Investing for Harvest

Posted by Dave Belch on May 31, 2024
Investing for Harvest
A 1996 photo of the building where the Delicias church began meeting.

Jesus promised, “I will build my church!” Jesus propelled His followers into the world to make disciples of Jesus, who would be incorporated by the Holy Spirit into the international body of Christ, the church. In obedience to Jesus, both individually and corporately we act responsibly to sow the seed of the gospel. Jesus works faithfully to draw sinners to Himself and then includes them in His church.

Jesus is in fact building His church! We do not always see the immediate harvest, especially when our investment as a church is at the international level. Thus, it is helpful to look back and be encouraged by how our “2-miles-an-hour God” has been bringing the increase through our intentional investment.

A $3,000 investment, an incalculable return

Faith Bible Church, at its inception, sent my wife Lois and me out as missionaries (international staff) to Venezuela. While serving at Christiansen Academy, a school for missionary families, we and another family began preaching the gospel in Delicias, a small town tucked away in the Andes Mountains along the border with Colombia. With just a handful of believers, we sought to rent a place to meet as a church. Because of pressure by the Catholic priest, no one would rent to the evangelicals.

A house was available to purchase just one block from the town plaza and the Catholic Church. In 1993, I contacted John Smith, missions pastor at Faith, to inquire about some financial help. The church immediately sent $3,000, the price tag for the house. The front room was large enough to accommodate about 30 people, with bedrooms used for Sunday School classes for the children. Growth was slow but steady.

When we left the area in 1997 to start a church in Guatire, Venezuela (a 13-hour drive away), a Venezuelan couple named Juan and Mery, who were studying at Ebenezer Bible Institute, began serving in the Delicias Church. An 11-year-old girl named Belkys Sandoval began to attend, and she was saved on July 26, 1996, during a Vacation Bible School outreach.

Juan and Mery eventually had to leave, with no replacement. I did not think the church would survive. Church planting in Guatire occupied our time, and eventually our move to Spain to help start a church in Tenerife distanced us from the church in Delicias.

“All of this is the fruit of the Word sowed in our hearts.” Belkys Sandoval

But our God, who works at 2 miles per hour, was building His church! Belkys contacted us in 2019 to report on the Delicias Church. God had blessed the preaching of His Word, and the church was alive with about 80 people in attendance. The church was no longer derided by the town, and in fact was appreciated for compassionate ministry to poorer people through medical service and food and clothing distribution.

In 2023, the church led the annual Vacation Bible School, with 120 children participating. And now, the church is pastored by Renzo Sandoval, brother of Belkys. She writes, “All of this is the fruit of the Word sowed in our hearts. Thank you for being instruments and for blessing our lives, brethren.”

While Belkys does not personally know you, Faith Bible Church, you are the church that sent us as church planters and gave money to purchase the meeting place for the Delicias Church. God has brought the increase! Keep investing locally, regionally, and internationally in the harvest!

Renzo Sandoval (right) pastors the church in Delicias.

Belkys Sandoval shares the gospel through VBS in 2023.

The church building in Delicias in 2023.

Outreach bears fruit across decades and oceans

During our church plant years in Guatire, God brought Pedro Ruiz and Gasmely Biord into our lives. Lois describes Pedro as a confused and very lost lad when he first came to our home as a 12-year-old for a church youth activity.

At that time the church was filled with youth. Why? Faith Bible Church sent a sizeable short-term team to Guatire in 1998 to help launch the church with a recreational-based gospel outreach, code named “Impacto” by Yogi Naresh. About 200 youth participated, which resulted in 60 showing up for the first youth group activity immediately after. Pedro was later brought by one of his friends who had been saved through Impacto.

Gasmely was from a small town close to Guatire. They both were saved in 2002 and then baptized in 2003.

Pedro and Gasmely fell in love. I had the privilege of officiating their wedding in the Guatire church on March 31, 2007. Their passion for evangelism and serving the Lord was evident.

Dave and Lois Belch celebrate with the bride and groom at Pedro and Gasmely Ruiz’s wedding on March 31, 2007.

The Guatire church sent them as missionaries to the Amazon area of Venezuela, where for two years they pastored an indigenous church in Pendare along one of the Amazon’s many rivers. Anyone who is willing to serve the Lord in a remote area like this, deprived of many life conveniences, is worth their salt.

Alexandri works to help translate Scripture into his native language.

Alexandri, an indigenous young man, was saved during this time and discipled by Pedro. He later lived with them in Guatire while he was studying. And now Alexandri is back in his home area of the Amazon, serving on one of nine teams led by indigenous people translating the Word of God, he into his native Piaroa language.

But back to Pedro and Gasmely. They sensed that God was calling them to Spain, where Pedro had citizenship rights through his grandparents. So, to Spain they traveled, now with two daughters, and eventually ended up in Tenerife. They became a part of the second church plant led by TEAM missionaries, including our family, the Albrechts, the Thirys, and Natalie Widman. They continue to serve in Iglesia Biblica Cristiana de Adeje, where Pedro is one of three elders.

Pedro is currently studying theology and missions through a Spanish seminary half time, and the other half he dedicates to pastoral tasks in the Adeje church. Pedro is a gifted expositor of God’s Word and very capable with visionary administration.

Gasmely has been studying biblical counseling through a Spanish branch of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. She has dealt joyfully and triumphantly over the last year with recovery from breast cancer. I have told Gasmely that her God-focused response has more than approved her as a biblical counselor.

How do these stories encourage you? How do you see the hand of a sovereign God, who desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth? God is a great connector of the dots, using our small contribution of “two fish and five loaves” and then bringing an abundant harvest.

Keep investing for the harvest where God has located you! And keep praying for and supporting those who have been sent to sow seeds of the gospel amongst “all the nations”!

On a recent visit to Tenerife, Dave and Lois met up with the elders of the Adeje church and their families, including Pedro and Gasmely.

Dave Belch

Dave and his wife Lois served on the mission field for 42 years in Venezuela and Tenerife, Spain. They are now retired, but can't help themselves from preaching the gospel everywhere they go.

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