Updated: May 2, 2020
In the beginning of the month of March, the Lord took us to San Lorenzo el Cubo, a village in the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala. Both CCI and the local church Iglesia Cristiana Belen spent many weeks planning and preparing for this campaign. We were looking forward to what the Lord had in store for the local people and also wondering if the COVID-19 Pandemic that was brewing in the East would affect our campaign plans.
We planned for three weeks of evangelistic activities in Guatemala, visiting six cities in the country. With the Lord‘s help, we were able to finish two of the three days of the campaign planned for the first week. Although we had to postpone the rest of the campaigns in Guatemala, we are very thankful for the Lord’s presence and the moving of His Holy Spirit during those two days, bringing fruit and changing hearts of those in attendance.
We know that the Lord is in control of everything, and nothing escapes from His eyes or knowledge. In His infinite mercy, He allowed us to complete that first week of activities minus the one day that we had to cancel in compliance to the local government‘s orders due to the arrival of the Coronavirus in Guatemala.
The way the Lord moves in each campaign is unique, and in every place His presence comes in different ways. It is wonderful to see how the Lord blesses not only the locals attending the meetings, but also the local volunteers as well as the CCI team, leaving with us beautiful lessons and memorable experiences. We interviewed Pastor Freddy Castellanos who shares with us his perspective on how the Lord moved during the campaign, from the laborer’s point of view. We hope this interview may be a blessing for you!
1. How did the idea of having evangelistic campaigns occur, and when did CCI become involved?
Truly, I still do not have a clear explanation; however, there was a longing in me as a pastor as well as my congregation for the Lord to bring a revival to our lives, to our church, and to the village in which the church is located. At this time, we received the news that CCI was going to have three campaigns in the country, and we were one of the eligible churches to co-host the campaigns. We were told to choose the dates, and we thought the first option among the dates CCI offered was the best for our church. And that is how, with great joy and thanksgiving to the Lord, we agreed to host this campaign hoping that this was the door that the Lord had opened for the people of San Lorenzo el Cubo, in Ciudad Vieja, Sacatepéquez, where our church is located.
2. Were there trials or spiritual opposition? What were some of the challenges that had to be faced prior to hosting the campaign as well as during the campaign?
Well, I think the enemy of our souls will always bring opposition and try to discourage us from accepting the challenge of co-hosting a campaign like this. We definitely struggled trying to understand the magnitude of the work and all we had to do in order for the campaign to be held properly. Due to this, we decided to invite Bro. Fidel Reyes to come [to Antigua], so he could explain to us what was the best way to start doing the work.
As we talked with him, we understood that if we made the effort, not just as a pastor with my wife, but together with the entire church, then we could overcome any doubt and discouragement related to co-hosting the campaign. Indeed, we faced many situations and challenges. For example, some of the church members worked in the health department, and they told us that without the authorization to hold the free medical clinic, we might run into trouble with the Health Administration and other government agencies. However, in my mind it was clear that CCI would take care of that, and we ruled that idea out as an opposition to hosting the campaigns.
The first thing that brought discouragement to us was the cost of the tarps, of renting a sound system, and many more things we had to have ready like being prepared to have baptisms right after each service, if there would be any converts. This was one of the important challenges that we had as pastors as we clearly understood that to be saved we have to believe and also be baptized having no need to delay the baptism. It was wonderful to see how God helped us and was with us during the Campaign and Medical Clinic.
3. What did the Lord speak to your heart concerning the theme of the campaign? What did you feel was God’s purpose in allowing an evangelistic campaign in this city?
We needed to understand that Christ does not live in the hearts of the millions and millions of inhabitants on the earth, and our small village San Lorenzo el Cubo had the same problem. Our longing was that the Lord would bring a message of His presence to this people, that they would obtain His salvation and the Lord’s forgiveness for their lives.
I think that was the Lord’s goal by allowing this campaign to be held in our village, a very small village; but even though it is small, it was very needy. And it was just incredible how the Lord allowed this campaign to be held. After seeing all that happened after the first two days of campaigns, we then understood how much the Lord loves this village. We long to keep pressing forward so that the Lord may save many more people and that they may not see the natural things as the only benefit for their lives, but that they may see the need they have for eternal salvation.
4. In which ways did you see the Lord moving during the campaign? How did He manifest Himself?
It is hard to utter human words trying to explain this. It was just incredible how many people attended! It was reported to us that more than 400 people visited us, and we are certain that around 65% were visitors not known to us. We did not invite churches at all. We only handed out flyers one month prior to the activity and also during the week the meeting was being held so that the people could come to these spiritual activities, and we also mentioned to them the Free Medical Clinic, to help meet their physical needs concerning their health. And it was wonderful how the people responded to our invitation. We are very grateful to the Lord. Indeed, we saw very grateful people, full of repentance and willing to turn to the Lord. Others were touched by the moving of the Lord during those two nights.
5. The Clinic served 368 patients. Total attendance was approximately 460 people. There were 40 new converts, 6 rededications, and 21 baptisms. Were you expecting such an outcome?
To be honest, I have to recognize there was unbelief in my heart. In my spirit there was a great fear that people would not come, but when all this ended I realized that the work does not belong to man, but it is done by the Lord. We are only useless vessels in His hand, and it is important to understand that the Lord does not need us and that He can get the job done without us being there. But He always wants to give us the opportunity and expects us to be willing to serve Him. I believe the result among this needy people was [because of] His Merciful Hand, and we are VERY grateful to the Lord.
6. In seeing the final numbers, the people’s response, and the incoming trial due to COVID-19, what were your feelings?
We were very thankful for those two nights of evangelistic meetings. Suddenly, not by our own will (we had a meeting with the leaders of our church that lasted past midnight) we had to decide to cancel the Sunday service where Bro. Josiah Alway was going to preach in our church to all those willing to hear.
In all honesty, from that day on there was some confusion in our hearts; not a lack of faith, but an uncertainty of what was to come for us, Guatemala, Central America, and the whole world related to this virus which now we know that, no matter how it came to be in this world and how it has contaminated all those people, the most important fact for us is that the Lord allowed this to happen to try our hearts and the hearts of all the people of God to see to what extent we trust in Him. And we know this that if we dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty, we will be protected from any plague or judgment that the Lord sends to this world.
We testify that, as we have been had to close the church with all members staying in their homes, as we transmitted our first message to them, we were understood that we were like the children of Israel in Egypt sheltered in our homes and seeing how the Lord was bringing judgment to the country with His plagues. We clearly understand that we have to be in Goshen as the world receives judgment and cleansing from God which we now are seeing naturally and spiritually.
7. The local church certainly worked very hard and diligently for all this to be possible. CCI staff mentioned that they saw the Body of Christ active and palpable through this team of helpers. Any words for them?
Of course! We recognize that the love the Lord has placed in the hearts of many of our church members is shown in that way. There is always somebody that wants to help and longs to participate never expecting payment, but only grateful to be used by the Lord in every good work.
We encourage all our church’s sheep to not be dismayed, keep pressing forward despite being locked down in your houses. Keep thanking the Lord for being able to participate in many blessings, as when CCI’s evangelistic meetings were held those two nights, which were enough for us to understand that the Lord is over us and His grace is still available for those that seek it.
8. What lesson did all the evangelistic activities leave with you and your church?
The Lord is always willing to forgive and permit man to repent from sin and turn back to their Creator. And, of course, we as the Body of Christ have to recognize that we stumble and many times make mistakes; in other words, we sin. But when we repent and confess our faults moving closer to the Lord, He is always willing to forgive us if we confess with all our heart and if we are willing to turn away from evil.
9. Would you like to share a testimony or any experience that happened during the campaign?
Speaking with one of the leaders, we remembered a woman, the first one that accepted the Lord on the first meeting. When she visited us during the Medical Clinic the second day, she told us she was very happy and was smiling for the first time, and she did not hesitate in inviting her husband to that night’s meeting. She was the first person to come up front to accept the Lord Jesus and to be baptized immediately after the meeting that Friday night, opening the way for others to do as she did and coming near with confidence to the Lord’s feet.
It was amazing to watch how people attending the meetings were not thinking, “Do I understand or not,” but only believing, and we were able to see how they responded when we had the baptisms after the conversions to which nobody resisted. On the contrary, it was a blessing because every time someone came forward to accept the Lord, others started longing to be baptized too. And that is a miracle!
As a pastor, something I was able to experience that touched my heart in the deepest way and humbled me to the lowest was after the first meeting on Friday night when Bro. Josiah had the altar call and then he and his translator Bro. Fidel Reyes bowed down to the ground in front of all the congregarion. My heart was hit in such a way and I was able to hear the Lord saying to me, “Now it is the time for you to go and invite the sinners to turn back to God.” And suddenly I sprang up off my seat, Bro. Josiah gave me the microphone, and I exhorted the people in the name of the Lord. It was unbelievable how many people came forward, and I am sure the Lord Himself had spoken with authority to their hearts and that their salvation was nigh. There was also people that found reconciliation with the Lord and rededicated their lives to the Lord, and all of a sudden, baptisms began! It was something wonderful, something that I will never forget and that has touched my heart for days.
And it’s amazing how the Lord after this, from the time we finished Friday until Saturday night, gave us another wonderful experience that Saturday and another message concerning believing and being baptized. We received the testimony of two families which we have been reaching out to through audio and video, and we have seen the willingness in their children, the first who is about 10 years old, who one of these Sundays urgently asked his parents to talk to us because he felt the need to be baptized since he accepted Jesus Christ into his heart at his home during a devotional. So the very next day, on Monday, we baptized him. Incredibly, the next day without having spoken to the first family, another sister wrote to us and shared with us the testimony that both of her children, a 12 year-old and a 9-year-old had also accepted the Lord into their hearts and urgently needed to be baptized. So the next day, Tuesday, we baptized these two boys, who felt the need to be baptized after having believed.
It was a precious experience, to arrive at church those two times with only a handful of brothers and sisters to have the baptisms. It was incredible for us to realize how important it is to believe in the restoration of the doctrine of baptism that many of us had forgotten, and it is a privilege to fulfill the Word of God as written.
10. Do you have any final words to share with our readers?
Brethren and friends, let us not forget that the Lord’s coming is at hand, and we definitely know that the Lord is preparing ministers, His servants, to preach to those who are lost so that they can turn back and come to their Creator. The words of the Lord Jesus are clear: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” And the Lord invited the disciples and told them, “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Brethren, please, let us all pray to the Lord that He may lift up laborers for His harvest. Maybe one of you readers are one of those that the Lord will use to serve Him preaching the gospel to the world.
We thank the Lord and CCI for the great privilege they gave us in having them in our church and in our city, and having been able to share many evenings together with many meals and especially the time of fellowship with them. We are very grateful, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His great mercy. God bless you.