When Roberto*, 41, of Argentina, walked to a store one afternoon, his heart was heavy.
He’d recently taken a Christian discipleship programme called, “Zumé”, which had a lesson on the prodigal son in Luke 15. The story kept going through his mind, and he began praying as he walked, interceding for God’s prodigal children around the world.
After making his purchase, Roberto started walking home when a young man asked him for money. He said his name was Mateo*, he was from out of town, and his wife was in the hospital. Roberto gave him some money and walked away. Then, remembering his prayer, he walked back to Mateo and said: “You don’t know me, but I have something important to share with you. Jesus loves you!”
Mateo’s response surprised him. “I know Jesus. But I was in prison and I turned my back on Him.” Roberto embraced Mateo, saying: “Jesus told me to come back to you and say that you are a prodigal son and He loves you. And He is waiting at home for you.”
Then Roberto went home and told his wife, Celeste*, and their two kids what happened. He also shared it with his pastor. He was encouraged from sharing his faith, but he had no idea it was only the beginning of the story.
The next Sunday, he went to church and was stunned when his pastor said: “Welcome everyone! And a special welcome to Mateo! Roberto, this is the young man you told me about, right?” Roberto turned around and realised that there sat the same man he had talked with—though he hadn't told him the name of the church he attended.
The church supported Mateo and his wife through her treatments, visiting her and encouraging the couple. When she was released, Roberto drove them home to Rosario more than 150 kilometres away and connected them with a church there.
Bringing the church to the streets
Roberto began to follow Jesus when he was 20 years old. His mother had become a believer a decade earlier and shared her faith with him until one day he also committed his life to following Jesus. Through realising God’s love for him, Roberto felt a great love for people like he hadn’t known before. He wanted to know what other believers were going through so he could encourage them in their faith, and wanted to share Jesus’ love with people who didn’t know Him.
As he grew in his faith, he eventually learnt of OM. When OM's Ship Logos Hope visited Argentina in 2019, he and Celeste volunteered on board. After the Ship left, they started serving with OM in different ways. When Roberto was invited to go through OM's training course Zumé to see how Argentinian believers would respond to it, he said yes, not realising how much it would impact him as well.
When asked about Zumé, OM in Argentina’s leader, Markus Leder, explained that the word means ‘yeast’, a picture of small acts of faith yielding big results. “This course gives practical exercises for sharing God’s love in your own community.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, local pastors were sceptical. “They wanted to know at what point new believers would start going to church, giving tithes and becoming like traditional members,” Markus recalled. “But when churches closed, pastors realised that this is about equipping believers to live for God even if they can’t go to church. The lockdown actually opened the doors of the churches! It opened the doors of the pastor’s hearts to think about discipleship, because the body of Christ is in the streets right now, not in the churches.”
Through Zumé, Roberto was encouraged to focus solely on God's Word. He also learnt to be intentional every day, living expectantly for God’s leading. “Often it feels like I am blind and following Jesus with my hand on His shoulder saying: ‘Lead me where you want me to go.’ And He does,” Roberto said. “He led me to Mateo. And He led a woman named Julia* to knock on our door one day and speak with my wife.” Julia was a prostitute and asked for money for food. She didn’t know how to read or write and said she lived in a neighbourhood not too far away.
“What’s interesting about this neighbourhood is that it is the community God placed on my heart to pray for—which is another practical exercise from Zumé,” he shared. “Every day as I drive through it, I’ve prayed over this neighbourhood. My wife knew this and knew God was doing something special in bringing this woman to us. When she learnt Julia needed much bigger items than food, things like a mattress, containers for gas, etc., Celeste organised a small social media campaign to help her. And a man from her neighbourhood actually saw it online! He was a trusted leader there and made sure Julia received all the donations we gathered. He also made it possible for our church to do more activities like a feeding programme, clothing and blanket drive, etc. And it’s not just our church involved, it’s several different churches in our town.”
‘I just try to imitate Him’
What seemed so simple—one person praying for prodigals and praying over a neighbourhood—has started a movement in his community. “It wasn’t me,” Roberto insisted. “It was all God. I just try to imitate Him and obey.”
Now, Roberto and Celeste’s family are praying about the future. God has placed Turkey on their hearts so heavily that they will visit to see if God is leading their family to move there. They are actively preparing, with Celeste taking psychology classes and studying Turkish and Roberto studying English. “We are waiting for God’s marching orders, but we are ready for however He leads us,” he said.