by Paul Olver
Naya and her husband, José, were faithful members of the first Free Methodist Church in Venezuela. They had a heart to serve God, and they were involved in everything behind the scenes. Like many women, Naya mostly exercised the gift of hospitality. She cooked meals and served refreshments, decorated the hall, organized arrangements for leaders meetings leaders, etc.
The church in Venezuela puts a lot of emphasis on small groups in homes called PGAs for Pequeños Grupos de Adoracion (Small Worship Groups). Ten years ago (when Naya was already over 50 years old) she decided she was going to start a PGA in her home. She had never done anything like this before – she didn’t see herself as that kind of leader. But she began to pray for her neighbors and invited some to come to her house for refreshments and conversation. And they came! Naya shared her testimony, they read the Bible and prayed, and they decided to continue meeting each week.
Several of her neighbors accepted Christ. They began to bring their family members. The group grew; soon they could not fit everyone in the living room so they began to have meetings in the garage. Soon they did not fit there and moved to the backyard. Naya had the support of her husband, but she was the leader of the group – she had started it. Many people were converted, and the group was growing, in number and in spiritual depth.
Around that time, two things happened: First, Naya went to talk to her pastor, then superintendent Casto Rojas. She said, “We have a good core group; please send us a pastor.” Pastor Casto said, “The group already has a pastor – you are their pastor! We will support you and help to equip you.”
The other thing is that the Naya volunteered to serve food at the conference pastors meeting. While she was in and out, she was watching and listening. She realized she was very interested in what was happening and she wanted to know more about the life and work of the pastors. She offered to help with food for the next pastors meeting. She could hardly do her work of preparing and serving the food because she wanted to participate in the pastors meeting!
Naya had worked in the church for many years but never thought she could do more than serve food. And now for the first time she began to think she could be a pastor. Pastor Casto helped her prepare and be received as a local ministerial candidate. She began taking courses in the Bible school. After meeting the requirements she was received as a conference ministerial candidate.
The PGA continued to grow. They no longer fit in the backyard so they put up a tent in an abandoned lot as their meeting place. The neighbors complained about the noise and – miraculously – the city gave them a larger piece of land in a better location. There the members of the congregation built a simple structure. Now it is an organized church, part of the Venezuela Conference.
In 2014 Area Director Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver ordained Pastor Viernaida Sucre de Ramos, “Naya,” as an elder in the Free Methodist Church. At the age when many people retire she was ordained.
This year Superintendent Dan Perdomo challenged the conference with a plan of multiplication:
- Disciples must make disciples
- Groups must form other groups
- Pastors must equip other pastors
- Churches must plant other churches
After the meeting Pastora Naya went to talk to Superintendent Dan. She said to him, “My husband and I have inherited a house in another city. God spoke to me. I think it’s time I leave my church and go to start a new church that place.”
This article was sent to Pastora Naya before being published to corroborate the facts gathered from various sources over the years. This was her response:
“God bless you! I, Pastor Naya, faithfully testify that my call was in this way. Words cannot be found to express what God has done in my life. As to my call to plant churches, God has provided – even in the midst of the Venezuelan crisis – an apartment in another part of the country. Applying Genesis 12:1 God told me: ‘Leave your country and your relatives …’ In obedience to God we will go and plant a new PGA in the Venezuelan Andes. While my bones and my flesh have life, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'”