First featured in Latinfile, May 2020 - prior to Mexico's COVID-19 outbreak
Amid all the turmoil in Mexico, there’s a hunger for God. Latin Link’s Joel Gonzalez and Mayra Gomez have been training up a team in Puebla, Mexico to plant the churches that people are looking for.

Joel and Mayra: Puebla is one of Mexico’s largest cities, bigger than Manchester, with a population of around four million. But there are very few evangelical Christians and churches here.

Until recently, Puebla was a relatively peaceful city; a nice place to live. But even here, crime rates are starting to rise, and we can feel the political instability and uncertainty that much of Mexico has been dealing with for some time.

People are realising that no government can really bring life

It’s sad to see Puebla affected this way, but it has brought a window of opportunity. People are realising that no government can really bring life or solve all the problems facing society. They are starting to wonder about faith again.

Pastors around us started saying that, for these hungry people to discover the hope and life there is in Jesus, the city would need many more places where newcomers to the faith could be nurtured and discipled. The message was becoming clear: Puebla needed more local churches.

18 months ago we started to feel that God was calling us to be part of this – to work at planting new churches. It was exciting and scary!

The team

We became aware that a number of young couples around us were feeling the same stirring - but we knew we couldn’t rush this. We invited them to meet up with us weekly for six months. We’d pray together, study the Bible, and make sure we were on the same page.

Finally, with the blessing and support of their various church pastors, we now have a core team of three couples - plus ourselves - taking the first steps.

We’ve taught theology students at seminaries here for the past five years, so we have got to know many young Mexicans with a heart for God and a call to serve him. In the future, we’d love to get some of them involved too – this could be a great opportunity for them to gain experience of church planting so that, in God´s time, they feel equipped to plant more churches across Mexico.

The neighbourhood

Our aim now is to plant a church in a lower middle-class area of Puebla, which has 20,000 people but no evangelical church. We want to reach families from the neighbourhood, people from every age group, and see the gospel’s power of restoration on the community.

We are also aiming to reach out to university students. Puebla is a university city, with young people from all over Mexico coming to study here. We would love to see students coming to know Jesus and taking their faith back with them to their home states and into their careers. As young professionals they could influence Mexico’s approach to issues like justice, education, ethics, and more.

The first steps

We’re desperate to see God bring real life and change to this community. But we’re not just opening a new church straight away.

Experienced church planters tell us it’s best to start off running Bible studies with people we already know in the neighbourhood. So we’re just getting started, meeting up with some of our core team’s colleagues, neighbours, classmates and friends to explore the Bible together.

There’s little knowledge of the Bible here – the spiritual history in Puebla has involved a form of Roman Catholicism, mixed together with indigenous gods and traditions. The people we’ve invited are all curious to find out what it really says in the Bible and open to hearing about our faith… it all starts from here!

The help we have, and need

We’ve both learned a lot about 'doing' church in different contexts and cultures through our time living in Cuba, Honduras, Spain, Scotland and now Mexico. But we still need help!

The Pastor of our local church, Comunidad Cristiana de Puebla, is being really supportive and helpful. We also get moral support from the Anglican Church of North America - somebody visits twice a year to offer church planting advice and expertise. We couldn’t do without our sending churches and supporters through Latin Link, who keep us surrounded by prayer and encouragement.

But we would really benefit from more volunteers. To have another person, couple or family to help us would be fantastic. We need more people with a bit of church planting experience, and we are going to need someone with pastoral skills to teach and visit Puebla’s new believers. There’s plenty of scope for a Stride placement here! [Now, subject to COVID-19 restrictions - do enquire on [email protected]]

In fact, the whole country of Mexico needs church planters. 130 million people live here, and most of them don’t have anybody nearby to tell them about Jesus. Many pastors are asking for people to help plant churches now, in this window of opportunity.

Please pray for us as we make a start here in Puebla:

• Pray that we would remain in tune with God’s plans and purpose for the people of Puebla as we start church planting.
• Pray that more Christians would hear God’s call to church planting in Mexico.
• Pray for our new Bible studies: pray for the right words to say to everybody to help them connect with God. Pray for patience and
understanding of the different personalities, backgrounds and needs of those who come.
• It’s great that several different churches are getting behind this church plant – please pray church unity would continue to be
strong in the city.

COVID-19 update

This article was written before the pandemic took hold in Mexico. Since then, the church is only able to meet online. This creates challenges, but also more opportunities.

In June, Mayra joined us on the Global Sofa to give an update on how things were looking.

If you want to read the full edition of Latinfile Spring 2020, please click below.
Latinfile Spring 2020