Gary, along with fellow Covenant missionary, Julio Isaza, recently spent a major chunk of time helping to put the second floor on the Family Restoration Center Iglesia, with a Construction mission team from Bayside Granite Bay Covenant and a Construction mission team from Sacramento First Covenant. When we started, Pastor Luis, his wife, Gladys, and their daughter, Maria, along with two youth who were staying with them, Marcela and Jhon Jairo, had to face two months with a makeshift roof over their bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. After the two back-to-back mission teams had come and gone, a roof, really the new second floor, was providing cover for their living space. Luis and his family had lived for weeks trying to save their belongings from rain, construction and storage damage (not everything was able to be adequately put in boxes or protected). Luis and his family had lived for weeks sharing their “home—two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and kitchen” with mission teams, church construction volunteers, crazy hours – one day the workers were there from 6:30 am until 5:00 am the next day – working in two shifts straight through. It was the living “out under the stars” that broke the hearts of Mary Lou and Gary and made them wonder, “how could they live like that?”
The Family Restoration Church is a church being planted by Luis and Gladys. About two years ago the groups with whom Luis and Gladys were meeting decided, in faith, to purchase land and build a ministry center in a new neighborhood in Monteria that was being developed. It was a move of faith and vision to be strategically located in a growing area. It was also an adventure as the city of Monteria decided to develop what had previously been a bog-swamp. In fact, for the first year or so, Luis and Gladys kept hefty wooden poles around to help protect them from the snakes that were slowly leaving the area and looking for a new place to live. Luis and Gladys decided to live at the church site when it was purchased in order to: 1) be present for ministry opportunities; 2) rent out their own home so that they could add what they earned in the rent to help with their salary; 3) show their commitment to the vision; and 4) show the neighborhood that they were committed to developing the community and participating in its growth (they weren’t just pastors of a church who came to the area during ministry meeting times.
It is this commitment to the community and the ministry that made Gary and Mary Lou stand in awe. The Samaria II neighborhood hasn’t always been an easy place to live, especially as the ministry building, and pastoral apartment, has been being built. Those of you who have experienced churches in construction, pastoring during that time, helping out in those times, etc. know the challenges that can come up. For Luis and Gladys it has been the same, plus the fact that they were actually living at the site. One needs loads of patience, perseverance, encouragement, commitment, faith, positive outlook, a true sense of God’s call to keep going, etc. The list goes on and on.
But, for right now, at least, the only rain that comes into Luis and Gladys church/home is when the winds really blow and the water comes in where the wall doesn’t meet the floor/roof. The building project goes forward as the Family Restoration Church family will be pouring the rest of the second floor this coming weekend.