I learned of Francisco Penzotti reading a book while I was a missionary in Peru. Peru didn’t get freedom of religion, legally, until 1960. This man got that process started. The information you will read here is translated and taken from here.
Francisco Penzotti, well-known in Latin America, heard the preaching of Dr. Thomson in Montevideo in 1876. The reading of the Gospel of John by Brother Andres M. Milne guided him to his conversion.
He started working in Montevideo and then later with the citizens of Colonia Valdense, but God’s mission for him was to serve as a colporteur and so soon he was invited to leave that work. There are just few men who have had such a successful career within the distribution of Bibles like him. There is no country in Latin America he didn’t visit. With his billfold in one hand and a Bible in the other, he knocked doors and was a messenger for all the people he got to meet. He was insulted and chased but traveled constantly by trains, mules and on foot, being hungry, sleeping on the ground, doing without, and unimaginable sufferings.
His life is full of many incidents and moving stories. Once when he was on his way to Bolivia passing through Rosario of Santa Fe, one pastor of the city received him as a guest and advised him not to continue his trip saying it was not his time go to the inland areas. Not too long ago a colporteur called Jose Mongiardino was murdered in Bolivia and buried as a heretic outside the cemetery of Cotagaita. “Penzotti, do not go,” “Penzotti, do not go,” was people’s advice. Penzotti began hesitating; he didn’t want to tempt God neither with a foolish move nor a coward act.
He went to his room and knelt down asking for God’s guide. There was an inner fight in his being and he wanted the will of God to overcome. While praying, a young lady, who was unaware of Penzotti’s conflict, started playing the piano next door and singing firmly a hymn that says:
“Do not stop, do not stop. Never, never, never; Christ gave His life to save us when He died.”
These words were for Penzotti like an order given by his Captain and Lord. He said, “I do not need another answer from God.” He thanked God and stood up with resolution. Those words were the commanding voice throughout his career.
He began the work in Peru. The Constitution of the country that banned any kind of public service that wasn’t Roman Catholic didn’t frighten this faithful soldier of the cross. In spite of some difficulties he began preaching secretly to a small group who was interested in his labor in the streets, the congregation grew and this alarmed the clergy.
The persecution was raging but some souls had come into the kingdom of God. When Penzotti walked through the streets offering his Bibles, people ran away from him as if he was a dangerous character due to the clergy influence. The work, however, was moving forward and this made his enemies think of a more aggressive way to attack him until Penzotti was put into jail.
On July 26th, 1890, Penzotti was arrested and placed in the jail at Callao and stayed behind bars within a wet and dark building until March 28th, 1891. They offered freedom if he left the country but he didn’t accept it.
This process caused a big commotion for everybody and all the people talked about it. The imprisonment of an evangelist in a country liberated by liberal men like San Martin and Bolivar in the last years of the century demonstrated that the children of freedom had not finished their work yet.
But Peru had noble and energetic citizens who wouldn’t let that stain fall over their country and public opinion took side with justice. The process passed through all stages until Judge Porra decided, as one of the newspapers said, “to spank the friars and release Penzotti.” The doors of the jail opened and Penzotti left it before a crowd of people who came to greet and congratulate him. The funny thing is that while Penzotti was walking in the middle of the two lawyers one watcher said: “Christ goes in the middle of them!”
In 1892 he settled in Guatemala and visited all of the countries of Central America from there. He visited those countries for 16 years and the writer says he met people from everywhere who remembered him with affection and told him the blessings received due to his ministry.
He came back to Buenos Aires to serve as an agent of the American Bible Society in the place of Andres A. Milne.
He died in Buenos Aires on July 24th, 1925. He was a generous man of wide heart who was welcomed to every evangelical circle.