By Sofía Rodríguez
The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the past and dream about the future, in light of God’s promises.
I have been a Christian almost all my life, and for most of it I have served in the ministry. As a woman with a pastoral calling, the road has not been easy, but God’s great mercy and faithfulness have sustained me.
During a particularly difficult time in my life, someone shared these words with me. They have been a great encouragement in my ministry:
“God will not lead you to waters that God cannot divide, to shores that God cannot cross, or to pain that God cannot bear.”
God will not lead you into waters God cannot divide
I was born in Ecuador, and at a one and a half years old, my father and mother brought me to Colombia, the country where I grew up, surrounded by a loving Christian home. It was there that at an early age, I met and accepted Jesus, and did missionary work in my family’s company. I also finished High School, and I met my husband with whom I have been married for 42 years and with whom I have four children and seven grandchildren.
In 1992, God led me to work in a strategic place that due to its location is an axis port in development. This sector is also vulnerable to all kinds of social problems.
I worked there in my profession as a sociologist, promoting community development. Seeing so many needs, I began a task that became more challenging every day due to the continuous deaths and robberies. However, God’s care and grace strengthened me. Recognizing that only God could transform people’s lives, I also alternated my work with spiritual work.
God kept opening my eyes to the spiritual needs of the people, and placed on my heart the idea of holding worship services on Sundays. We began on May 5, 1996, and with this the Agape Baptist Church of Barranquilla was born. With the direction of God, and the support of my family and of a great woman of God, Sandra Redondo, everything was going well. As in the biblical church, God added those who were to be saved (Acts 2:47).
God will not lead you to pain that God cannot bear
However, soon the trials began again. My father, who was a great spiritual support through his prayers and advising, became ill and ten days later passed away. A year and a half later, I was notified that my mother was ill, and a few days later she also passed away.
Their deaths produced great pain and void in my heart. Nevertheless, God filled it by giving me the strength to go and preach in places where I never imagined I would go: the mountains of Colombia. These were terrifying because of the dangerous people who were there. However, despite my fear, I experienced the presence and protection of God in that place.
As if this wasn’t enough, I also encountered attacks from those who opposed women in ministry. They attacked me for going to minister to those places. My doubts burdened me, and almost discouraged me to keep going. Their attitude appeared ironic to me. If they were not willing to go, why were they hindering the work of someone who was willing to go to those troubled spots?
The trials continued within my family, but this time in the financial area. In a span of three months, my husband and I lost our jobs, just at the time that our children needed an education. God sustained us without a steady job for ten years and taught us that “man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4: 4).
Our home never lacked anything, and each of our children went to school and graduated. Furthermore, we were able to send our oldest son, Carlos, to San Antonio, Texas, to study theology. Currently, he is a pastor to the glory of God.
God will not lead you to shores that God cannot cross
I always longed to continue studying. I prayed to God for this, waiting for God’s perfect time to prepare me to better serve as a woman in ministry.
God’s response came in 2016, when my son Carlos shared with me that a Spanish Master’s Degree in Theological Studies would be available in the United States of America. I recognized that God had answered my heart’s desire. I started my studies that summer and thanks to God, I graduated in 2018.
When God gives, God gives generously as I was provided another opportunity to study. In October 2019, my son Carlos fell ill and I had to travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to accompany him. One day before returning to Colombia I heard about the CLLI training, but it seemed impossible that I could attend because I already had my ticket purchased. Miraculously, the ticket was exchanged for free, and my family provided the tuition. Full of gratitude to God I started the training and will soon graduate.
Currently, I pastor two established churches and during the pandemic we opened another place for children’s Bible studies. The attacks against women in ministry continue, but God gives us the victory and the great blessing of having an empowered leadership that serves and is faithful in the work of the Lord.
25 years of ministry have passed, and I am amazed at how far God’s faithfulness has brought me. My children finished their studies with specializations; Today I continue to serve the Lord with my family and my beautiful grandchildren in the congregations and places where God allows us to serve.
As this year ends, I can only look back and give glory for God’s faithfulness and mercy.
And looking to the next year and the rest of my life, I can only think that God has never promised us an easy road, but a safe arrival. The Bible affirms that God is the same forever (Psalm 102: 25-27). Therefore, if God is the one who guides and strengthens us, regardless of trials and difficulties we will arrive safely until the end of our lives.
So trusting in all of God’s promises, let’s welcome this new year!
Rev. Sofía Rodríguez is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Ágape in Barranquilla, Colombia. She also serves as the president of Fundación Obreras en Acción, a non-profit that ministers to senior citizens. She is currently a third year student of CLLI.