antiago Machado’s path to following Christ and pastoring Centro Cristiano Beraca was a dark and difficult one.
He grew up in a household where everyone, including his mother, practiced witchcraft. When he turned 16, he began serving in the military in his native Cuba, where he encountered many problems—including a wreck in a military truck that crashed because of his negligence. He survived the wreck but was sentenced to three years in military prison.
Machado describes his life at that point in very simple, sobering terms: “Very bad in every way.”
That is, until Jesus showed up in Machado’s life in a most unexpected way.
At the beginning of his incarceration, Machado asked a friend to go to his home and tell his mother what had happened to him. The friend did as he was asked and returned to report Machado’s mother had given her life to Christ after hearing the gospel a month earlier. Not only that, but the friend told Machado he had also given his life to Jesus after hearing the gospel from Machado’s mother.
Upon hearing the testimony of his friend, and how Jesus had changed his mother’s life, Machado—in an act of desperation—decided to give his life to Christ, as well. He began reading the New Testament his friend gave him and, before long, started seeing God working in the circumstances of his life.
‘God had plans for me’
Fifteen days into Machado’s imprisonment, the prison director took 50 prisoners in a large truck to perform hard labor. As the prisoners returned from the job, Machado and another inmate were asked by a captain to put a flashlight in the back of the truck because it was getting dark. While the two men made their way to the back, the truck was hit by another vehicle. Many in the vehicle were killed, including the captain.
Machado crawled out of the truck and fell onto the road. He was found by emergency workers just outside the vehicle, conscious but in shock. “I could speak,” Machado said, “but I felt that God was telling me not to speak. My lips were sealed.”
Machado did not speak for the next three months—not in the hospital, and not when they released him back to the prison. Because prison officials did not know what to do with him since he wasn’t speaking, they returned him to his military unit. After 20 days back with his unit, a doctor declared Machado unfit to continue in the military, so he was released from his service. As Machado sees it, God worked a miracle that day. Out of a three-year prison sentence, he served only 15 days.
“God had plans for me,” Machado said.
Living in the Lord’s service
Returning to his mother’s home, Machado began to serve the Lord in the church. He would go with his mother to share the gospel in their community, fueling his passion for seeing lost people saved. It was at this church Machado met his wife, Irene, beginning a family that includes two children and a marriage that is 35 years strong and counting.
The Machados were eventually sent as missionaries to Punta Brava in Havana for three years, beginning in 1986. He would go on to pastor eight churches and start 15 home study groups. Eight of those groups sprouted into churches that are still operating.
In 2012, Machado received an offer to pastor a church in San Angelo, Texas—which he accepted. But as the years passed, he began to sense the Lord calling him to plant a new church focused on missions and evangelism—two things very close to his heart. Sensing God moving him in a new direction to become a planter, Machado stepped out in faith and left his church and the financial security it provided. That’s when he met Edgar Trinidad, pastor of Kairo Christian Center in San Angelo.
As Machado and Trinidad got to know each other, they discovered they had a shared vision for planting a church in San Angelo. Trinidad eventually proposed a partnership that would allow Machado to serve as a volunteer associate pastor at Kairo while learning more about planting a church. Machado accepted the challenge.
A new plant, a new path
Machado worked under Trinidad’s leadership for two and a half years. His training included work with Send Network SBTC, a church planting partnership between the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the North American Mission Board. After Machado was certified as a planter by the convention, he and Trinidad began exploring a location to plant. The Lord directed them to North San Angelo, where Trinidad’s church was able to purchase a building that would house the new plant.
The first service at the new church, Centro Cristiano Beraca, was held Oct. 1, 2022. As the church nears its one-year anniversary, 25-30 people are now attending on Sundays.
“God has given us many strategies” to reach the community, Machado said. For example, Centro Cristiano Beraca opens its doors to feed the community every week. It provides an opportunity for the church to meet physical needs and minister to people spiritually, Machado said. The gospel is preached before food is served—something that has led 20 people to make decisions to follow Jesus or be baptized.
And though it is still a young church, Centro Cristiano Beraca is already looking to raise up the next generation of planters so the gospel mission can move forward.
“The vision of the church is not to remain static,” Machado said. “We have to raise up missions and churches. This is our passion.”