I newly thank and praise God for enabling me to serve His world redemptive work for another year. This past year of 2016 was a year full of God’s teachings and difficult training for me and my family.
The year began with much encouragement from God’s flock who had continued to faithfully meet together (8 in total). However, on March 25, we received a sad news of the passing of our sheep who was only 13 years old. Her death was the result of a hemorrhagic dengue fever, a very complicated illness. This news caused much sorrow for our ministry since she was very active, intelligent, and excited to follow Jesus by faith. As a result, her mother who was participating in the 2015-2016 discipleship program decided not to continue. Another sheep who was also participating in the program was discouraged and decided to stop. Therefore, we did not have a discipleship conference in 2016 in our chapter.
One month later, our electronic equipment including a laptop, small sound system and video beam stopped working. Due to the difficult economic situation that our country has been currently facing, we have not been able to fix or replace the equipment.
Halfway through the year, we had to move to an apartment in the downtown area of the city of Merida. Living there was very inconvenient as we could only use the kitchen when the owners were not using it. Furthermore, they were not very neat and it was unpleasant to cook there due to the presence of numerous cockroaches. Also, our daughter who was one and a half years old needed space but it was very limited and uncomfortable there. In addition, the owners tended to sleep until very late and on occasion were very loud, waking up our daughter. Because of this, we could not hold any church activities such as inviting sheep for lunch or group Bible study.
Our Sunday worship service was held in a hall we rented for four hours from 9:00am to 1:00pm. This place was designed to hold classes, conferences, and gatherings and was very excellent. However, in just one year, the owners decided to raise the fee for using it four times increasing the fee by fifty percent each time. Due to this, church offerings began to run extremely low and we could no longer offer lunch after Sunday worship service, a tradition that characterized our church.
On August 26-28, we held a gathering with our sister church of Maracaibo UBF. It was our second 2016 Regional Summer Conference titled, “Jesus, Powerful Savior.” It was held in the province of Joya in Merida. By the grace of God, we were able to overcome all obstacles with much sacrifice on behalf of both chapters. Among the guests of Merida UBF, one sister stood up to answer a call to discipleship. But in a short time, she was persecuted at home and her family forbade her from participating in our ministry. We were saddened because for two years in a row we could not hold a discipleship conference.
In the midst of many inconveniences and struggles, I began to have a sense of great spiritual conflict in my heart. I asked myself what it was that God was trying to show me through all of these hardships. Many things came to mind. I began to question whether God chose me to be the director of Merida UBF or if he wanted to appoint someone else. Was it that perhaps I came to the wrong city? Such questions left me feeling very discouraged, caused strong conflict with my wife, and there was a sense of discouragement among our congregation to the point that I decided to step down from my role of leadership and entrust it to someone else.
One day, with many tears in my eyes and a great sense of failure, I sent an email to my shepherd, M. Juan Seo, making him aware of all of my concerns, confessing the agonies of my heart, and letting him know that I was handing over my role of leadership as a director of Merida UBF. We talked for a long time and as we talked, I could see God giving his final word concerning his will for my life. M. Juan Seo told me he could buy a house for my family to live in the city of Merida that could be used to establish a stable chapter of Merida UBF. I want to make it clear that during this time, I never lost my faith nor did I plan on abandoning the life of faith. However, I did doubt God’s calling on my life as the director for Merida UBF.
Hebrews 12:6 reads, “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son,” and Php 1:6 reminds us, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Through these verses I could see that God has been planning something far greater than I could pray for. He was working in silence, making me reach my human limitation and making this not a report of failure but rather a report of victory.
In addition, I experienced God’s blessing as after many obstacles I was finally accepted into the University of Los Andes as a full time employee. I was hired at a computer lab for the Engineering Department. Now I have contact with more than 200 students among 9 classes held in this lab. This reveals God’s answer to prayer, confirming his will on my life to lead the Merida UBF chapter. Also, the house M. Juan Seo said that he would purchase is a reality. We are now living there, enjoying privacy, and holding group Bible studies and Sunday worship service. We invite sheep over for fellowship and prayer vigils.
In addition, God granted me the privilege of graduating in December with a degree in ITS, graduating with honors and the highest GPA among a gradating class of 258 students. In all of these things, God reveals his faithfulness despite my unfaithfulness. He shows me his presence is with me even when I feel he is not there. He shows me that his word and his will always prevail; we have to only wait and endure all struggles. I repent for allowing doubt, and complaints to fill my heart. I pray that God may enable Merida UBF to raise faithful leaders, to be a church that comforts the oppressed, that encourages those in despair and brings many souls to the feet of Jesus to follow and serve him(Shp. Jaime Delgado; trans. from Spanish to English, by Shps. Socorro).