April was a special month in Chile as we celebrated the 18th Anniversary of the church in Santiago. In 1990, a group of disciples from Buenos Aires crossed over the Andes Mountains and planted themselves in Santiago, a city that boasts a population of over 6 million. They came with great dreams and great faith that someday there would be disciples all over Chile. Today there are churches in Viña del Mar and in Concepción working together with the church in Santiago. We continue to dream for Chile and the 12 other regions yet to be reached.
To celebrate what God has done, we decided to invite one of the former leaders of the church in Santiago along with his wife, Josué and Veronica Ortega. With incredible generosity, they offered their hearts and ears and experience to the church. For a week they poured out love and vision to the staff in daily meetings. They taught on subjects such as personal walk with God, church-building, leadership strategy and development and many other important topics. We had special workshops for the men one evening and for the women the next that inspired and challenged the church to have greater faith. Josué was also our guest speaker for an evangelistic event that was held Saturday evening. He spoke about finding direction and purpose in our lives through our relationship with God. Josué and Veronica wrapped their arms around us and injected all of us with much needed vision and faith.
Our Sunday morning celebration service was filled with emotion and gratitude. One of the heroes among us is a sister named Teresa who was the first woman baptized here in Santiago. She was able to share with the church about how God has been faithful to her in good times and in bad. The church stood and clapped for her with great appreciation for her example of faith in God and for her devotion to his peopleWe also watched a video that went through each of the 18 years of our history. One of the great surprises for the congregation was a message in the video from John and Sylvia Reus who are living in Miami now and formerly led the church in Santiago. We also saw special messages from Edson and Teresa in La Paz, Bolivia and Norberto and Yanina in Buenos Aires, Argentina encouraging the disciples in Chile.
A special gift from God that day was to watch a teen be baptized into Christ, Emmanuel Sowicz. God had been preparing him for this day for a few months and the brothers shared enthusiastically about the incredible change they had seen in him from the inside out. The church laughed as Emmanuel challenged the friends visiting church that day to study the bible and discover the reason for the huge smile on his face.
The celebration was closed as we sang "Feliz Cumpleaños" to the church and blew out candles on a cake for hundreds. It was a great day of reflecting with gratitude on what God has done and looking forward with faith to what God will do in the years to come.