“Sometimes you remember God only when you have a problem,” Yuri said.
Often, this attitude is a sign of a fair-weather Christian, but for Yuri, seeking God in the midst of trouble marked the beginning of a completely new journey with Jesus.
It was August 2013, and Yuri and his wife were in the process of immigrating to the United States from Cuba. The officials handed him his documents and said, “Welcome to the United States”…but they asked his wife to remain behind.
Yuri felt fear rising from the pit of his stomach as he realized he had no idea how long they would have to wait. It could be a mere two or three hours; it could be a full day; it could be longer. In that moment, he began to pray harder than he had ever prayed in his life.
Faith hadn’t played much of a part in his life before. His grandmother was Catholic, and his mother prayed frequently and enjoyed a good relationship with God, but he himself had never practiced any religion. Before he left Cuba, his mother told him she would be praying for him, but Yuri shrugged her comment off, thinking it a little strange.
In the immigration office, however, he saw the results of prayer when his wife came through only twenty minutes after he did.
Once they had entered the United States, Yuri and his wife headed to Kansas City. He had two cousins living in KC and thought it might be easier to find a job there than in Florida where other Cuban immigrants often chose to go. Today, he sees God’s hand in the decision.
“I think God said, ‘No, no, no [to Florida]. You are my son. You come to Kansas City because you need to meet Mission Adelante. You need to meet some people here.’”
Yuri and his wife first heard of Mission Adelante through one of his wife’s Cuban friends who told them about the English classes the ministry offered. Because they both needed to learn English, they decided to go and were amazed at how the people there showed love to them.
A few weeks later, Jarrett Meek, the founder of Mission Adelante, invited them to come to the Latin house church. Their lack of knowledge about Jesus and the church made them uncertain whether this would be a good fit for them. However, since the Mission Adelante staff had grown to feel like family, they accepted Jarrett’s invitation.
“The first time was pretty funny,” Yuri said. “During worship, my wife…all the time she was crying. I thought, ‘Wow. Maybe this is not a good place for us.’”
But two or three weeks later, after they had continued to witness the staff’s love for them through their English classes, they decided to try attending church again. This time they enjoyed the service a little more. And so they came back again. And every time they returned, they saw themselves growing in faith.
“We understand every week a little more about Jesus, about God,” he said. Six months later, they decided to be baptized.
A few months after that, Yuri began considering another big change. When he first arrived in the United States, he struggled at work because of how impatient his manager was with Yuri’s growing but still new English skills. Then he found a job under a new boss, who followed Jesus, patiently taught him new skills, and, knowing how Yuri missed the ocean, invited him to use his personal pool.
After finding Jesus, though, Yuri was feeling a call to become a pastor. “I love how the people [at Mission Adelante] love the Latin people,” he told Jarrett. “I would like to be like you.”
When he first talked to Jarrett, there were no available positions at Mission Adelante, but in January 2015, the opportunity arose for Yuri to take on a 3-year apprenticeship there. He approached his boss with some apprehension to talk about his resignation, but his boss was thrilled for him and his new opportunity.
Now, every morning, Yuri meets with Jarrett and another pastor and apprentice to discuss Scripture. Then in the afternoons, he works in one of the Mission Adelante programs, such as Leaders in Training or Kids Club.
He loves building relationships with people from Latin cultures and showing them God’s love through enjoying life together. Most of all, he tries to point out the similarities between them.
“You and me, we are the same,” he will tell them. “We are only different [in that] I think you need to meet Jesus…. You don’t have to forget your past, your culture, or your family – the change is your relationship with God. You don’t need to change your friends or change your family. No. Change your heart – only that.”
in other news:
- We are having a great second week (of three in a row) of Kids Camp with our friends from Christ Church Anglican. Please join us in praying for good weather as we finish up this summer's Kids Camps next week with our friends from Emmanuel Baptist Church.