ou never know the long-term results of a Work and Witness trip.
Over 25 years ago, the Alabama North District Church of the Nazarene sent a team to Guatemala. While there, they met Leonel Noe Alvarado and his extended family. Before the team left, among the hugs and tears, they said what Southerners say: “Y’all come and see us sometime.”
Soon after, some of the team members in Birmingham received a phone call from the Alvarado family excitedly exclaiming, “We are here!” It was quite a surprise.
After the shock wore off, the Alabama Nazarenes went into action and welcomed the Guatemala Nazarenes with open arms. They found places for them to live, helped them adjust to new surroundings, helped them obtain citizenship, and offered them places to serve. Leonel planted a church in Baileyton, Alabama and immediately gathered a group of Hispanic men and women who felt called into ministry. Over the years he has faithfully planted and pastored several churches, trained dozens of leaders, and currently works as part of the district staff. He has had opportunities to move to other assignments, but Leonel has stayed right there in his beloved, adopted Alabama home.
Stories similar to Leonel’s have been repeated all over the United States and Canada. For over a century, loving Nazarenes have sent missionaries around the world. In doing so, our intent was simply to follow the directives of our Savior, who charged us to go into all the world and make disciples. As we sent our prayers, financial resources, and even our children, we were saying “Come, see a man named Jesus!”
Most of us never anticipated that some of these new believers would actually return the beautiful gift by coming to see us. The serendipity is that many of these dear brothers and sisters have come to help us in our local mission field.
Today, 25% of the churches in the USA/Canada Region are populated with non-white members and attenders. In other words, one out of four of our 5,126 churches are multi-cultural and ethnic-specific churches. This has added a beauty and excitement to our fellowship that is refreshing. We are now better equipped to reach our rapidly expanding populations.
My prayer is that we will continue to express true Nazarene hospitality and with open arms, say, “Y’all come and see us! We need your wisdom and passion to reach everyone among us!”
Pleased With the Prospects,