We at NextGenRGV believe in celebrating and encouraging young leaders to share their ministry experiences and accomplishments. Recently Smiley Garza had the opportunity to travel to Africa and minister in various locations and see God do doing incredible things. Here is his testimony:
Loving God’s People
Can I be real with you? I grew up believing that mission trips and international evangelism was only for that one well-known “elite" man of God. I honestly never saw myself leaving home to preach the Gospel, at least not at age 20.
Let me explain, my upbringing was similar to most “Hispanic valley kids.” We were taught to, you know… go to church, don't get into trouble, come home and hopefully remember something you learned during Sunday school. If not, Mom had a unique collection of “chanclas” waiting for you at home. LOL Although I lived this routine for many years, something in me knew there was more for me then just this.
In the summer of 2012, I was invited to a special service that was taking place at a friends church. I must say, it was a-m-a-zing! After the service had ended I noticed a man that was sitting in the front of the church. I asked my friend if she knew who he was, it turns out he was one of the assistant pastors of that house. I went up to him and we immediately engaged in a conversation. I have to admit, he was the only dark colored man in that building. African to be exact. After getting to know Pastor Madison Ngafeeson for quite some time, he invited me to join his personal discipleship class. At the time, Pastor Madison was also a Instructor at the University of Texas Pan America; it was there on that 3rd floor of the mathematics building where we would host our discipleship meetings. Long story short, 8 months later we successfully completed the course.
After I was mentored, I was challenged.
He invited me to join him in a missions trip to Cameroon, West Africa. He said, “what do you think?” I said, “lets do this.”
After being in Africa for three and a half weeks, my life has radically changed. While in Cameroon, our team know as “The Grace Team” ministered to: 1 nation, 3 cities and 8 churches.
Yaoundé: (The Nations Capital, 1.8 million in population) We joined together with hundreds to proclaim Jesus as Lord over this city. We gathered for 3 nights at a revival crusade where we saw a full display of God’s supernatural power. People testified to creative healings while others were completely restored. We saw families reunite once again and salvation came to many.
Douala: (3.3 million in population) God moved in a very special way during our meetings in the city of Douala. Our focus was church ministries, leadership and evangelism. We saw the spirit of excellence moving from church to church. We also were fortunate enough to travel to orphanages across this city, sharing the love and hope of Jesus. I’ve always said, “God is in the business of making orphans, His sons and daughters.”
Bamenda: (269,530 in population) Very much like our meetings in Yaoundé, we had 2 nights of revival where we witnessed many incredible miracles. The presence of God was so tangible and unique in these meetings, the hunger and thirst for God’s glory was felt since we entered these churches. Our focus was to equip and empower people in this community to reach out to the lost.
After observing the African culture I say, “We American Christians have a long way to go!” Here at church we live complaining about the most simple things in life. For example, our anointing depends whether or not the A/C is turned up during our service. We get easily frustrated if the worship team plays off key. Better yet, lets not even say what would happen if our pastor preached for more than 45 mins. Like the saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it!”
I’ve learned a valuable lesson these past 3 weeks. A lesson of faith. Growing up here in the RGV I have always heard people say, “I have faith in God.” Really, how so? It’s easy for me to say, “I have faith in God,” when I’m trusting in my parents. Unlike many fortunate teens here in the RGV, many Africans don't have mom or dad by there side. Many have passed on due to illness, famine or they were simply orphaned since a young age. The African culture has shown me that ALL they have IS God, if they lose their faith and trust in God, they have lost it all. I would almost dare to say, African faith is the “real deal!” If I may include, NOT one of our gatherings in Cameroon was in an air-conditioned building. I call that genuine passion and fervent hunger! Interestingly, I never heard anyone complain. They gave God ALL their strength, time, energy and devotion, even if the setting was not favorable.
I believe African’s have a way of moving God’s heart.
I know God is raising young teens to take The Message of hope to the ends of this world. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. My senior pastor, Chali Martinez (Vital Church McAllen) often says, Every promise has a process, if you forfeit the process you would have forfeit the promise! If God has called you, trust Him to take you.
Don't take your life for granted, there might just be people across the world wishing they could live the life you’re living!
Smiley Garza Jr is a certified minister with Global University. He was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Since then, Smiley has been raised in McAllen, Texas, USA. He has faithfully assisted Vital Church, McAllen under the direction of Senior Pastor, Chali Martinez. Smiley has served as a youth leader and formed part of the prayer and ministry movement in his church. He is an energetic young man who is fervently serving God and serving people at his young age.