Category Archives: Urban Ministry

A series of Blogs on the topic of Urban Ministry.

Pleasant & Wonderful?

Psalm 16: 6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!

God planted VOConn in 1992 with a purpose, and throughout the years He has given us many promises, personally and collectively as a church.

2 Cor. 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

His promises are “Yes” and God doesn’t lie or change his mind when He promised something. He will fulfill what He has promised. Our “Amen” is not only our audible response, but we believe it, we are confident in it, and in obedience we align ourselves with the word given to us.

The land He has given us is the Eastside of Bridgeport. When was the last time you heard anyone mention our community and the words pleasant and wonderful in one sentence? The city is not the same today as it was in 1992, but we are still dealing with the same footholds, and strongholds in our city.

The land has been given to us, it is our inheritance, and for some reason the enemy is not giving up easily the territory which belongs to us. Is it perhaps the way we see the community God has called us to reach? Do we see problems instead of the potential, do we see the impossible instead of possibilities, do we see the potential of the people, or have we given up on them?

In 1 Kings 21 is the story of Naboth who owned a vineyard next to king Ahab’s palace. The king wanted it for himself, and was willing to promise Naboth a better vineyard, or even money. But Naboth declined and told the king, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Naboth was not willing to sell his vineyard, not even for a better one, or a lump sum of money. How many would be willing? And for some reason the communities, and the city we live in are coveted by the enemy. It is our responsibility to look with different eyes, and see our location as a pleasant land, a wonderful inheritance. Our address is not a coincident, and if we are not willing to stand our ground, and fight for it, who will?

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Called to the City

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

Jonah was called to go to the great city of Nineveh with a message from God. The city was important to God, because it had over 120,000 residents who in God’s eyes were like little children, unable to discern between their right hand and their left. Jonah however ran the opposite way, and it took a great wind, a crew willing to throw him overboard,  and 72 hours in the belly of a big fish to get him back on track, and deliver an important message.

Our church was sent to the city of Bridgeport in 1992 with a message from God: The message of hope and plan of Jesus Christ. Like Nineveh, Bridgeport is also a great city and important in the eyes of God. I personally believe Bridgeport is a strategic city; the bridge to the Tri-state area and the port to New England. According to recent statistics the city has a population of approximately 146,000 people, and God has a message they need to hear. Just to make it clear all those people are too many for just one church, so we understand that we are not the only church called to Bridgeport.

Like Jonah, we might get to a point that we start running the opposite way. The reason can be caused by fatigue due to the work of the ministry, a resentment we’ve developed over time towards the people we are called to reach, we are getting preoccupied with our good intended but self-centered plans, or because of entitlement; we expect a certain result just because we are where God called us to be.

Maybe it doesn’t take for us to be inside a big fish for a couple of days, or have a few scared guys ready throw us overboard. For me it took some frustration, a podcast, a couple of pastor friends in the city, and the loving rebuke of one of our elders to get back on track.

This has been my prayer for the last few months, and I encourage you to pray it too:

“God, I thank you for sending us to the great city of Bridgeport, to deliver your message to its people. I pray that I will have a genuine CONCERN for the city of Bridgeport, to CARE more about the community you placed us in, and to have more COMPASSION for the people we are called to reach. In Jesus Name I pray this. Amen.”


Filed under "I will build My church", Church of Champions, Urban Ministry

The End of an Era


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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Lessons learned…

A few months ago I wrote a blog (Journey 2 Berlin) in which I shared about my trip to Berlin with Evangelist Mando Gonzales, Sr. Lately I’ve been thinking about our trip, and some of the things I’ve learned from him. Reflecting on the conversations we had I have to agree with the words of the Roman historian Tacitus; “Experience teaches”. I am fully aware that we can learn from our personal experiences, but how much more from the experiences of others, if we pay attention?

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. -Vernon Howard

Little did I know that our trip to Europe was not a coincidence, but a preparation for what is to come. I could not foresee that This Journey to Europe’ would cause me to think differently. Differently because in the Urban Training Center we visited churches for 1-4 weeks partnering with-, and helping them in various ways through; drama’s, worship, evangelism, children’s ministry, and follow-up are just a few to name. However after a certain time we would return to our campus continuing our program. Not to take anything away from the effectiveness of the Urban Training Center, but we did not have to think like the pastor of a church, we were more like a van-load full of evangelists; ‘blow-in, blow-up, and blow-out’.

I am convinced that during these months in Europe God put a new desire in my spirit, mind, and heart; “to pastor a church someday”. I believe when this will happen, these Lessons learned will be helpful in pastoring a church, along with the countless lessons I still have to learn through experience, and from others;

1. Building relationships, with influential people and organizations in the community. This so-called networking can become useful at certain times, providing the needed resources in order to accomplish a particular goal, but our ultimate ambition should be to change our community.

2. Evangelism; the presence of witnessing Christians in the neighborhoods will influence the community, and it is also crucial for a church to continue to preach the gospel to the unchurched. When the church stops evangelizing, the church stopped caring, and therefore it will stop growing. Never neglect the responsibility to be ‘a fisher of men’ (Matthew 4:19)

“He who rules the streets, rules the city” -Pastor Ed Morales

3. Change; God did not save us to stay the same, but He wants us to change. It sounds too easy to be true, but as we change our community will change.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.  I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.  When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.  I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.  Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.  My family and I could have made an impact on our town.  Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world. -Author Unknown

4. Stewardship; when Christians are taught that the community they live in belongs to God, they begin to understand the responsebility of stewardship. Like the story in Matthew 25:14-25; the servants that became successful invested; energy, time, and money. God will give us the City and more, if we as the Church invest likewise into our community instead of keeping what we have hidden in the ground.

5. Servanthood; as the Church we are not only called to serve each other, but also our community. This is an act of love, and it will surely impact the city, and done consistently it will eventually change the city. For example the following blog  ‘I (HEART) SAN DIEGO’ by Al Valdez, senior pastor of Victory Outreach San Diego is a perfect example of a Church serving the community.


Filed under The Journey to Europe, Urban Ministry

Momentum (part 3)


When a person is completely saturated and over-full with a vision, others will surely notice it. Unfortunately some people with a vision are like the open valve of a fire hydrant on a hot summer day in New York City. Their vision comes out uncontrolled, sharing the refreshing and energizing substance with whomever gets close enough, but will receive it with their own agenda. Leaders however are different, they want to make sure the vision is intentional shared with those that can help them attain it; with people that stick around.

One of my best moves is to surround myself with friends who, instead of asking, “Why?” are quick to say, “Why not?” That attitude is contagious. – Oprah Winfrey

We obtain momentum (Momentum part 1) by receiving a vision from God, momentum (Momentum part 2) is gained whenever an individual steps out to make the vision a reality, and lastly momentum is maintained when others are included in the vision and the vision is caught.

  • A Leader Transmits the Vision

Nehemiah 2:17 ‘Then I said to them:”

Nehemiah approached the key influencers, and shared four ingredients of vision;

  1. the Purpose (vs. 17a): Whenever a God given vision is shared it always comes with a clear purpose and a picture that is bigger than self, plus one. Momentum will slow down, when the purpose becomes unclear or the vision gets as small as one individual.
  2. with Passion (vs. 17b): Passionate people are contagious, but especially when it is a combination of compassion and an inward drive to do something about a situation or problem personally. Why would people move, if the leader is not moved?
  3. with Power (vs. 18): Nehemiah shared with the people that he received permission from God and the king, which represents authority. You can never be an authority if you are not under authority.
  4. having a Plan (Neh. 3): In order to be successful it is crucial to have a strategy to fulfill the vision. With a plan everybody knows the hard work that needs to be done, without a plan everybody just works hard.  The last will demotivate the workers eventually, and if no action is taken it will cause the momentum to slow down even to the point of coming to a final stop.

And last but not least, momentum ends were it started; with God.

  • Continue to Rely on God

Nehemiah 2:20 “The God of heaven will give us success.”

The beginning of failure is the moment when the momentum leaves a trail of success, and we start relying on self. Ego will become the only thing we have eyes for, when we loose sight of God.

Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren. Deut. 6: 9

make sure you don’t forget how you got there. – Deut. 6:12a

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Momentum (part 2)


Momentum starts and continues with God as I mentioned in my previous blog Momentum 1. The individual receives a vision from God, and  with it the option to step out in faith and become part of something great. Many people have dreams they desire to accomplish, but when opportunity knocks, they just don’t wake up. We can not be sure if that moment will ever repeat itself, but in order not to miss a window of opportunity it is important to;

  • Wait for God’s Timing

Approximately 4 months went by from the day that Nehemiah heard of the condition of the people in Jerusalem, until the moment he was allowed to speak to his king. Nehemiah waited for the right time to share his vision with first the king and finally with the right people in Jerusalem. We can miss the opportunity by waiting to long, by not waiting at all or talking with the wrong people. Timing is everything! During the so called waiting period I personally believe our patience and faith are being tested, but this season is crucial for the next point.

  • Be Prepared

The way you prepare is the way you perform, that is a given in the area of sports, business, music, military and ministry. Another way to describe preparation is ‘hard work’.

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all” -Sam Ewing

“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” -Ann Landers

According to Nehemiah 2: 5-9, Nehemiah was prepared in certain areas which became evident as he shared his burden with the king:

  1. He had a CLEAR VISION; Always know what you want to accomplish, by lack of direction and instruction the chances are big to sidetrack.
  2. He had a TIMEFRAME; Beside a clear objective, we need to be able to project an estimate time our goal will take. Remember to remain honest and open when you face opposition and it takes longer. People don’t appreciate dishonesty and neither secrecy, but are willing to adjust and continue if you keep them informed.
  3. He knew who’s SUPPORT he needed; With the vision God also provides the right people to accomplish the task, but do we know what type of people we need? Always built a team of people around you that complement you, and not only people that compliment you!
  4. He knew the kind of MATERIALS he needed; Next to the people we need the right resources to finish the job, this might include additional research. Nehemiah was a cupbearer, but somehow he became also an architect, a strategist and a reformer.
  5. He received SECURITY; Security was not something specific he asked for. I am confident that security will come as you cover the 4 ‘bases above. Preparation you leave room for flexibility, and eliminate unnecessary moments of emergency.

We are all creatures of habit: The same way Adam and Eve started to point fingers to all the parties that were present, we also have the tendency to play the blame game. When we don’t wait for God’s timing, refuse to be actively involved in preparing ourselves for the God given task, and any type of opposition tries to stop the momentum. Then it’s fair to say when complains are uttered concerning; opportunity, uncertainty, lack of time, difficult people, nothing to work with, and God, we can apply Return to Sender to the frustration of the so called ‘visionary‘ with the following message;

“Don’t let your lack of preparation become my emergency.”  -Unknown

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Momentum (part 1)


According to Merriam-Webster the definition of Momentum is: strength or force gained by motion or through the development of events.

Momentum is the invisible strength or force that contributes to the success and the longevity of a ministry. When momentum is there you know it and if absent too. The intentional planning of events creates an atmosphere for momentum. These events should help, grow and bring you as a leader closer to the accomplishment of  the vision. I have seen many ministries plan events, however just planning events don’t give you the momentum needed nor bring you always to your goal. Events are important for a ministry, but I personally believe the most vital part when it comes to momentum is;

  • Receive a Vision (Revelation) from God

Nehemiah 1:4 “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

Nehemiah received a ‘heavenly burden‘ as he heard concerning the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem, God gave him not only a burden for the need, but He also gave Nehemiah a vision for the people as he took this burden before God with prayer and fasting.

Momentum starts when God shows the need to an individual and the person has a burden and receives a God given vision to meet that need.

I remember traveling to Washington, DC to help out a pastor-friend in a neighborhood called ‘Sursum Corda‘. We planned to reach out to drug-addicts, prostitutes and gang members during our 12 day visit. On the day we came to ‘Sursum Corda‘, we realized that our ‘audience’ were mainly children from the age of 5-12.

From the start we scheduled our trip, we remained open for God to lead us through His Holy Spirit as we prayed for this neighborhood. God showed us the need of this community and we started to reach out to the children instead.We planned daily events to minister to these children with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We had a movie night, a game day, a live-drama and to close of our stay a 4th of July Bar-B-Q. On that last day, not only the children came to our Bar-B-Q, but also many of the hurting people we came out for in the first place.

On the day we left Washington, DC our pastor-friend received from local officials the keys of a house in ‘Sursum Corda‘ so he could continue to minister in the neighborhood. Which enabled us to continue come back and continue to partner with our pastor-friend and reach out to the people in this community.

Momentum in a ministry starts and continues with God, if we start a ministry just for the sake of having a ministry I believe Psalm 127:1a will be very relevant for that type of work: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

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