Faith on the streets

written by Kate Toretti

When Roberto*, 41, of Argentina, walked to a store one afternoon, his heart was heavy.  

He‚Äôd recently¬†taken¬†a¬†Christian¬†discipleship¬†programme¬†called, ‚ÄúZum√©‚ÄĚ,¬†which had a lesson on the prodigal son in Luke 15. The¬†story kept going through his mind, and he began praying as he walked, interceding for God‚Äôs prodigal children around the world.¬†

After making his¬†purchase,¬†Roberto started walking home when¬†a¬†young man¬†asked¬†him¬†for money.¬†He said¬†his name was Mateo*, he was from out of town,¬†and¬†his wife was in the hospital.¬†Roberto¬†gave him some money and¬†walked away. Then,¬†remembering his prayer,¬†he¬†walked back to¬†Mateo¬†and said:¬†‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt know me, but I have something important to share with you. Jesus loves you!‚Ä̬†

Mateo‚Äôs response surprised him. ‚ÄúI know¬†Jesus.¬†But¬†I was in¬†prison¬†and I turned my back on Him.‚Ä̬†Roberto¬†embraced Mateo, saying:¬†‚ÄúJesus told me to come back to you and say that you are a prodigal¬†son¬†and He loves you. And He is waiting at home for you.‚Ä̬†

Then Roberto went home and told his wife, Celeste*, and their two kids what happened. He also shared it with his pastor. He was encouraged from sharing his faith, but he had no idea it was only the beginning of the story. 

The next Sunday, he went to church and was stunned when his pastor said:¬†‚ÄúWelcome everyone! And a special welcome to Mateo! Roberto, this is the young man you told me about, right?‚ÄĚ Roberto turned around and realised that there sat¬†the same man he had talked with‚ÄĒthough he¬†hadn't told him the name of the church he attended.

The church supported Mateo and his wife through her treatments, visiting her and encouraging the couple. When she was released, Roberto drove them home to Rosario more than 150 kilometres away and connected them with a church there. 

Bringing the church to the streets 

Roberto began to follow Jesus when he was 20 years old. His mother had become a believer a decade earlier and shared her faith with him until one day he also committed his life to following Jesus. Through realising God’s love for him, Roberto felt a great love for people like he hadn’t known before. He wanted to know what other believers were going through so he could encourage them in their faith, and wanted to share Jesus’ love with people who didn’t know Him.  

As he grew in his faith, he eventually learnt of OM. When OM's Ship Logos Hope visited Argentina in 2019, he and Celeste volunteered on board. After the Ship left, they started serving with OM in different ways. When Roberto was invited to go through OM's training course Zumé to see how Argentinian believers would respond to it, he said yes, not realising how much it would impact him as well.  

When asked about¬†Zum√©, OM in Argentina‚Äôs leader, Markus Leder, explained that the word means ‚Äėyeast‚Äô, a picture of small acts of faith yielding big results. ‚ÄúThis course gives practical exercises for sharing God‚Äôs love¬†in your own community.‚Ä̬†

Before¬†the coronavirus pandemic, local pastors were¬†sceptical.¬†‚ÄúThey wanted to know at what point new believers would start going to church, giving tithes and becoming like traditional members,‚ÄĚ Markus recalled.¬†‚ÄúBut when churches closed, pastors realised that this is about equipping believers to live for God even if they can‚Äôt go to church.¬†The¬†lockdown¬†actually opened¬†the doors of the churches! It opened the doors of the pastor‚Äôs hearts to think about discipleship, because the body of Christ is in the streets right now, not in the churches.‚Ä̬†

Through¬†Zum√©,¬†Roberto¬†was encouraged to¬†focus¬†solely¬†on¬†God's Word.¬†He also learnt¬†to¬†be intentional every day, living¬†expectantly¬†for¬†God‚Äôs¬†leading.¬†‚ÄúOften¬†it feels like I am blind and following Jesus with my hand on His shoulder saying:¬†‚ÄėLead me where you want me to go.‚Äô¬†And He does,‚Ä̬†Roberto¬†said. ‚ÄúHe led me to¬†Mateo.¬†And He led¬†a woman named¬†Julia* to knock on our door one day and speak with my wife.‚Ä̬†Julia¬†was¬†a prostitute and¬†asked for¬†money for food.¬†She didn‚Äôt know how to read or write and¬†said she¬†lived¬†in a neighbourhood not too¬†far¬†away.¬†

‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs interesting about this neighbourhood is that it is the community God placed on my heart to pray for‚ÄĒwhich is another practical exercise¬†from¬†Zum√©,‚ÄĚ he shared.¬†‚ÄúEvery day as I drive through it, I‚Äôve prayed over¬†this¬†neighbourhood.¬†My wife knew¬†this and knew¬†God was doing something special¬†in bringing this woman to¬†us.¬†When she learnt¬†Julia needed¬†much bigger items than food,¬†things¬†like a mattress, containers for gas, etc.,¬†Celeste¬†organised¬†a small social media campaign¬†to help her. And a man from her¬†neighbourhood¬†actually saw¬†it¬†online! He¬†was¬†a trusted leader¬†there and¬†made sure¬†Julia received¬†all the donations¬†we¬†gathered. He also¬†made it possible¬†for¬†our church to do¬†more activities like a feeding¬†programme, clothing and blanket drive, etc.¬†And it‚Äôs not just our church involved, it‚Äôs¬†several different churches in our town.‚Ä̬†¬†

‚ÄėI just try to imitate¬†Him‚Äô¬†

What seemed so simple‚ÄĒone person praying for prodigals and praying over a¬†neighbourhood‚ÄĒhas started¬†a movement¬†in his community.¬†‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt me,‚ÄĚ Roberto¬†insisted. ‚ÄúIt was all¬†God. I just try to imitate Him¬†and obey.‚Ä̬†

Now,¬†Roberto¬†and Celeste‚Äôs¬†family¬†are¬†praying about the future. God has placed¬†Turkey¬†on their hearts so heavily that they¬†will visit¬†to see if God is leading their family¬†to move there.¬†They are actively preparing, with¬†Celeste¬†taking psychology classes and studying Turkish¬†and Roberto studying English.¬†‚ÄúWe are waiting for God‚Äôs marching orders, but we are¬†ready for¬†however He leads¬†us,‚ÄĚ he said.¬†¬†

*name changed 

France: Norwegian young man sits and stares at God's creation on top of Puy Mary in the Cantal Region of France.

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