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SALVATION

Drummer Finds Rhythm of Salvation

By Michael Clark

Christianity.com - Alex Acuna remembers a lonely night in 1975. He was on his way to the top of the music world as a star drummer and percussionist with the critically acclaimed jazz group Weather Report. By the age of 31, he had already performed with Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. He had fame, riches, and excitement. The groupies and drugs that the music scene is renowned for were always there for the taking. And, in the past, he was known to indulge.  

But on the road that night, Acuna prayed. He cried and offered to exchange his life for that of his two-year-old son Xavier, who was set to have heart surgery the next day.

“Lord, please heal him,” Acuna cried.  “Take me, but give him life. He’s newborn.” He prayed through the night.

Acuna said the Lord appeared to him that night. The message was that he had been away from Him for awhile, 16 or 17 years.

“I said, ‘Wow! I can feel you here,’” Acuna recalls. “I said, ‘Lord, change my life—once and for all. Will You accomplish the purpose that You wanted to accomplish in my life?’”

And, gradually, He did, Acuna adds.

But, immediately, Acuna felt a difference. He was headed to Arizona the next day to see his son after surgery.  Instead, he got a call telling him that his son wouldn’t need the surgery. Acuna’s life changed that day. He reestablished a one-to-one relationship with God. He started reading the Bible, beginning with the book of Genesis.

Already on the way to establishing himself as a drumming legend in 1975, Acuna had come a long way from his home in the Peruvian coastal village of Pativilca. One of 11 children, Alejandro Neciosup-Acuna learned trumpet and piano from his father, but taught himself how to play drums. He began playing when he was just four years old. By the time he was 10, Acuna joined the family band and later went out on his own for recording sessions as a professional musician.

Talent as a drummer and percussionist took Acuna to the Peruvian capital of Lima when he was 16; but not before his mother sent him for catechism studies where Acuna established a relationship with God. He talked to Him as one humble pilgrim to another.

“That was the first time I heard the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Acuna said, “and that has stood with me for the rest of my life.”

But worldly temptations in Lima changed his relationship with God. Newspapers hailed him.  He received invitations to travel, and “ego started filling my body, my mind—I forgot about that communication I had with God.”  And the trouble followed the fame. Well-known Latin bandleader Perez Prado found Acuna in Lima and brought him to Las Vegas, home of many vices.

“I started doing drugs, drinking,” Acuna said. “I had nobody to go to. I had no home. I was alone.”

But he held onto his vision of pursuing music as a career, playing with the best musicians and studying his craft. “I hoped to be able not only to survive, but to help my family, my culture,” Acuna said.

And he held onto his faith. It was at times the only thing he had, but it was all he needed to make his dream come true. “This is happening right now,” Acuna said. “And the Lord granted that to me.”

In the same way, He gave Acuna peace and healed his son Xavier in 1975. Not long after that night of prayer, Acuna attended The Church on the Way in Los Angeles. When Pastor Jack Hayford issued a call for those in need to be saved, Acuna stood and said he wanted to receive Christ.

“My life began to be transformed,” he said. “But that was the first step, and I can tell you the purpose God has in a person – it’s not only for us and our whole family—or whole neighborhood. It’s for us and our whole community and country, and it’s for us and the whole world.”

Acuna, 56, lives in Los Angeles now, and is still considered one of the world's best musicians. "He's amazing in how he can almost instantly come up with parts that are just so perfect with what we are trying to say," said Will Kennedy, drummer for the jazz group Yellowjackets. "He has instruments from all over the world, and he just adds that world-feel that we like to have in the music."

But Acuna makes God and faith higher priorities, because he knows that Jesus chose him and believes that he and his wife, Diana, have been instruments of salvation for their family. Because of them, Alex’s father received Jesus at 91 years old.

“Our life has changed,” Acuna said. “Having Jesus, we receive the Peace; we know that we are loved; we know that we are appointed and anointed and covered. We live in victory, and we know that we go from Glory to Glory.”
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