Uniting as one
Bolivian Mennonite Church leaders Tito and Yolanda Castro and Fernando Hiñojosa travel from their church in urban Santa Cruz to accompany the rural congregations of the Bolivian Mennonite Church.
Connecting with churches across international borders enriches worship and strengthens faith. But so does connecting with Christians on the other side of town.
With our eyes, we saw the needs: the economic needs of the countryside and the spiritual needs of the city. And with our prayers, we did something about it.
Recently, my wife, Yolanda, and I received a Bible study on CD from a friend about membership, maturity, ministry and mission. What we learned helped us to discover our purpose in life. It inspired us, and we knew we had to visit the churches in the countryside.
Our first visit was spent taking pictures and prayer requests. We were touched deeply by the churches that were struggling to survive in the countryside, and decided to connect each church with a church in the city of Santa Cruz.
Through the partnerships, we learned about prayer and sharing what you have, whether small or large. In Santa Cruz, Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Príncipe de Paz (Prince of Peace Evangelical Mennonite Church) partnered with Iglesia Cristo Vive (Christ Lives Church), about 18 miles outside of Santa Cruz.
I remember visiting Iglesia Cristo Vive. At the time, the church met in a humble building. While the wind was rushing and they were praising Christ in their native Quechua language, we were worried about the roof collapsing! But still they worshiped with such sincerity and deep intimacy that couldn’t be found in our church at home.
We returned to Santa Cruz renewed and challenged by the fervent prayers of Iglesia Cristo Vive. Our small-group Bible study prayed and shared the living word together in our context, and as a result we became more honest with each other.
Arriving in the countryside, we were challenged again when Iglesia Cristo Vive asked for our support in constructing a new church building. The blueprint was much larger than their current building. How could we afford that? And who would fill it?
Despite the hesitation, we agreed. God heard our prayers and provided the material to build the church. Members from both churches responded by offering what we had: ourselves. Today, Iglesia Cristo Vive has a beautiful church building with 60 members, and is reaching out to almost 30 families in the area.
We’ve learned so much through this relationship. Prayer united us in a marvelous way: both with the churches in the countryside and the churches in Kansas. Our former way of life was challenged as the Spirit of God was revealed to us. We no longer sit in a church pew listening to the pastor without sharing what we’ve learned. We’ve learned how to truly love our neighbor, not only in words, but in concrete actions.
Tito and Yolanda Castro spend most Sundays traveling to rural churches, building relationships among city and country congregations.
Tito Castro, Santa Cruz, Bolivia