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Bound for Peru

“We’ve never been to Peru,” said Pablo Chavez, “but we can honestly say that we are in love with the people there and the churches, and we can hardly wait to serve among them.”

Pablo and his wife, Maricela, are from Orange Cove, California. This year, they started their training with Multiply to become full-time global workers. They hope to begin their long-term assignment in Peru in 2022.

Both were born in Mexico. Maricela came to California with her family at the age of ten. As Catholics, the family didn’t know what to expect from the Mennonite Brethren church in Orange Cove when they moved into the same neighborhood. As farm workers, the family was impacted by the big freeze of 1991, which left the area in an economic crisis. It was the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Mennonite Disaster Service that brought relief and assistance to many families in need, including Maricela’s. Through those efforts, Maricela’s mother was endeared to the church in Orange Cove and she came to a new saving faith in Jesus. Maricela was fifteen at the time and wasn’t ready to embrace the same. However, gradually she also came around and found her own expression of trust in Jesus. In gratitude, not long afterward, she took an opportunity to serve on a short-term assignment with MCC. 

That assignment took her to Mexico City, where she met a young man named Pablo. At the time, Pablo was active in one of the local churches that assisted with hosting Maricela. However, his own path to faith in Jesus was a difficult one. With a father who was an alcoholic, Pablo had been on a similar path of substance abuse and religious hypocrisy. “I was also the product of a praying mother,” Pablo said, who came to faith in Christ as a teenager. “I really didn’t think I deserved a second chance but, by God’s grace, I gave up religion and started a new life of serving God and others.”

After developing a friendship during Maricela’s stay in Mexico City, the couple continued their relationship at a distance until 2003 when Pablo came to the US on a fiancé visa. They were married in California that year. 

In Orange Cove, the couple became more involved at the MB church. The congregation appreciated Pablo’s leadership gifts and within two years he was invited to become their pastor. “I had been serving as a worship leader and I did not want to become a pastor,” said Pablo, “but eventually I surrendered to God’s calling upon my life, and although I wasn’t trained, he equipped me.”

Eventually, while he served the church in Orange Cove, Pablo finished his education and became a full-time middle school math teacher, which allowed him to serve as a bi-vocational pastor. Maricela had studied counseling and worked first as a school counselor, then later, after further studies, as a marriage and family counselor. The couple was also blessed with three sons: Isaac, Joshua, and Samuel. 

By 2020, Pablo and Maricela were positioned well to build on their professional success and financial stability. “God had blessed us,” Maricela said. “We were comfortable and secure. But we felt we had to ask the question, ‘Now what?’”

As the couple talked and prayed together, they sensed that God was inviting them to consider trusting him with more. “At that stage, we could have indulged ourselves with new cars or a bigger house or a more exotic vacation,” Maricela confessed. “But we decided to trust God with something bigger. We felt like it was time to lay down those other desires and let God lead us.” 

“We felt like it was time to lay down those other desires and let God lead us.” 

“Ever since I gave my life to Jesus as a teenager,” said Pablo, “I knew I had to be ready to go wherever God called me. Over the years, he tested us, and we knew he was preparing us for something.” 

Part of the testing for Pablo came several years ago during a season of pastoral ministry that was particularly trying. “I went through a time of depression,” he admitted. “I was really discouraged about the church, and I was feeling misunderstood.”

At that time, the couple heard about a spiritual formation group led by a spiritual director and trainer named Steve Reimer. “That group really helped us get healthy spiritually,” said Pablo. “It was a three-year journey with seven couples in ministry. Together, we not only became more authentic in our relationships with Jesus, but we became better equipped to help others.” 

Around the same time, Pablo and Maricela attended a conference and met with Galen Wiest, Multiply Mobilizer out of Fresno, California. “I remember we had breakfast with Galen and he was talking about Multiply’s work in Latin America,” said Maricela. “My heart was pounding, and I was asking myself, ‘Could this be it?’” 

After that breakfast, the couple went for a walk out to a river nearby. “We told each other what was on our hearts,” said Maricela, “then we told God in prayer. Then we talked to our kids, then our church family, and we started getting ready.”

After eighteen years of marriage, three children, and sixteen years of pastoral ministry, Pablo and Maricela are ready for what God has for them next. They are both excited about the new adventure that awaits them in Peru, but it hasn’t come without sacrifice. “When Pablo resigned from his job, so we could launch into our training,” said Maricela, “that was hard. It was a big step for us, but we’re trusting God and moving forward.”

As they prepare to move to Peru, the couple has decided to complete their training to become certified spiritual directors, a two-year program under the training of Reimer. In Maricela’s own words, a spiritual director is simply someone who walks alongside another to help them grow in their relationship with God. 

As Pablo thought about serving pastors in Peru, he said, “This training will give us tools to be a resting stop in their lives, the oasis in the middle of the desert where travelers can rest their souls.” Offering spiritual direction will be one of the ways they will serve churches and church leaders in Peru. 

“We’re so excited about what God has for us in Peru,” said Maricela. “But we know it’s going to be challenging too. We’ve been told that missionaries don’t last in Peru. We’ve been told to expect spiritual warfare. We’ve been told about the heat, and the mosquitoes. We know it will be hard at times. But we also know that God is faithful. He has called us to trust in him. He will prepare us for what lies ahead.” 

“God has a plan for Peru,” said Pablo, “and we want to be a part of it.” On a recent online video call with some of the MB pastors in Peru, his heart was stirred in a way that brought confirmation to his own sense of calling. “We heard about some of their struggles, and I just felt a strong spiritual connection with them. I believe that God himself is the one fueling our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Peru.”


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