International Ministries

The Marriage Dare

December 3, 2013 Journal
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A New Church

Rios de Agua Viva is a new church snuggled up against a mountain in a community growing on the outskirts of San Jose.  It’s not much to look at according to worldly standards.  Concrete block walls are slowly going up.  Meshed wire covers areas to keep out vandals.  The roof is a mix of metal roofing, old tarps, and discarded political posters tied together with significant gaps allowing glimpses of sky.  The floor is dirt covered with old pieces of carpet.  This is their house of worship. 

People Thirsty for God

Pastor Israel Buenrostro and his wife Nicolasa planted this church over a year ago after resigning from their previous church Getsemani.  The majority of people who attend are migrants from Chiapas and Oaxaca who came to Southern Baja looking for work in tourism.  Because many of them are employed by hotels or restaurants during the day, their worship service is at 6pm on Sunday evenings.  Geographically, economically, and spiritually challenged, it truly is a group of people seeking Rivers of Living Water for every aspect of their lives.

Worship Centered on Marriage

When Pastor Israel invited us to visit, the only instruction he’d given David was this: “Would you please preach a sermon about marriage?”  David didn’t ask why; he just assumed that Israel wanted to strengthen and encourage the marriages of the couples attending this new mission.  However, the purpose became clear when we arrived that Sunday evening.  This was a celebratory worship service.  Tonight the church was going to witness the marriage of two young couples.  But their journey to the altar had all been based on a dare.

Three Addicts & A Dare

Here was the twist:  Rogerio and Carla had already been living together for 6 years and Concepción and Maria for 16 years, but neither had ever legally married.  Also, three of the four had been mired in drug and alcohol addiction since their teenage years.  In the last year, however, through a Bible Study home group led by Israel & Nicolasa, all four had not only made decisions to accept Jesus as their Savior, but also the 3 addicts had agreed to rehab.  And then, they were challenged to take a further step of faith in regards to their relationships.  Would they now consider getting married, saying vows before God and their church community, to honor the union they were already experiencing as a man and woman?  Would they dare to say: “I do.”

Why Mess With a Good Thing?

Their first response was no.  Why mess with a good thing?  They length of time they’d already spent together proved they were committed to each other.  Why did they need to get married legally, and before God?  It was a conversation that Israel and Nicolasa patiently waded through for months as they discipled these two couples.  The couple who’d been together for sixteen years (they started going out at 15), had a several children, the oldest being 15.  One evening Nicolasa presented Concepción with this scenario.  “I notice that your daughter is beginning to go out with young men.  So one day when she comes home and tells you that she wants to move out and start living with her boyfriend, you’re going to be okay with this?”  He responded indignantly. “Of course not!  I want my daughter to get married.”  To which Nicolasa gently replied, “But what’s her example?  You and Maria have lived together for years and have taught her that this is okay.”  In that moment, Concepción’s heart and mind began to change.  He realized that he wanted a different future for his daughter.  Soon after, both couples agreed to get married.

The Blessing Multiplies

At the Sunday evening service, November 24, both couples sat in front of the congregation.  Dressed in their finest, they joined with us as we sang joyful praise songs of faith and community.  A leader in the congregation sang a beautiful love song in their honor.  David preached from Ephesians 5 on theme of mutual submission, love and respect.  And then, Pastor Israel invited them to stand.  He first asked if any family members wanted to share, and he encouraged the 15-year-old daughter of Concepción and Maria to come forward.  Shy and trembling she took the microphone and said, “I didn’t think you’d ever get married.”  And then she began to cry.  Tears of joy!  Israel told the couples, and all parents present, that when parents decide to make a commitment to each other before God, it impacts your entire family.  Other members of the congregation also shared words of blessing.  Then the couples exchanged their marriage vows and ring vows.

Committed to Prayer

A Mexican wedding includes various symbols.  One is a prayer cushion.  The couple kneels on a cushion, facing each other, holds hands, and promises to daily submit their relationship to Christ, keeping Jesus as the center of their marriage.  They commit to pray daily and to ask for God’s guidance.  At this point in the service, Israel invited us to come forward to lay hands on Rogerio and Carla while he and Nicolasa did the same for Concepción and Maria, and we prayed over each newly married couple.

God’s Grace Rains Down

The service concluded with each couple receiving their marriage certificate, and then a beautiful meal prepared by various members of the congregation.  I didn’t mention that when we first arrived that evening, another strange thing happened.  It was raining!  Not something we usually see at this time of year in the desert.  A soft, steady rain that was falling between the gaps in the make-shift ceiling, splattering the chairs and benches, compromising the electrical system.  Would the ceremony even take place?  It was too significant an evening not to miss!  People began showing up, the rain slowed down, chairs & benches were wiped down, sound systems were moved to less hazardous locations, and the Holy Spirit swept in and took over.

New Walls, A New Roof, New Lives

We are also thrilled to report that a generous gift from First Baptist Church of Fairbury, IL will help to raise the walls and provide for a lamina roof—hopefully to be completed by the end of December.  Please continue to pray for this new church, and these two couples.  Leaving a life of addiction and clinging to a new faith in Jesus takes a lot of guts and determination.  Accepting the marriage dare was just the first step of many.  But oh what a glorious journey it will be!