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Freely receive, freely give

Pablo and Maricela Chavez and family.

I have are two reasons for surrendering my role as a pastor and accepting the invitation to long term missions. The first reason is very simple: God is inviting me to Peru. Second is a deep desire to share what God has poured into my life. Well, that was too short, so please let me give you a quick tour into my heart.

After a rebellious period during my teen years, I came back to my senses as the prodigal son. I had a deep desire to know God and to be known by him. Dialoguing with God, I told him: “You know everything I have done, and I don’t deserve a second chance. But if you forgive me and take me back, I want to have a personal relationship with you. I will follow you wherever you lead me, and I will do whatever you want me to do.”

During this time, God gave me Psalm 32, a passage that has been key in my development as his son. At the beginning of my second conversion, I experienced his forgiveness, mercy and love, as it says in the first part of the psalm. Verses seven to 10 have shaped my development as a Christian and as a leader. My desire has always been to be obedient to God.

Shortly after arriving from Mexico, God called me to a pastoral role. For 16 years, I served as a bi-vocational pastor at Iglesia El Buen Pastor in Orange Cove, Calif. After a few difficult years of adjustment, I enjoyed a thriving season in ministry.

Full of ideas and energy, I desired to reach people with the gospel and to develop leaders.

Then I went through a time of depression and burnout. I had failed to observe the sabbath. Since I was serving the Lord and had a personal relationship with him, I thought there was no need to rest. A Christian should not get tired when serving, I thought. After a few years of battling depression in silence and feeling worthless, useless, dumb and inadequate, my Savior rescued me and started my healing process.

I realized I was trying to impress God and seek his approval through my performance. I am thankful for the people the Holy Spirit brought into my life to help me. Having a community of believers to walk with me, love me and hold me accountable was key. As I started healing from depression, I grew to love my ministry once again and to lead in a more healthy and godly way. I did not have the pressure to perform to impress anyone; I understood that God loves me and that he is longing for the same thing I am—to have a meaningful, intimate relationship with me.

Two and a half years ago, life was good. My children were doing great, getting good grades, involved in sports and growing in their faith. I was a tenured math teacher working at a high-performing middle school. My wife was working as a mental health therapist. And serving as a pastor, I enjoyed the trust of a church that loved me and my family.

However, having experienced God’s healing and abundant grace stirred in me a deep desire to share this blessing with other pastors and leaders. My heart felt heavy when I thought about pastors and leaders, especially in Latin America, who struggle in isolation with depression and burnout and wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and performance issues. During my discernment process I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me and putting in my heart the Mennonite Brethren pastors in Peru. I want to walk with my brothers in Peru, to give freely what I freely received.

Read more of the Chavez’s story and their call to Peru:

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