Throughout my 33 years of cross-cultural ministry experience, I have seen the hand of God at work through countless lives who have been steadfast in making disciples and helping fulfill the Great Commission. The following stories represent two individuals whose lives have been dramatically changed by Christ. They live on two completely different sides of the globe; one in Latin American and the other in Asia.
The first story is about a man named Julio. Julio was born in Honduras in 1956. He was one month old when he and his family moved to Guatemala. Like many in Latin America, he grew up in a Catholic family. At the age of 17, Julio graduated from high school and went on to study agriculture. As a young man of 19, he started his career working for the department of agriculture. During his early adulthood years, his life started down a slippery slope. The “friends” he associated with introduced him to a life of drugs, alcohol, and the like. Often he would wake in the morning to find himself on the grounds of one of his favorite hangouts . . . a graveyard!
One evening he and a friend were in a graveyard, engaged in their routine drug activities. His friend noticed that a nearby church was showing a film. Curious, his friend wanted to see the film. Julio, on the other hand, wasn’t so curious. As his friend left to see the film, Julio found himself in a dilemma. “Do I go and see the film with my friend, or do I stay here alone in the graveyard with my drugs?” Swayed by the influence of his friend, Julio decided to go. Little did he know that the film he was about to watch would change the course of his life forever.
The film was El Infierno (Hell). As Julio watched, he began to see his life (and its direction) unfold on the big screen. It was a simple movie plot. A young man got involved with the wrong crowd. He got involved with drugs. He was killed in a motorcycle accident. He met his Creator on judgment day. The power of God’s Spirit was hard at work that night. Shaken by the movie, Julio gave his life to Christ right then!
At this juncture in his life, Julio was referred to a drug rehab center in Honduras. So at the age of 26, Julio left Guatemala and returned to his birth country to seek help with his addiction. After 10 months of treatment and therapy, Julio was asked if he would be willing to stay and work at the center as a chaplain. Julio served at the drug rehab center for six years and later went on to co-direct a branch office in the city where he was born.
It was in the summer of 1990 that our paths crossed. My wife and I had recently relocated to Honduras to begin church planting efforts. We had come at the invitation of lifelong missionary Madonna Burget Spratt to help develop leadership within the local church in the Merendón Mountains. Our first Sunday in the country, we made our way up to the mountain church. “Coincidently,” Julio was visiting the church for the first time that same Sunday. As I spoke at the church, I gave an invitation to attend the leadership classes I was going to teach. Julio introduced himself and said he would like to come to the classes. However, Julio lived in the city and had no vehicle. I assured him that would not be a problem. He could simply ride with me. In the months that followed, Julio and I got to know each other very well as we traveled each week up the Merendón.
Fast forward. Today, Julio is not only the founding pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, but he is also the director of Latin American ministries with Disciple Makers. He has helped plant multiple churches in Honduras and Guatemala. He has a burden for unreached people groups as well, having traveled among them on several occasions. The churches he oversees in Latin America have supported pioneer evangelists in Asia. They have also sent and supported Latin American missionaries to work among unreached people groups.
Steve’s (name changed for security reasons) birth name comes from one of the incarnations of the Hindu god, Vishnu. Steve is Nepali and was born in the 20-mile stretch between Nepal and Bhutan. He and his five siblings were raised in a Hindu family. His grandfather was a Hindu priest and had great expectations that Steve would also become a priest. A part of their family ritual was to worship the countless gods found within Hinduism. Deities they worshiped included Saraswati (goddess of knowledge) and Durga (warrior goddess against demonic forces). As a child, Steve remembers his family gathering in the kitchen and calling upon the dead spirits of his ancestors. They would drink alcohol, eat ginger, and chant, “We worship you.” They wanted the spirits of their ancestors to be happy. They feared if the spirits were not happy, the spirits would curse them.
One day evangelists came to preach in Steve’s village. As a result, Steve heard the gospel and came to Christ at the age of 18. He was the only believer in his home. Because of his newfound faith, his father and mother kicked him out of their home. To his family, Steve became an untouchable. Thus, with no place to go, Steve was invited to live with a Christian family. As Steve prayed for his family, God softened their hearts just enough for Steve to move back home. Because of his witness, his father and brother came to Christ. Later, his mother and other siblings came to Christ.
Eventually, Steve felt called to go into ministry and went to Bible college. Upon graduation, he pastored a church less than one hour away from his home town. In 1996, Steve was invited by one of his former Bible college roommates to attend a conference in Kathmandu. From the conference, Steve was challenged to get involved in kingdom work on a much larger scale. As a result, he moved to Kathmandu where he would meet his future wife.
It was in the year 2000 that our paths crossed. Steve heard that I was looking to start church planting efforts in Nepal. After meeting for the very first time, I knew God had put us together! He conveyed the same purpose and vision which God had placed in my heart—to reach the 250+ unreached people groups with the gospel.
Fast forward. Today, Steve is the director of Asian ministries for Disciple Makers. He has established a training center in Kathmandu as well as seven satellite training centers throughout Nepal where 600+ evangelists have established over 1,000 churches. More than 20,000 baptized believers have come to Christ over the last 18 years.
Tom Schneller is executive director of Disciple Makers located in Latonia, Kentucky. Disciple Makers’ purpose is to help fulfill the Great Commission of Christ by reaching the least evangelized peoples of the world.