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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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“…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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10 reasons why to stay away from a vampire


Tales with vampires have always been popular among us mortals. We see this through the countless stories, novels, theater plays, TV series, and movies that have been dedicated towards this charismatic villain. Just think about the recent successes of the Twilight (series); over 85 million copies have been sold worldwide, and the books have been translated into 37 different languages. But regardless the popularity of Edward Cullen and many others, we all know that these blood thirsting creatures do not exist. At least I hope you do! The question may arise, why devote a blog on a folkloric being? Simply because I want to make you aware of certain individuals you might encounter (even in your local church) who have similar characteristics as vampires, and 10 reasons to stay away from them;

1. They are manipulative, and have the ability, in an almost hypnotizing way, to obtain their personal goals at the expense of other people, by using them. These individuals don’t act according moral values, a greater good, let alone godly convictions, but are…

2. Undead, meaning they are beings that are deceased yet behave as if alive. They do not have a purpose to life, nor a cause to die for, but they have an unsatisfying hunger.

3. A hunger that is fighting for its life, they are being Led by an urge, which is the motivating factor of their existence. They do whatever it takes to reach their goal, but when they don’t achieve what they desire, they snap…

4. and display a Lack of self control, and their true identity is revealed. They can become extremely angry, throw a tantrum, cry uncontrollably, or they can tell you for hours their so called problem over and over and over…

5. They suck the life out of you, and that’s how you feel after spending quite some time with them. You feel drained every time you interact with them because…

6. They don’t change, years go by and they still have the same problems, mindset, attitude, heart condition, they never grow up. Like our 104 year old Twilight friend Edward…

Isabella Swan: How old are you?
Edward Cullen: Seventeen.
Isabella Swan: How long have you been seventeen?
Edward Cullen: A while.

7. They have no reflection, and therefor they lack the ability to evaluate themselves, and to make the necessary adjustments in order to experience a radical transformation. All though their character seems unchangeable, they are excellent…

8. Shape shifters, and seem to be able to change form or identity at will. Their appearance, behavior changes like a chameleon changes its color. Their conduct shifts according to the environment, and company they find themselves in. They are actors, and in the New Testament they called them Hupokrites (hypocrite).

9. They can’t stand the Light, and avoid all situations where the possibility lingers to be exposed, or confronted. Their comfort is in the confinement of their self made ‘coffin’.

10. but the most frightening thing is that they can turn you into one of them, if you are not careful.

Unlike in the movies of Hollywood featuring this urban legend, there is no use in sprinkling these poor souls with holy water, putting garlic in their mouth, or even to drive a wooden stake through the heart. When it comes to these individuals you need a dose of patience and a lot of prayer.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (The Message)

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