Missionary to America John Cobos, Ecuador
Missionary John Cobos grew up in a city in the mountains of Ecuador, a long way from his mission in Tampa, in distance and customs. Thirty years ago, before Missionary Cobos came to America, life in Ecuador was difficult – at one point 30% of the population was unemployed. At nineteen and eager to make a better life for himself he joined his father and brother who had come to New York to find opportunity. With the support of his family he began studying law and devised a plan to complete most of his studies in America and return to Ecuador to begin his own law firm. But the Lord had other plans.
A door was opened for him and his brother to begin a dry cleaning business. John took the opportunity. Looking to extend the dry cleaning business, he came to Tampa. There the Lord had another surprise. One of the workers he employed in the dry cleaning business invited the young man to to Messiah Lutheran church, to serve in her wedding as her godfather. At the wedding he met Yolima Sanabria. Yolima’s father is a missionary to Spanish speaking people in Tampa and John was attracted – to Yolima and to the idea of serving as a called representative of Jesus.
With a push from Pr. Sanabria, John became a part of Concordia Seminary’s “Hispanic Institute.” Online classes allowed John to continue to run his dry cleaning business and to serve the Lord as a missionary. Income from the business gives him and his young family the monetary income they need. Preaching and teaching the Word of God gives John the fulfillment he longed to have when he decided to come to the US. But he and Yolima could not sustain the mission on their own. The best support for a missionary is partnership.
Every new mission and every missionary would long to have a partner like Paul had in the Philippian Christians. This was the first church Paul established in Greece, sometime between 49 and 51 AD.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written about ten years after the church was established. Paul was in prison and wrote in part to thank the Christians in Philippi for their support. He had seen them go through much in ten years; they were not a perfect church – but they had been faithful and sacrificial. So, he wrote to them, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (St. Paul to the Christians in Philippi, Chapter 1 verses 3-5).
Forgive me when I say too many “partnerships” are vandalized by three things, things that kill good partnerships: suspicion, selfishness, and ignorance. This is not necessary. At Messiah in Tampa, it took a while for the Anglo church and the new outreach to Spanish speaking immigrants in the church’s neighborhood to trust each other. The secret to the ten year partnership they enjoy is found in the respect and trust the two groups have invested in each other – this is also one sign of good leadership. It is also found in each group’s willingness to sacrifice – the church sacrificing space, money and even dedicated times of worship in order to accommodate the mission. The mission in its sacrifice of talent and time – John is a bi-vocational missionary. Not only does he have to balance time with his family and his calling to missionary work but add to that running a small business.
Jesus the Carpenter knew about sacrifice – He left His Father and all the saints in His heavenly home. He sacrificed His life for us and now is our Partner in the greatest work imaginable, the temporal and eternal salvation of human souls. Mathew 28:18-20 is a great commission, but it should better be known as the Great Promise. When we go on our way to make disciples Jesus’ promise is, “Lo (which means “pay attention to this – this is important”) I am with you always.”
When Christians partner with Jesus’ in His mission they value each other’s sacrifice, they are willing to make offerings of themselves to each other and they sincerely respect what each has to give away. When such a partnership exists they have more of a chance to say what Paul did in his letter to his partners in Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Pastor John shares how to grow a new ethnic congregation
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