Half dressed and unwashed, Juan wandered the streets of Lima, Peru. He seldom spoke, and his eyes showed no glimmer of understanding. Most people kept their distance from this man they called Crazy Juan.
But Francisco didn’t avoid Juan. Instead he searched the streets for his friend. Often Francisco would find Juan only to lose him as he began to cry and ran down an alley. But Francesco didn’t give up. He’d search and find Juan and try to take him home to his family or at least to tell Juan’s wife, Maria, where to find him.
But getting Juan home didn’t restore his sanity. Often he’d spend days lying under the bed, not even coming out to eat. Maria grew desperate, wondering whether she’d ever have her husband back.
Francisco often visited Juan, and one Sabbath he even coaxed him out from under the bed. He washed Juan up as well as he could and took him to church. Juan sat in church staring blankly at the ceiling. But something happened that day that changed Juan forever. The next morning he crawled out from under his bed and said, “I need water.”
Maria hadn’t heard Juan speak in two years. Hope fluttered in her heart as she hurried to get him some water. But when she returned, she found Juan unresponsive on the floor. Her shoulders slumped, and her spirits slid to despair. God, why don’t you just let him die? her heart pleaded.
Then Juan stirred and sat up, shouting, “Jesus has healed me! I’m well!” Maria hugged her husband tearfully; and their children crowded into the room, hopeful but unsure about what had happened.
“I’m hungry,” Juan said. “Bring me some of the food I prepared last night.”
“Juan,” Maria spoke hesitantly, you haven’t made a meal in two years.” Juan’s eyes widened as he looked at his dirty clothes and smelled his unkempt body. He went to take a shower and scrub off years of grime.
Later that morning Juan answered the door and found Francisco there. Juan exclaimed, “Jesus has saved me! I want to become a Christian.” Francisco hugged his friend and rejoiced with the family. Then he invited everyone to attend the Adventist church with him. Before long Juan and Maria and their older children were studying the Bible together.
Juan bubbled over with new life and energy. One day he told Maria, “The church is too far away. We must start a small group here in our home. The couple invited their neighbors to hear how God had saved Juan. Francisco taught Juan leadership skills as he coached his friend in how to give Bible studies and how to preach. The formerly silent crazy man preached God’s praises with passion. Within three years the small group that met in Juan’s house grew to 30 members. It was time to move on.
Juan suggested that the small group divide and plant another small group in a nearby community. The mother church, where Juan and his family had been baptized, provided outreach resources for the small group. Juan taught the children and youth how to give Bible studies, and everyone worked together to plant God’s love and truth in the hearts of others.
The 30 members grew to 200 and started another church. Juan knew that when the group was small, everyone worked; but when it grew larger, it was more difficult to get people involved. The members agreed, and two more churches were planted, one nearby and the other farther up the mountain.
God is blessing Juan, who has just a third-grade education. His children, who could not study while Juan was mentally ill, are now in school.
Juan’s passion for leading others to Jesus continues. He and the members of one of the churches he helped found have bought land and are working to build a simple church as a base for further ministry. But the members are poor and find it difficult to buy the bricks they need for the church. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a church for one of the congregations Juan helped establish. In turn, this congregation will help the other believers build churches of their own.
“We must keep growing, keep opening new churches,” Juan says eagerly. “Small groups are the future of God’s work here in Peru.”
We can help the church in Peru grow by giving our weekly mission offerings, and through our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering we can help build chapels for several congregations such as the one Juan helped start.