Turning off of the main road into the outlying portion of Mexico City known as Chiconautla, you find yourself in an obstacle course set within a maze. For starters, simply turning off of the main road requires some bravery and a keen eye for the oncoming buses that neither have to nor are likely to stop. Once clear of that challenge, you head up the hill, past little shops, taquerias, and small homes, turn right at the corner with the huge empty lot covered in trash, and then make a left at the next busy street. After a few more labyrinthine turns (at the house with the dog out front, at the panaderia), you will arrive at Bet-Lehem Church. An unassuming, 3-story building situated on a corner lot in Chiconautla, there is little in the outer appearance of this modest structure to indicate the vast kingdom significance of the place that you have just arrived.
For 25 years, Manuel and Laura Vivanco have poured their lives into this church and community of believers, watching their ministry grow from a Bible study with one other believer to today’s network of church plants. Over the years, the Vivancos have worked in 10 different parts of Mexico City’s Greater Metropolitan Area and have planted 5 churches, 4 of which are functioning today as self-supporting churches. The ministry of Bet-lehem Chiconautla has been at the center of training pastors and missionaries who are now working in 4 Mexican states and the US.
And, as a happy consequence of God’s evident blessing of this ministry, the original Bet-Lehem building is, quite simply, too small for the thriving church family that gathers there. But, remember that trash-strewn empty lot you passed on the way? A portion of that lot had been donated to Bet-lehem in the hopes of one day becoming the new location for the church. And, even in spite of the generosity of that donation, the necessary finances to construct such a building seemed daunting. It would take enormous financial resources—and, likely, a decade or so—to get this project off of the ground.
This is where we, as a supporting church, get the opportunity to demonstrate real partnership. Each year, the Elders of Santa Barbara Community Church build into the annual budget a line item known as The Bountiful Project. The last $100,000 of the budget to be funded, the Bountiful Project functions as a stretch goal; an encouragement toward generous and faithful giving on the part of the SBCC family. In short, if we are faithful to give, we are able to take the final $100,000 and distribute it in support of some worthy project.
To God’s glory and for the sake of his kingdom, in 2015 SBCC was able to send the Bountiful Project gift to help the Vivancos begin construction on this new church building. What is currently a place of waste and a symbol of death will soon blossom into a place of life and spiritual vitality. For the Vivancos, the new building—larger and in a more central location than the current one—represents more than a collection of bricks and wood. This building offers a significant step forward in their ministry effectiveness.
In the book of 1st Chronicles, King David calls the people to generous and sacrificial giving for the completion of the temple project undertaken by Solomon. The people of God respond generously with a great outpouring of gold, silver, and other precious goods. Read carefully who gets the credit and the glory in this story.
The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy.
Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly: “O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.
O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” (1 Chronicles 29:9-14, NLT)
What a privilege for us to replicate—on a smaller scale—what took place in 1st Chronicles, not with offerings for the temple in Israel, but rather for the church in Mexico City. Well done, SBCC! What a blessing to turn what the Lord has entrusted us with into something that will, in turn, bless countless others in Mexico and, quite possibly, around the world! May we now, and always, be able to say with David, O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!