Although five years have passed since Mi Esperanza came to Colombia, Rev. Tulio Riascos Riascos still savors every moment: “Remembering brings me great joy.”
During a visit to Bogotá for the Festival of Hope this past August, Riascos Riascos shared his gratitude for Mi Esperanza (My Hope) and explained how it still impacts Colombia today. “My Hope is not a short term project. It is something that continues for years. What we are living right now is the fruit of My Hope.”
As the lead pastor of Iglesia Central de Santa Marta, Riascos Riascos has seen individuals changed for eternity. “Killers, drug dealers and users, enemies of the Gospel–they are now committed to Christ. Frequently they come to me and express regrets over their acts.
“I thank God for the change in my church and in my city,” he said. “Only the Gospel can change a city.”
In the fall of 2004, most members of his church got involved with the My Hope World Evangelism through Television project. “We trained as many brothers as we could so they would convert their homes in Hope Centers for the thousands who walk without Christ.” The church saw 350 “Matthew” homes opened, “where these brothers gathered family members, neighbors and friends.”
Many people who never previously took the step to talk about the Lord “discovered that it is easy,” said Riascos Riascos. “The advantage with My Hope is that you don’t need to have a great knowledge in order to encourage the believers to share their faith.”
Sharing the Word
Mi Esperanza/My Hope delivers the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a three-night series of telecasts on major networks. Volunteer “Matthews” invite family, friends and neighbors into their homes to watch the telecasts. They are called Matthews because in the Bible, after Matthew began to follow Jesus, he held a banquet for Jesus at his house and invited his friends.
In 2004, Iglesia Central de Santa Marta had close to 1,200 members. In five years, attendance has tripled. “We have 3,000 people as a result of the My Hope project,” said Riascos Riascos. “Last August 8, we hosted a stadium event that drew 9,000 people from our cell groups.
“We are sharing the word, preaching the Gospel,” Riascos Riascos added. “No other church has such a presence around the city.”
Just a few years ago, he recalled, “in Santa Marta it was really hard to preach the Gospel. Nowadays, people are calling me – ‘please talk to me about God.’ Years ago, it was totally impossible.”
Riascos Riascos credits prayer for the tremendous growth, and “the simple act that the Gospel was distributed through My Hope. It touched all organizations in my city and for that reason, now it kind of easy to talk about the Word. This was the seed we planted around the city to talk about the Word.”
A Nationwide Impact
Across Colombia, more than 300,000 homes were opened by believers to show the telecast to neighbors and friends. By the conclusion of the broadcasts, in an astounding outpouring of God’s grace, more than 700,000 people had filled out cards to register decisions for Christ.
Many churches doubled in size overnight. Some congregations added more than 1,000 people. In the northern coastal provinces alone, more than 174,000 people responded to the Gospel message.
Pastor Edgar Ibarra from the northern coastal city of Cartagena served as a regional coordinator for the My Hope project. He also spoke with us in Bogotá this August.
“In this moment,” he shared, “I am really grateful to God. My biggest praise here is for all those commitments. Many pastors opened new churches. Many Matthew homes are continuing to preach the Gospel. My job was to direct the project and now I am seeing the results and I am grateful.”
Ibarra hopes to assemble young people “from all the cities to make a great evangelistic impact and have a Festival of Hope in Barranquilla. We are praying for it. The results from Pastor Tulio encouraged the whole church to get united and be champions for Christ.”
My Hope provided the material, strategies, vision, training and program that the Church needed, said Ibarra. “In the whole history of our Church, it helped us to gain the most people to Christ. To the Lord be the glory.”