Ross W. Graham
Puerto Rico and New Jersey have suddenly come very close together in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, you can now find an evangelist of the Presbytery of New Jersey working to establish a new OP church.
Representatives from the Presbytery's Committee on Home Missions, including CHMCE general secretary Ross Graham, Camden pastor Ben Alvira, and Harmony elder Ed Kauffman, traveled to Puerto Rico in mid-January to explore New Jersey-based contacts who were interested in affiliating with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. They reported finding a well-organized group of believers, who appeared to be on their way toward becoming an established congregation. They also found a competent and caring pastor, who is committed to the Reformed faith and ministry in the OPC.
On the Lord's Day, Iglesia Cristiana Jesus es la Verdad (Jesus is the truth) meets in a large house in the city of San Juan. The congregation, now numbering approximately 85 in attendance, is comprised of 29 family units and many children. The children are not all from the families of the church. Many come as a result of an outreach ministry in a troubled neighborhood. Many of those involved in that outreach have wanted to continue it in the new congregation.
The house is nearly completely taken over on the Lord's Day for worship and Sunday school. The worship service is well ordered and reverent. The usual parts of public worship are all included, without any additions. Scripture is read, there is a pastoral prayer, an offering is taken, hymns are sung, and the Word is preached with power and urgency.
Rev. Milton Villanueva, age 55, was, until his reception by the Presbytery of New Jersey, a minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He served as a pastor in Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in Puerto Rico and Florida from 1972 until 1995, and then became the founding pastor of the Community Christian Reformed Church (Hispanic) in Hialeah, Florida. Contact with his friend Ben Alvira led him to the OPC and the Presbytery of New Jersey.
At their April meeting, the Presbytery of New Jersey interviewed and examined Mr. Villanueva and learned of his deep love for the gospel and commitment to the Reformed faith. They learned from their committee about the thriving group with which he labors. And the Presbytery took action! They received Milton into ministerial membership and called him to plant a church for them and the OPC in San Juan. And they also appointed an oversight committee of Spanish-speaking pastors and elders to work with him and the group.
Where will all this lead? No one knows for sure. The Lord may want us to develop the ministry of only this single church. Or perhaps a new Presbytery of the Caribbean will be the result of what takes place over the next few years.
The author is the general secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Reprinted from New Horizons, July 2006.