Our church leaders, my colleagues in ministry, and my circle of friends take ministry pretty seriously. We are always studying up, praying, and discerning in an continued effort to do the most effective, contextualized ministry that is aligned with the heart of God.
For the past few years those buzz words, I mean models, have been things like, missional, contextual, social justice, authenticity, and community. There is so much to be discussed, said, written on, and implemented surrounding these topics and values. I for one often think of myself as well read and on the early adopter side of ministry trends. So it is both refreshing and humbling to come to the hills of Guatemala and work alongside a church that is already doing all of this!
Here in Santa Apolonia we are partnered with Englesia del Belen (or something close to that) and this church, specifically the church leadership, embody many of the values and strategies that big wig church leaders and speakers are peddling as revolutionary at conferences like Thrive, Catalyst, Youth Workers, etc.
The head elder, a man named Julio, embodies who I want to be as a pastor, leader, and ministry leader in my context.
Every day our entire team gets to eat at his home. He moved out beds and furniture from two of his rooms even, so we would all fit. He makes time to connect with our students and warmly embraces them. It his Julio's hospitality that has inspired our students to work hard and practice hospitality themselves.
Julio is attractional in his ministry style by providing big and fun events for the community and for our students to engage one another. We played a huge soccer game with our students against some of the students from the church and their friends. It was a great night and at the end, Julio gathered us all together to bless us and pray for us. We are also opening up the church to have a celebratory dinner with the church and our team on Friday. This all by itself is great, but the students and kids that we have connected with throughout the week are welcomed as well.
Authentic and Deep:
The ministry at the church is also built around home groups. Just like you and I have small groups, they have those as well. It is these small groups that carry out ministry and care for each other and for the community. Tonight our kids get to go to 7 or 8 of these small groups and join the study, worship, and prayer.
What this church, through the leadership of Julio, does that is the most impressive to me is that they are fully involved in their community. They are members who are involved in politics, even the mayor, who see their role as ambassadors for Jesus and to attempt to model their lives and government around the values of Jesus. They are also being a blessing to their community by caring for the least of these in their town.
The little village up the hill is one of the poorest in Guatemala, and this church has taken it upon themselves to plant a church their, to upgrade the houses, bathrooms, and kitchens of those homes, and care for the elderly. They use their own recourses to do this, and when we came rolling in with our big, American dollars to spend, they funneled it to work projects in this little community.
I am pretty sure that Julio hasn't been to seminar, been to a major conference, or even aware of some really inspiring podcasts. He is simply a man who knows and loves Jesus, who has decided to follow him for his entire life, to use his influence for the expansion of the kingdom and is modeling ministry that beats closely to the heart of Jesus.
Not bad for a grandpa!
I am glad that I get another picture of how church is done, of what godly women and men look like, and how we can continue to serve Jesus long after our early 20's. Julio is an amazing man, and it is an honor to partner with him and his church. His example is significant for me and for our students!
Please keep praying for us:
Please continue to pray our students and for me as we finish up another great day of ministry. And please pray for Englasia del Belen, Julio, and the ministry they are doing in Santa Apolonia and the little village on the hill.