I have referred back to this picture a couple times now in my blogs. It was a slightly awkward moment at the end of our big event “Hope for Cordoba” when the preacher (Pastor Ferney from Colombia) asked anyone who was there for the first time to come forward. The event was held in a concert hall rather than the church, so technically we were all there for the first time. There were many present who had never been to our church, but only these five timidly made their way to the front where Pastor Ferney surprised us all by praying the prayer of salvation with them. I’ve now been able to tell the stories of Erminda (on the far right) and Erica (in the middle). Two of the others were visiting from out of town, but now it’s time to tell the story of the man on the far left, Jorge. I had a short conversation with him right after this picture was taken. He had been handed a flyer by one of our visiting Olivet students earlier in the day. Desperate for hope, he braved the biting cold to come to an event where he knew no one to see if he could find what we claimed to offer. He seemed incredibly uncomfortable, but at the same time hopeful that maybe he was in the right place and maybe Christ could be what he had been looking for. I asked him for his phone number so we could keep in contact with him. Embarrassed, he confessed that someone else had asked for his number for a raffle when he walked in the door, and he told them he didn’t have a phone. “But I do have a phone! And I do want the church to keep in contact with me. I’m sorry.” He started attending Ashley’s and my house of prayer that week.
|Pastor Ferney praying over Jorge, Erica, Erminda, and two people I don't know.|
|This is called consolidation: a slightly to overwhelmingly awkward conversation in which you|
ask a stranger for their contact information and pray with them.
What I’ve always admired about Jorge is his perseverance. Most of Ashley’s and my contacts are woman in their 20s and 30s or family members of women in their 20s and 30s. Jorge is in his early forties. He lives downtown. When we first met him, he was unemployed. Shortly after he started attending the church, he got a job at an Arab restaurant in our neighborhood. He hated every minute of it, but he needed the work. During the siesta break between shifts, he would often walk over to the church and help us with moving things from the old church or various painting projects in the new building. He clicked immediately with our small group, so Ashley and I have had the privilege of discipling him, but this of course has its disadvantages. He can’t talk to us about everything, and we can’t be as completely immersed in his life as we are in the lives of our female disciples and their families. As with every apparent struggle, God has worked this for his good. The other men in the small group have stepped up to befriend, encourage, and support him in ways that Ashley and I obviously can’t.
|Our awesome house of prayer preparing bags of cookies to take to the neighbors.|
Despite all this, the enemy kept whispering in Jorge’s ear that he really didn’t belong in the church. He had a hard time reconciling how good he felt in the church and how bad he felt with his non-Christian friends. He quit his terrible job in the beginning of August so he could look for a new one, but the search was long and the depression was something he was used to. Even though he hadn’t been able to attend the July Encounter, the Pastors recognized his dedication and potential and invited him to participate in meetings and activities with the other leaders of the church. This big step only increased the volume of Satan’s whispers.
|Leadership meeting where we asked the leaders to identify|
ministries that they would like to help with/lead.
Two weeks ago, Jorge met with Pastor Junior. He explained some of the pain he was going through. The bottom line was that someone like him couldn’t be the church leader that Pastor was looking for. Pastor prayed with him and encouraged him to just hang on. Go to the Encounter this weekend. We’ll talk again next week.
The Encounter was wonderful. My favorite moments were when I got to sit in on a couple of the classes. Two of our house of prayer members attended this Encounter: Jorge and Gerardo, Erica’s husband. Both have accepted Christ within the past four months. It was pure joy to see them seated next to each other, comparing notes, and helping each other find the Bible passages. At the end of the retreat, both men shared testimonies in front of the church of what God had done. For Gerardo, God had released him from his bitterness and anger toward his siblings and given him a new love for his wife and children and his church family. For Jorge, God had lifted him from his depression and silenced the lies. Both men confessed to considering suicide within the past year. And from death, God created life.
|An Encounter class. The back row pictured has Pastor Junior, Jorge, and Gerardo.|
|Pastor Junior anointing and praying for Jorge at the end of the Encounter.|
Monday, the day after the Encounter, Jorge ran in to an old friend on the street who offered him a job. Tuesday morning, he came to church for the 6 am prayer service for the first time to praise his God who had given him more than he could have imagined. He was at prayer again this morning praying for his friends and family members who don’t know God. We praise God for Jorge's life, witness, and future.