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Prison Ministry Bears Fruit for Church Plant

September 27, 2023
God is at work through a church plant reaching the growing Hispanic population in West Michigan.
God is at work through a church plant reaching the growing Hispanic population in West Michigan.
Photo courtesy of Iglesia Todas Las Naciones

One year ago, church planter Pablo Lee started visiting a local prison to fill a ministry need. This summer, two people who were formerly inmates celebrated their baptisms in Lake Michigan.

Lee was serving as a missionary at All Nations Seminary in Mexico when he sensed God calling him to plant a church in Michigan. He connected with Resonate Global Mission and confirmed there was a huge need for a church plant that would minister with the growing Hispanic population in West Michigan.

Lee moved to the area and started spending time in the community to meet people. He struck up conversations at the laundromat. He led Bible studies at greenhouses and farms for many seasonal workers who spoke Spanish. He learned that many of the people he met didn’t know much about God or the Bible.

“I evangelized one-by-one,” he said.

But planting a church is tough work. It takes a community to start and sustain a church plant. With support from Resonate and a number of local churches—including his calling church, Beaverdam (Mich.) CRC, as well as Borculo CRC in Zeeland, Mich., and Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville, Mich.—Lee started Iglesia Todas Las Naciones. The church meets for Sunday worship in Immanuel CRC’s building.

Three years ago the church started with 10 members. Now there are 17 members with 50-60 people joining for worship on Sunday mornings.

And a year ago God opened a door for a new ministry opportunity. The chaplain at a local prison told Scott Geurink, a Resonate local mission leader and Lee’s coach, about a need—there were inmates in the prison who only spoke Spanish. The chaplain was looking for someone to lead Bible studies in Spanish. Geurink mentioned the need to Lee, and he stepped up.

“All of them kind of struggled with drinking issues, depression, or anxiety,” Lee said.

Lee met with the inmates to get to know them. He shared Bible verses with them, and as they showed an interest in Christianity, he started to go more in-depth. Two of them decided to follow Christ. And when they were released from prison, they joined Iglesia Todas Las Naciones. This summer, they were baptized along with three other members of the church.

One of the men who was baptized, Marvin, is originally from Guatemala. He had had trouble controlling his anger and landed in jail. Lee said that when he first met Marvin, he was depressed. But he was interested in the gospel, and as he studied the Bible with Lee, Marvin knew he wanted to give his life to Christ.

Now Marvin meets with Lee twice a week for discipleship. He also accompanies Lee on visits to meet people and get to know them better.

“He asked to be my disciple,” said Lee. “I do a lot of visitation. He’ll go with me. He says to me, ‘How can we pastor?’ That is a great thing God is doing in his life . . . Marvin’s learning a lot of practical things about loving people and doing devotions.”

When Marvin was baptized this summer, nearly 20 members of his family joined in the celebration! They shared with Lee that they noticed a huge change in Marvin’s life—for the better.

Geurink, who coaches Lee, is encouraged by how God is working through him and the church he has planted.

“The way God is working in Hispanic families – who were nominal Catholics, who knew very little about God and the Bible – through Lee’s ministry, they’re learning who God is as they study the Bible,” said Geurink. “They’re coming to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and growing in their faith. That’s a blessing we see happening.”

Please pray for Lee’s ministry and this church plant. Pray for the believers who were baptized this summer—that they may continue to grow as disciples of Christ and share their faith with family and friends.