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Tijuana Church Plants ‘God with Us'

July 19, 2013
James (left) and Alex (in green) at a Bible study

James (left) and Alex (in green) at a Bible study


Christian Reformed World Missions missionary James Lee joined with Emmanuel Church, a Presbyterian Reformed Church of Mexico (IPRM) congregation in Tijuana, to help launch a weekly outdoor service in a nearby community.

Begun after a year of praying where to start a new church, Emmauel’s outdoor outreach was part of the IPRM’s vision to start 20 churches by 2020.

To begin, Emmanuel Church members set up a tent, chairs, a sound system, and generator every Sunday. They called their church plant, “God With Us.”

Lee, who has served with his wife Barbarita in Mexico since 2007, says he helped to plant the church by preparing for the outdoor services, preaching, and making visits to the community.

On a typical week, about 25 people attended the service. Afterward, some of them would invite the church planters to their homes.

Soon Lee and two Emmanuel leaders, one of whom was Saul Marquez, were leading Bible studies in people’s homes.

One Sunday, Saul was approached after the service by a young man named Alex. Alex had come to the service for the first time. Touched by what he had heard, he asked Saul to lead a Bible study with him.

Lee says he and Saul immediately started meeting with Alex. The next month, Alex invited two friends to join them and they eagerly accepted.

Alex and his friends were used to being preached at in Bible studies and forbidden from asking questions. But Lee and Marquez didn’t work that way.

Instead, they  offered an interactive, relaxed format that put Alex and his friends at ease. Each week, says Lee, they understood a little more how one followed Christ.

Alex and his friends soon became part of the church community. They started sweeping the floors, cleaning tables, and setting up chairs for the Sunday services, says Lee.

They attended the services each week, eager to learn all they could about following God. When their Bible study finished in April, they quickly began a new one.

The larger church body, meanwhile, had entered a new chapter, too.

Emmanuel Church had been praying for land to build a church. In January, the church bought some land and set to work. Members of Emmanuel Church and other IPRM churches poured concrete for the church’s foundation. North American service and learning teams helped frame, insulate, and drywall the church.

By April, the church was ready. Shortly, afterward, Saul Marquez and his wife, Mari, were installed to lead the church.

Although it has moved indoors, God With Us Church continues to reach beyond its walls to people like Alex and his friends, says Lee.

“Our hope,”  he says, “is that God With Us Church will be a place of compassion and acceptance instead of condemnation and isolation.”

Information for this story was provided by James and Barbarita Lee.