Contagious faith

In the midst of pandemic, church sees massive growth after waitress comes to Christ, begins inviting neighbors and co-workers

When it came to the gospel work being done by churches, COVID did not discriminate. It presented challenges to megachurches and tiny congregations alike, to churches urban and rural, to established churches and newly planted ones—like Vida Victoriosa in Tioga. 

Within a year of Vida Victoriosa’s founding, pastor Over Ochoa’s plan of connecting with people in Tioga—a community of about 1,200 people in Grayson County, less than an hour’s drive from the Texas-Oklahoma border—was stymied by the global pandemic. The doors they wanted to knock on were closed. The gospel conversations he and his wife, Cristina, wanted to have were, to some degree, silenced as people limited their exposure to anyone outside their household.

“The pandemic created all the challenges you can imagine for a church planter,” Ochoa said.

It was a frustrating experience for the Ochoas, who had previously seen the Lord make quick work of what often seemed like impossible circumstances. 

After sensing the Lord’s call to plant a Hispanic church in America while serving the Lord in his home country of Colombia, Ochoa knew it could take years to work through the process of being granted residency in the U.S. 

Instead of many years, it took one. 

The family, which includes their daughter, Lina, ultimately landed in McKinney and began holding prayer meetings in their apartment. Soon after, they began having a church service on Sundays until so many people were coming, they began to outgrow the space. 

Even so, the Lord was already at work. One of the men who had been attending church at the apartment also mowed the property at the First Baptist Church of Prosper. One day, the pastor there told him FBC Prosper wanted to reach the growing number of Hispanics in the neighborhoods around the church, but were hindered from doing so because nobody in the church spoke fluent Spanish. The worker decided to connect Ochoa with the pastor, who, in turn, connected Ochoa to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for training and support. 

The collaboration resulted in the planting of Iglesia Vida Victoriosa in Prosper, which currently has about 75 members and attendees.  

The Ochoas have grown close not only to Juanita, but many of the people she has guided to the church through her own faith journey.

“Sometimes we get too focused with preaching to crowds. but with just one person coming to Christ, we can see multitudes come to God because that one person can bring many more.”

Dreaming a new dream

A few years later, God began to put on Ochoa’s heart the vision of starting another Hispanic work. Once again, his family began to pray and ask for the Lord’s provision and direction. Before long, Ochoa received a call that he considered a miraculous answer to his prayers. The call was from the Denton Baptist Association, offering use of an abandoned church to plant the first Hispanic church in Tioga. 

It seemed the Lord had cleared all the obstacles for the vision to become a reality. And then COVID hit, closing tightly all those doors the Ochoas had planned to knock on. 

On their knees, they cried out for God to give them some opportunity to make connections with the Hispanics in town. They heard that in the next town over, there was an Italian restaurant that had not closed during the pandemic and that employed many Hispanic people. So they intentionally went, prayerfully looking for opportunities to share the gospel.  

That’s where they met Juanita Lopez, a waitress who Ochoa says “had a slight interest in learning about the gospel.” With that small glimmer of hope, he and his wife decided to frequent the restaurant for lunch so they could befriend Juanita and tell her more about Jesus. 

For two years, they intentionally shared the love of Christ with Juanita, until one day she accepted Christ as her Savior. Before long, Juanita was attending Vida Victoriosa in Tioga and inviting her co-workers to come as well.

“It got to the point where all the employees accepted Christ in their lives and the owner decided to close on Sundays because everyone wanted to go to Vida Victoriosa,” Ochoa said.

Today, around 45 people attend the church—many of them are Juanita’s co-workers and neighbors with whom she intentionally and regularly shares the gospel. She hosts barbecues every Saturday in her community to invite neighbors to church and, little by little, her neighbors continue to be added to the family of faith.

“Sometimes we get too focused with preaching to crowds,” Ochoa said, “but with just one person coming to Christ, we can see multitudes come to God because that one person can bring many more.”

Correspondent
Arlene Sanabria
Southern Baptist Texan
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