How does God work in our world? Throughout history, God has called and empowered ordinary people to follow Him and impact the world with the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Guatemala story is no different. One family in Guatemala holds this testimony, as their obedient steps of faith opened the door for thousands of people to receive the gift of the Gospel. It all began with Otto and Rosa de la Cruz accepting God’s call in 1990 to plant a church in Belize. For three years, the Lord was carefully preparing them for what lied ahead, and eventually He led them to return to their home country of Guatemala. No one could have ever expected the successful ministry that Otto and his family ushered into Guatemala, but the miraculous works of our God were soon to be displayed.
“The first year in Guatemala we worked by faith alone,” Otto says. They did not have the financial support or resources they needed, but he and his family continued to follow the Lord’s direction with the comfort of His loving grace. With the help of some Missions Door missionaries, they were able to acquire the resources and support raising skills needed to proceed… and the ministry flourished.
Otto’s wife and five daughters have been entirely involved in the ministry since the very beginning. “When we started in Guatemala, my daughters were teaching the children on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week they would go out into the communities to invite children to come learn about the Lord while my wife and I would knock on doors to evangelize to adults.”
Within the next ten years, Otto and his family planted 24 churches across the country. After another 20 years, Otto and his growing team of 250 leaders grew that number to an impressive 40 churches in total!
During the process of church planting, Otto and Rosa would host teams during the summer. A typical year would consist of five to six teams from the U.S. coming to visit and work on extensive projects for church-plants. They would construct the church buildings from the ground up until the structure was ready for the finishing touches by the local church members. It would take around three years for one new church building to be completed. Otto and his team have seen 34 church buildings and one seminary building constructed from start to finish. “It was very arduous work, but there was so much blessing in being able to interact with the groups,” Rosa recalls.
When the teams came, they were welcomed and taken care of by the most incredible host: Rosa de la Cruz. She would coordinate the logistics and personally guaranteed that everyone would eat very well. She received so many requests for her recipes she decided to write her own cookbook, featuring one of her most famous dishes—chili rellenos.
There Are Challenges in Ministry
Ministry wasn’t always easy, but seeing the Lord come through with His promises and His longing to see His Church flourish reminds Otto and his family why they do what they do. Otto reflects on the many events that went toward planting the churches and growing them to sustainability. He says the most pain comes from training and investing in pastors just for them to leave. “It is exciting to make new leaders and give them the tools so they can share the Gospel. But along the way, some would give up and we had to start the process with another candidate all over again,” he says.
Today, by continuing to take faithful steps and remaining steadfast in God’s promises, every single church has a pastor.
“Problems are a part of ministry,” Otto says. The muddled season that we find the world in now with the coronavirus is, too, a part of ministry. Otto and his team have still seen the Lord move during this time and have found ways to serve Him.
Though the pandemic has restricted travel and put a halt to much of the normal ministry activities, Otto says that everyone in their churches have found ways to meet one another’s needs and nurture their congregations. Pastors are able to meet with members under the appropriate precautions and safety measures, and they have been able to distribute food and supplies to those with the greatest needs.
“Work for Jesus,” Otto says. “Not for what you are going to get, but for what you are able to give.”
Well done, Good and Faithful Servants
After 30 years, Otto and Rosa are now stepping into retirement. So what lies ahead in their new chapter?
Otto says he may pastor one of the churches or continue teaching at the seminary, where he has already taught Pastoral Theology and Christian Leadership for ten years. Whichever direction God leads, they are sure to continue choosing servanthood to the Lord as they have done so well for many, many years.
“If you want to be a missionary, a pastor, or a teacher of the Bible, you must first give yourself to the Lord,” Otto says.
These words and the testimony of Otto and his family will continue to resonate in Guatemala. God used one family of good and faithful servants to open the door to an entire country, and that is nothing short of a miracle.