Freely receive, freely give

Frontlines: Following God from pastorate to Peru

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:


  1. Thanks, Pablo for opening up the earlier chapters of your life journey leading to the later chapter about you and Maricela being called to Peru. For sure, more glorious chapters are waiting to be written as you stay close to Him. ¡Bendiciones!


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