This week, we, the Cordoba church plant, held our first service in our own church building! Since we signed the papers and got the keys on August 7, we’ve been working to transform this gorgeous home into a functional church. We’ve torn down a wall, installed a new water heater, created an upstairs kitchen, unburied the back patio, and moved and cleaned more things than we can count. (We’ve also hosted a short term team, ran a VBS, and did all our normal ministry activities because we hate sleep.) All this was possible because God is merciful and our church members have servants’ hearts. Several of them were in the building each day moving, painting, rewiring, and installing according to their various talents.
It was a race against the clock as we needed to finish everything before our Encounter retreat began early Saturday, August 30. The Encounter is two days of intensive classes, prayer, and seeking God for our new church members. A week before the Encounter, we had eleven people confirmed to attend. By Saturday morning, that number had dwindled to four due to work schedules, health problems, and family emergencies. We had no doubt the enemy was doing his best to keep people from attending, and we had no doubt God was ready to do great miracles in the lives of our four remaining participants. Sol, Erminda, Sarah, and Erica spent a powerful weekend in God’s presence. Five of our church leaders were also present all weekend helping run logistics for the retreat, prepare meals, and pray over the classes.
|Worship in the new church|
We usually have two church services each Sunday at 10am and 6pm. On Encounter Sundays, we cancel the morning service and come together as an entire church family to celebrate the Encounter participants in the evening service. This Sunday was, of course, an extra special celebration of the new building. The Encounter ended around 4:00 so the participants could be whisked away to another location to reflect and prepare their testimonies while we arranged the sanctuary. In the chaos of the preceding weeks, we never had the opportunity to fill the space with chairs or test the sound system with the worship team. God was with us at every moment, and none of the hundred details that could have gone wrong actually did.
The service began with the grand entry of the Encounter participants. They were greeted with cheers and whistles, signs and pompoms, and general revelry. The worship set was upbeat with songs that focused on the unity of the body of Christ. Even though everyone already knew, Pastora Jaci officially announced her pregnancy to the congregation. Our pastors are very committed to the growth of our church through whatever means possible. Pastor Junior welcomed the church family to their new home and gave a brief rundown of the physical changes we still hope to make in the coming weeks. He then called up the Encounter participants to share testimonies of the weekend.
|Pastor introducing Erminda, Sarah, Sol, and Erica|
Three of the women shared a little of their experience from the retreat. First was Sol, a twenty-three year old who had been raised in a Christian family. They had been looking for a new church when God led them to us. Sol was the last of her family members to attend an Encounter due to difficulties with her school schedule. At twenty-three, she had climbed that first spiritual mountain of learning everything a Christian young person is supposed to know- Bible stories, scriptures, doctrine, who did what and why. Through sobs she explained that she thought she had learned almost all there was to learn about God. As a delightful nerd, this was disappointing. “Praise the Lord!” she shouted, “He has so much more to teach me, and I love learning!” While I don’t know the specifics, God showed her that this first mountain was one in an unending range of plans and purposes that He has laid out for her life.
Next was Erminda. She is in her sixties and has led a long, difficult life of rejection, failure, and searching for God. In her search, she has explored eastern religions mixed with Biblical teachings. She accepted Christ at an event we held last May. Since then, she has been studying the truth of the Bible and who God is. At the end of the Encounter, all she could say, through tears, was that she finally knew that she was loved by God. On top of His tremendous love for her, she had experienced and is thankful for the love of her church and pastors.
Erica shared last. Her twenty year old daughter Sofia has been attending our church for a few months with her boyfriend Andres, but we prayed for Erica for a long time before convincing her to attend. She also accepted Christ in that event in May and has been attending church and a house of prayer with her family. In her testimony, she shared that God has been teaching her about forgiveness. She has been hurt by many people in her life, and God is teaching her how to forgive. In this Encounter, however, she had realized how much she needed to be forgiven; first by God, then by her family. In front of the church, she asked each of her three children, Andres, and her own boyfriend Gerardo for forgiveness for her various sins, harsh words, and attitudes. They forgave her, and we all celebrated as a church family.
|Our church family!|