With the start of the new year, David Lopez took on the role of Community Church Planting (CCP) Coordinator for the Free Methodist Church in Latin America from John Jairo Leal, Impact Latin America’s CCP Coordinator. This shift frees John Jairo to focus on training 60 pastors from the Wesleyan Church in Colombia in CCP’s biblical principles and catalyzing CCP in other networks beyond the Free Methodist Church.
So, let us introduce you to David Lopez, a man with an uncanny ability to develop people, beloved by all who know him and whose passion for the transformative power of the gospel started when he was 12 years old.
David Lopez was twelve years old when he first led someone to Christ. He was a young member of a team that went out to share the gospel with people in the town of Puerto Ouras, Venezuela. They talked with a woman at the door of her home, David vividly remembers, “I shared the plan of salvation with her and she said, “Yes, I want that.” ”
“The experience marked my ministry and my life,” David said. “It was clear that God really changed people’s hearts. Years later I had the opportunity to visit that same town. They were building a church and that same woman was still there and part of that church. She remembered me. I thought, wow! How can it be that God could use someone like me to impact people’s lives in such a way?”
A passion was ignited to see people’s lives changed by the power of God’s good news that has indeed marked David’s life and ministry. Before he and his girlfriend Ginegda, affectionately called Yeya, both graduated from university with engineering degrees, he asked her if she would marry a man who was called to ministry. To his great relief Yeya said that she too loved God with all her heart and wanted to serve him with her whole life too.
After they married, David and Yeya’s first ministry was in a small town two hours outside the city of Maturín with a small church of mostly women and children, alongside their work as engineers in the oil industry. “For the first time they began to call me pastor,” David recalled. Under their leadership, 60 adults came to know Christ and become members of the church in just a few years.
After they returned to Maturín, David became the associate pastor at A Dios Sea la Gloria Church, one of the largest Free Methodist Churches in Latin America. David developed and led a thriving ministry among youth and young adults while also receiving mentoring, training and ordination as a minister.
David and Yeya’s lead pastor and superintendent, Casto Rojas, was also overseeing a small network of churches in Perú. The Free Methodist Church was struggling to gain a foothold in Lima, the capital city with over 10 million people and the fourth largest metro area in Latin America. When Peru was rocked by guerilla warfare and narcotrafficking in the 1980’s and 90’s, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country fled to Lima. Since then, thousands from other parts of Latin America have come to Lima to study or for business. As one of the largest and most influential cities in Latin America, it was a critical place for the gospel to take hold.
Pastor Rojas looked to David and Yeya. Aware of their call to international ministry, Pastor Rojas invited them to go with him on a visit to Peru. While there, God confirmed their call and, after further screening and assessment, the leadership of the denomination and the churches in both Venezuela and Peru approved them for missionary service.
In January of 2017, David and Yeya left their home in Venezuela with their two young children, David and Valery with just 6 suitcases between them. They traveled across four countries, 2,000 miles, to reach Lima.
They were far from home. Any financial support from A Dios Sea la Gloria vaporized when exchanged for Peruvian currency and, with the established Peruvian Free Methodist churches at some distance from Lima, there were no pre-existing connections for them in this huge city. At the same time, many refugees from Venezuela were also arriving in Lima and the distinction that the Lopez family were missionaries, not refugees, didn’t matter to most.
“Like any big cosmopolitan city, people are busy working and enclosed in their world.” David said, “We knocked on doors in the high rise apartment building where we lived to invite people to come over but they said, “We don’t have time for that.”
Undaunted, they set up tables at a local park where families gathered. They organized games for children and Yeya told Bible stories. Meanwhile, “I began to talk with the parents,” David said. “Every week out in the park we prayed with people. Often, they were weeping because of their needs.”
Soon, a House of Peace began in their apartment but they quickly outgrew the space and so they rented an event room at a local hotel. After a year, David and Yeya had built a growing network from scratch. Because of his understanding of the CCP principles and obvious fruit, David was asked to serve as the CCP (Community Church Planting) Coordinator for all of Peru. From a small base of established churches, lay people were coached to follow Jesus’ instructions, going to neighborhoods and villages, gathering friends and neighbors and forming their own Houses of Peace
Under David’s leadership, Houses of Peace were started in the central Andes mountains and southern Peru. By 2019 there were 35 Houses of Peace. By June 2020 David reported, “We had 60 Houses of Peace in Peru,” each representing new groups of new believers in new communities. Meanwhile in Lima, the weekly meeting at the hotel had primarily become a training center for leaders to start other Houses of Peace. David said, “70 people were meeting weekly at the hotel,” each person representing a whole network scattered in various neighborhoods throughout the city.
In 2020, the pandemic made their work more difficult and some Houses of Peace stopped meeting. Even so, David said, “We opened quite a number of Houses of Peace online. We’ve even done baptisms by Zoom.” Three networks in Peru reported 81 new believers and 52 Houses of Peace from August through October 2020.
With years of proven effectiveness in developing networks of Houses of Peace, this month David began serving as CCP Coordinator for the Free Methodist Church for all of Latin America. In this role he will provide training and coaching to all the CCP Country Coordinators and network leaders, training and igniting a passion in others for sharing the gospel, something he’s been doing since he was 12. He will work closely with John Jairo Leal, Impact Latin America’s CCP Coordinator, freeing John Jairo to catalyze this multiplying movement in other associations beyond the Free Methodist Church.
Over their many years of ministry, David and Yeya have given up a lot to do this work: secure careers in engineering, home, family and community. When asked about this sacrifice, he smiled easily and said, “What really motivates me is that God can use me as an instrument. I’ve made a lot of plans in my life,” he said, “professionally as an engineer, plans for my family and other kinds of work…but when I see the plan of God for me, I feel like I’m not worthy of this. To serve God is such an honor, to feel like I’m a part of the transformation that he wants to bring to all of humanity. That’s when I say, ‘God my plans can be set aside. I want to be aligned to your plan.’ That’s what gives us the strength to keep going.”
He continued, “I hope every member of every church would have that sense of joy that comes by giving themselves completely to be used by God.” Through this work, David believes that, “We will see a multiplication, in churches and homes, in changed lives and transformed families,” in Peru, and all across Latin America.