The End of an Era

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It was in 1998 when a young couple made their way from California to Connecticut, accompanied by a group of young ‘on fire’ people. They had left their comfort zone, and everything they were familiar with to start a ministry that -until that moment- was only mentioned in Victory Outreach International’s ‘Mission Statement.’

Pastor Al and Georgina had no model to learn from, or to built after, the only thing they had was a vision, a promise, and the call of God upon their lives. In their own words they said; “We got there, and to be honest we had no clue what we were doing.” It was however the start of the first Urban Training Center in Bridgeport CT, and eventually this couple would also oversee Training Centers in Los Angeles, Tijuana, Cape Town, and Manilla. Since 1998 hundreds of young people separated themselves in the East Coast UTC, completing 6-12 months of ministry training. Many of them find themselves today serving the Lord in their local church, in the mission field, running a Christian Recovery Home, or pastoring a church.

The East Coast UTC not only shaped leaders for the future, but also served many churches in the regions they traveled to. The neighborhoods in those cities did not know what hit them, when the faithful UTC van(s) would pull up, and dozens of radical young people would jump out with bullhorns and flyers, to let everybody know that “Jesus Loves You!” and to invite them for a ‘Live Action Drama on Stage.’ Looking back we not only see the fruit of the UTC among the many students, but also in the couples that had the opportunity to direct the East Coast UTC and how God used the UTC to shape these couples into leaders of the future:

Victory Outreach in Bridgeport, was privileged having the East Coast UTC being part of the church in these amazing 14 years. We know that Chicago and the surrounding cities will be blessed having the UTC in their region. The UTC moved, but the vision continues, and we at VOConn ‘the Church of Champions’ believe that every prayer ever prayed on 381 Jane Street will be passed unto us.

(this blog was originally written December 20, 2012)

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New Location

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Visit our Sunday Celebration Service at:

Stratford Conference Center

225 Lordship Blvd. Stratford CT 06615

Service Schedule:

  • First Sunday of every month @5PM (child care provided)

  • Sunday Celebration Service @1PM (child care provided)

For more information, please visit our website http://victoryoutreachct.org

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Do You Suffer from SMP?

A couple of days ago I read in the LA Times that according to Dr. Larry D. Rosen too much Facebook time may be unhealthy for kids, and teens & young adults who log onto Facebook constantly are more narcissistic. For years we have shared our positive opinions about social media sites like; Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and many others. But now we have to admit that there are also some negative consequences in the use of these sites.

Recently I noticed a disturbing behavior among frequent users of some of these social networks, a behavior I call Social Media Paranoia. The possibility is that you have noticed it too among some of your friends, or maybe you display some the symptoms of SMP yourself.

  1. You are preoccupied with unsupported doubts about friends, followers or subscribers of your page
  2. You have unfounded suspicions toward fellow users, and you believe that they are plotting against you
  3. You perceive comments made as attacks on your reputation that are not clear to others, and you quickly counterattack with comments yourself
  4. You read negative meanings into innocuous comments posted on the pages of other people
  5. You are reluctant to confide in others due to a fear that information may be posted within the next 24-hours on the world wide web

If you recognize any of these 5 points in your behavior or in others… It might be Social Media Paranoia. But what to do?

First you need to ask yourself if you spend to many hours on these sites, and if you do it would be wise to apply some self-discipline in this area. Start spending more time before His face, reading His Book, and spend quality time with real people.

Secondly if there is the possibility that any of your assumptions might be true, make quickly use of the delete option for your page, or the friend(s).

The Bible talks about a man, who did not use the social media, but King Saul definitely suffered of paranoia. His disobedience toward God caused him to be rejected as king, and Saul became delusional. Maybe the symptoms started with stomach aches, which kept him awake with all the worries that were bothering him. In the beginning David would play the harp for Saul, and it would give him a temporary peace, but even that did not do the job after a while. Having David around -a man after Gods heart- did not make it any easier for him, actually he felt threatened by his loyal servant. Saul saw a conspiracy in every situation and he started to display an antisocial personality disorder, causing even his own family to fear for their lives. Needless to say it did not end well with Saul.

Don’t let a tool that can be a useful, become a curse to the relationships God has blessed us with.

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Back To The Writer’s Blog

About 9 months ago we became the pastors of VOConn and around that time I wrote my latest blog “The Promises of God.” Taking over a church is a good reason to stop blogging for a season, but after a while you start feeling that urge to pick up your pen and bring an end to that writer’s block. During the last months a lot has changed and happened, and in the next blogs I will try to share some of the things we’ve learned and experienced.

People have said that starting a church is easier than taking over a church. I have to admit, I wouldn’t really know cause I never started a church and this is the first time taking one over. What I do know is, that when you are about to do something you never done before, it is helpful to ask people who did, and were successful doing it. After doing some personal research, listening to advice, and experiences, I applied 3 things that helped me a lot during the transition.

  • Get to know the church

The first thing to do is getting to know the people, and allowing the people to get to know you. You do this by intentionally take every opportunity to spend time together. During those moments you will not only make memories and so creating part of your history, but it will also have a great deal of influence in how people will see the future of the church. In aiming for the future, we can not neglect nor ignore the past of the church and it’s members. The church’s condition today is a result of the past, and in knowing the history of the church we will have a better understanding of the present.

If the new leadership neglects the past, they might repeat the same mistakes that caused the existing problems in the first place, or they will stop the momentum that the church has, by not using the earlier successes they had. I have also seen that new leadership would ignore the past; you might as well tell the people you don’t care, cause that’s how they will feel. It becomes personal when we make them think that we don’t care about; the sacrifices they made, the tears they shed, the memories they have. Acknowledge and value the past, learn from the good, the bad and the ugly. Become “We” and prepare the people to move on towards their future, according to he original plan and purpose that God had from the beginning for the church.

  • Get to know the culture

The second thing we need to do is understanding the church’s culture. Culture either good or bad, has to be confronted carefully and wisely. We define culture by people’s beliefs, values, the way they think, talk, and do things. If the church’s culture is contradicting the gospel then it has to change, no doubt about it, but sometimes it simply challenges our own culture.

The developed culture within the church, is new for those that come in for the first time. Key is not to reject the culture by isolating yourself, in doing this you become an outsider, and outsiders don’t change a thing. Another form of rejection is trying to destroy the culture, making it look like everything about it is bad. You will become a foe to the people instead of their friend. People have the tendency to take it personal when you question their culture. It does not matter, how genuine your intentions are. Adopting to the culture seems very nobel, but is also not commendable, you will become somebody you’re not, and unable to bring healthy changes, because now you are part of the problem. The best thing to do is adapting to the new-found culture, by making the necessary  adjustments to become an insider, without compromising nor losing your identity. Only as an insider you can make the needed changes within the culture, and you do this by teaching and bringing understanding about the changes that have to be made.

  • Get to know the city

Finally the church’s city has to become your city. Get to know the city by studying its history. Discover your city by driving through it and to talk with its residents. In doing this I met some interesting people who truly care about their city, and like to partner with others that share the same feeling. Enjoy your city by what it has to offer instead of what it does not have. Care for it, love it and commit to it, and do not compare it with another city in a coveting way. You will start to see the potential more than the problems the city has. You can not change the city by yourself, even with the help of others it is almost impossible to change it in a life-time, but you can be part of it.

It’s has only been 9 months now, and we have many more ahead of us. During this time I believe we made some mistakes that made the transition rough at times. However overall it was a good and smooth transition, and we have to thank God for that, and the members of VOConn, the Church of Champions. An amazing group of people who accepted, and embraced us, and I know that together we will have a great future, reaching our city with the message of Christ.

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The Promises of God

Victory Outreach Church in Bridgeport, CT

A few months ago we went through a rough time during which I wrote the blog ‘What To Do Now!?!’ It was a season where my wife and I didn’t know what to do nor what would come next. It was a period where everything became uncertain, at times we even felt like giving up. The few thing we could hold on to were our relationship with God, each other, and the promises He had given us throughout the years. It was during this season that I once again wrote down His promises and reminded myself that He is faithful to all His promises.

It was during the Summer of 1992 -the year I gave my life to Jesus- when I received my first promise through Jeremiah 35: 7;

Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.

At first I did not know what to do with it, but eventually I came to the realization that God had called me to live like a nomad.

nomad: a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory.

It would take 7 years before this scripture would start to make any sense, when in 1999 we were invited to the Urban Training Center , and the confirmation came through Genesis 12: 1;

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

In 2000 we left The Netherlands and for 10 years we were living as nomads in Los Angeles, CA and Bridgeport, CT we would travel through the US, visiting many cities and working with students from around the world. We loved living and serving God like this, but after a while the desire to settle grew within us. Our children became older and we understood that they needed more stability, and off course to have your own place to live was a nice idea too. It was during this time that we received another scripture found in Deuteronomy 6:10, 11;

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant –

It would still take a couple of years before we saw this promise become a reality, and during the season of uncertainty we received a phone call out of the blue in which were asked to take the role of pastors of the Victory Outreach Church in the city of Bridgeport, CT. We see the faithfulness of God as we are now officially the pastors of this great Church that was founded in 1992 with an incredible congregation, who embraced us from day one. After 10 years of living in tent’s we received a ministry we did not  build, provide, dig, nor plant, but we can finally say we are home! We can’t wait to see what God wants to do through this church, but one thing we are certain of that He will give us promises… and they will come to pass.

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Spoken Word

Francisco ‘ENUF’ Garcia

Here is the Spoken Word by a young man from Phoenix, AZ currently enrolled in the West Coast UTC which he dedicated to us as we left Los Angeles to pastor the Victory Outreach Church in Bridgeport, CT.

The Call of Abram

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” - Genesis 12: 1

Da Cross Cultural Pastor— dutch and indonesian— migrated to a foreign country and region—

Prepared in and out of season,… many years of directing UTC —discipling and teaching.

You’ve traveled far like the 7 seas man…

No matter the cost or famine/ God provided you with heavenly manna.

God held you close in His hands/ The Word you examined scribed in your heart—  like the 10 commandments.//.

God called you, and you were ready// to do Gods will and be a missionary//

In America! Man, that’s scary//… He was your strength when the Cross was heavy.

Answering the call to the East Coast, is better than honey and sweet toast.

A Rotterdam immigrant bringing the flavor like cinammon.

An X-militant, now a soldier for Christ the most infinite.

Discipling all nations the great commission.

He’ not Tom Cruise, but he’s down for the mission.

It had to take many sacrifices/

You sold out to Christ, and that my friend was priceless./

We are young people lost in a dessert and you an ice chest//

Your children will be blessed in this land.

Cindy joined this godly man… to follow His will and all the plans.

9 years of raising UTC, and Victory Outreach leaders. To impact the ball game like Derek Jeter.

If you don’t like the Yankees well pray in the name of Jesus.

Now is the time to hit Bridgeport, Connecticut streetses. God bless you and your family, keep on preaching…

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Where will you be 5 years from today?

I love coffee, and every time I walk into a Starbucks (SB) to get a Tall Skinny Vanilla Latte, I have to take a look at their non-coffee merchandize. You never know what kind of deals you find, like those nice coffee mugs for half the price. I guess those are the Dutch genes in me; we like to hunt for cheap deals, and we have the unexplainable habit to collect. This particular time I visited my local SB at the University Village in Los Angeles, opposite of the USC campus, and I noticed a certain book. Actually it was the question on the cover of the book; “Where will you be five years from today?” that caught my attention.

While waiting in line I opened the book to get a better look at it. The first question on the cover had me already thinking, but on the following page I read challenging words. Right there and then, it seemed like those words were spoken to me personally.

This is your life, your one-and-only life. Over the next five years, what do you really want to do? What do you really want to have? What do you really want to be? Where do you really want to go? There are no rules here. This is not a work book, it’s a play book. This is not a “here’s how” book, it’s a “why not?” book. So be daring, be bold and true to yourself!

“This is a perfect book for Robert”, was my second thought (Robert is a young man that I have known now for over 6 years, he is on fire for Jesus, and intentional in serving God for the rest of his life). With my regular order of TSVL, I bought a book for him, and of course one copy for myself. The next few weeks I drove to several SB locations to pick up an additional 5 copies to give away to men that play a very instrumental role in my personal life. If you find something good, make sure you share it.

This book has become my ‘play book’, I read it together with the Bible as a devotional ‘side kick’. I put notes, quotes, thoughts, pictures, dreams, and promises in it. But the most important thing I put on the first pages was Matthew 6:33; “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” and Proverbs 16:3; “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

I want my life to be a journey, that turns into an adventure, which will become a mission; I desire to reach my full potential, to live a life of significance, to reach my destiny, to become all God wants me to be.

I hope you find yourself a copy and get one or more for those special people within your live, God Bless and Bon Voyage for the next 5 years of the rest of your life…

Note! This is a revised version from my blog ‘Where will you be 5 years from today?’ (December 30, 2008)

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