By Michael Ashcraft —
For seven years, Juan Pablo Cardo was stymied in his ministerial call by another pastor in Buenos Aires who envied his charisma.
“He felt like I was a threat and didn’t let me do anything,” the Argentinian says in a Bible conference video. During those years of imposed inactivity, “God taught me patience and humility, just being there, sit down and deal with my pride and many things in my life.”
He didn’t bolt, and his perseverance paid off. Unexpectedly one day, his pastor asked if he want to launch a startup church on his own in Munro, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He offered no financial support. He would get Juan Pablo out of his hair.
To weigh and consider this monumental life-altering decision, it took Juan Pablo a full fraction of a nano-second to say yes.
Juan Pablo started a house church with 17 people. They began to tithe and he rented a small store front 9’ by 51’ — all at the time of Argentina’s worse economic crunch.
The work grew, and they rented a bigger building for 120 people on the main avenue in the Munro neighborhood.
Juan Pablo’s story is one of flourishing under shortsighted leadership. You have to keep your heart from becoming bitter, he says.
“It was a difficult time because it was seven years practically not having a pastor, not having someone to go to who could guide you,” says his wife, Silvina. “I asked God, ‘How long? Where are You?’ I wasn’t complaining but asking God for help. I saw that everyone else had a pastor they could share with. And I didn’t have that for seven years.”
After three years thriving under adversity, the higher-ups in church hierarchy in Tucson, Arizona, made an offer for Juan Pablo to take over the parent church in the Villa Devoto neighborhood of Buenos Aires, the very one whose pastor had stonewalled him years earlier.
Lacking experience, “I felt I was not qualified,” he admits.
With some trepidation, Juan Pablo accepted. From relegation, he took center stage in 2003.
He quickly realized that he was not the only one wounded by the previous pastor. So he initiated a surprising program for healing hearts of the 40 church members: street evangelism.
“People were hurt. I understand. But there were (unsaved) people hurt worse than them outside,” Juan Pablo says in the 2018 video produced by The Door Church in Tucson. “The problems of the people outside the church are bigger than our problems. And that really really helped the church to understand: ‘Hey, it’s not about you. It’s not about your pain. It’s about Jesus.’
“Ever since the older church members start to help me and start to reach out to newcomers, the church started to heal and it created a new atmosphere in the church,” he adds. “It started to create a momentum, and from there we took off.”
Once upon a time, the Villa Devoto church was close to extinction as successive waves of economic crisis battered it and the original missionary struggled to justify the high costs of financial support from the Tucson church.
Now, it is a hotbed of evangelistic fervor. Thriving with scores of regular attendees, the church has launched 15 churches and oversees about 30 other churches throughout Argentina. They also hold their own Bible conferences.
“A key for surviving was to have patience,” he says. “It’s the most difficult part because I didn’t know that seven years were going to pass before God would open the door. But God helped us so much even to today.”
Michael Ashcraft teaches journalism at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.