To make a long story short, within eight weeks that unpromising group of believers had begun SIX NEW WORKS!!! Today seven years later, four of those still are active NT churches!I thought it might be interesting to share a bit about the "rest of the story" of these four unknown heroes of the faith who are out there making an impact on the lostness of their communities.
MANUELA. Is an older single mother who has a great pastoral heart. She never quite grasped the house church methods we taught, but did understand the part about evangelizing the lost around her community. Almost from the beginning she set out winning her lost neighbors to Christ. Everyday after work she hurries home, cooks supper for her kids and then rushes across the street to where the church she planted seven years ago continues to meet. The church meets 7 days/week and she never misses. Over the years Manuela carefully saved every extra dime she could and slowly began to remodel and expand the tiny building where they were meeting to be able to accomodate more people. With her own hands she has personally laid a cement foundation and built the walls and roof to, what is today, a modest temple for the growing group of believers she helps to shepherd.
CARLOS AND MARIA. Carlos was the man who showed up for the training in the previous post whose home burned to the ground leaving him, Maria and their children with nothing more than the clothes on their back. He slowly began going around the neighborhood collecting a board here and there, borrowing a sack of cement, receiving donations from neighbors, and with the help of the Lord rebuilt a semblance of a house for his family. From the very beginning both Carlos and Maria decided that they would use the ground floor for the church to gather. They themselves occupy the floor above the church for their personal use. Over the years this church meeting in their home has baptized dozens of people. They too meet seven days a week and are big on prayer, rising every morning around 4am to pray to the Lord. Recently they noticed a starving young boy wandering around their neighborhood. Carlos and Maria have never been able to find the child's parents (who apparently abandoned him to the streets) and have since taken him in as their own child. Yet another mouth to feed, and yet as they say, "The Lord always provides..."
MARIANA. Mariana is another single mother advanced in years whose husband left her many years ago when he gave her the ultimatum of choosing between himself or the God she served. Mariana chose the Lord and her husband left never to come back. Every weekend Mariana travels out on a bus to Kilometer 16 outside of the city where she shepherds a small group of baptized believers won to the Lord through her witness. She has been faithfully going now every weekend for nearly seven years and considers it her calling. Mariana does not have a very high education but has managed to work her way through to the second level of the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program we offer our servant leaders.
VICENTE. Vicente's wife left him several years ago as an unstable drug addict. Vicente has done everything in his power to win his wife back, but to no avail. He continues to try to work full time, raise his children, and function as a missionary out in the neighboring provinces round Guayaquil. When Vicente came to us as a 2-month old believer he lied about the amount of time he had known the Lord, thinking we would not allow him in the training if we knew how young he was in the Lord! As he received the training, Vicente went out and promptly started meeting on the street with a group of prostitutes. He would bring them food and then sit out on the sidewalk with them and share with these ladies and their families how much God loved them. In another group he worked with, out in a dangerous part of the city, they would meet openly out on the street. One time one of my fellow IMB missionaries went to visit one of their "street services. " Suddenly a man began shooting a pistol at another person right near where they were meeting. Vicente calmly got up, went over to the guy shooting, and invited him to the sidewalk Bible study. My missionary colleague was quite upset and afraid to say the least, but not Vicente! Over the years Vicente has been used by the Lord to open many new works. For a two-year period he left all behind and felt called of God to go into the countryside to plant churches amongst the rural provincial people. There he started several works and with the help of his brother Felipe, still continue to this day to stay in contact with the believers there. Vicente feels a strong call to serve as a missionary. Right now he is a tent-making missionary supporting himself and his children while continuing to try and open works out in the provinces.
Would you pause right now and pray for Manuela, Carlos and Maria, Mariana, and Vicente? All these live very difficult lives and yet are joyfully serving the Lord where He has planted them. Who knows, maybe God is calling YOU to plant a church in your community as well. If they can do it, why can't you?