Thursday, December 08, 2016

Going to the church planting conference earlier this year, helped me become a better leader for our church because now the mentality is not “let’s grow our church but instead it is let’s grow His kingdom”. One of the main steps that we took to grow the kingdom of God in our community, was to enable the church to start small groups. We began the year with 10 small groups and now looking towards the end of the year, we have around 25 small groups throughout our city. God has been good and faithful. We have seen how our church has new faces visiting every Sunday. Our challenge is to allow those visitors to plug into these different groups so they can continue their growth in Christ through community. There is a big chance that by early 2017 we are going to have more than 30 healthy small groups all over the city of Santiago.
With some of the new programs that they have started in the church this year, we have overcome some traditions of a 30+ year church. It wasn’t easy because once the church has established some traditions like: when to meet, where to meet, what days to meet, setup of the services, who can lead and who can’t lead, it is difficult to break that mold.  But thanks to the leadership of the church, we have been able to come together to make some changes and move forward with the new direction of the church.
One of the things that I have been really excited about is to be able to have a few couples’ groups in our church. We stared a few “Love and Respect” groups, one at my sister Samira and Tim’s house and another one in our house.  The great outcome of that is that the couples loved it so much that many of them are starting their own “Love and respect” small groups at their house with their friends. I never saw this coming but God has a great sense of humor. Sometimes we think that our plans are good but God’s plans are always going to be better than ours.

Our church continues to grow and we continue to delegate leadership roles within our congregation. For this 2017 we plan to start a COLLEGE MINISTRY, and also we are going to break in groups the youth group; we are going to have a few people leading each group (high school, middle school and college.) And it makes me really happy that many of these leaders are going to be kids that grew up in my youth group, so I know “they get it” they know what we are trying to do. They know that our model of ministry always has been TO MAKE DISCIPLES THAT MAKE DISCIPLES. SO PLEASE keep these things in your prayers because now as a teaching pastor I love what I get to do and I always try to be the guy that pushes people to reach their potential in ministry. So I’m rooting for my crew, they know I have their backs.  

 On another note, I was very blessed to be able to go and perform a concert at JOHNSON UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA. Thanks for that opportunity, even though Angelito and Albania couldn’t get their visas for that event we were really happy to know that our music keeps growing outside our country. Recently I dropped a new video of a song I dedicated to my wife, Lenae, hope you guys like it. Also, just today, I confirmed the dates for CRISTO URBANO camp in 2017. Don’t forget to pray for this event that for so many years has been changing kids’ lives all over the country and don’t forget to give to make this possible. Also keep praying for our next album RIMAS 3R…it’s coming soon. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

SUMMER UPDATE 2016
We just started working on our new album Rimas 3R which stands for Rhymes that Redeem, Renew and Restore. We are hoping to have it done by next year to continue ministering to the youth through music. 
This year for the youth retreat, we invited our first international rapper, Manny Montes. We are excited to celebrate our 8th year for our Cristo Urbano youth retreat. This year we are expanding the camp to people who have never attended before. We have been talking to different churches and leaders who have never been before, getting them excited about what is coming.
Our goal for this year is to have at least 15 solid small groups around the community. We just launched this program the first week of March with 10 small groups. We divided small groups around the neighborhood and each small group has two leaders and one or two apprentices. The goal is for the leaders to disciple the apprentices and to multiply the small groups in the future.
One of our goals for 2015 was to empower the youth group so they can reach others in the community. We are very proud of them for stepping out of their comfort zones. And in this year they are all continuing stepping up into leadership roles. It has been great to see how many people in the church, not only the young adults, have started leading people in small groups. For many of these groups I have been working on the curriculum and equipping them in January and February through leadership training.

 So in this last 3 months, it’s been super cool to see lives being change in our community through these groups. It’s priceless! Now not only do we have people becoming Christians but they are also receiving the proper follow up within their groups. They have their leaders within their groups that they can trust with individual conversations that are going to help their walk with God become stronger              

We are adopting the vision of church planting so not only are we getting our people involved in small groups but also some of those leaders are looking to plant churches. It is a blessing to jump into this vision with the church and it has been neat to see the church embracing it and wanting to expand the kingdom.
 Also, as you guys know, this year has been an interesting one for me and Lenae. Being apart for so long was not easy. You guys know that during her pregnancy (because of the zika virus) she has been in the States since February. I thank those of you who prayed for us and were always finding ways to encourage us during this time.
Our little guy was supposed to come on July 7th, but one night on JUNE 19th, while his dad and his granddad where watching LEBRON JAMES winning game 7 of the NBA FINALS, our little guy  decided to come to the world, 3 weeks earlier, to make us super happy. TROY ANTHONY GABRIEL was born the morning of JUNE 20th-19in -7lbs at 9:01 AM.

We are so thankful for this kid, I couldn’t be any happier. I really don’t have words to describe the feeling… I hope you guys can meet him soon, please keep praying for us as we try to get his passport so we can go back home soon. I already got my ticket to go back on July 28th so I can finish up preparing CRISTO URBANO camp. But Lenae still hasn’t been able to get hers because we are waiting on the baby’s passport. I hope he can get it next week so they both can go back home the 28th with me. My family and friends back home can’t wait to see him. Thanks for everything you guys do for us, and may God bless you.   








Friday, January 15, 2016

GOODBYE 2015, HELLO 2016!
I want to start this post by saying that God is faithful and good all the time. There is no other way to explain everything I have experienced in the last few months without mentioning His name. His faithfulness towards everything we do drives us forward every day; there is not a challenge out there that I won’t be able to take, because I know God is with me. And when He sends me, He never leaves me alone.
This past October, I released my new album ¨LA RECOPILACION.¨ I’ve been working on that album for a long time. It’s like a compilation of songs that I have done in the last 10 years. I have been waiting for the right time to release it. I have been really happy for the acceptance of the album. People from all over have been sending me messages saying how much they like it. It´s an honor for me to know that my album is touching lives in a special way.
I have been hearing testimonies of people that are not Christians, people that I have never met; people that someone gave them a CD and they have loved it. It´s crazy to know how powerful music can be, if you use it right. This brought a smile to my face knowing that I’m preaching through a CD, which means that even if I’m not there, people are still listening to the message of salvation. It reminds us that God´s Word is powerful and we are just humble servants serving His kingdom. 
I´m going to give you guys the link of the song we are using to promote this album. In Spanish it´s called ¨TU ME SOSTIENES¨ but in English I named it ¨I PRAISE YOU.¨ This is a powerful song that the Lord gave me back in 2008, and it wasn’t until last year that I decided it was time to record it. I’m glad I did because I have seen this song move in people´s lives in different ways. I hope you all like it, and if you do you can share it. Below the song you can see the link where you can get the full album in iTunes. It has 15 songs, the last 2 of them are in English. I hope you all like it.

To end the year, God prepared a good ending for 2015, I would say ¨a perfect ending¨ last November we found out that we are expecting a baby. We are very happy, we are ready for that blessing to come. So please keep that in your prayers because we want God to take care of the baby. Allow the baby to be healthy and keep Lenae healthy during this process. She already went through the ¨morning sickness¨ process, so now she is about three months. Baby is due July 7th, (Cristo Urbano Month : P) keep that in your prayers please.
We began this 2016 with lots of events. One of them was taking part of our youth group to a retreat to the mountains. We have been visiting this place since 2001, but we haven’t been there in the last 4 or 5 years, so it was really cool to visit that place again and to see all the new changes they are making to make it better.
We took about 15 students, many couldn’t come because they had to work, but we had a great time reminiscing about all the things that we are grateful for and the goal we have for this New Year. It was a time of fellowship, games and prayers. I loved it. They did too.
My favorite part of it is that everyone in the group gets to hear people´s dreams and goals, so the rest of the year we all have the responsibility of keeping each other accountable to make things happen. And to encourage each other to not give up on our dreams.
After more than 10 years of performing in prisons, sports events, churches, streets, etc.; we received the 2016 with great news: Last week, we found out that our group was nominated for BEST CHRISTIANS RAP GROUP OF THE YEAR… Let me tell you all something, all these years, we have never thought about doing what we do to win an award. I know there are people out there that love recognition. We do what we do because we believe God called us into it, simple as that. But when you hear news like this…It´s crazy! I was not expecting that, it caught me off guard. I´m humble because we are nominated with groups that we have admired for years. Just for being nominated we already feel like winners. I’m really happy about this experience because once again I can see God´s faithfulness at its fullest. He says in His Word that when you are faithful in the little things, He is going to give you big things. Here is the list of nominees
 I want to end this post by telling you guys the vision that our church has for this year. I have seen how we have been investing a lot of time in people, making disciples and turning them into leaders. We have been sending them out to do God´s work throughout the country. I can testify that we have been doing different outreaches in our city and our country. But I believe this year God is calling us to spend more time reaching the lost of our neighborhood.
That’s why we decided to start a small groups program for our community. We always had small groups in the past, but it was always in the church, preparing leaders for the church, but now that those leaders are prepared and equipped it´s time to send them out to do the work.
We are spending this entire month on leadership training. We are showing videos of a leadership conference we went to last year. And also analyzing the streets and homes where we are going to have these groups. I´m excited. I can’t wait to see people from our church take on this challenge. We had our first meeting last Saturday and we had almost 30 people come to hear what this plan was about. We have been talking to them one on one, telling them what God is calling us to and how we can see them involved in it. Many have listened to this call. In the month of December all we did was PRAY about this. In January we are training and equipping them with information, and in February, hopefully it´s going to be the month where we take action.  

We are planning on having people lead small groups in different houses, key houses of the neighborhood. And to each house we want to send at least two leaders, especially so they can help and encourage each other in the work they are going to be doing. Also we are going to train them to multiply themselves. While one person is going to be leading the group, that person is also going to be discipling another leader of how to lead a group, so when the time comes where the small group is getting too big, they can continue working in that house while the apprentice leader moves to another location with another apprentice by his side.

Pray for this please because I believe God is going to do amazing things. Pray for our church, we want God to use us to reach the lost, but in order to have different results we have to try different things. You guys know that change is never easy, but little by little God is doing His work. By next month we want to be able to start at least 8 small groups in our community. We don’t want quantity we want quality.  I’m excited about this, thanks for your encouragement and for always praying for us. Thanks for your financial support also (we going to need it now more than ever with baby G on his wayJ) we are going to keep praying for each one of you and I hope to see you all down here soon, God bless!





 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

SUMMER 2015

The end of the summer has arrived. It has been a fun ride for us, it’s always humbling to be a part of God´s work in Dominican Republic. In the last few months we have had over 40 groups of missionaries from different parts of the United States, that have come down to help us accomplish God´s purpose for our island.
It has been fun to have so many people helping us work in areas like construction, medical clinics, sports events, camps, training, nutrition centers, and so many other outreach events. We are really thankful for the work that you all have done here. It has been a great encouragement for all our missionaries and local leaders.
During this time, we have witnessed several lives being changed. We have seen people coming down on trips and surrendering their all to our Lord Jesus. A lot of people have been baptized this summer and not only that we have seen how so many
Christians have felt the call of missions in their own communities and their churches. We want people to leave this place wanting to serve those around them, just like Jesus did.
This summer God also allowed me to see some of my spiritual kids grow their faith and mature in their spiritual walk. One of them is a rapper named Manny. I´m really proud of everything God is doing in his life because I have been able to see God´s work in him since day one. This is a kid that accepted Christ at our first Cristo Urbano Camp, 7 years ago. It’s crazy that 7 years later God has allowed him to release his first album and also to perform at the camp where he was once ¨just a visitor¨. This year God has called me to empower him with his music, so we have been helping him in every way we can for him to get exposure and for him to grow in knowledge for his God given music ministry.
We did his release party in our church back in June, and we had a full house. People loved it and we were very proud. Also a lot of churches around Santiago are now calling him to perform in different places. We are very proud because I have seen that he doesn´t look at music as a way to gain recognition but a way to bring the Gospel to people.
In the meanwhile, I have been finishing my solo album that I started 10 years ago. I believe it´s time for the world to hear it. It has been a fun process because I love music. Our group is also preparing new music, we have been writing new stuff. Lord´s will, our new album´s name is going to be RIMAS 3R, which the 3 R´s makes reference to REDEEM, RENEW AND RESTORE.

I don’t know exactly when it´s going to be ready but in the meanwhile, I do know that my album is going to be ready by the end of the year. The name of it is going to be LA RECOPILACION, which translates to The Recompilation. Because it is a recompilation song that I have done in the last 10 years. It’s going to be interesting, I still have two more songs to record. But many of the older songs, I have been making new music for it and in some cases, changing a few lyrics. I know when that project its out, you guys are going to love it. Especially now that in this ¨LA RECOPILACION¨ album, I’m going to have two songs in English, so people like you, that have been supporting me since day one, can appreciate it a little more. It’s going tobe a small form of appreciation.
Another great testimony of the things that God has done during this summer, is the outcome of our annual youth retreat CRISTO URBANO. During the last few hours before camp many things were going south. It took patience, determination and faith that God was in control. Every time God is about to do something great, the devil tries to get in the way to take our eyes off the goal. One of the things that had me really worried was that the morning of the day when camp starts, I woke up with the news that one of our busses coming from Jimani (city at the Haitian border) was stopped by military for passport check up and out of 30 people, around 15 didn’t have their ID documents up to date, so the entire bus was sent back to Jimani (8 hour drive.)
I was really sad, especially when I heard that they had a lot of new comers that were excited about coming to camp but were not able to. They had kids crying and torn apart.

We were able to bring to camp only 7 of them, and they loved it. We sent gifts like shirts and cds to those who couldn’t make it because there was nothing else we could do. The good news is that I talked to them a few weeks after camp and they said that they loved their shirts and cds and that they appreciated that we thought of them. They also told me that they are already working on their documents so they can make it next year.
The camp was a success. Even though we had some trials and tribulations along the way, God showed up. Our challenge to the kids was to become fishers of men. We encourage them to not just be believers and become disciples. I have been hearing lots of comments of kids that took on that challenge. Now they want to make a difference in their communities. It was also AWESOME to finish camp with 6 people getting baptized.

This summer has truly been a fun ride for me and my wife. God continues surprising us, he keeps showing up. His faithfulness is always there and any time we need a word of encouragement, he sends somebody to meet that need. I´m thankful for everything He has given me and thankful for those who have been there behind the scenes supporting us. May God bless you and please keep us in your prayers.   

Thursday, April 02, 2015

SPRING 2015
Last month we had the awesome opportunity of ministering to hundreds of youth at an event called UNIDOS POR EL (United For Him) in the city of LA VEGA. This is an event where around 2,000 people gather every Sunday of February to battle against CARNAVAL. What a great idea! They have been doing this event for about 7 years and this was the first time they called us to be part. We were extremely honored.
For those of you who don’t know, LA VEGA, is like the Dominican capital for Carnival. Carnival here is crazy; it’s an event where people go to get drunk/ high/ etc. The concert that this Christian community does is a free event to attract the non-Christian youth. They said, “Instead of talking about how bad Carnival is for our city; let’s do something about it to change it”.
Every year they bring different kinds of Christian artists from different parts of the country. It’s a beautiful event where Christians from all over the place gather together to worship the same God.  Most importantly, it gives non-Christians another option on a Sunday afternoon.  
Keep the city of La Vega in your prayers because God is doing amazing things through the Christians there and He is going to continue working with more and more people that are going to jump on board to work for His kingdom.
Last year, I remember writing about being able to perform with one of my favorite rappers for the first time; his name is Funky. Well, this year, not only did I get to perform at the same stage with him, but also we got to hang out and talk about music and life. It was a special time for me because through that experience God showed me His faithfulness.
15 years ago I was performing Funky’s songs in different churches and now I got to meet him and get some advice from him. God is good! I even told him that I once named one of my dogs after him; of course, he laughed. I was just happy he didn’t get mad ha-ha.
When we are faithful in the little things God uses us in the big things. The problem many people struggle with is they like to serve only on big stages where they can be seen by the crowd. God doesn’t work that way; we have to make sure our hearts are right before Him. You can’t jump through the 2nd hoop without going through the 1st hoop. One thing leads to the other. Humility is one of the main lessons that Jesus taught us. When we practice that, we will see results we are not expecting.
This week we were honored to have members of Christ’s Church of Oronogo (Missouri) visiting our ministry for the first time. We had a great time with them. There were 29 of them; part of their youth group and some sponsors. But it was very encouraging for me and Lenae to have them visit us and see what we do. Our youth group loves them. It seemed like they knew this group for years. They had a few activities together and they connected right away.
One of my favorite things of the week was on Wednesday night. We had a worship night with both youth groups together, worshiping the same God in different languages. Their youth pastor, Adam, shared with us about holiness. It was great because we have been talking about the meaning of holiness for this entire month. What Adam shared was really good. One of the things that he said really connects with my experience with Funky. He said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” If we do that it would be taking a step closer to holiness.
A BIG PRAISE!
I was honored to be a part of the opening ceremony of our two new basketball courts in Hato del Yaque. I know that many of you worked really hard in the sun for hours to get this project done. We finally did!
While we had two teams there, Current (from Katy, TX) and Wheaton College Football (from Illinois), we decided to do a basketball tournament to officially launch those new courts to the community. A lot of people came, and I could tell they were thankful for the ministry of the Kingdom in their community. Incarnation ministry is where the churches see the needs of the community and get involved.
We performed a few of our songs to celebrate that moment; it was really fun. I couldn’t believe that we finally finished that project. Now it’s cool to see the pastor there playing all the time with the kids from the area. It’s cool to see the respect that they show for our court. Pray for HATO  DEL YAQUE, because I  know God is going to do greater thing there now that we have two basketball courts and a baseball field available to work for His Kingdom.


Friday, February 13, 2015

BEGINNING 2015
WEDDING
We have begun this year with lots of blessings. God is always good and faithful; that the number one reason why I want to be his faithful servant. Because he has been so good to me. This year I had the privilege of performing my first wedding. It was a very special moment for me because the person that asked me to do it was my friend fernando. A friend that through the years  I have witness his growth in the lord. He is one of my best friends, and more than a friend a brother. I have to say that I was very nervous, because it was my first wedding. I’m glad that God helped me, like he always does and I didn’t break down in the middle of the wedding.
JARABACOA
Another big blessing was a youth retreat that we did to JARABACOA, which is a little town in the mountains. It’s a great place to to get out your comfort zone, out of tv and wifi to see the nature and connect directly with the presence of God. In this trip we had 18 kids staying in a cabin  for one night. It was awesome. It was a very special moment because we have the opportunity of sharing everything. We did a cookout, we when to the river, jumped in the pool, play some pool, shared a bonfire, we did life together, and it was great.
My favorite moment of the trip was worshiping a the bonfire. Everyone had a moment to share the things that they were thankful for last year, and the things goals that they had for this year. It was powerful moment because sometime we don’t have the time to sit and think about all the things that God does in our lives. The beauty of the time that we had around the fire that night, was once we started talking about all the thing that God has done for us and all the dreams that we have moving forward, everyone connected with each other. There were lots of tears of joy and thankfulness. I think that we experience a real fellowship during that time because now everyone got to see whats going on in everybody’s lives in a deeper way. In a way that now, when our brother is struggling, now we have a better idea of how to help them, and how to bring encouragement as brothers and sisters. We are truly thankful to God for allowing us to connect in a deeper way. Some of the kids, when to that trip as visitors but now they are part of the body of Christ.
In this year God answered another one of my prayers. In 2006 GO Ministries sent a group of pastors in a missions trip to Colombia for a month. To help them built a Christian school for their church. I was in that trip, and since God started using my music to reach youth, I always wanted to go back and share what God has given me. Even though I always wanted to go back, I wanted to make sure that it was in Gods time. I wanted to be a God thing, it God didn’t go with me, I didn’t want go. I was very specific in my prayers. I wanted to share experience with my wife and and my two partners in rap ministry, Albania and angelito. We prayed and prayed, and as time when by we saw Gods hands working on everything. We needed a lot of money to cover this trip, and as you guys know, every year, we have to raise 5,000 US for CRISTO URBANO camp. So since you guys already support me with this  camp, I didn’t want to go out and also raise money for this trip, so what we did, we sold hats and tshirts. I am very thankful because you all supported me buying them, and that allowed my dream to come true. God provided.
Even after we had the money, we were not sure if God really wanted us to spend all that money to go to Colombia, but we step on faith and we did it. I have to tell you that I cant count the number of confirmations that God used to let us know that we were doing his will. I didn’t want this trip to be a personal desire that I had. I wanted God to confirm that were doing the right thing.
I have to say that in every city that we when, we saw Gods hands working.  Every place that we performed and preached people wanted more of Jesus. Also just as American team get to encourage us with your presence, Colombians also were very thankful and encourage that were there. Most of them we didn’t even know before this trip, God made connections and now we are family. We performed at nutrition centers, drug rehab programs, churches, tv shows, radio shows, and one of the most dangerous basketball courts of Cali. In every place God was with us because people’s lives were changed, and they began a transformation with the message they heard. Overall we had around 11 presentations (including tv and radio.)

We just visited 3 cities, Colombia is a big country, there were 5 more cities that wanted us to visit them but we were there for only 11 days, and didn’t have time. But Lord’s will in the future, in God’s timing we’ll be back. Thank you for all your prayers because have felt them. God has been protecting us everywhere we go. Next time you see either one of us, please as us about the trip, cause there is so much more that happened that is impossible to pod bless you and thank you for always supporting what we do.




 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SUMMER 2014
I wanna start saying thank you to each one of you who supported our yearly youth retreat Cristo Urbano. It takes a lot of planning to make this event happen. This year we had 300 people in attendance. I have been very happy cause every year I can see Gods hands all over this event. He always provides. God always sends the right people to help out at the right time. In the last 6 years of camps, we have seen how he provides what we need. Its funny because every year we have to use our faith in order to raise the money we need for it, find the right lessons that the youth need us to share, the right performers, etc.
I have learn that when God us to built a house, if we are willing and we have the right heart for it, he is gonna send us the wood, hammer and nails for it. Because he always provides to accomplish his will.
Every year I hear testimonies from kids from different parts of the island about how God worked in the lives during camp. And I know we are call to spread the seed of the gospel all over the world. Most times we don’t get to see that seed grow, but when do see it grow, its because God wants us to see his power to encourage us to continue going forward with his work.
This summer we had the privilege of baptizing over 15 people, thanks to the impact that cristo urbano retreat had in their lives. I have also hear lots of testimonies of Christian friends who when to camp and came back with a renew, redeem and restore spirit.
God called us to redeem people through his power. We need to go out and share good new of Christ to everyone. People need to hear that God hates sin but still loves the sinners, and that he want to restore creation. Whenever we become a tool for God accomplish those things, we need to feel honor.
In other hand, we are also very happy for how God has been with us in every stage we perform. He has been opening doors that we have never imagined. We have always dream about using our music to reach people. Now our music is getting a lot of radio play and doors have been opening in different tv shows.  The more we do that, the more people we reach across the island, and one day, I know we gonna be expanding ministry opportunities around latin America.
Last month we had a emotional night for us because we saw God’s hands around what we do. We saw his faithfulness. We opened up a concert for one of our favorite rappers since we were kids. We always dreamed about getting the change to meet him, and God not only did that, he also allowed us to perform in the same stage with him. God is good.
Thanks for your prayers. Lenae and I really appreciate each one of you that takes a time to read our blogs and send us encouragement messages. We love you all, and hopefully we’ll see many of you when we come to the sates for thanksgiving. God bless!