On a beautiful clear Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to join Josue Valerio, director of the Missions Team, and my daughter Kalie Lowrie, publications manager for Texas Baptists, on an outing to help train a handful of pastors in the Juarez Valley. Our day began with a short walk over an International Bridge from El Paso into Juarez. In less than 30 minutes, God transported us by foot into another world—a world of opportunity.
A local pastor named Jose Angel Hernandez, also a Texas Baptists River Ministry coordinator, greeted us in his older model Suburban and transported us along streets and byways much more like a third world country than the streets of El Paso. Street vendors, handcarts and children chasing soccer balls lined the streets as we weaved our way to a thriving local Baptist church nestled in a neighborhood of small cinder block homes on a sandy dirt road. Upon our arrival we received a warm welcome marked by smiles and gentle embraces. I have learned God has enabled a genuine smile to be translated into any language.
After a short time of greeting and getting acquainted, Josue jumped into a morning of making disciples and inspiring leaders. His strategies revolved around the simple timeless principle of our Lord—“make disciples of people who will make disciples of others.”
Before getting into the curriculum, Josue gave me the opportunity to interact with the pastors and their wives by answering their questions. Their questions about leadership, prayer, Bible study and small groups reminded me of how the work of the Kingdom of God can be so similar, yet so contextualized. Since people created in the image of God (and marred by the touch of sin) make up all churches, I discovered that my lifelong experiences in ministry seemed to appropriately apply to their struggles and challenges. I hope I helped, but I know I learned from the experience.
Over the course of a matter of minutes, our hearts seemed to bond together around a common cause. We quickly realized we serve the same Lord and often experience the same opportunities and obstacles. Even though my first language is English and theirs Spanish, we communicated in a heart language from above.
When Josue jumped into his teaching time the pastors and their wives locked in on his every word and concept. You could tell from their body language, interactions and questions that his teaching spoke directly into their hearts and lives. Time flew by, as we learned from each other.
We closed our time with posing for pictures; family pictures, no less, of long lost brothers and sisters united by the love of Jesus. As we walked back across the bridge heading for home, a warm sense of satisfaction filled our hearts. We believed in a simple way we had made a difference in the lives of pastors, but even more importantly we too had grown and learned a big lesson about the Kingdom of God—we are all in this together.
David Lowrie serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of El Paso.