Following the Light
The things we take for granted—like light. During our last mission visitation to Torreón, Mexico, CLC Board of Missions Chairman Todd Ohlmann and I were privileged to join some of the members of the Iglesia Luterana Confesional (ILC-Mexico) in an evening worship service. The service was conducted by Pastor Juan José Olvera, but there was a problem—the one light bulb owned by the congregation was not located in the room they used as a sanctuary. Their solution was to follow the light by moving the service to the adjoining room—the one with the light bulb.
This simple action was actually very symbolic of the journey of this small, confessional group in Mexico. When Pastor Olvera recognized that the darkness of false teaching and practice had crept into his former church body, he followed the light of God’s Word and sought out fellowship with the CLC. The struggles and challenges were significant—both for Pastor Olvera and his family, and for the faithful members who made the journey with him. In an effort to lighten their burden, the CLC through our Board of Missions has been supporting these fellow Christians with a small monthly subsidy since 2014.
Seeking to follow the lighted path of the Holy Spirit’s leading, Pastor Olvera recently made the difficult decision to relocate from Torreón in central Mexico to Juárez (located some 530 miles to the north—directly across the border from El Paso, TX.) Pastor Olvera had previously served a promising group in this area but was forced to relocate due to the dramatic increase in drug-related and gang-related violence. That violence has, by God’s grace, diminished somewhat of late, thus allowing Pastor Olvera to return.
Since resuming his ministry in Juárez, the Lord in His wisdom has allowed Pastor Olvera’s family to be presented with a new challenge: his wife Claudia has been diagnosed with cancer. This is yet another reason for us to remember the Olvera family in our prayers. Her prognosis remains uncertain; what is not uncertain is the continued grace and care of our loving Good Shepherd.
Despite the many demands on his time, Pastor Olvera, while conducting regular services in Juárez, continues to make return visits to Torreón as time and finances allow. He has also undertaken to train two men in Juárez who are studying for the pastoral ministry
Yet still God’s light shines. Though we can only imagine that the temptation to seek out other area churches must have been great, the congregation in Torreón has remained faithful. They continue to be served at a distance by Pastor Olvera, while Pastor-in-training Braulio continues to conduct services and to share the light of God’s Word as he is able. While regular visits to Torreón would be extremely beneficial, and while Pastor Olvera would very much like to make the twenty-two-hour round trip more frequently, they lack the financial wherewithal to do so. By phone, internet, and mail, the various members of the ILC-Mexico continue to share with each other the light of the Gospel of the Savior they treasure.
It would be both understandable and not unreasonable for this tiny conservative group of fellow Christians to regularly petition the CLC for additional financial support—those who have been given so much thereby sharing with those that have so little. Yet what they regularly solicit is the precious contact of fellowship, together with the ongoing prayers of their new brothers and sisters in the Lord. Their simple request is that we continue to ask the Lord to protect and preserve their humble effort, to the end that they may continue to be bearers of the one light that alone can lead others to their Savior.
Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.