As EFCA pastors have learned, restoration is best done in community.
In 1997, following 20 years as a successful church planter in his native Costa Rica, Pastor Eduardo Castillo was facing his greatest personal failure: the dissolution of his marriage and family. Yet equally devastating was the reality that the blame fell squarely on his own shoulders: His failure to balance his personal life with his ministry life had driven his wife away and left a gaping wound that would take time, God’s grace and many people to heal.
Reeling from the blow, Eduardo spent two years in God’s “waiting room,” wondering if he would ever return to ministry. In 1999, he felt called to move to the United States. Once there, he contacted a long-time friend of his father’s, a missionary who had once started a Bible school in Costa Rica. Then retired and attending Faith EFC in Colorado Springs, Bill Brown took Eduardo under his care and began to restore hope.
In turn, Bill introduced Eduardo to Bruce Redmond, the EFCA Rocky Mountain District church-planting coordinator. Bill knew that Bruce had been searching for a Latino church-planting pastor. With Bill as interpreter/middleman, Bruce got to know Eduardo, saw his heart for God, connected with his passion for ministry and realized that before him was a man in the midst of a very positive process.
In 2000, Bruce invited Eduardo to join him in Colorado as part of a path of personal and ministry mentoring. “That brought healing to me,” Eduardo says. “In Costa Rica, you have no intentional equipping or training to be a church planter. The churches are isolated. Now I felt belonging.”
As Bruce mentored him through church-planting boot camps, pastoral gatherings and conferences, others also joined the restoration process: the EFCA’s Board of Ministerial Standing, various pastors and church leaders, and his adopted church family at Fellowship Community Church in Centennial, CO.
To serve as an EFCA church planter, Eduardo knew that he must pursue EFCA credentialing, and one step of that credentialing included an extensive exploration of the cause of his divorce. Eventually, Eduardo’s personal healing reached the point that he now considers his ex-wife and her husband to be good friends.
Finally, in 2001, with a renewed spirit and EFCA credentialing in hand, Eduardo was ready to return to ministry and launch his first Hispanic church plant.
Then came September 11.
The days following the World Trade Center disaster proved tumultuous for Eduardo because of immigration issues. Finally, with just days left on his religious worker’s visa but the immigration issues not yet resolved, Eduardo returned to Costa Rica, hoping to not jeopardize his ability to later return.
While back in his home country, Eduardo soon realized that his visit would not be a temporary one. Senior leaders of the evangelical churches of Costa Rica began asking this newly trained leader for help in equipping the pastors of 3,500 mostly independent churches. And so he stayed.
What started as one pastor contemplating leaving ministry forever due to personal failures, 10 years later has grown into a movement called INCRESE—the Spanish acronym for the Institute for Healthy, Ecclesiastical Growth. Thus far, INCRESE has provided training for almost 1,000 pastors and church leaders and launched the Union of Evangelical Free Churches of Costa Rica.
And to think that it all began with a broken pastor, a restoration team who loved him and a God who never gives up on His children.
Story originally published in EFCA Today magazine (www.efcatoday.org), fall 2011, published by the Evangelical Free Church of America. Written by Timothy Young, Dale Eudy and Steve Yohn. Timothy Young is the mission-team leader and an elder of Living Rock EFC in Gillette, WY. Dale Eudy is director of ministry partnerships for INCRESE. Steve Yohn is senior pastor of Strasburg (CO) Community Church.
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- For the restoration of leaders in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America as they participate in the INCRESE movement.
- For the work of Eduardo Castillo and the other INCRESE trainers and leaders.
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