Ricky Navarro loves serving as senior pastor of The Walk (Tampa Foursquare Church) in Tampa, Fla. He says it’s “a dream come true.”
For almost 30 years, Ricky preached, comforted, prayed and cared for the people God had entrusted to him. He even equipped his congregation to send short-term missions teams as they could to Jamaica, and The Walk helped to plant a church in Puerto Rico.
Ricky was fulfilled in Tampa. Then, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2017, a series of events struck that would shake up his call in ministry, much like the Apostle Paul’s Macedonian call did for him in Acts 16.
That day, Ricky’s 6-year-old nephew was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, his great aunt in Puerto Rico died, and—within hours—news arrived that Hurricane Maria with 155 mile-an-hour winds had devastated the island.
Comforting his own family, Ricky was also trying unsuccessfully to reach ministry friends in Puerto Rico to ensure their safety.
Leadership of The Walk gathered for prayer to hear the voice of the Lord. One of the elders, Steve Duroe, approached Ricky with a surprising word from the Lord. “Pastor, this is your Macedonian call,” he said. “You have to go to Puerto Rico.”
Other leaders in the church affirmed the spiritual challenge. Surprised but open, Ricky wanted to respond. But he knew his congregation of 100 people did not have the resources to send him on a missions trip. They had no extra money to give for disaster relief.
Still, the call of God was strong.
“We try to nurture a culture in our congregation of putting feet to our faith,” Steve says. “We want our pastor to be available to ministry outside the four walls of our church, even when that means the rest of us have to pull a little harder on the rope to pick up the slack.”
“Going” is in the lifeblood of Ricky’s church. For years, his in-laws led short-term missions teams with Foursquare Missions International (FMI) to host summer camps for kids living in Jamaica. Local Jamaican leaders have gotten so good at summer camps that they now lead their own successful kid’s camps. Ricky also has always had an affinity for Bayamon Foursquare Church in Puerto Rico, and even helped plant a new congregation out of his “home church” on the island.
This time, Ricky’s heart was broken for the people of Puerto Rico, but he did not see how he could go.
Miraculously, God provided the funds. Since September, Ricky has made four trips to Puerto Rico. At first, the call was for relief, and Ricky did what he could. “One person can only do so much,” he says.
Ricky knew God wanted him to take the gospel to residents and show them how to truly follow Jesus Christ. But how?
Reaching 3.6 million people with the gospel would require something out of the Book of Acts. Ricky says Puerto Rico has been evangelized over the decades, but today, like many other places in the world, people need to know how to live for Jesus.
He identified pastors and leaders on the island who were willing to be mentored. With the help of fellow Foursquare pastors from the mainland, a team of leaders now disciples local believers. They meet face-to-face and use technology when long-distance discipleship is more practical.
“The Great Commission is more about disciples than it is converts,” Ricky says. These disciples are fired up to share the gospel and mentor new disciples of Jesus Christ throughout Puerto Rico. “It’s very organic, and people are responding to the gospel.”
As the island begins to rebuild communities, infrastructure, and families, Ricky is happy to see individuals who are rebuilding their lives on the Bible’s teaching and learning to live by faith in Christ.
“Opportunities like this are change points in our lives and in the lives of our church,” Steve says. “Puerto Rico is an opportunity for our congregation to invest in ministry beyond our local church and to make an impact on the world.”
Ricky is planning more trips to Puerto Rico in partnership with FMI. Foursquare Puerto Rico National Leader Rubén “Ray” Nieves is thrilled with the progress and the teams that are now reaching locals with the gospel.
“Pastor Ricky is the guy that God wanted in Puerto Rico,” Steve says. “Proverbs 19:17 reminds us that a gift like this is like a loan to the Lord. Because He always blesses generous people, we are willing to give our pastor to this ministry. It’s an investment in the gospel.”
Foursquare Pastor Ricky Navarro still serves his congregation in Tampa. But, he also answered God’s call to go to Puerto Rico. He didn’t have a dream or see a vision. In fact, he was pretty much shocked when elders of his church challenged him to go.
Today, he is glad that he did.
Interested in leading or joining a short-term missions team this summer? Foursquare Missions International (FMI) has resources to help you prepare, serve and go well worldwide. Contact FMI’s GO Teams Coordinator Paul Greer at email@example.com.
Already planning a short-term missions team? Make sure you have the right insurance in place before you go. Your usual church-required activities insurance doesn’t work when you leave the U.S., and every church is required legally to have insurance for out-of-country trips. FMI can help. FMI supplies insurance to over 250 teams each year, and is ready to help equip your church, too. Contact FMI’s Paul Greer at firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask about what type of short-term missions trip insurance is right for you.
By: Rod Light, M.A., an ordained Foursquare minister and freelance writer