What’s your story? ‘Here I am Lord, use me!’

Larry and Alpa Cortez

The Lord moved me from my home in Manila, Philippines, in 2004. I’ve been here in Texas since 2011. God also gave me a hunger to know His direction for my ministry. I began to see it during my third year at Criswell College. We were doing a practicum in Oak Cliff and I was working with a multi-language church. As I listened to people in Texas worshipping in their mother tongue, I got the sense that God wanted me to preach His gospel in my native Filipino dialect. 

Having received a direction from the Lord, my wife, Alpa, and I began to visit Filipino restaurants from DFW to Plano. There was one particular restaurant in Plano, owned by four ladies, where I asked them, “If I bring people and do a Bible study here in your restaurant every Friday night and pay half of the bill … will you allow me to do the Bible study?” They laughed and said, “Of course, it will increase our business.” These ladies were my “persons of peace” to enable my ministry. So I started a Bible study in the Filipino restaurant in our dialect, and I also invited the owners of the restaurant. I shared the gospel with them and they prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Soon, four of my regulars approached me and asked, “Will you bring that same Bible study to our town, Greenville?” I asked, “Where is Greenville?” They said, “It’s way far east. If you are from here, you just go east on I-30 and you will not miss Greenville.” 

So I went, and we started Bible studies there maybe six months before my graduation. I also started attending Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church planting seminars and I found a sending church. We moved to Greenville in 2019. I instantly fell in love with the city, the culture, and the people. I think it’s God’s thing. 

We started a Bible study in my home and I began to transition to preaching. After a couple of years, we had 50 people meeting with us, and then the pandemic hit. In order to work within the quarantine regulations, we told our people that the first 25 to register during a week could attend one Sunday, and then another 25 could attend the next. In a way, God used it to grow our church. As things began to open up again, we were near 70 people some weeks. We needed a new place to meet and rented a building temporarily. 

“What’s my story? It’s not what you know and what you have. It’s your heart that is willing to say, ‘Here I am, Lord, use me.’ That’s all there is.”

With the help of the Hunt Baptist Association, we were able to find and buy the building of a church that had closed. By this time, we had started outreaches in Forney and Plano. My family travels from Greenville to these locations on Sunday afternoons. Our plan is to disciple leaders to preach and pastor these congregations as freestanding churches, sent by my church, Genuine Faith Community Church. And now, we even have a chance to start a Hispanic congregation in Richardson. We have people meeting in 10-15 homes as well. The Lord is so amazing. It blows my mind. Glory to God! This is all His doing. I just said, “Lord, here I am. Use me in any ways that your name will be glorified.”

It is very important for a pastor or a servant or a missionary to have a willing heart. Last year, a stranger came to my house saying that he’s also a pastor from the Philippines and he said he’s here to plant a church. So, I allowed him to reside in my house for six months and he became a friend and a brother. He helped me in our church here in Greenville. I asked if he would, with or without anything, plant a church in the Philippines. He said he would, so I told him, “Go home [to the Philippines], wait for me there, bring me to where you are, show me what you’re doing, and we will plant a church—with or without anything.”

At the time, my son was studying in the Philippines and graduated college last June. So my wife and I, even without enough, went home for my son’s graduation. I challenged my church of 50 people to bring me to the Philippines. My pastor friend now had a group meeting in a Muslim part of the country. I met with 24 pastors and introduced church planting to them. Some of them were meeting in little brush shelters—not really buildings at all. 

We visited various provinces and islands, speaking to city officials, sharing the gospel, laying the groundwork for churches all across the country. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord is making me witness His salvation and His way of bringing His salvation to Filipinos in the Philippines?

Who am I? Who am I? I witness the glory of God, and not because of my capacity. If your heart is willing, God will use you and show you how amazing His church planting is.

What’s my story? It’s not what you know and what you have. It’s your heart that is willing to say, “Here I am, Lord, use me.” That’s all there is.

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Larry Cortez
(as told to Gary Ledbetter)
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