Impact Latin America exists to support a transformational, biblical movement happening in Latin America. Supporting leaders like Pastor Hiuberth Zapata is critical to the ongoing health of that movement. We chose Pastor Hiuberth, and leaders like him, for the biblical Community Church Planting (CCP) principles he displays. Scriptures like Acts 2:17 leap to life in the story of people like Pastor Hiuberth:
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
When Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra fled Nicaragua, she was pregnant with twins. As they literally ran for their lives, Sandra fell. Although she escaped, when she gave birth it was clear that one of the twins had been severely injured in the fall. The doctors said he wouldn’t live two years.
As they cared for their new family, they also grew in responsibility and leadership. They were assigned to pastor the Free Methodist Church in Alajuela. Eventually, Hiuberth became the FMC District Leader and received a Doctorate in Ministry. Years passed. They had three more children and their son still lived, now adored by the entire family.
Meanwhile, the small network of Free Methodist churches in Nicaragua was in trouble. At a young age, the district leader in Nicaragua became ill and died. Then Area Director Dr. Delia Nuesch-Olver asked Pastor Hiuberth to add the Nicaraguan churches to those he was already overseeing in Costa Rica.
He accepted and began regularly traveling nine hours by bus across an unpredictable border to visit the Nicaraguan leaders and churches. Regaining the trust of those whom he had left behind when he fled the country was difficult but he soon earned their respect.
Back in Costa Rica, Pastor Hiuberth hosted the meeting that birthed this movement in 2010. There, eight district leaders resolved to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach the continent for Christ. Five years later, he participated in the first Community Church Planting (CCP) training in Latin America. Soon after, he mobilized the Nicaraguan churches to host the same training with 120 leaders from five countries. Pastor Hiuberth’s heart began to beat with the vision of CCP: the multiplication of new believers, leaders and churches.
Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra’s hearts also beat for Nicaragua, a beautiful land of volcanic mountains and crystal lakes ravaged by earthquakes, hurricanes, war, inequity and poverty. All along, they wondered, “Is God calling us back to Nicaragua to lead this church planting movement directly?”
It was not a decision they made lightly. Their connection to Nicaragua had already cost them a great deal. Miraculously, their son had lived until he was 23 and they loved him dearly. While he lived, he had also required enormous care, always teetering on the brink of life and death. To the doctors, there had been no hope for their son. The same could be said of their homeland. Decades later, things had only worsened for Nicaraguans. Now in their sixties, they would have to leave behind Costa Rica’s good health care and retirement benefits and the thriving church where Pastor Hiuberth had led for many years in Alajuela.
There were plenty of reasons to be afraid, tired, or bitter. Instead, Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra still dreamed dreams. Their hearts full of love for Nicaraguans and CCP was the means by which they would reach them. By 2017, they were convinced. They handed off responsibilities in Costa Rica, gave away much of their belongings and packed up the rest, and said goodbye to friends, children and grandchildren. In 2018, just after New Year’s Day, they arrived in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua with 1.1 million inhabitants.
By April, the city and the country erupted in riots and social upheaval. Normally gentle and peaceful, years of corruption and repression had driven the Nicaraguan people to their limit. The government retaliated with an iron fist. When violence in the streets suspended church services, Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra’s work continued. The simple genius of CCP required no building. Even while protests raged in the streets, leaders were trained and Houses of Peace were begun.
With courageous faith, Pastor Hiuberth has repeatedly said, “God called us back to Nicaragua. We trust Him to take care of us.”
Over 2019, as the violence continued, People of Peace opened Houses of Peace throughout the city. By the beginning of 2020, nearly 30 Houses of Peace had started.
Last year, the difficulties of 2020 were exacerbated in Nicaragua. As the pandemic raged, so did two Category 4 hurricanes, Eta and Iota, hitting the Nicaraguan coast only two weeks apart. When the hurricanes hit, Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra were training 40 leaders in Pastoral Formation and the CCP principles. They supported the 19 Houses of Peace that had survived the pandemic and assisted the communities with distributing food, clothing, and medicine and repairing homes.
Even after so much sacrifice and struggle, danger and risk, Pastor Huiberth said, “These are the best years of our ministry! I wish we had known about CCP 30 years ago!”
This is the kind of fruitful leader worth investing in. Leaders like Pastor Hiuberth whose hearts contain the truest witness to the gospel there is. That is, love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of bitterness, courage instead of fear, and hope instead of despair. These are the kinds of fruitful leaders Impact Latin America supports. Please join us.
Please pray for peaceful and positive change in Nicaragua. Pray that new Houses of Peace will grow and multiply as points of light and transformation. Finally, please pray for continued wisdom and courage for Pastor Hiuberth and Sandra.