Growing up in Cuba, Juan Pablo Sanchez never saw the inside of a church . . . or the outside, for that matter. “Nobody I knew went to church,” he says. “I didn’t even know where any churches were because they didn’t have signs. Officially, churches didn’t exist.”
But in 1980, Juan Pablo and his wife, Alicia, fled Cuba by boat and landed in Miami, Fla., where their lives changed forever.
One Sunday, Juan Pablo went “reluctantly” with his mother-in-law to church and made an amazing discovery. “The church welcomed me like a long-lost brother,” he says. “I found a loving, caring home—something I hadn’t had as a child.”
In time, Juan Pablo also discovered a faithful God who planted in his heart a deep desire to help build his kingdom. That desire led to service within the church and, eventually, to seminary.
One evening in 2000, Juan Pablo and Alicia hosted a Bible study in their living room. Four people showed up, and Vida Nueva (New Life) got its start. “Our vision was to build a family of supportive and service-oriented followers of Christ,” Juan Pablo reports.
“So as our small groups evolved and multiplied, they went naturally into the community to serve and witness.” They offered special festivals for kids, baby showers for low-income couples, and Bible studies for people of all ages.
Today, Sanchez is creating a Christian community that sees its mission as reaching out to and serving its neighbors. The Miami-based church, funded by Christian Reformed Home Missions, recently relocated to a 2,000-square-foot facility and is starting to grow beyond its current 120 members.
In addition to Sunday worship, Vida Nueva offers support ministry for couples and The Restoration Center, where counselors provide guidance, emotional support, and help for those dealing with addictions.
Says Sanchez, “Our great hope for Vida Nueva is that as our numbers grow, so will our spiritual maturity. I want people to see daily reminders of how God’s tremendous power transforms lives.”
About the Author
Ben Van Houten is a senior writer for Christian Reformed Home Missions.