This month we had the opportunity of being a part of some of the first steps of an infant congregation into maturity. We had our first annual domino tournament, a chance for congregation members to share fellowship and laughter and spend time together. Every week we gather around God’s Word and receive His forgiveness and mercy, as well as His Body and Blood. We dug in deep into the scriptures and explored the mystery of the Trinity in our first theological intensive class, as well as launching the 3-year journey of learning how the entire Bible points to Christ with weekly Bible courses laying the foundation for next month’s study on Genesis. We worked together as a congregation to solve an issue with our government permit status, and members of the Body of Christ worked side by side to install smoke-detectors, exit-signs and emergency lighting all over our rented facility. We did community outreach for mothers-day, and celebrated the mothers in our own congregation, we celebrated birthdays, a baptism, and we reached out into the community through an art workshop. Slowly but surely, congregational life is taking shape.
One of our goals for the month was to begin forming congregational leadership by forming a council, and some of the members at Fuente de Vida asked me, why would we need a council if we are so small? They are right of course, if you go back over the previous paragraph with photos, you’ll see only a handful of people gathering in a small space in an area of urban decay. If we succeed in putting together a congregational council, it will consist of almost the entire congregation! Our offerings often do not go beyond $60 in a month. Nevertheless in preparation for a larger burden of administration, we want to put in place the mechanisms for that administration from the beginning.
This month, we had the opportunity to serve a woman who lives close to church with materials for a new roof, as hers was damaged in the hurricane. The funds for the materials came from LCMS Disaster Response, the mercy arm of a mature church body about to celebrate their second century of national conventions in Florida. The same month, we had a visit from a short-term team of volunteers from Emmanuel in Fort Wayne, a large congregation with a long history. The members at Fuente de Vida were amazed to see what a mature congregation like Emmanuel looks like, even as I assured them that at one time, congregations in the United States were as small as Fuente de Vida is.
At the end of the month, the congregation put on its first monthly mercy event, using funds from our meager offerings and operating budget to serve outside of our own walls, and the congregation chose to serve the same woman, Edith, that our older and bigger sister in the United States provided help to, this time with replacing rotted plywood walls. The project was a tenth of the cost of the first and was done by a handful of volunteers from a tiny congregation on financial subsidy from the mission, and yet I believe in that mercy project is an incredible truth to reflect on for this month.
As much as we talk of planting a new congregation, in God’s eyes there is no difference around the world when He looks at His church. Big or small, old or young, the Church is the place where the Body and Blood of Christ is present, where those who have been redeemed and washed gather to receive Him, and where they go out into the world to share the good news with a hurting world! This is true of your congregation as well. We have much work ahead to bring stability and maturity to this new body of believers, yet at the same time we already have all the marks of the church. Where Christ is present, there is His church. Praise God that Christ is present in Ponce, Puerto Rico!