Once again, like every other year, the calendar marks the 14th of February, and in our country we celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day of love and friendship. This is a day to exchange gifts with your loved ones or even go on a date. Flowers, chocolates, and candies become popular again. For me this date is much more than that. It was the 14th of February in 2010 when I received the calling from God to become a pastor next to my wife and children. They were just kids when this happened Carlos was four, Regina was six, Mauricio was seven, and Elvirita, our adopted daughter was 22 years old.
We started by having church services at my house. After meeting several times, we decided to move to a different building my family owns. We didn’t have any musical instruments, logistics, much less any idea of how to fund a church, but we had a grateful heart to serve God. I knew God would be faithful, and that he had a plan for us. God had shown himself to me and my family demonstrating his love and divine protection by taking care of us when we were in a car accident.
But God had been working on my heart long before that accident. I had been on a spiritual retreat back in 2006, and during that retreat I had a personal encounter with Jesus. For me, everything changed. That’s when I started going to church and studying my bible more. I was thirsty and hungry to learn more from God, the same hunger and thirst I have now. I took every chance I had to learn more. I started going to theology seminars and studied with missionaries that came to our city. I had decided to have a real relationship with my God.
Later I realized that in the church there were things that were anti Biblical, some churches had practices that were contrary to what the sacred scriptures taught us. They used psychology and emotions to keep people there. Yes they were thrilling, but they had very little knowledge of the truth and what they were doing. Practicing retreats where I had given my life to Jesus, God used these retreats to call me but not everything the churches did had basis in the Bible. I decided to step away and stop attending churches. I didn’t want to be a judge of how the other churches work or the strategies and methods they use. I asked God to keep me from having a judgmental heart. I just wanted to have a relationship with Jesus, learn from him and his life, and learn how I could take his message to those who need it.
Returning to my story, it was on the 14th of February that we got out of the comfort of our house and we moved on to a bigger building. At that point we only used CDs for the worship songs. It was during this time that a family who had just recently moved to Gracias showed up timidly asking if this was a church. My wife’s answer was that this isn’t a church, but we do bible studies and you are welcome if you’d like to come in. From that point our church continued to grow.
Later on God sent a missionary couple and their family down to Honduras, the Hopkins family. They have helped us with their discipling programs, teachings, and connecting us through 61 Isaiah Ministries with other missionaries who live in Honduras, specifically in my town Gracias Lempira. I have walked with them and learned so much from them by visiting churches, villages, and communities. Through 61 Isaiah we formed a partnership with our sister church The Avenue from Waxahachie, Texas. They come down to visit us yearly, helping share the gospel all around. Not only do we share God’s word, but we also work on social projects at Maternity Home for women from far away communities and villages to come stay while they wait to give birth at the local hospital.
So much has changed since we started our church that February 14th. But what I really want to share with you is that for me, Jose Mauricio Vicente Romero, I can say that by the grace of my Heavenly Father I have the privilege of being the pastor of Rio de Dios. And I can’t be more thankful for having celebrated our 13th anniversary. Every doubt and insecurity I had at the beginning, God has walked through them with me. Little by little God connected me with the right people and has shown me what it means to be part of a healthy church that may truly be a River of pure waters, like in Revelations 22:1, where people may come and find the peace that only God can give us.