Hope and Challenge
Relentless Church is four years old. Our name describes our mission: To spread the grace of God relentlessly to the untold and unconvinced. Like many churches, we are filled with both hope and challenge.
Who We Are
We see our core values through the lens of relationship. Our journey to become a movement of God is marked by these qualities:
- Gospel-centered. We are awed at the incredible news of our rescue by the grace of God through Jesus, and we are compelled to share it with others.
- Forever-focused. Life on earth is really short, and forever is really, really long. We want to be a community of people who live like we actually believe this to be true.
- Multiethnic. God’s design for his church is to be a church united across racial, political and economic lines.
In the context of discipleship and spiritual growth, we fully embrace the spiritual mentoring that Paul describes in 2 Timothy 2:2: And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
We’re starting by training a small group of leaders with the idea that each would have two to four people under them in a mentoring relationship. The challenge is sustainability as we continue to grow.
In the context of global missions, we looked for something that would unify our diverse congregation on a gospel-centered mission. We hoped for elements that would be so engaging that our people would focus on “forever” instead of “today.” And our desire was that everyone would participate.
These weighed heavily as we assessed our current capacity. The dream: Find a community somewhere in the world that our church could adopt so that together with the nationals we could have significant impact to spread the grace of God through long-term relationship.
As with all our plans, we wanted to be sure we were discerning God’s will with this big vision. We wanted our efforts to matter for eternity, and we wanted to make a significant impact wherever we served. We wanted to have one mission focus, go all in and really do it well. We began to search.
The leadership team created a list of organizations to explore. After some research, we confirmed some presuppositions about Compassion International: They are a ministry who lines up with our values and our emphasis on relationship.
Compassion has connected us with La Iglesia Centro de Amistad, a gospel-centered church in La Ceiba, Honduras. Through this partnership we have the opportunity to share Christ through authentic relationships with children and their families.
La Iglesia Centro de Amistad shares our passion to spread God’s grace in their community. And their mission is spot on. On a weekly basis the church serves 260 children—the poorest of the poor--through their child development center.
This church provides the facility, staff, children, and relationships to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Compassion provides the curriculum, financial resources and accountability, and sponsors who support the sponsor/child connection through relationship.
The Local Church
We love how Compassion honors the local community church and supports their efforts to impact their community for Christ.
But what really caught our attention about the church in La Ceiba is that they are living out John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Instead of bringing children to the church for teaching, mentoring and programmatic enrichment, the church went to the children—to a slum with no running water or sanitation whose community is controlled by MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs.
The church rents a house in the slum as the facility for the Compassion child development center.* As dangerous as the gangs are, their members fear God and his work. Children of gang members attend the Compassion program. Computers, classroom resources and kitchen supplies are all protected inside the house because of a gang-initiated spray-painted symbol on the building that communicates: This facility and the people in it are off limits to gang activity.
Typically, gangs recruit children as young as 13-years-old. But teenagers who love God are disqualified from this draft. Therefore, the church—in partnership with the Compassion child development center—plays a big role in protecting teens from gangs. When the children see Jesus’ love and example modeled at the center, they often turn to Christ for spiritual—and physical—salvation.
Our leadership team cast the vision: what if every one of our members joined in God’s work in La Cieba by sponsoring children at La Amistad Child Development Center?
We embraced the possibilities.
Next, we planned how we would invite our members to sponsor children. In the weeks preceding our sponsorship ask, we introduced our church to the community of La Ceiba. We heard special speakers, watched videos and learned about the geography, culture and economics of Honduras.
By the time Compassion Sunday arrived, people were primed and ready to sponsor kids from La Amistad Child Development Center. Everyone had an understanding when they picked out the child they would sponsor. They knew where the child lived, what the struggles were, and what the community was facing. We were all on the same page, and everyone was engaged.
In fact, we ran out of children to sponsor after our first worship service! Do you know how crazy it was to present Compassion’s child sponsorship in our second service with no children to sponsor?!! Of course we requested more, and the following week 20 additional children were sponsored!
A New Relationship
Today, 36 children from La Amistad Child Development Center are sponsored by members at Relentless Church. Our church family is banding together to pour God’s love into the community of La Cieba. We are united across racial, political and economic lines on a gospel-focused mission. We are dreaming of “forever” instead of worried about “today.” We are living our values!
Shortly after Compassion Sunday, a scout team from Relentless Church traveled to La Cieba to understand the environment: Is it safe for our families to travel there? How can we—in our brokenness—encourage others in their brokenness? How can we nurture this relationship in La Cieba to become long-term?
The story of two churches continues to be written. And lives in La Cieba and at Relentless Church continue to be transformed by God’s love.
Contributed by Raf Gonzalez and his wife, Misty.