Gustavo Renovalez is a talented musician, singer, and songwriter from Argentina. He is an American missionary and ministers to the Hispanic population around Louisville, Kentucky. Together with wife Iby, he leads the worship portion of the Hispanic services for one of the largest churches in the country.
Gustavo told me how he first knew he had musical talent, and was to use that talent to serve God. “When I was six years old my grandpa brought me to the children’s Sunday school class. I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I’ve always remembered that moment. I knew that day the Lord had something for me in music. “
The thirty-seven year old father of two realized his God-given gifts a few years later. “At the age of twelve, I discovered I enjoyed music. When I heard a song on the radio, I could analyze the structure of the music; the arrangement of the instruments and vocals even though I couldn’t read a note of music yet. Mom bought me a guitar when I was fifteen because I talked about music constantly, and begged for an instrument. I seemed to learn fast because my ear taught me. The ear is the most important instrument. When you have a good ear you will never go wrong with music.”
“I played the guitar in my room all the time. I played along with bands on the radio or on television. I experimented with notes and chords. I recorded music videos I watched on television, and studied them while they played in slow motion. I had a friend who had a book of chords, and I devoured it. I formed a band in high school with friends who shared my interest in music. I wrote the songs for the band. We practiced alone in a garage for one year and then played locally. People liked our sound and eventually we became successful in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, we mostly performed in bars seating up to two hundred people.”
An incident during one of the bar concerts was a defining moment in Gustavo’s life. “About this time my mother was praying for me. She knew God had a plan for me. When I was twenty three, there was a power outage in the middle of our performance. Without electricity, we could not play our music. I remember hearing the voice of God in my heart saying ‘you are mine.’ It’s like everyone around you is screaming and you can hear one voice coming to you. He then asked in my heart, ‘what are you doing.’ I believe the power blackout was God’s way of getting my attention. At this same moment, I recalled when my grandpa took me to the Sunday school class and I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” The crowd in the bar was yelling and complaining about the power outage. I felt powerless—I felt I had nothing to offer the crowd. The Lord seemed to tell me ‘everything you have belongs to me; you have nothing if I don’t give you the talent.’ Just as the lack of electricity kept me from playing for the boisterous crowd, God showed me I could not play without his Holy Spirit.” Gustavo knelt behind his bulky guitar amplifier and offered himself and his music to God.
Gustavo began to change his life the next day. “I quit the band. I didn’t play in bars anymore. The next day was Sunday and I made a public commitment to Christ. I had been going to church occasionally, but I never accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I starting playing in the church and writing music for Christ. For seven years I performed in our church. I became the worship leader and made a living working in construction, selling instruments in a music store, and other odd jobs. I met my wife Iby in the church. She was a singer in our choir. Iby has a beautiful voice. What captivated me was how she used her voice—how she ministered to the people through her voice. We started as friends singing in the church and after two years we married.”
Gustavo was 28 when he married Iby. For seven years after kneeling behind his amplifier in a darkened bar, there were no dramatic developments in Gustavo’s musical career. “I believe this was part of my desert experience. Through a friend, I started to work in the studio of an Argentinean Christian music studio as a guitar session player, background vocalist, and arranger. I met a lot of people in the Argentina Christian music industry—singers, musicians, and record producers. I participated in six CD’s by six different Argentinean Christian artists. I toured with many of these artists for three years. It was fun, but financially difficult.”
One of Gustavo’s friends knew someone who attended the Hispanic services at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. This person said the church was searching for a Hispanic worship leader, someone like Gustavo. An artist Gustavo had performed with gave him a $477 plane ticket to Ft. Lauderdale (Gustavo says he will never forget the amount). After a 24 hour bus ride to Louisville, Gustavo met with the leaders of the Hispanic ministry at Southeast, and they hired Gustavo in July 2002 as the Hispanic worship leader.
Gustavo and Iby have a six year old son and two year old daughter. Emiliano is a healthy boy but Aldana has cystic fibrosis. This terrible disease is congenital and attacks the respiratory and digestive systems. It clogs the lungs with thick mucus and impedes the normal digestive process. If a person with cystic fibrosis gets any kind of respiratory infection, it can quickly turn into something very dangerous. Gustavo and Iby give Aldana daily respiratory treatments and medications. They must firmly clap her on the back to loosen the thick mucus. The average life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, is about 36 years, although many are now living into their 40's and 50's.
You might wonder how Gustavo’s faith is affected by Aldana’s condition. “I was devastated when I found out what was wrong. Before that day, I felt happy and safe with my family. Something like this changes everything. I now feel even more dependent on God. This disease makes me feel danger is around my family constantly. I feel that Aldana not only has cystic fibrosis; our whole family has the disease.”
“At first I wept and asked God why He allowed this to happen. But I found help in the Bible. The Lord is walking with us even when we are suffering. He teaches us how to carry our cross. I live every day as though my child is a normal child. My job is to give her treatments, protect her, pray for her, and love her. I never stop thinking God will heal her one day.”
Gustavo recorded his first solo CD in a Christian music studio located in a small church outside Louisville. The studio is operated by a multiple Grammy award winning songwriter and producer. Gustavo says, “My songs are born from experiences I have with God. I want to share with people what God is doing with me; what He is teaching me. One of the songs I’ve written is based on Psalm 15. This Psalm talks about the pure heart of a man who wants to come to the Holy Place and have an encounter with God. The song tells how we must prepare ourselves in order to come to God’s Holy Place. I hope people can walk closer with God through my music.” The independently produced CD has not yet been picked up by any recording companies, but we continue to pray that “Santo Lugar (The Holy Place)” will somehow find its way to an international audience.
I met Gustavo through some materials I saw on a bulletin board while working as a volunteer at my church’s food pantry ministry. There was a picture of Gustavo and his family, and an article describing Aldana’s sickness, and the family’s financial distress. They survive on a missionary’s salary, and have many expenses due to Aldana’s condition. I felt an urgent tug by the Holy Spirit to help the family, and we started a relationship. Then, through an interesting sequence of events, we began to write songs together. Two of our songs can be found at www.storyofmylife.com; “Seven Died Today” and “Even Now.” Look for them under "Stories by our Users." The first song we wrote together, “Lead Me to Your Light,” which won the Best Music from a Documentary award at the 2007 Garden State Film Festival, can be downloaded at www.crossandflagproductions.com.
Gustavo prays his songs will change lives and heal sad hearts. He knows firsthand how God heals a broken heart. If you would like to help Gustavo with his ministry, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to Team Expansion, the missionary foundation that brought Gustavo to the U.S., through the donation page at www.crossandflagproductions.com. Just click on the “Make a Donation” link on the homepage, and select Team Expansion on the “Direction” menu. Alternatively, consider purchasing his CD through Gustavo’s website at www.gustavorenovalez.com.
We are collaborating on an English project that will include the songs above, and several others we are working on now. Watch the websites for news about the release of Gustavo’s next CD, “Even Now.” Soon, I’ll share with you the story of how Gustavo and I wrote our first song.