Tag Archives: Jesus

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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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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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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Journey 2 Berlin

IMG_3098Evangelist Mando Gonzales, Sr.

Sometimes it happens that you are in the position to seize an opportunity of a life time, and  when those rare moments happen; Seize them! That’s what I did this October, when I was able to join Evangelist Mando Gonzales, Sr. on his trip to Berlin, Germany. Mando was scheduled to minister the weekend at Victory Outreach Berlin, a pioneering church that was launched out by Victory Outreach Rotterdam in 2007, and I was privileged to travel with him.

Our transportation would be the I.C.E. International, a high-speed train that would take us from Rotterdam to Berlin in less than 8 hours. Time to see a little bit of the nice scenery of this part of Europe, and to spend quality time with a great man of God. During this weekend I was able to apply the early lessons, imparted in me by my leaders of the Urban Training Center; “Listen and learn!”

“You don’t learn anything from what comes out of your own mouth.”

In moments like these, it is better to be quiet and to let your ears do the work. Listening to the stories about the early years of Victory Outreach, how a small ministry became a world wide movement. To learn and draw wisdom from a man with over 30 years of experience, and to see ‘Lifestyle Evangelism’ in full effect. I have noticed that men like Evangelist Mando don’t do things just to do them, but they are intentional in everything they do.

“Look at the faces, of the people and see”, would Mando say repeatedly, to make me aware of the story their facial expression may tell me about there lives. When people would pass us by and look toward him, Mando would give them a friendly smile and at times say a few words. “We are showing Jesus to them, by doing so”, would he explain to me. Mando was looking for any opportunity to introduce Christ to anybody who would cross his path. It reminded me of the words of St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”.

As we arrived in Berlin and exited the ‘Haupt Bahnhof’ we walked into a young man, a drug addict for 10 years. No longer shooting heroin as he told us, but now it was methadone. There Mando witnessed and prayed for him, we were finally in Berlin and God reminded us immediately that these are the people we are called to reach, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

IMG_3106Mando & Ruud witnessing to a drug addict

We would have many more of these encounters during our stay in Berlin. On the ‘Leopoldplatz’ for example we went out to evangelize among the drug addicts and alcoholics. This square is full with lost souls, hurting men and women without hope. We were able to witness to many of them who were in despair. Some of them acknowledged their situation, but their fear was the pain that comes with ‘kicking the habit’. They were amazed by the testimonies of the men and women from our Christian Recovery Homes, whom God delivered miraculously from their addiction. With unbelief in their eyes they listened to the many examples of God’s healing and delivering power, and with hope in their voices they would ask us to tell them more. We told them how it all started with Pastor Sonny Arguinzoni, Sr, and that it is still happening all over the world. We believe God, as the team in Berlin continues to witness to this group on the ‘Leopoldplatz’ and others, that many of them will experience the same power within their lives.

IMG_3135‘Leopoldplatz’

Berlin is a city with the potential for more than one Victory Outreach Church in the future. The Church in Berlin is still young and the task ahead might even seem to be overwhelming, but with God the impossible becomes possible. The congregation might be small, but is already International: Poland, Philippines, Holland, Pakistan, Suriname and more countries are represented here and with the right strategy Berlin can be the home of a base, a launching path for the rest of Europe to dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

“The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers” -Walter P. Chrysler

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A Weekend in Heerlen

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Pastor Devid and Ruth Fecunda

This month Cindy and myself had the privilege to minister a weekend in Heerlen at the Victory Outreach Church. The pastors of VO Heerlen Devid and Ruth Fecunda are a visionary couple with 3 beautiful and energetic daughters. The church has great potential, it is a young adult church with very talented and anointed members. The congregation is a unique mixture of many nations and different languages. While we ministered translation was simultaneous taken place in Dutch and Spanish, and we met people from Belgium, Indonesia, Korea, Curaçao, Poland, Rwanda, Burundi and the US.

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The VO Heerlen Team

In 2001 the city Heerlen came in the news because of ‘Operation Hartslag’ (Operation Heartbeat). A campaign the city started because of the many problems they faced; prostitution, dealers, runners, drug tourists and addicts. The city received many rewards for her approach, but I believe that in the mean while God was preparing this great couple to catch His Heartbeat for the city. Where the city re-located, regulated and even tolerated the problems, God sent His son Jesus Christ to solve the problems, and bring hope and salvation to hurting people.

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A ‘crack house’ in Heerlen

Pastor Devid understands that Heerlen is a strategic city. Recently they started a church in Maastricht, a mayor city 21 minutes from Heerlen. There is not only vision for Holland but also for Aachen, Germany which is only 21 minutes, and Liège, Belgium 41 minutes away by car. By building a base in Heerlen he believes that they can become a launching pad for churches throughout Europe.

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Aachen, Germany

During our stay in Heerlen we had a great time, we enjoyed the fellowship we had, the friendships we made and were truly blessed by the hospitality of the people. Victory Outreach Heerlen has captured a place in our heart and we can’t wait to see what God will do in the future in and through the people of VO Heerlen.

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The A.C.T.S. of a Disciple

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Discipleship with Jesus started with two simple words “Follow Me.” Those two words would not only change the twelve men that responded to the call, but generations of believers to come.

Discipleship is not just a Church event or program, it is a lifestyle; Jesus and the disciples where living it 24/7. Looking at this blueprint of discipleship I will use the acronym A.C.T.S. to share the four principles that helped me for the last 16 years in being a disciple of Christ. Let’s take a look at the A.C.T.S. of a disciple;

A stands for being available. For a disciple it is important to be available, cause you never know what’s going to happen or when opportunity will knock at your door.
It is like the money on your bank account. Just look at your bank statement for a minute. If you look you will see a section saying; available balance. That money is available, whether you use it or not. I don’t think you would be thrilled if the money decided to go elsewhere just because you don’t use it. I know a handful of people that decided to leave their post just because they were not being used right away or the way they wanted to. Being available will also test and develop your patience, which is very important because discipleship takes time, Jesus spend about three years to prepare His disciples for the work of the ministry.

C stands for connected. Connecting is crucial for the disciple, for it creates a lifeline. Through this lifeline we will be able to ‘catch the heart’ of our leader. Being connected improves the relationship, it builds a mutual trust. When we connect, we start to understand our leader and know what makes him or her ‘tick’. Getting to know somebody takes time it does not happen overnight, it is hard work and takes commitment. It is not enough to be just around a person. We can be around people for years and still don’t really know them. One thing that really helped me to get connected with my leader is; don’t be afraid to asking questions, and that brings me to my next point.

T stands for teachable. Disciple means pupil we need to be students always maintaining a learning posture. Somebody ones said; “You can not learn from what comes out of your own mouth”. It is okay for a season to be ignorant, but when we think we arrived and know it all, we become arrogant. Looking at the way Jesus taught His disciples you can see a few things; He modeled what he taught, He had them put into practice the lesson, He corrected them and finally He released them.

S stands for servanthood we can never stay away from the true motive of discipleship: Servanthood. Jesus made it very clear to the disciples, to be great does not mean to be served, but to serve. As a disciple it is important to develop a sensitivity for the need; see the need, feel the need and meet the need. When we step away from meeting the need of others and making others meet our needs, we disciple to self and conform to the worlds system of servanthood. Servanthood Jesus’ way, goes hand in hand with sacrifice and suffering, it is never easy or comfortable, but it is worth it, and so is discipleship.

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” – 2 Timothy 2: 2

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