It was a Saturday afternoon in early January and we had opened up the building for a half day of prayer. Towards the end, a cluster of people walked in. I knew two of them because they were regular attendees by now. They introduced us to the other couple.
Jose and Patti were Mexican refugees who had come here to escape the cartels. Our friends had bumped into them a few weeks earlier and got chatting. They were Ecuadorian and had begun attending the chapel at the invite of another South American. We quickly had attracted quite a contingent of Latin Americans and one or two people had begun translating for them. However, although they appreciated the warm welcome and our efforts to translate, the were hungry for more. They grasped that the Gospel was important but didn’t understand everything.
They had talked about these things with Jose and Patti who were believers and had started attending another local church about 15 minutes walk from us. Jose and Patti had invited them round to look at the Bible together and before long, a group of people were studying God’s Word together.
Soon after this meeting, Jose came to see me again. The Bible study was growing and was now too large for the house. Could they use the Chapel on a Saturday night? Our trustees quickly and readily agreed to this. It soon became clear that what we were seeing was not just a Bible study but a fledgling church plant. We talked with the core group about the vision for this and were clear that we could not support a mono-ethnic plant. This just wasn’t in our DNA. However, it was also becoming clear that this was a multi-cultural venture using Spanish. There was a diversity amongst the Latin American community not immediately obvious to an outsider but they were also beginning to engage Portuguese speakers and a range of other immigrants and asylum seekers. People who had a natural affinity with Jose, people I probably would never have reached on my own.
So, Nueva Vida was born. It has had its share of ups and downs. I’ve seen it grow to 50-60 people and then drop down to 15 as people either didn’t stay around or sometimes took people off to pursue their own vision. I’ve been encouraged to see it grow back again from that. We’ve had to learn how to relate across cultures and that has sometimes seen sparks fly when we’ve misunderstood them or they us. Our relationship and partnership has evolved and changed over time from a ministry of the Chapel to a partner church. We’ve seen Jose and Patti win their asylum case and most excitingly of all, we’ve seen conversions and baptisms.
I describe this as an accidental and unexpected church plant. Jose said often that he had not expected to plant or to pastor, for him, it just happened. Our involvement was unexpected too. We had started a church planting journey by adding in The 930 Service and Sunday Night Church. WE’d also begun to explore other planting opportunities. When we’d agreed the multiplication approach I’d expressed the desire to see a congregation planted on our estate. We never realised that dream. Instead, God sent us a church planting opportunity we never expected to see. Sometimes life is like that, we have our plans and God surprises us with something different.
Please continue to pray for and support Nueva Vida that they will survive and flourish through COVID. Be ready too for God to use you in surprising ways.