders and Youth Ministries and people affirmed my abilities. I loved reading the Bible and growing in Christ, but I never, ever thought I wanted to be a pastor. I had my own exporting business in Miami. I exported optical frames and other things to different countries. On top of that, I was going to school studying criminal justice. I really wanted to work for the FBI—that was my dream.
After church, about one year later, a lady waited for me outside. She approached me, grabbed me by my shoulders and said, “You are running from God, like Moses. You need to be a pastor.” I thought to myself, “Me? a new convert?” This lady is crazy. Her words stayed in the back of my mind—they became like a burden. They would wake me up at night and while driving, her words would echo in my mind.
I told my wife about it, “Hey, listen. Something really weird happened to me, and it hasn't left my mind so I want to talk to you about it. I think that I might want to be a pastor.” She laughed at me, and said “What?” We started talking about it on and off, but it seemed like an impossibility. I had a career in my mind already—working hard toward that. I had a business and things were going good. We had a house in Miami—we were at that place in our lives. “Besides” I thought, “I don't think God can use a broken person like me.”
I decided to call my brother, who is a pastor for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Central America, and ask for his advice. I said, “Hey, Juan, I really need to talk to you about something.” I told him my experience with the lady at church, and I said, “I think I want to be a pastor.” He listened but then he changed the conversation. He ignored what I had told him. It was weird to me.
The burden of this calling would not leave me. I remember studying the Bible—Jeremiah 1, where God continued to speak to me about His calling in my life. I decided to call my brother again. I said, “Juan, I don't know what happened last time, but I have nobody else to talk to about this. I trust that you can guide me. I think I want to be a pastor.” He said, “I'm so glad you called me back, because the first time, I ignored you on purpose. I wanted to see if, God was really calling you, and I've been praying for you all of this time. I believe that God is calling you!” Then he started, mentioning various experiences of people in the Bible, and what being called by God meant. Finally, he said, “Hey, how about if we start praying. We're going to involve different people, and we're going to ask God for specific signs to see if in reality God is calling you.”
So, we started a season of prayer, asking God for specific signs. One specific sign—that was a big deal for my brother—was to see fruits come from my ministry in church. If God was calling me, He would give me the gifts needed to reach people for Him. I was really shy about this—I was still so new in the church.
My church decided to start small groups. I remember asking “what is a small group.” The pastor explained, and I said, “I want to start a couple of small groups.” In less than a month I had two small groups. I was able to lead Bible studies despite being a babe in the Bible myself. Two families were baptized several months later. That fulfilled one of the signs.
My youth pastor told me that if my wife was not good with my decision to pastor, then maybe this was not what God wanted me to do. Other people told me the same thing. So I prayed for her, and we prayed together many long nights. My wife had given her life completely over to Jesus—she was sold out for Him. She wasn't sure at first, about my call to pastor. If we are going to serve God, she didn't want us to fail Him. She took it very seriously. I remember the day she felt convicted in her heart that God was calling both of us to ministry. That for me was the biggest affirmation! She felt convicted in her heart that we needed to go and study for the ministry.
Another sign we prayed about, was my immigration papers. I was not a legal U.S. citizen. For 15 years I had paid lawyers to help me gain legal status. My wife was a U.S. citizen, and my case was supposed to be super simple, but they kept telling me that my file was missing. I remember getting down on my knees, and saying, “God, if You're really calling me, I need You to help me with this. If You don't do anything about this I will not be able to be a pastor.” I gave Him a date, just a random date in my head of March 20th.
On a Friday, March 19, I stood in front of an immigration official, and he stamped my passport. My file had been found! For me, that was such a big deal! I had no doubt in my mind that God was behind what I was feeling called to do.
After that I sat down with my youth pastor and I told him I believed God wanted me to be a pastor. He connected me with Southern Adventist University, and some months later I left everything. Sold the business and the house, and started on my journey as a theology student.
While studying, I was able to get involved with a very small church in the area. I had opportunities to preach, evangelize, give Bible studies, and to lead out in board meetings. I believe God gave me this opportunity to polish my pastoral abilities. Praise God, sometime later the Oregon Conference gave me an opportunity to serve as a pastor.
One time I was reading Romans 15:20, where Paul says that he had been called to preach the name of Christ where He was not known—that has become my life text. I know my calling is to preach the gospel to people that don't know Jesus. That is my specific calling.
Harold Altamirano - Short Interview

Harold Altamirano - Full Interview