Have you ever craved a dessert so strongly you just knew it had to be from the Lord? Probably only if you’re prone to exaggeration. But after you hear Celestino’s story, you might think twice about your next hankering for sugar cookies.
You see, Celestino didn’t have time for church. And after a lifetime of alcoholism and meeting Christians who only cared how much he could tithe, Celestino didn’t really have an interest in church either.
Maybe that’s why TEAM missionary A.J. got a craving for apple crisp soon after he moved to Guatemala.
That fall day, the grocery store was out of apples, so A.J. stopped by the apple stand near his house — Celestino’s apple stand.
The men made a simple economic exchange, but God was already working. A.J. soon found that his daily life often took him by Celestino’s stand, allowing the men to say hello.
One day, Celestino said he couldn’t go to church because he had to sell apples seven days a week, just to make ends meet. A.J. asked him to come over for dinner instead.
As the relationship grew, Celestino patiently helped A.J. with his Spanish skills while A.J. shared what he knew about God and the Church.
Celestino was intrigued by A.J.’s stories of other local believers. They sounded so different from the Christians he knew before! After a slow week of business, Celestino decided to close his apple stand for a day, come to church and meet them.
A Church He Didn’t Expect
The evangelical church in Guatemala has experienced explosive growth in recent decades. But much of that growth has been infected by prosperity gospel teachings.
As Celestino walked to church with A.J., he thought he knew what to expect: The pastor would ask for his money. People would ignore him when they found out he was poor.
But that didn’t happen.
The pastor shared about God’s holiness and faithfulness. The church members at Iglesia Reforma welcomed Celestino with hugs and talked to him like their equal. When he asked about baptism, someone answered his questions without pressuring him to make a decision.
That evening, Celestino announced he was going to stop selling apples on Sundays. He said God’s goodness and riches were worth more.
A Changed Man
After Celestino’s decision, A.J. continued to meet him at the apple stand for discipleship. Celestino didn’t make it to church every Sunday, but he eagerly awaited A.J.’s visits.
“Discipleship with Celestino looks like … asking him how his heart is, asking him how I can pray for him and talking through a Bible story or Scripture that he will love hearing about,” A.J. said.
As God’s love filled his life, the apple-seller stopped drinking. After a year, he decided to be baptized.
“He’s humble, admitting to not knowing very much,” A.J. said, “but he knows enough about grace to grab hold and let go of his past. The kingdom of God knows no limits.”
Celestino still has much to learn, like any Christian, but now he has a whole church to help him. And day by day, he is learning to trust the God who arranges friendships, provides for lost wages and can use something as simple as apple crisp to bring someone to His throne.
The need for workers like A.J. is great. Are you ready to explore your opportunities to serve?
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