From Love Extreme (June 19), to the spiritual retreat (end of June), to many visits in the market (beginning in July), to new believers, to the second spiritual retreat, to a new cell group in their house (end of August), to more new believers…
And it all led to an evangelism event last night in Campo de Marte, Paucarpata, which, by the way, is the farthest location of any of the cell groups in Arequipa.
I would be lying if I told you that things went how I planned for them to go last night, but when does God ever work as we expect him too? We brought the other cell group to meet our cell group, because they will now unite and become the new church in Paucarpata.
We had music and a testimony, and then showed the Felix Vargas movie. (For those of you who don’t know, Felix Vargas was a member of the Columbia drug cartel, who killed countless people, trafficked drugs, spent time in jail, and had a dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ. He is now working as a missionary in the Church of the Nazarene and with Extreme in Paraguay.)
Our class this week is Biblical Preaching, so we brought our professor to preach and give the call.
Now numbers never tell a whole story, but people like to know, so I will tell you that we had more than twenty people there, and made more than five new contacts for this church and the 40/40s who will continue there.
I will also tell you that it was surprisingly hard to say goodbye. I teared up, and am still having trouble thinking about leaving this family. I told you at the beginning about all the work we have done with this family, but the thing is, there is still so much work to do. Ester and I have completely fallen in love with this community, with this family. We have poured our hearts, souls, and passion into this cell group, and it is not easy to leave. But we know that He who began a good work in this family will carry it on to completion.
And we’re trusting Him.
With that said, I want you to pray for this family. Pray for the Condori family, and each individual by name. (Here they are, in the order we started working with them.)
Sonia: I met Sonia at Love Extreme, talked to her for 40 minutes after the event, prayed with her, was with her at the first spiritual retreat, saw her get baptized, and have visited her weekly since then. This whole thing started with her. She told me at Love Extreme that she really wanted to learn more about God. But she is still having problems leaving the old life behind. She is trying to grow, but often lacks the motivation.
Viviana: Sonia’s mom, and really the mother of eight children in all and who knows how many grandchildren! She was the first one to accept Christ in the market. Viviana can’t read or write, and often has trouble understanding things. But she has a big heart, and truly loves her family. She has been a part of our cell group in her house since we started it.
Mirian: Sonia’s youngest sister, the 20-year-old baby of the family. We all know being the baby of the family can be a blessing or a curse, and this is true of Mirian. She is less responsible, and also less committed. She gave her life to Christ in the market as well, went to one of the spiritual retreats, but has not truly had an experience with God that has changed her life yet. Sonia told us the first time we met her, “If you can get through to Mirian, you can get through to anyone.” Well we have learned how true that is as we have continued discipling her in the market. But God is working on her, convicting her, and changing her, even if it is a process.
Jose: Sonia’s dad and Viviana’s husband. He also has difficulty understanding, but we know he wants to. He has attended the cell group we had in the house. He always has a big smile, even though he is a really little man! He went with Viviana and Mirian to one of the spiritual retreats.
Noelia: Sonia’s sister; she is married with one baby. And she was the one who opened the door to their house for us to begin the cell group there. She has so much interest in learning more about Christ, but this is hard for her. She once explained to us that she is Catholic because her parents baptized her in the Catholic Church, but she doesn’t know anything about Catholic beliefs. But she wants to raise her daughter well, and live a life for Christ.
Nilda: Noelia’s daughter. She is only a year and a half old, but I put her in this list because God is changing her story, even before she knows it. Her parent’s have argued about whether to baptize her in the Catholic Church. This is obviously something she has no control over, but her family is beginning to follow Christ, which means she will be trained up in the ways of God, and can do the same for her family one day.
Jesús: Noelia’s husband who is not a Christian and does not come to our cell group. We greet him and pray for him, that God will soften his heart. He really wants Nilda to be baptized, but Noelia isn’t so sure. And sometimes he pulls her out of the cell group to talk, probably just so she won’t hear the lesson and learn more about Jesus. But God is working in his heart as well.
Rubén: Sonia’s oldest brother. Noelia introduced us one week, and we chatted with him and have called him every week to invite him to the cell group, but he hasn’t come yet. Almost every week he promises to, or makes excuses, says he has to work, whatever. One week I called him, and he was already slurring his words a lot because he was drunk. But I don’t believe it was a coincidence that we met him, and will continue to pray for him.
Pedro: Sonia’s boyfriend/fiancé. At least they think they will get married someday. He accepted Christ when we went to visit him at work unexpectedly, (and after he prayed, his response was "Wow") and we started a discipleship class with him on Saturdays, because he works and goes to school everyday. He is always full of questions, and is hungry to learn more, but still has struggles as well.
Milton: Sonia’s brother, the youngest boy of the family. He is in school studying psychology, and is really intelligent, and also full of questions. But he gave his life to Christ one night during our cell group. He wasn’t even supposed to be there! And he was at the movie last night, and still wants to learn more, and invited us back to the house anytime.
Rosa: Rosa is Sonia’s oldest sister, with a family of her own (husband and mother of three). We spoke to her at the market one day, and invited her to our cell group. She came the following week with two of her kids, and accepted Christ that night. She has continued coming every week, eager to learn, desiring her own Bible, wanting to bring her other son and husband as well.
Lesly: Rosa’s eight-year-old daughter. She is a bundle of energy! I actually met her with Sonia at Love Extreme, where she committed her life to Christ. She loves to read her Bible during the cell groups and fill in the lessons.
Jose: Rosa’s ten-year-old son, who gave his life to Christ in the first cell group he came to with his mom.
Reynaldo: Jose and Viviana’s grandson who lives in Puno. He came a few weeks to our cell group in the market, and showed a lot of interest in learning more about Jesus, so we have his address in Puno for the 40/40s who will be working there.
Dalia: Jose and Viviana’s sixteen-year-old granddaughter, who lives just across the street, and began coming to our cell group the week Ester was in Lima. She is really sweet and seems to really enjoy coming to the cell group and learning more. Last night, she brought her parents to the movie.
Marta: Dalia’s mom who we met for the first time last night, who was incredibly sweet and really enjoyed the movie and the message.
Pedro: Dalia’s dad who we met for the first time last night, who was extremely kind and hospitable to us.
Speaking of Pedro, last night after we left, he offered to drive us to the point we usually have to take a little bus to after the movie. So his car is a pretty normal-sized car, not even as big as my Grand Prix. But we decided to put all the 40/40s in the car to get to Baden to take the other bus all the way to Zamacola. So NINE of us crammed into his car with Pedro!! Two in the front seat and seven in the back! Only in Peru!!
Now do you see why I always talk about a MOVEMENT? We started with two of those people, and the list has grown to seventeen names! That is God’s doing, touching hearts and changing lives, and our God is an AWESOME God.
I would love to tell you that every one of these people is living a sold-out life for Christ, but that isn’t the case. This is messy. That is why we have terrible statistics about people who make a decision for Christ and aren’t in the church a year later. Discipleship is hard, but it is our calling.
So even though we have to leave them, God is still with them, working in them and blessing them. He is amazing!
One last thing: We had people drive up in their cars to watch the film!