WRITTEN BY BARRY CHASE
Nahuel Emmanuel Blanco grew up in the north of Argentina, in a city called Corrientes. He remembers his mother as loving and his father as intelligent, charming, and charismatic. But his father was also violent towards him and his mother. Emmanuel did not wish to go into specifics about that situation, but he told me that it caused him to become a "dark boy." He had been raised Catholic, and so he believed in God. But he also was becoming more and more angry and distrustful of others. He says he pretended to trust others around him, but inside he was convinced otherwise, that ultimately, people could not be trusted. When Emmanuel was 7 or 8, his parents divorced, which was not pretty. There was a lot of violence during that process.
At age 13 or 14, Emmanuel got more involved in church. He started going after he met Lucia, his future wife. He says she was so beautiful that he didn't think she would even talk to him. But she did! (He also added that she tricked him). One day, she asked him if he wanted to hang out. He couldn't believe she was talking to him! He gladly accepted, and she told him she would go to a friend's house and hang out sometimes. He joked with me that he had taken a couple of beers and snacks, not knowing she had invited him to a bible study! He had always believed he could get to know God better through study. He didn't trust the church. But through the bible study, he began to go to the church that Lucia was attending. Soon after, they started a relationship. They were together for about five months, and then Lucia's family moved to Buenos Aires. They remained close even though they were apart.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel's mother had begun seeing another man, and Emmanuel could not understand this because although he was not violent, he was a liar. This new man in his mother's life was much like his father! He asked her how she could be with another man like him. And worse yet, she had become pregnant by him! Emmanuel became frustrated with her and God, and his anger continued growing. When the time was near for his mother to give birth, the doctors told her that the baby would have serious health problems and require several surgeries and that she would be at risk. They advised that the pregnancy should be terminated and the baby shouldn't be carried to term. But she decided to have the baby despite the doctors' recommendation. Emmanuel began to pray like never before that God would heal his baby sister. He told me that as he was praying, he saw something like a vision in his mind. He said it was like having a memory of something you don't remember happening. But it was vivid.
Emmanuel began to pray like never before that God would heal his baby sister!
He saw a little girl sitting at a table with a cake on it. She was wearing a red dress. She had hair like his mother and him. He knew it was his sister celebrating her birthday. He was so happy because he understood it as God telling him his baby sister would be alright. When Emmanuel was 16 years old, five days after his little sister was born, she died. He was devastated and did not understand how this could happen! God had shown him his little sister, and she was perfectly fine. But in her short five days of life, she had known only pain and suffering. Emmanuel was confused and allowed that to feed his hatred and anger even more. He was full of fury toward the doctors, his mother, and God, and he walked away from the church and God.
At age 19, after graduating from school, Emmanuel left home for the capital, Buenos Aires, to reunite with Lucia. A year later, he and Lucia finally married. But they were both just kids, and fights and arguments were not long in coming. They soon had a daughter, Selene. He admits he was still that angry little boy, always believing that people would disappoint or trick him and pretending to trust them. His biggest disappointment was himself because he had spent his entire adolescence swearing not to grow up to be like his father, only to realize that he was just like him. Emmanuel told me that he did become violent with Lucia, as his father had with his mother. But she stood by him, stayed with him, and believed their love could fix everything. Emmanuel realized he had two competing forces inside him. A battle raged inside him, vying for supremacy: hatred and fear vs. love and trust. He knew whichever one he fed would grow stronger. He wanted to commit to feeding the good, and with Lucia's unconditional love, he knew he could become a better man for her.
A battle raged inside him, vying for supremacy: hatred and fear vs. love and trust!
Lucia loved going to church and enjoyed the worship. But at this point, Emmanuel had stopped going, and she eventually stopped too. He started to identify himself more as agnostic than anything else. Emmanuel tells me that he fed the hate towards the church, still not yet learning the lesson. He no longer believed in any religion.
Lucia loved doing parties and making a big deal out of birthdays. Emmanuel's schedule often caused him to work late. On Selene's fourth birthday, he showed up just when it was the moment for them to sing and to blow out the candles on her birthday cake. Emmanuel recalls coming in and seeing Selene seated at the table in a red dress. He couldn't believe it! It was precisely what he had seen in the vision when he was 16! It was his daughter, not his sister that he had seen back in his vision! Why would God show him his future daughter when he was praying for his sister? He couldn't understand it, but he accepted it. At that moment, he realised with absolute certainty that God was real, but he didn't identify with any particular religion. About three years later, Emmanuel and Lucia also had a little boy, Octavio, who was Lucia's weakness. Everything seemed to be going well. And God, with Lucia's help, could take an angry, immature child and transform him into a devoted husband and father. At age 27, with Lucia's support, Emmanuel fulfilled his dream of becoming a police officer, which he says did not help to improve his view of humanity. But he loved his job despite that, and it made him feel good that he could serve his city and his country. He also wanted to give something back to Lucia, who had given him so much. He began paying for Lucia's college education so that she could fulfill her dreams.
At that moment, he realised with absolute certainty that God was real!
In 2020, After finding that the children had no future in Argentina (it was becoming more and more dangerous there), Emmanuel told Lúcia he wanted to drop everything and start from scratch in Europe. She was overjoyed because she always wanted to see the world. She chose Portugal as the ideal place to live and continue at university. In May of that same year, before they could leave Argentina, the entire family got sick with COVID. But fortunately, the symptoms were relatively mild, and they soon recovered. About a year later, it happened again! Emmanuel believed they would recover as they had the last time.
But this time, it hit much harder. Lucia was healthier and cared for Emmanuel before he had to be hospitalized for about two weeks. Soon after, Lucia and the children got sick too. She didn't tell Emmanuel about her condition because she didn't want him to worry, especially in his situation. She wanted to be strong for him and the children. The kids and Emmanuel eventually recovered, but tragically, his beloved Lucia didn't. She passed away on May 2, 2021.
Emmanuel says that's when he woke up. He fully turned to God in dependence and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He says he had fed the hatred inside him for most of his life, and he was slow to learn the lesson. He thought he could be a good person without loving God. When he lost Lucia, he found himself in the same position as when he lost his little sister. He had to choose what to fill his heart with: hate or hope. He says this time, the decision was not hard. He leaned on God and continued with the vision to bring their children to Portugal.
He fully turned to God in dependence and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ!
He also began seeing how his daughter, who was now 13, was starting to make the same mistakes he had made when he was her age, and Octavio needed his father to stand firm and be an example for him. God alone gave Emmanuel the strength to hold his family together even though he was torn up inside.
Today, Emmanuel sees the hand of God in all the events that have brought him to Europe and Riverside Church. Now, being here, in gratitude, he wants to serve in any way he can, endeavoring to trust the church and others again. He tried to tell this story in hopes that it could challenge others who he says might be "slow to learn like me and to understand that no matter what happens in your life, it is not an excuse to let your heart fill with hate. God is love and cannot influence your life if you are filled with hate." Without knowing or understanding it, Emmanuel says he lived with the devil in his heart for years. And that is a mistake he says no person should make.
He now eagerly awaits the time when Selene and Octavio, who are still in Argentina, can join him here in Portugal and at Riverside community.
Were you touched by reading this story? Would you like to get in touch with Emmanuel and learn more from his experience with God?