March 2015 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.” (Colossians 1:6) When the gospel is proclaimed it brings forth fruit! We have that promise in Scripture. In the three months since our return to Spain, we have seen numeric and spiritual growth in Parla and Colmenar. It all started in February with four baptisms! From the church in Parla, Lucas and Romina (brother-and-sister) were baptized. Then from Colmenar I had the privilege of baptizing Mayra and my own son, Ian. All of these were individuals to whom we had spent several months/years sharing the gospel. It was especially thrilling to baptize my son!

March started with two aggressive evangelistic campaigns for the city of Colmenar. First, we started English classes for young people between the ages of thirteen and twenty. We distributed three thousand invitations at all the high-schools in Colmenar. The flyer was two-sided. On one side was an invitation to the English class; on the other an invitation to a youth “Come and see” Bible study. The idea is to meet young people and share the gospel with them in order to start a youth ministry. Ten young people have already signed up. Please pray for this ministry! We were also able to saturate the city of Colmenar with invitations to our Thursday “Come & see” Bible study. This new evangelistic effort brought a new lady, Conchita, to the Colmenar church. She has been searching for the truth for years. She now comes faithfully to every service. She has been very open to the gospel message. Pray for her salvation. We have had others call about the Bible study. This ministry has been a great tool for us to present the gospel to many here in Colmenar.

Last week we took twenty members from Colmenar and Parla to a Youth Summit organized by my good friends Alberto and Francisco Puente (missionaries to Sevilla). It was a great time for them to learn more about the need for the gospel around the world. I was able to teach a class and translate for another good friend, Travis Snode (missionary to England) as he taught and preached. On the last day of the Summit an invitation was extended for anyone that wanted to get saved. We were all thrilled as Luis, Flavius’ friend, came forward. My father and I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with him for almost an hour. That day he trusted Christ as his personal Savior. The next day he came to church and gave a public testimony of his faith in Christ. Flavius is going to begin discipling him immediately. It’s great to see disciples making disciples and it’s great to see the youth group in Parla grow. Please continue to pray for the ministry here.

Evaluate your strategies

A while back I wrote a couple of posts on the subject, “What do you do when nobody shows up?” You can read them here: Part 1, Part 2. I had originally planned on writing a third article but forgot about it. Recent events have reminded and motivated me to complete the series.

The reason I wrote the original post was because of a special evangelistic campaign that we had realized in Parla and Colmenar Viejo. We had distributed thirty thousand invitations to a month-long sermon series geared towards the unsaved. The result was zero visitors. As you can imagine it was a discouraging time for us and the churches. This led me to ask myself the question that is the subject of this series.

So what happened recently in our ministry that motivated me to write the third and final blog post? We decided to start English classes for young people between the ages of thirteen and twenty. The goal was to distribute three thousand invitations to all the high-schoolers in Colmenar Viejo. The flyer was two-sided. On one side was an invitation to free English classes; on the other an invitation to a youth “Come and see” Bible study. The idea was to meet young people and share the gospel with them in order to start a youth ministry. As I shared in an earlier post that is an impossible dream. Thankfully, we serve the God of the impossible.

This was not something that we planned quickly or poorly. We worked the details out with Eduardo Sedoski and Flavius. In fact, everyone in the Colmenar church was involved. For instance, we decided to schedule the youth “Come and see” Bible study immediately after the English class; that way we could encourage the students to stay for an extra hour and discuss Biblical Christianity with us in a dynamic, participative environment. They would not have to make an extra trip. We also debated whether to simply invite them to the English class and then talk to them about the Bible study once they signed up or to make it very clear in the invitation that we also offer the “Come and See” class and that we would love for them to be a part of it. In the end, we opted for including the Bible study in the flyer, thus making our intentions clear from the outset. That way they wouldn’t be able to accuse us of pulling a bait-and-switch on them. Why do I include all these details? So that you understand that we thought it through diligentely.

The invitation clearly stated that the classes were free and that there were only thirty available slots. We put two dates down for the registration. On the first day of the registration we waited at the church with sign-up sheets in hand. Only one kid showed up. Three thousand invitations for free English classes and only one guy signs up.

So what do you do in these type of situations? I believe the answer is to evaluate your strategy. The wrong conclusion would be to automatically assume that free English classes don’t work in Spain. Thankfully I had prepared the Colmenar church for any outcome. I told them that this was an experiment for us. We had no clue what would happen. The only thing we knew for sure was that if we tried nothing we would get just that. We knew that young people would never get saved if we didn’t proactively go after them.

Here is an idea of how we evaluated our strategy:

– Maybe getting the invitations in the hands of the teenagers wasn’t the best approach. Most kids don’t want to take on any more classes even if they are free. Maybe it would have been better to distribute the invitations in all the mailboxes. The parents would probably be more interested in the classes and encourage their children to sign-up.

– Maybe we shouldn’t have included an invitation to the Bible study in the flyer. This was probably the number one reason we had only one sign up. Spaniards are very private about religious matters and it probably scared them off.

Instead of dismissing the idea altogether we immediately began to think of a better strategy. None of us were discouraged. We were thrilled about the kid that did sign up! Everybody worked really hard. We are attempting great things for God! This is reason to rejoice.

Things have worked out great since then. We now have eight kids signed up for the English classes, all invited by people from our church. This turns out to be a much better strategy because follow up will be easier. The one kid that did sign up was not only interested in the English class but the Bible study as well. This showed us that it was a good idea after all to be upfront about our intentions for the class.  We believe the class will grow even more through word of mouth.

I think sometimes we consider it unspiritual to evaluate our strategies. As if we are somehow questioning God’s plan. But we need to realize that God is a God of order and design. He gave us our rational faculties for a reason. It isn’t a sin to think and plan. I believe it glorifies our maker. God does the work, but He has sovereignly chosen to use us. Instead of giving up when things don’t go as planned maybe it would be better to learn from our mistakes and make the necessary changes. We can’t continue doing the same things in the same way and call it faithfulness to God. We must be willing to evaluate and change. Certainly not our doctrine or message, but our strategies.  I am certain that we will learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t as we deal with these young people. We may have to change our strategy again, but what will never change is our relentless effort to make disciples of Christ.

Four Baptisms

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This past Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing four believers. Two from Colmenar (First picture) and two from Parla (Second picture). One of them was my son. It was a very special day.

Ian: Since he was born we have whispered the gospel in his ears. As he grew up he began to ask a lot of questions about sin, salvation, hell and heaven. I am amazed by some of the questions he asks. I believe that it’s healthy for him to ask those questions because it shows that he is thinking about these things instead of simply borrowing his parent’s faith. He was saved last year during children’s camp. I am so proud of him. I pray that God would use him for His honor and glory.

Mayra: She began visiting the church in Colmenar last year. She had been influenced by her Christian best friend and came with lots of questions. From the beginning she was faithful to every service. She would bring good questions to our Thursday night “Come and See” Bible study and always wanted to talk after the Sunday message. God was working in her life. Last year during our furlough we got news that Mayra had finally believed the gospel. It has been amazing to see the change in her life. She is sharing the gospel with her friends and is involved in everything.

Lucas and Romina: We had been praying for young people for a long time and little by little they began to come. The only problem was that our entire youth group was lost. They didn’t seem very interested in the lessons and it was hard to have conversations with them about spiritual things. First Jefferson was saved. He was serving faithfully in the church but moved back to his home country (Peru) last year. Then Flavius was saved. He is currently preparing to go into full-time ministry. Then Lucas and Romina were saved. They are siblings. My sister, Deborah, had the opportunity to lead Romina to Christ and then Lucas was lead to Christ by his dad. Please continue praying for the youth in Spain. We rejoice with these baptisms.

An Impossible Dream

In March we will be starting English classes for young people in Colmenar Viejo. Immediately after the classes we will have a short Bible study. We will be distributing a two-sided flyer inviting them to the English classes as well as the Bible study. There are five high-schools in Colmenar with over two thousand students enrolled. We will be hitting every one of them with invitations next week.

I am nervous and excited as I prepare for this. Many thoughts cross my mind. What if nobody shows up? Will the church get discouraged? How will I help them believe that God is still working in Spain? Will I get discouraged? What if several young people do show up and stay for the bible study? Will they think I’m boring and never return? Will they disagree with everything I say? Will I have the answers to their questions? Will they have any questions?

Why am I sharing this with you? So that you can better pray for us. So that you can understand the challenges we face. So that you can rejoice with us in the victories and defeats knowing that God is ultimately in control. You see, I have an impossible dream. In my dream I see young people from Spain loving and serving God. I see pastors, missionaries, Sunday School teachers and music leaders in their teens and twenties. I see young people staying up all night studying the bible and praying for the souls of their fellow Spaniards instead of partying and doing drugs. The only problem with my dream is that it’s impossible.

I can’t offer them entertainment. Hollywood and their friends do a better job. I can’t offer them money. Serving Jesus isn’t going to fill their pockets with cash. I can’t offer them power and prestige. If they follow Christ they will be weirdos and outcasts. All I have to offer them is the gospel, which according to 1 Corinthians 1:18 is foolishness to them. As I said, it’s impossible. Even Jesus said so, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

The disciples’ reaction is logical, “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” Then came the divine answer, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Please pray for this new project. I’m thankful to be serving in Spain. Very few people believe that the work can be done here. That can only mean one thing: God will get the glory for everything that takes place because only God can accomplish the impossible.

An encouraging Sunday

Here are a few highlights from yesterday:

1. I learned something in Sunday School!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go Paco’s Sundays School class. Normally I’m teaching the youth class and busy with that so it was nice to sit down and be a student for a change. Several things impressed me about his class. First, he spoke with clarity and confidence. It was evident that he had spent many hours preparing his lesson. Second, he displayed a clear understanding of the greater narrative of Scripture. In other words, he didn’t lose sight of the big picture, which is hard especially when you’re teaching through the Old Testament. He spoke of God’s great redemption plan. Finally, he answered everyone’s questions with the Bible.

The reason God is using Paco so much is because he has literally devoured the Word of God. If you cut him he bleeds Scripture. He doesn’t have hundreds of books (although we are trying to get him more resources) or Logos Bible Software, but he does have the Bible and he knows how to use it.

2. Flavius shared his testimony in Parla and Colmenar.

Flavius is a young man that was saved almost a year ago. He is currently preparing to go into full time ministry. He shared how God had used different people to bring him to church and that it was a message from the gospel of John that opened his eyes to his need of Christ. He mentioned that every week he goes to class with twenty-nine other young people. At first he dreaded going to school because since his conversion he had nothing in common with them, but now he sees it as an opportunity for the gospel. One of his friends, Luis, was in church yesterday.

3. Disciples making disciples.

We had two new visitors in Colmenar yesterday. The best part is that they were invited by other believers. Eduardo brought his friend Guillermo, a businessman from Argentina. What I love about Eduardo is that he not only invites people to church but follows up with them. Then Mayra brought her friend Cristina. Mayra was saved in Colmenar and the change in her life has been radical. The greatest evidence of that change is that she now is bringing others to Christ. Pray for these visitors and pray for the work in Spain.

January 2015 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

By the time you read this letter we will already be in Spain. It’s good to be home! We will miss our home church however. We have greatly enjoyed spending our furlough with them. We couldn’t ask for a better church. The Sunday before we left they had a special blessing service for us. The entire service was designed to be a help and encouragement to us. At the end they gave us a box full of notes from the different members. During times of discouragement we will have these letters as a reminder that we are loved by our church back home. We have enjoyed spending time with all of our supporting churches. We thank God for so many churches and individuals that are holding the ropes for us.

When we first arrived in Spain in 2010 my parents and sister and brother-in-law were there to pick us up. This time we were received by believers from the church in Colmenar Viejo. They are our family in Christ. We are united by a love for Christ and a passion to reach Spain with the gospel. This time we are not alone. We have others that have joined in on the mission. As we did at the beginning we will hit the ground running. We have much work to do as we plan for 2015. The task before us is great! More unbelievers need to be evangelized! More leaders need to be trained! More churches must be started! We know that God is the one that is doing the work, but we are conscious that time is short and our responsibility great. Pray that we would see God work during our second term.

Please keep Eduardo and Angie in your prayers. They helped us start the church in Colmenar. They are faithful and dedicated believers. They have recently experienced several financial setbacks. Eduardo is in desperate need of a job to provide for his family. They have remained faithful through it all and are a great example to others. Eduardo is a huge part of everything that is being done in Colmenar. Also, pray for Flavius. He is currently preparing to go into the ministry. He is studying several Bible courses and learning the practical aspects of ministry. Our hearts desire is to see young people saved and trained for the ministry. Paco is still doing an excellent job teaching the adult Sunday School class. When I first arrived none of these men were serving God. I can’t wait to meet more people that God is going to save and use in the ministry. Lord willing during our next furlough we will have many more stories to share of God’s transforming grace. If I could summarize what God taught me during my first term it would be this: The gospel works! We have seen it work in the past and we know that it will work in the future. Once again, thank you so much for partnering with us during these past four years. God Bless.

October 2014 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

The time has certainly gone by quickly for us during our furlough. In a couple months we will be back in Spain. It has been a blessing visiting so many of our supporting churches as well as a few new ones. We are thankful for every church that God has placed in our path. We are humbled by your generosity and love. We are partners together in the gospel. One of the benefits of a furlough for a missionary is that it gives him to time to pray and make plans for the future. We are excited about what God is doing in Spain and we are confident that He will continue to work. We just can’t believe that we get to be a part of it!

In September we had our first baptism in Colmenar! Angie’s sister, Guillermina, who is the first-fruits of the work in Colmenar, followed the Lord in believer’s baptism and it thrills our hearts. We pray for many more to be saved and baptized in Colmenar. The work is going strong in the new church plant. Several believers and unbelievers meet together every thursday for the “Come and see” Bible study and are hearing the gospel expounded upon as they go through the book of John. We plan to start English classes and a youth Bible study upon our return to Spain. In addition, we want to saturate the city with the gospel several times. Our goal is that every household in Colmenar Viejo have access to the gospel.

Sunday, September 19 was a highlight for our ministry in Spain. My father was invited to preach in another city and for the first time both churches functioned without the help of any missionary. This is a small but important step in the goal of the churches becoming indigenous. Carlos Temprano taught the Youth Sunday school class and gave the announcements, Cristian led the music, Paco Prada preached in both churches and Flavius gave a five-minute message. This is very important for us. We believe that our responsibility to to enable believers for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-13). We told them from day one that we would not always be there and that God would raise up leaders from among them to carry on the work. They are witnessing this first-hand. There is much more work to be done. In order for Spain to be evangelized in our generation we must involve other people in the mission; we must reproduce ourselves in the lives of others; we must multiply our efforts. Please continue to pray for us as our furlough comes to an end that we would be bold in our witness and that God would use us to evangelize the lost, enable believers and establish more churches.

Three Blessings

1. New Church Building: This past Sunday was a big day for the church in Parla. After four years meeting in a small building we voted to move the church to a building three times the size of what we have now. We will finally have room to grow! Our desire is to inaugurate the new building in June or July. We will have a special service and everyone will invite friends, family members and co-workers. Please pray that the transition would go smoothly. We want to see more lives changed by the power of the gospel!

2. New Sunday School Teacher: Last week I had the privilege of watching Carlos Temprano teach the youth Sunday School class for the first time. He did an excellent job. I am currently training him as we will need help with the youth during my short furlough. I had the privilege of leading him to Christ and baptizing him. I meet up with him every week and teach him the Bible. It’s wonderful seeing him teach others the gospel. Please pray for Carlos. God is really using him.

3. New Believer: I have been praying for God to save our young people for a long time. This month Flavius, a nineteen year-old, placed his faith in Jesus Christ. He had been faithfully attending church services and had become convicted of his need of Christ. He is being discipled, devouring his Bible and growing in the Lord. We need dedicated young people if we’re going to turn Spain and the world upside down with the gospel. I’m excited for this young man.