When Mónica called saying she and her husband needed an urgent meeting, my heart sank. Usually when someone calls for a private meeting, there is some problem that has arisen and we are the ones they come to for help. Both are new believers who have grown tremendously in the Lord. I dreaded hearing whatever it was that had happened.
Geovanny (our team leader) and I met with Mónica and Medardo. Both of us were expecting the worse. After the initial small talk, they got down to why they had called the meeting.
Mónica voiced their concern, "When can we be a church?"
As hard as it was for me to think this was the real issue at hand, and not something else, I went along and began a series of questions...
"How many believers gather together with you?"
Medardo answered, "Usually between 10 and 15, but only seven have been baptized so far this year (2009). The rest are waiting until we can coordinate a time when we can all get down to the river."
"How often do you gather together. Once, twice a week?"
"We meet every evening Tuesday-Sunday from about 7:00pm till people get tired and go home," answered Mónica. "They are just so excited and eager to learn and share. We tried suggesting getting together only 3-4 times a week, but that didn't go over very well with the group."
"You're telling me that six evenings a week you meet there in your home?"
"Oh no, we rotate between three different houses. Ours and in the homes of two other families who recently gave their hearts to the Lord and are being discipled."
Out of curiosity, I couldn't help but ask, "if you are meeting Tuesday to Sunday, why don't you go ahead and meet on Monday evenings as well?"
"Oh no, brother Guido, that's the day we have our team meeting. We told everyone they were welcome to meet on Mondays, but that we wouldn't be there."
I continued, "How many of those days are spent praying?"
"Tuesday evenings are dedicated entirely to prayer. We pray for all our lost family members, we pray for our country, we pray for each others problems, we pray..."
They went on to tell me all the things they are praying for and fully expecting God to answer.
I then asked the first question that caused them to lower their heads and break eye contact, "have you been able yet to start any other new groups?"
Mónica seemed embarrassed, but answered, "only two. What with my husband's working, and my own family responsibilities, we just haven't had any more time."
"Where are these groups meeting?" I asked.
"On Wednesday afternoons we go to Sergio Toral where we are discipling some new believers, and Sunday afternoons we have a group meeting in Bastion. We know that's not a lot, but we are praying the Lord for a third new group."
"What has been the greatest joy for you?"
"Seeing lives transformed, and people hungry to learn more about God."
"What has been the hardest part for you?" (thinking surely it must be the nightly gatherings and the impact upon their family life)
"The hardest part is our feeling of inadequacy in that all the new believers are coming to us with their questions and problems and we don't know what to do except pray for them. Their lives are so messed up. They look to us for answers since we are the ones who know the most about the Bible. We wish we knew God's Word better than we do so that we could help them more."
At that point we stopped and Geovanny and I talked with them for several minutes about allowing the Holy Spirit to be the One to guide them and that loving their new brothers and sisters in Christ by just being there with them was something the Lord would use for his glory.
After a few minutes, Mónica interrupted and asked again, "so when can we be a church?"
"Medardo and Mónica", we said, "YOU ARE ALREADY A CHURCH! AND HAVE BEEN ONE NOW FOR QUITE SOME TIME!"
At that, they smiled and we talked about putting together a celebration where several of the other house churches would be invited for a time of praise and thanksgiving. They liked that idea, and Mónica began talking about what food might be good to prepare for this special occasion.
As I drove home after the meeting, I couldn't help but reflect on the DNA that had been injected into them from the beginning by another team member, Marlene, who led them to the Lord a little over a year ago. Marlene modeled and lived the message she preached to them, sacrificing herself for them as she discipled them faithfully for nearly a year. She taught and modeled for them the very life in Christ they were now modeling for those they were leading!
No one has ever told them Christians only gather on Sunday mornings for church.
No one ever told them churches less than a year old cannot start 2-3 new churches themselves.
No one ever told them they needed more than the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in order to lead three different house churches--all of which came to the Lord through their personal witness.
No one told them that to be church you have to have all this "stuff."
They are just doing it, trusting the Lord as they go along. And the Lord is blessing!
Geovanny, who accompanied me during the above meeting with Medardo and Mónica, shares his own similar experience with How 29 believers became 110 believers starting 5 new house churches--and all in less than a year!