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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:

1596 Boston Ave. Bridgeport CT 06610

(St. Ambrose Hall)

Service Schedule:

  • Sunday Celebration Service @10:30AM (child care provided)

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

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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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“…this happens to be my seat!”

A few centuries ago when Christians came together to worship, people would stand during the service. The pews came later, and were either rented or purchased by church members. Pews were considered private property, and some people enclosed them in so-called pew boxes, or they created pews that looked different from the other pew sections in the church building. The purchase or rental of pews created an atmosphere of exclusiveness, even causing a conflict within the Methodist Episcopal Church, as in the case of B. T. Roberts.

It is funny to see how territorial we still can get when it comes to the seating in our local churches. Some people claim ownership by putting their Bible, jacket, purse, pamphlet, or any other available item on a seat, whereby others actually think that an invisible sign marks the chair to show that this is their ‘place of honor’. We get requests from the habitual latecomer to save them a seat, or we are sitting comfortable in a pew, and someone tells us nicely, but firm; “…this happens to be my seat!”

I understand that going back to seat less services is not an option, and that most of us are not familiar with the pew deeds as they were in the 1800’s. However at times it’s good to hear that the P.E.W.S. are not just there so we can sit as comfortable as possible, but that they are a reminder of the true reasons we meet as the Church.

  • Prayer; We come together to pray for others, each other, ourself, and to pursue our relationship with God (Matthew 6:9-13).
  • Evangelism; We come together to hear The Great Commission, and our responsibility as the Church towards this world (Matthew 28:19, 20).
  • Sacrificial Love; We come together be reminded that we are called to love each other as He commanded us, and to put it into practice (1 John 3:11-24).

Let’s say more often“…this happens to be your seat.”

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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.

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Back to the future

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Recently I had the privilege to minister at a small Pentecostal Church in the town where my dad grew up. It was the church my grandparents used to attend when they were still alive. As a little boy I would come here now and then, and later when I moved in with my grandmother for my studies- I attended the church with her for a couple of years. I believe that around 1989 when I joined the Army, I stopped attending. The few times I came to that church was for my grandmother’s funeral and the funeral of my cousin. I have many precious memories of this church and it was a very emotional and grateful moment standing in front of this congregation. It is the church where God called me for the first time, and I realized that He had a plan for my live. It was here where I used to sit in the back, still hung over from the night before, telling myself; “I serve God when I’m eighty years old, but first let’s party.”

Standing there that Sunday morning behind the pulpit instead of sitting in the back corner of the building, made me reflect and be grateful for a few things;

1. A forgiving God: Thinking back I wonder why God had mercy on me, after the many times I disrespected; the presence of God, the house of God and the people of God. If somebody would have done the same to me, it would’ve been; “That’s it, I draw the line and you better don’t cross it or you will suffer the consequences!” How many of us experience a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love? Thank you Lord, for forgiving me and changing my live.

2. A praying grandmother: I remember the evenings I would come home and hear my grandmother pray for her sons, daughters, and grandchildren. Usually I would ignore her crying out to God, but at times I would walk slowly to my room, listening to the words that she uttered in despair. Even though in the natural it seemed to get worse instead of better, she was holding on to her faith, and she had much faith. On her deathbed years later- when cancer was destroying her from within, she was singing hymns unto her God, instead of acknowledging her pains. She prayed me in, I believe because she was being sure of what she hoped for and certain of what she did not see. Thank you oma for your prayers, and I’m sorry for the pain I caused.

3. A church with a clear vision: The church was founded in early 50’s and had a clear vision at one time. What I do remember is that the congregation had gatherings in a movie theater  and also in a school. The church started to experience growth and the building became to small. There was a need for a bigger place and the desire for their own building grew. My grandparents would always talk about that vision, they would give sacrificial towards that vision and in 1983 see that vision become reality. Twenty-six years later the building is still there, many of the early members are with the Lord, and new members joined the church. But one thing I noticed, that there was no longer a clear vision in the church. Vision is so crucial for a church; it shows the direction, it ignites passion, it gives hope, and where there is no revelation, the people cast of restraint. I love this church for many reasons, and at the same time I am grateful that God called me into a ministry with a clear vision, not only for my live, but for this world. Thank you Pastor Sonny and Sister Julie for your obedience to the call and sending missionaries to Holland.

I wonder sometimes what my grandparents would say if they would still be alive…

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