By John Hall, Contributing Writer
Gathering the day after Thanksgiving, Iglesia El Camino in Pharr had plenty to celebrate.
They were meeting in a new home for the first time. The house church was growing in energy and depth.
The 14 people there came together for a meal, prayer, and a Bible study. They sang praises to God. Then, they discussed the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15. The story details the journey of a young man who asks for his inheritance early only to squander it all. Then he returns to beg for a job from his father. Instead, his father sees the son coming in the distance and runs to him, welcoming him with open arms.
Esmeralda Yado, who leads the church with her husband, Agustin, asked if anyone in the group could relate to the prodigal son.
“I lost it when my mother-in-law raised her hand,” Esmeralda said. “I completely lost it. I looked at my husband like, ‘Is this really happening?”
Agustin was just as astounded. “It took a couple of double takes to see what was going on. Right after that, my father raised his hand.”
Esmeralda and Agustin had prayed for the couple for years. His parents were nominally Catholic, but had no strong connection to any congregation. The Yados invited the parents to church events, but it was only after the Yados started a house church that they came.
They were welcomed with open arms. They connected with others in a comfortable setting and a warm meal. They said little but listened a lot. The services felt tailored to them and their needs personally.
House churches often feel that way for those who prefer them to traditional congregations. Iglesia El Camino is part of a growing network of house churches in the Rio Grande Valley, a key approach for Texas Baptists in reaching people along the Texas-Mexico border that maximizes resources and evangelistic zeal.
Based on the principles leaders see in the early churches of the biblical book of Acts, house churches are crucial in spreading the gospel in the McAllen area, where 42.7 percent of people claim no religion at all.
“It’s been years and years that we’ve been working with them,” Esmeralda said. “After Thanksgiving, we had a meeting. We saw the Holy Spirit working in their lives. We saw God working in their lives. They came to faith that day.”
Since that night, Maria and Victoriano Yado have grown in their newfound faith. They’ve continued listening to the group. Now they ask questions as well and participate in the discussion.
Other church members are inspired by the couple’s commitment to Christ and encouraged by their growth. Victoriano prays for at least an hour each morning at the beginning of his day. He lifts people’s petitions to the Lord, asks for guidance and seeks the Lord’s wisdom.
“I feel like such a weight has been lifted,” Victoriano said. “Christ has lifted a burden from my life.”
Giving their lives to Christ has radically changed their perspective. They see God working all around them. Recently, their house had some plumbing issues. They heard that the pastor of the Baptist church behind their home was also a plumber and asked him to come look at the situation. They visited while he resolved the problem. When it was time to settle the bill, the pastor told them there was no charge.
“God provided,” Esmeralda said. “They’re seeing these things. God is a provider. It’s not just coincidence or luck.”
“My life is so tranquil now,” Maria said. “I have a sense of peace.”
The testimony reminds the Yados to be faithful to carry out the Great Commission, particularly in making disciples of family members. Too often, they felt like they would never be the ones God would use to reach Maria and Victoriano, but they pressed forward.
“I just could not see myself avoiding that and having to answer to God when my time comes,” Agustin said. “Why didn’t I engage? Why didn’t I take the time? Why didn’t I try to evangelize? I wasn’t comfortable for how I’d answer that.”
Now, he won’t have to answer the question. His parents can answer for him as they celebrate together.
Gifts to the Mary Hill Davis Offering fund the start of new Multi-housing and house congregations around Texas. For more information, contact Mario Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 214.828.5389.