August 2016 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” I believe that the ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God. In other words, the church exists to display the glory of God through the proclamation of the gospel and through the way in which we live our lives as members of the church. That is one of the ideas that I will be teaching from the Scriptures during the month of September in both churches (Parla and Colmenar). The theme for the sermon series is quite simply ‘The Church’. The reason I will be preaching on the subject of the church is because very soon we plan to formally organize the group of baptized believers in Colmenar as a church. I want them to be ready for that day.

The work of gospel proclamation continues in both churches. In Parla, several unbelievers have been attending the  ‘Come and See’ Bible study. Every week Paco and Flavius go through the gospel of John, explain the passages and answer their questions. In Colmenar, our plan is to start the live radio programs in September and promote them through Facebook ads. In addition, we are going to go through the city and ask people to give us their questions about God and the Bible for us to answer during the radio programs and then invite them to listen. We pray that God would open up doors for us to share the gospel with people as we fill out a short survey for the radio program with them. Our desire is to involve as many believers as possible in this project. Flavius is now in charge of the radio ministry. He selects the themes for the programs, prepares an outline for the program, edits the audio and uploads the new programs each week.

The work of training men continues. I am almost done studying systematic theology with Flavius and now Paco is going to start studying the same course. Also, I have started preparing a course on church polity which I will be teaching them every Saturday. I want them to be ready to lead the church when the time comes for them to be ordained as pastors. I believe one of the greatest responsibilities they will have as pastors is to faithfully teach the Word of God to the church. For that reason starting in January they are going to be preaching a lot more. Every other month they are going to be taking turns preaching through 2 Peter. In preparation for that series, they will be reading the entire book several times in order to determine the theme and they will outline the book and divide the book by sections or units of thought. Then we will discuss the messages together before and after they preach them. Please pray for me that I would lead these men by example. But most of all, pray that they would follow Christ. Thank you for your prayers and support. God Bless.

June 2016 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

Today is the last official day of school for my kids, which means summer is upon us. Things tend to slow down here in Spain during the summer months, especially in August, but we have a full calendar. We will kick things off in July with the third anniversary of the Colmenar church. We hope to see several visitors come for the special service and picnic that we will have afterwards. Also, we plan to launch our online radio station this week. Flavius and I have been recording programs every week and are excited that we finally have enough programming to launch the radio ministry. Not only do we plan to stream prerecorded programs, but we want to have live programs as well and answer questions from callers. We will be promoting the station through Facebook ads. Pray that many would click on the ads and hear the gospel.

The ‘Come and See’ Bible study in Parla is going well. It is being led completely by Paco and Flavius. What thrills my heart the most is that their teaching ministry is the outflow of their personal walk with God. These men are men of the Book. Not only that, they are readers. It is my privilege to purchase good solid books for them every month. If you would like to be a blessing to these men, one of the ways that you could do it is by helping them purchase books. Believe me, they will read them and use the knowledge gained to teach others! The people in the church have worked hard distributing invitations to the Bible study and we have already seen the church grow as a result. Continue praying for the Parla church.

Flavius is now officially leading the youth ministry in Parla. He is currently teaching them through the book of Romans. The book of Romans has had a huge impact on his life and he wants to share the message with others. As a matter of fact, he is only four chapters away for completely memorizing the book! Cristian has started leading the music and Paco continues to teach the adult class. Two ladies, Anca and Veronica (Paco’s wife) are teaching the children. It is wonderful to see these believers growing and teaching others. It has been our desire from day one for the churches that we plant to become indigenous (Self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating). One of our greatest obstacles towards that goal is purchasing a building for both churches. We know that God is able to lead us to the right buildings and provide the funds.

In July we are taking our young people to Portugal for camp. Pray that they would return with a renewed desire for God. Pray for Alain, Steven, Andrea, Juan, Lidia, Conchi, Geovanna, Andres and many others, for their salvation. God Bless.

April 2016 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

This month we celebrate the six-year anniversary of the Parla Baptist Church. I still remember when we arrived in Spain in 2010. My parents and my sister and brother-in-law (Jeffrey Andrews) had already been meeting in a store-front for seven months before our arrival and God was already blessing. Eduardo Sedoski had come to Christ through the gospel website and Paco Prada had come to the church after receiving a gospel DVD in his mailbox. Much has happened since then. Another church was started and several have come to faith in Christ and are growing spiritually. One of the greatest blessings is to see fruit that remains. Eduardo and his family are now serving with our family in the Biblical Baptist Church of Colmenar and Paco is faithfully serving and teaching alongside his family in Parla. God is good!

It’s great to see the results of training men. For the past four years I have spent approximately twenty hours a week specifically training men for ministry. Now our gospel witness is multiplying. In a couple weeks the church in Parla is going to start a ‘Come and See’ bible study like the one we have in Colmenar with an evangelistic focus. What’s great is that it will be totally led by Paco and Flavius. They will be teaching, answering questions and leading the discussion. In addition, these men are preaching, discipling others and leading various ministries. God is using the women as well to evangelize the lost, disciple other women and teach children. We know that if we want to start more churches in the future we will need to be busy “…perfecting…the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).

We are currently developing tools for the furtherance of the gospel in Spain! We are cooperating with several missionaries and pastors to produce a first-class gospel website. It is a lot of work, but we believe every minute invested in this project will be worth it if the gospel is proclaimed and Christ is magnified through the site! We hope to launch the site in the Fall. Another tool we are working on is an online radio station for the church in Colmenar. My dear missionary friend, Aaron Bashore, helped us set it up. Flavius and I will be working on the programming. We hope to reach thousands through the station.

Thank you for your support and prayers. We desire to partner with you in Spain for many years to come. As a matter of fact, we finally received our permanent Spanish residency. That means that we renew our residency every five years and it’s a very easy process. We believe that God has led us every step of the way and that we are exactly where He wants us to be at this time. Please continue praying for us as we preach Christ and trust the Lord to work in the hearts of men.

Come and See

It’s been about a year and a half since we started our ‘Come and See’ bible study on Thursday nights. It has been a great evangelistic tool. Every week we meet at the church, sit in a circle, and study the gospel of John. Amazingly the attendance is sometimes greater on Thursday night than it is on Sunday because in addition to our regular church members we have several ‘seekers’ that come to the mid-week Bible study.

Why did we start ‘Come and see’? We wanted to give people the opportunity to study biblical Christianity directly from the source (the Scriptures). So many people in Spain think they know all there is to know about Christianity and Jesus but are shocked when they discover that Christ’s testimony of himself and their idea of Christ aren’t the same. That is why we are going verse by verse through the gospel of John and letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. However, I always give preference to their questions. Many weeks I don’t have time to finish the lesson because they have so many questions.

I am thrilled to say that since we started the ‘Come and See’ Bible study we have had five of our regular attenders get saved and baptized. All of them are still with us. Another blessing is that we have always had ‘seekers’ with us. Right now we have two unbelievers that faithfully attend and another that attends sporadically. What is exciting is that those that have been transformed by the power of the gospel are able to share their testimony with these ‘seekers’ and say to them, “I’ve been where you are; I know what you’re thinking.”

‘Come and See’ has also been a great tool for discipleship and training men. It is a great time for new believers to have their questions answered and for mature believers to answer their questions. When we started ‘Come and See’ only Eduardo and I knew enough bible to answer questions. Now I have two other men that are explaining the gospel and patiently helping our ‘seekers’. Last Thursday was especially a blessing. We have a new lady that is attending the Bible study. She is friends with Angie (Eduardo’s wife). She asked these questions: “What is the difference between this church and the Catholic church and why did you start this church?” Instead of answering the questions myself I let the believers in the group answer them. I must say, it was a special moment for me. I saw people that had asked me the same questions in the past answer her questions very clearly and from the Scriptures. Please continue to pray for ‘Ven y Ve’ (Come and see).

 

An Exciting Weekend!

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We had an exciting weekend at the church in Colmenar! It all started with the baptism of Javier and Harold. Both of these men came to know Christ through the testimony of believers from the Colmenar church. Javier is Eduardo’s friend. For several years Eduardo shared the gospel with him. Last year I started meeting up with him once a week to answer his Bible questions. One of those days he confessed to me that he had believed the gospel!  Saturday was the culmination of more than two years of  praying for Javier and patiently teaching him the gospel.

Harold is sixteen. He was invited to church by Mayra. Very soon after he started attending the church services he shared with me that he had placed his faith and trust in Jesus for his salvation. The Lord used a gospel film to show him his need of Christ. I immediately started discipling him. It has been wonderful to see the change in his life. We spend lots of time together during the week studying the Bible.

Then to top things off Flavius preached his first full-length message on Sunday. In the message he clearly expounded the gospel of Christ! It’s weekends like these that I am reminded of why we came to Spain as missionaries. Thank you for your prayers.

 

 

 

Training men and Scripture Memorization

A spiritual discipline that has helped me immensely in my Christian life is Scripture memorization. I started memorizing Scripture intentionally when I was fourteen. One of the first changes that I noticed was that I started thinking biblically. Please don’t misunderstand and think that I stopped sinning and achieved perfection. That is far from the truth. My wife could attest to that! What I do know is that my way of thinking changed. I don’t know exactly when it started, but I noticed that little by little verses started popping up in my mind that altered the way I thought and acted. I noticed that I was able to explain the gospel more clearly. I noticed that I was able to answer the objections of skeptics more effectively. But the greatest benefit of all is that I began to desire the things of God. Again, it did not fix all my problems. I still struggle with sin. I still fail in my Christian life. However, Scripture memorization has been a tremendous blessing.

Also, Scripture memorization does not replace other spiritual disciplines. Every believer ought to read his bible and meditate on it day and night. Every believer ought to learn to pray and to diligently seek after God. But I find that very few Christians memorize Scripture. I don’t understand the reason! My challenge to those that find memorization tedious and boring is for them to memorize one of Paul’s epistles. It doesn’t take long to memorize an epistle and the spiritual benefits are eternal. I’ve never met a born again believer that has memorized a book of the Bible and hasn’t been spiritually enriched by it.

So what does Scripture memorization have to do with training men? I believe that the discipline of Scripture memorization enables the men that we are training to think biblically. What skill could be more important for a future pastor or missionary! I’ll give you one example. Flavius Tabardau is a young man that I am training for ministry. One of the first things he did after he was saved was memorize 1 John. I noticed immediately that he had a very clear understanding of true biblical conversion. He would talk about the importance of loving his brethren in Christ and why it’s foolish to love the world. How did he learn those things? Did he learn them by reading a book on spiritual growth and maturity? No. He learned those things by meditating on 1 John as he reviewed his verses every day. When he started preaching five-minute messages, guess from which book he preached?

Next, he started memorizing Romans. We are actually memorizing it together. We are almost done with chapter five. Whenever we meet together to study, we begin by reviewing our memory verses and discussing the meaning of what we’ve memorized. It has helped both of us tremendously. What a book to study! What I have noticed is that his understanding of the gospel is solid. What’s great is that he isn’t learning the gospel from me; he’s learning it from Paul! The other day he said to me, “David, I think I know how to summarize the gospel in two words.” I said, “How”. He replied, “The gospel is: ‘for sinners’.” His answer thrilled my heart because he had understood Paul’s point in the first three chapters of Romans: we are all sinners and in desperate need of Christ! Then he shared with me how he had taught the gospel to one of his friends. He said, “All I did was explain the first five chapters of Romans to him.” Praise the Lord!

Again, I don’t believe memorization is the only important spiritual discipline. Also, I’m not against formal theological training and reading books. As a matter of fact, Flavius and I are studying Systematic Theology right now and he is devouring books like crazy. What I am saying is that memorization has greatly helped me and it has helped the men I am training here in Spain. Do you think it could help you? What would happen if you memorized a book of the bible? What would happen if you memorized four? Would if affect the way you think? Would you love God more? Would you be better prepared? If you accept my challenge, please let me know if there is any way I can help you in the area of Scripture memorization.

October 2015 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

Does the gospel work differently in Europe than in other parts of the world? Are Spaniards more hardened to the gospel than others? The Bible answers these questions clearly. The gospel is powerful to save in every place. Its power is not diminished by geography (Romans 1:16; Colossians 1:5-6). Also, all men are hardened to the gospel. Nobody is naturally inclined to it. Every man is sinful by nature and rebellious against God (Romans 3:10-12; Ephesians 4:17-19). So, why is it that so few spaniards believe the gospel and why does the work appear slower in this part of the world? I believe that one of the reasons is because it is harder in Spain to gain an audience for the gospel. In other words, for cultural reasons, it is harder to get people to even hear the gospel. Because less are willing to hear the gospel, less get saved.

So, what is our challenge as missionaries to Spain? Getting more people to hear and learn the gospel. One of the ways that we plan to gain a wider audience for the gospel is through the internet. Last month we started working on our gospel website (estudialabiblia.com). I went down to Seville and recorded three videos that will be featured on the home page. This is a joint project with several other like-minded missionaries. We believe God is going to greatly use this website! Another way to get more people to hear the gospel is by multiplying our efforts. We need more gospel-proclaimers! That’s why it isn’t a waste of time to invest in men like Eduardo, Paco and Flavius. Every disciple-maker that we train will mean more voices to proclaim the good news of Christ.

Another potential disciple-maker is Harold. A young man that was saved in April. I have been spending a lot of time with him. He is sixteen and struggles with peer-pressure at his high-school. Flavius is a great example to him. He is twenty and  on fire for God. I know that Harold respects him and in many ways would like to be like him. I am praying that God will grow our youth group. One of the ways that we are trying to reach young people is through the free English classes. We distributed ten thousand flyers directly in people’s mailboxes and we had three new kids sign up. A few from our last trimester of classes have returned, but we feel that the group needs to grow a little more in order for us to maximize our time and have a greater impact. Because of that I am going to go fishing for young people every Friday night with Flavius and Harold. We’re going to invite them to the classes and share the gospel as well. Thank you for your prayers and faithful support. God Bless.

June 2015 Velasquez Family Update

Dear Pastor, Congregation and Friends,

The first Sunday of July we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Biblical Baptist Church of Colmenar Viejo, Madrid. As this special date approaches I am reminded of why we started the church. It has always been our vision to start multiple churches. When we arrived in Spain in 2010 we joined my parents and sister and brother-in-law who had started a church in Parla, Madrid about seven months earlier. From the beginning we explained to the Parla Baptist Church that one day it would reproduce another church. We didn’t know at that time how soon that dream would be realized. Exactly two years after our arrival the Lord began to work in my heart about starting a new work. It was God who opened up the door. I had been having Bible studies in the home of Eduardo and Angie Sedoski for several months in 2012. This couple had been saved in the Parla church but lived fifty minutes away in the city of Colmenar Viejo. It was so far away that it was hard for them to invite people to church. As we started making contacts in this city of 50,000 people it became clear that Colmenar needed a gospel-preaching church. A few months later it was born.

What has God done? The first thing we have witnessed is multiplication. We are now saturating two cities with the gospel. Everything we attempt for the glory of God has twice the impact. Evangelism, Discipleship and leader-training is happening in two places at the same time. Here’s another blessing: we are reaching new people that otherwise wouldn’t have had access to the gospel. How has this happened? Colmenar Viejo was saturated with invitations to the inauguration two times. We have distributed thousands of gospel tracts throughout the city. We started the “Come and See” Bible study on Thursdays and several unbelievers are being taught the gospel every week. We saturated the city five times with invitations to the “Come and See” Bible study. We started free English classes for young people followed by a youth Bible study. Our average weekly attendance for the church is between fifteen and twenty. Two recent converts are Javier and Harold! The former is one of Eduardo’s friends. For over a year I have personally shared the gospel with him and he has attended the “Come and See” Bible study. He has given a clear testimony of salvation and will be baptized shortly. The latter is a young man that was invited by his girlfriend. He is being discipled and growing in the Lord. This is why we believe in church-planting. What would happen if we started more?

This leads us to the task of training men. We will only see churches started in proportion to the men trained. Pray especially for Paco and Flavius, both members of the church in Parla who are preparing for ministry. We want to see more men trained. Thank you for your faithful prayer and support. Rejoice with us at what God has done!

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.