In the summer of 2018, Bishop David Avila and the Conference Council appointed me as Men’s Ministries Director for the Texas Latin Conference. I rejoiced with the awesome opportunity to serve the men of the great state of Texas. During our quadrennial convention, the Holy Spirit put a dream in my heart. A vision was birthed and made more evident throughout the months to come. This vision was to rally the men of the TXLC behind the purpose of launching the ‘now’ generation of missionary young men and women of our conference into the calling and purpose of our Lord in their lives.
The TXLC counted it as a blessing to have among its ranks a great man of God who served as a world missionary and ordained minister of our denomination, the late Rev. Mario Gutierrez. He left us a legacy worthy of imitation after traveling and ministering in 84 countries, planting 110 churches, and training over 5,000 ministry leaders. I was saddened that as a conference—supporting World Missions wholeheartedly at both a local and conference level—we no longer had missionaries we could call our own.
The heart of God beats for missions, according to Romans 10:13-14. I quickly developed a plan where I could rally the men of our conference behind a vision and purpose and have them support the launching of the Mario Gutierrez Missionary Scholarship Fund. After intense prayer, seeking God’s direction, and consulting with conference leadership, I was ready to launch the plan.
One of the first things I did was speak to the children of Rev. Gutierrez and obtain approval from them, soliciting their input in understanding the “heart of a missionary,” so an adequate selection process could be adopted. Connie Bahrs and Mario Gutierrez Jr. were excited to hear about the project and quickly related the details to their mother, Mrs. Connie Gutierrez. I am certain their approval and support to the project marked a confirmation that God was in the middle of it all.
After being diligent in a fundraising effort, what started as a mission trip of 4 to 5 scholarship recipients, became a reality where a total of 18 of us were embarking on making the dreams of 11 young men and women, ages 17 – 22, a reality, as awardees to the first-ever Mario Gutierrez Missionary Scholarship Fund.
We departed July 25 of this year to El Salvador with a fully packed agenda. The first two days we spent at a rural IPHC church in Berlin, Usulutan, where we financed the construction of a Sunday school classroom. For 13 years, the kids of this church have been receiving classes under cover of mango trees and sometimes even inclement weather. Our missionaries quickly rolled up their sleeves and got to work, while also building friendships that will last a lifetime. On our second day in Berlin, we performed an evangelistic outreach event with over 85 kids and over 50 adults. We shared refreshments, face-painting, entertainment from a clown, and door-to-door evangelism. We had dynamic praise and worship. The Holy Spirit abundantly blessed all in attendance.
Sunday, we participated in some glorious church services at several local Church of God congregations where our kids took part, utilizing their musical and dance talents during ministry time. God was certainly working in their hearts to discover their true calling. It was quite the experience for our young missionaries because many of them come from small local churches, contrasted with these services attended by more than six hundred people.
The following two days were exciting for several reasons. We continued to work construction by day at another IPHC congregation. One of our missionary youth, Michael Rios, ministered the Word of God at a mid-week service. It was his first time preaching. Every day, I would see how our youth were blossoming in their service maturity and dedication.
In the middle of the week, we spent time at a Christian orphanage, bringing donations, supplies, and clothing. We treated the young girls of the orphanage to an afternoon at the beauty shop, where they got their nails and hair done. Additionally, the boys had a fun time playing soccer (the national sport)–I don’t think our boys did so good against the boys of the orphanage. Towards the evening, we treated them to dinner at McDonald’s; for some, it was their first time. The smiles and fellowship were phenomenal.
Finally, we prepared ourselves for a youth camp in the mountains. Our missionary team was able to sponsor over half the cost of 100 campers in a wonderful setting for an all-out youth camp. Praise and worship was a true celebration of Jesus, where 100 young people (including our missionaries) came together represented by three churches. We sang and danced to the Lord Almighty.
We believe this missionary trip fulfilled two fundamental purposes: first and foremost, a conviction of a true calling, from the Lord, into the lives of our 11 missionary young men and women. Testimonies of God’s call became increasingly evident as in the case of Javier, who upon returning changed his college plans. Rather than pursuing a bachelor’s in history in Virginia, Javier decided to attend school in Dallas at Christ for the Nations. Julissa and Victor have now decided to continue pursuing a life in missionary work. Everyone who traveled with us to El Salvador testified to the transformative life impact the missions trip had upon him and her.
Secondly, this trip produced an abundant grateful attitude and constant intercession (as seen in 2 Corinthians 9:10-15) from the churches in El Salvador that were reached towards all those that made this trip possible. The constant show of fellowship and friendship with all of us here in the United States serves as a continuous reminder that they are praying for all of us.
My wife, Carmen, and I are certain this is the beginning of a true presence of the TXLC in the world mission field through our ‘now’ generation of missionaries. We pray God will continue to support this initiative and supply us from His riches in glory. There is already excitement in the air regarding our next Men’s Ministries sponsored missionary trip. One day, my heart desires to hear that one of these youngsters has committed their life to the world mission field, following the steps of Rev. Gutierrez and simultaneously connecting them as ministers to the TXLC.
The TXLC is excited with the ‘now’ generation of both missionaries and ministers. We can see the potential of them blossoming into men and women of God, passionate about their calling. We are now in the process of completing Local Minister’s License applications for some of our eleven missionaries, thus connecting them directly to our denomination and local conference. God is good, and we cannot wait to continue developing this generation following the legacy of great men of God.
Missionary Team ready to leave Houston, TX
Greeting the kids at Iglesia Agape, in Berlin, Usulutan
Construction project in Berlin, Usulutan
Missionary team with young people at ISPI Versalles
Group of young men receiving a copy of the book “What is a Man?”
Samantha Andino with a couple of the young ladies from the orphanage
Fun day with children in Berlin, Usulutan
Our young missionaries ministering the altar
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mario Ayala and his wife, Carmen, serve as the Men’s and Women’s Ministries Directors respectively for the Texas Latin Conference. They have forged their shared vision for discipleship into collaborative meetings, events, and opportunities for men and women of all ages to respond to the call for authentic discipleship. Mario & Carmen are the proud parents of one daughter, Sally Ashley, and three triplet sons: Mario Gerardo, Mateo Alexander, and Angel Daniel. They make their home in Dickinson, Texas.