The Generosity of Saints

An EFCA bivocational pastor and his family lost their house to a fire. The question was—would anyone help?

“No pastor left alone.”

This is one of our main goals in the EFCA West district: to ensure that all of our pastors—especially church planters, solo pastors and bivocational pastors—are supported at every turn.

When it feels like you’re charging the gates of Hell with a squirt gun, it helps to know you’ve got backup. Recently, however, this phrase was truly put to the test in our district.

Miguel Chapparo lives in Payson, Arizona, a small mountain town ninety miles northeast of Phoenix. As a bivocational pastor ordained by the EFCA, he works almost seven days a week as a restaurant cook in town and leads a Spanish-speaking congregation he started a few years ago called El Poder de Cristo EFC (The Power of Christ), made up of about fifty people.

His ministry is a labor of love, one that requires an endless amount of energy and faith. Even still, when he does get time away, he ventures back to Mexico City, where he works to catalyze another church plant and share the gospel.

Will this pastor be left alone, or does being a member of the EFCA family truly mean something?
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Taking a turn for the worse

As if living the bivocational lifestyle isn’t challenging enough, on Friday, March 26, 2021, at 6:30 a.m., a fire broke out in the Chapparo’s home, quickly engulfing it in flames. Their daughter escaped and no one was injured, but their home and all of their possessions were lost.

Adding to the heartbreak, the Chapparos were in Mexico at the time, celebrating their forty-third wedding anniversary.

If you haven’t experienced a tragedy like this, it’s hard to imagine the trauma. Our homes are where we do so much of everyday life: where our memories are made and where we seek refuge and shelter from the world. For those in full-time ministry, I’m willing to bet many ministry activities take place in or around your homes, too.

It’s safe to say that all of us at some point take our little structure of timber and tile for granted. The jarring experience of having it taken away in such a violent and overwhelming manner is only compounded by the nagging financial ebbs and flows that a bivocational pastor and his family face.

The critical question

Will this pastor be left alone, or does being a member of the EFCA family truly mean something?

That is the question Alex Rivero, EFCA West Director of All People, asked himself when the news of the Chapparo family’s tragedy reached him, and he turned our little phrase into action.

He set up a GoFundMe page with a $15,000 goal to offset the family’s expenses, while finding a new place to live, dealing with all the insurance issues and determining next steps. I admit I was skeptical of that goal.

Their lives were already ordered by surrendering to the conviction that God would supply their needs...
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It’s not that the money isn’t available. With so many other causes clamoring for attention, I honestly wondered if this cause would make it through the noise. Even more than that, I was concerned about the size of our district: how many of our pastors and leaders even know Miguel or feel connected to his situation?

Thankfully, I was wrong.

The EFCA family stepped up and an outpouring of love and generosity came from both churches and individuals. What started as a wild goal of $15,000 was quickly surpassed—the Chapparos received over $23,000 to help them rebuild their lives.

While most contributed through GoFundMe, I was amazed by the emails I received from other people asking where to send a check.

Following the example of Scripture

As vital as these contributions were for the Chapparo family and as wonderful as it was to see our district respond, it simply follows the pattern set forth by Scripture. In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the young Corinthian church about the generosity the Macedonian churches showed the believers in Jerusalem:

“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5

This passage offers another reason why we can confidently say, “No pastor left alone.” The Macedonians gave themselves “first to the Lord.” Their lives were already ordered by surrendering to the conviction that God would supply their needs, which gave them freedom to give “beyond their means” to take part in the relief of the saints who were suffering.

[I]t created an opportunity for love and generosity to flow, for God to demonstrate that He uses us to care for each other.
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God prepared the hearts of those who would give to the Chapparo family. While He is sovereign over everything and this tragedy was no surprise to Him, in advance He lined up the saints to demonstrate His love and care.

So here is yet another beautiful representation of the strength of our movement. While we are united in doctrine and heritage, it is our relationships and what we are willing to do for each other in times of great need that will keep us together over the long haul.

Stories like this, of generosity and sacrifice, move us beyond what we aspire to be and make us into what we actually are: the family of God. With firsthand knowledge, I can say that I work among men and women with large and gracious hearts, who care deeply for the gospel and have given their lives to faithfully proclaim it.

Join me in continuing to pray for the Chapparo family. There are lingering details and challenges that surround a disaster like this. Alex Rivero, along with others in our district, are assessing additional steps to help in the healing and restoration process.

What happened to the Chapparos was tragic, but it created an opportunity for love and generosity to flow, for God to demonstrate that He uses us to care for each other. Let it be known that in our EFCA family, we are serious when we say, “No pastor left alone!”

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