Set to fly to the Amazon as missionaries, Misael and Yanet Lopez received unexpected news.
Yanet was pregnant.
For 12 years, they had prayed for a child. During years of waiting, soul-searching, and heartache, God had begun reorienting their lives. Always involved in serving their church, Iglesia Rescate, Hialeah, Florida, they began to sense a full-time ministry calling.
In 2015, they rented out their house, quit their jobs, and decided to buy one-way plane tickets to Ecuador — intending to serve in the Amazon rainforests.
“I was training my work replacement when I learned I was pregnant,” said Yanet.
With the news of the pregnancy, the couple halted their plans, devoting the months waiting for the baby’s arrival to prayer. They sensed God had prompted them to sell their possessions — and upend their lives — for a specific ministry.
Plea for a Spanish-Speaking Congregation, Central Florida
Northwest of the Greater Miami Area, Lake Okeechobee lies at the center of Florida’s finest farmland. Harvesting the region’s crops — from sugarcane to oranges — is a primarily Spanish-speaking migrant population. Few churches serve this vulnerable community.
One Monday in 2016, an English-speaking congregation from Okeechobee — a city along the lake — met to pray. They asked God to plant a Spanish-speaking congregation among the seasonal workers there.
The next day, they received an email from Misael.
Iglesia Rescate had commissioned him to gauge the need for planting Spanish-speaking churches in Okeechobee, as the congregation had just bought a large ranch in the vicinity.
The following week, the pastor of the English-speaking church met with Misael. “We’ve been praying for you to come,” he said simply.
In the subsequent months, Pastor David Monduy of Iglesia Rescate agreed to launch a congregation among the underserved community.
As they prayed, the Lopezes felt personally called to start the congregation.
Meanwhile, the church board hired the Lopezes to supervise the ranch in Okeechobee, newly purchased with a loan from the BIC Foundation. The ranch would house two ministries: the church’s recovery program for men with addictions and a Christian retreat center.
Late summer 2016, Abby was born, to the joy of her parents. The next spring, the Lopez family uprooted their lives to Okeechobee.
Serving among the Immigrant Population, Okeechobee
If you drive up to the ranch in Okeechobee, you’ll discover a vast rural setting — ideal for seeking solitude, spiritual renewal. The Lopezes opened Rescate Retreat Center this past July. The retreat center is staffed by men participating in Casa Rescate, the only exclusively Spanish-speaking recovery program in the region.
On Sunday afternoons, Spanish speakers from around the area, primarily seasonal workers, gather for worship. But the heart of the Lopezes’ church plant, Iglesia Rescate Okeechobee, is on weekdays.
Church for the Lopezes has become entering the realities of the immigrant community: They teach English classes, minister at hospitals, jails, and detention centers. In the area, Misael is also the established minister presiding over funerals in Spanish.
Their ministry is an outflow of their growth over the last decade. While praying for Abby, they said they began to encounter the Lord in a new way.
“Yes, God answered our prayer with Abby,” Misael said. “But during those years, we learned to fall in love with him.”
Experiencing the generosity of God’s love themselves has prompted them to offer it lavishly to their community.