We want you to meet our Cottonwood Creek and Life Group@Home friends, Darwin, Fy and Daniel Lopez. They recently made a difficult move to Texas from Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, they were connected in a very small church and close-knit life group, where they received Christ, were baptized and got married.
When Sue and I met them at Cottonwood, we were struck by their testimony of how the love of God’s people drew them to Christ and how they wanted their son, Daniel, to learn God’s Word and love. But their major concern when first visiting Cottonwood was if God could make such a large church small enough to experience relationships like they knew in Costa Rica. God showed them! And they jumped right into our Life Group@Home, the Creek Kids and Awana ministries, and our hearts!
Here is Darwin’s and Fy’s testimony:
We began our Christian walk about seven years ago in Costa Rica. Our relationship with each other, before we were married and knew Christ, was tough. There was a lot of miscommunication, pride, and selfishness. We each had our own sense of direction. God was never part of our lives. All of that changed when Fy, out of desperation, decided to try church. I say “try” because it’s not that she believed yet, but that she wanted to get away from the chaos in our relationship and in her heart. After a couple visits she tried to drag me to it. Admittedly, I was a skeptic. I had seen firsthand what having a belief system did to my mom and sisters—arguing about religion, who is right, who is wrong. My mom is a “cerrado catolica” (closed catholic) while my three sisters are born-again Christians. Ideological differences had been my family’s mess and I wanted no part in it. But Fy is a persistent person; so finally she convinced me to go and stand beside her at church. I love her and have done some crazy things with her. So I thought, how bad can this be? It may be a way for us to stop arguing. I would go to church, even though it didn’t mean I would ever believe in it.
That Sunday at church was an awkward experience for me. A very nice lady named Sharon welcomed me with a hug. During what felt like an endless five-minute meet-and-greet time, people kept on saying, “Welcome to ECF (Escazú Christian Fellowship)!” They shook my hand and asked my name. The rest of the service my eyes wandered around the church at the people and at Fy singing worship songs. After the service, people approached me again and were very nice and welcoming. They seemed genuinely eager to see me again next Sunday. It was a completely different spin to my previous experience of church—which was a room full of people who wouldn’t look at you and a priest that would make sure you went home with a heavy heart—because, hey, it’s your fault, but sin can be quenched with confession! This church, however, was different. For the first time, I came into church with a heavy heart and left with a somewhat lightened load.
Two weeks later, I went to church with Fy with no intention of being a part of the church. Again, I went mainly out of love for her and wanting to avoid arguments. But Fy started to read scriptures and thought that I would be easily enlightened by what she read about repentance and God’s promise. This stirred up arguments as Fy bombarded me with scripture. I felt she was actually shoving scriptures down my throat. I told her, “I am all for fixing the relationship, but I think it needs to start with us, not going to church or reading the Bible.”
We began to attend a small group Bible study on Tuesdays. It consisted of people from various Christian walks. We fell in love with the group and are truly grateful that they endured our endless questions about the scriptures, the Christian world-view, and how God had changed their lives.
Around this time, I started watching a series called, “It’s Personal,” by Andy Stanley (North Point Church). I connected with the guy named Chris Ames and his story of how he started with, “The Story of my Heart, Starts with my Head.” I shared his thoughts and concerns. This was my Christian turning point. As Fy had already done, after this series, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Though our walk with God still includes a lot of questions, we now know whom we serve and we know that he answers us—just not in our time, but in his time.
As the years passed we grew to love everyone in the church. They were the kindest, warmest people we’d ever met. Their care and concerns were heartfelt and genuine—something we’d never experienced in our families growing up. They prayed with and for us. They opened their doors and their arms unconditionally. We had finally found the right support system for our family. Within its loving halls we got married and were baptized (yay Pastor Stacey Steck!). I like to say that God has brought us out of the shallow part of the pool and into the deep end, because he knows that we can swim!
After moving to Texas, we now know that our first Sunday at a big church like Cottonwood was God-led. But initially, we had doubts about being able to thrive at such a big church, having come from a small church in Costa Rica. I even told God that it would be impossible for me to say, “Hi,” to the pastor! But our Heavenly Father is not just the God of one church in Costa Rica. I had already learned that God will move heaven and earth to make his will known. And that first Sunday, Pastor John Mark tapped me on the back and personally welcomed me to Cottonwood! Now how awesome is that? Life became brighter and we had more peace in our hearts, as we felt God confirmed his calling to Cottonwood.
We’re often asked what made us come to faith. My answer is that it wasn’t “church” or even the Bible that drew us to faith. It was the love of God’s people. The light that they shone is my perfect description of John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”