An Acts 2 Kind of Church- Centro Cristiano Vida Update
By Kate Berkey - March 22, 2018
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
In Acts 2, we see this beautiful picture of the early church. The writer describes a group that is united in prayer and worship, that understands the importance of being together. It is a group that looks out for one another, selling possessions and donating food and material goods to those in need. They are a band of brothers and sisters, a force that cannot be stopped simply because of challenging circumstances. And when we look up from the text in Acts 2, we see examples of this kind of church all over our world today.
When Hurricane Harvey tore through the Houston area in August 2017, thousands were left displaced and without the most basic items. No one in the Houston area escaped Harvey without experiencing some kind of damage to their home, business, church, or property. Food drives, clothing drives, and even underwear drives were organized around the country, and items were shipped to parts of Texas that were waiting for the waters to recede.
In moments of devastation, it is easy to live as a victim and see only one’s own needs. Yet, just like the church from Acts 2, one church in particular, Centro Cristiano Vida, responded differently. Led by Pastor Andre and Albi Gonzalez, this group picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, and as they looked around, they saw others in the community struggling to do the same.
As they saw needs, they banded together and became a force that could not be stopped simply because of challenging circumstances. They cleaned people’s properties. They removed tree after tree. They carried debris and piles of trash out of people’s homes and businesses. They set up the church as a food bank, providing nourishment that would sustain families.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve our community. Sometimes, it’s difficult to believe that something bad can be used for something good. We have seen after the storm that it is in the difficult moments when the church has a better opportunity to show the love of Christ to the people,” Andre and Albi explained.
The people of Centro Cristiano Vida didn’t escape the devastation of Harvey themselves, but seeing past their own needs, they saw opportunities to work alongside others who had greater needs than they had. They saw opportunities to love others well by doing manual labor and cleaning flooded homes. They saw opportunities to show Christ by repairing roofs torn off by wind and fixing water-damaged cars. As the church worked alongside hurting community members, God opened up doors for conversations, and in some cases, neighbors got to know one another for the first time.
Today, in March 2018, the church is still watching God build these relationships. In the seven months since Hurricane Harvey, Centro Cristiano Vida has become known as a place that will help anyone in need. They have become known as a dependable place, a place of love and grace and peace. Through the service of places like Centro Cristiano Vida, their community is rebuilding bit by bit, and many have fully recovered from the 50 plus inches of rain that covered their city.
And as their neighborhood rebuilds, Centro Cristiano Vida is also rebuilding.
“We still have a lot of work to do on our property,” Andre and Albi explain, “and sometimes, it feels like the hands are not enough to get the work done. But we are so grateful we have already started.”
NMC first partnered with Centro Cristiano Vida in September 2017 after we learned about that Harvey had destroyed their children’s building. Our leadership team was convicted to join hands with our brothers and sisters in Houston to help rebuild this space. Today, construction is underway. The floor is finished, and the walls are being lifted. Bit by bit, they are seeing restoration.
As the building comes together, Andre and Albi and the rest of their church can’t help but dream and pray for this space. They can’t help but think of their neighbors, those they have walked with in the wake of Harvey. Their hearts’ deepest desire is to help their community see the Lord, and they long for their church to be a place where this can happen.
Although we physically can’t be with Centro Cristiano Vida and those in their community, we are still called to be an Acts 2 kind of church. NMC, because of your generosity, God has given us the opportunity to come alongside this church in some incredible ways, but may we remember Centro Cristiano Vida day after day through prayer, encouragement, and support. Pray for continued strength for the church. Pray for wisdom as Andre and Albi and others in the church lead the congregation. Pray for a burning passion to fill their congregation as they serve their neighbors. Pray for the relationships that were formed following Hurricane Harvey. Pray that seeds will be planted, that lives will be changed, and that Centro Cristiano Vida would continue to be an Acts 2 kind of church.