I met the couple in this article (I’m standing in between them in this picture) when I was on a missions trip to Chile in 2014 without realizing at the time how amazing, faithful and courageous they are. Read this update about their recent church planting adventures in Mexico that was recently printed in Alliance Life Magazine and I think you will agree. They encourage and inspire me!
A Bulldog and His Wife Plant a Church
My husband Bob—whom I call the bulldog—was all in when we were asked to transition to Guadalajara, Mexico, after serving 25 years with The Alliance in Chile. But the Holy Spirit needed to convince me.
Guadalajara is about the same size as Santiago, where we came from. But there, we had 21 churches, and Guadalajara had 3. “What will we face?” I questioned.
During our home assignment, God gave me Joshua 3:5. Joshua told his people as they were getting ready to cross the Jordan River, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” That verse convinced me that, yes, the Lord is with us.
Guadalajara is strategically located in the heart of an area of about 17 million people living in 6 of Mexico’s 31 states. This new location would put us smack dab in the middle of a place called the Circle of Silence with an only 1.8-percent evangelical witness.
Our studies of Mexico uncovered there have been more killings in Mexico between 2007 and 2014 because of the drug wars than the number of civilian deaths from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. We really needed to consecrate ourselves and expect miracles and amazing things!
When we arrived in 2014, we met with our colleagues, Tim and Janice Greenfield. They gave us names of several people with whom we could talk about planting a church. We shared our vision with them, and three couples accepted the challenge to work with us.
On the Tuesday before we were to start our brand-new church, a drug cartel boss confronted Bob as we were cleaning our rented facility.
“You can’t be here anymore,” the man ordered. “Take your things and get out.”
“We have a rental contract. You can’t kick us out.”
“Well, you’re in Mexico now!” he shot back.
Defeated, our landlord looked at my husband and said, “It’s out of my hands.”
At first Bob refused to leave. But the threats continued: “I have a video of you stealing from my truck. I’m going to put you in jail.”
“Great! I’ll have a jail ministry,” Bob replied.
“When you try to have a service here, I’m going to lock the doors.”
“Great! You have a fantastic parking lot. We’ll have church outside.”
Then the last threat came: “I see you have children in your group. They tend to disappear here in Mexico.”
The warning was clear, and the threat to kidnap the children all too real. We began to question our motives for being in Mexico: Lord, how can this be? What happened? Did we get it all wrong? Was it not the Holy Spirit who led us to this place?
Piercing the Darkness
When we met with our core group that night, we informed them we had to abandon the place but that our expenses would be reimbursed. Some of the group were shaken to their core by the evil nature of the confrontation that day.
“What is God doing?” we asked the group. “Is this an attack from the enemy? Or is the Lord telling us that we can do nothing in our own strength and that He will provide if we take a step of faith?”
Bob shared his sense of spiritual bewilderment. He was sure the Holy Spirit had led him to open the church in that place. He had no doubt God was leading him at the time, but how could this setback be part of God’s plan?
After a time of discussion and prayer, we asked each person to share what they believed the Lord was doing and how He was leading. The group was shaken but in consensus said: “Pastor, we must have that first service this Sunday whether it’s in your living room or your backyard. We will not be fearful, and we will not do this in our own strength.”
That was a turning point for us as leaders. The vision that the Lord had given to us, this vision that we had shared with these individuals while asking them to join our team, had now become their vision. We were in this challenge together, united in the Lord.
The Spirit led us in marvelous ways after that meeting. The next morning Bob met with the cartel boss and landlord and got our money back. After a furious outburst at how much money was owed us, the cartel boss relented and offered us a few weeks to meet until we could find another place to rent. Just as Bob was about to thank him and accept his offer, the Holy Spirit intervened, and the words that came out of Bob’s mouth were not his own:
We don’t need you, and we do not want your help. God has a place much better for us, a place that is close by, and a place that is cheaper than this.
You will need a pastor, and when you do, we will be your church, and I will be your pastor. Here’s a book on prayer to help in the meantime.
Bob was as dumfounded as the cartel boss. Bob had just turned down the only hope of having a place to hold our first service. But it was soon very clear God’s plans were not our plans.
No less than 30 minutes after Bob uttered those prophetic words, the Lord brought us a builder who had an unfinished building close by that we could use until we found a place. In three days, we got that new rental ready to go and started the church. That first Sunday was packed, and we still meet there today. In its first two years, the church plant has had 31 baptisms and has grown to about 120 people.
The Lord’s Work
To pierce that Circle of Silence mentioned earlier, we’re working on a vision we call 5/5/25. The first five represents five churches or church campuses in Guadalajara. The other five stands for five church-planting groups in five outlying states of that sector of the Circle of Silence. And 25 represents the year 2025, which gives us a lot of time to get it right and for the Spirit to work.
This area has very little gospel access, and in the outlying areas, the evangelical population is about 1 percent. There are two indigenous tribes that live to the north of that circle who have no viable church witness. There is aggressive persecution of believers, including a report in 2017 of a couple and young child who were duct taped and burned for their faith.
Will you please join us in praying that the Lord will grant us the possibilities of a 5/5/25 vision to pierce this Circle of Silence? I’m confident our Shepherd is with us and we will see Him do miracles in Mexico.
FROM ISSUE: May/June 2018, Vol. 153 No. 3, Pg 10, “Piercing the Circle of Silence”