Pastor / Church Planter - Barcelona, Spain
Jairo became an elder of Evangelical Church of Grace in February of 2010. He and his co-pastor, David Barceló, share the ministry responsibilities of this growing church. In addition, there are several different needy churches and groups of believers scattered throughout the region that Jairo is actively working to strengthen and train.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in 1959 in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, the seventh among eight children – three boys and five girls. My parents came from a very poor rural area to the capital in search of better opportunities. My father worked on the construction of train tracks and my mother was a housewife. When they arrived in the capital, they lived very precariously and during their time of poverty, my father began to attend a moderate pentecostal evangelical church that met in a place near his house. There the pastor began to visit and teach him. My father converted to the Lord before my mother. She did not want to come until after a few months, when she saw changes in the character of my father, who had left drinking and treated her better. Thus, my parents arrived at the feet of Christ.
When I was born, my parents had already had a long history in the Christian life. We attended a large church. In my childhood, I remember that my mother was a Sunday school teacher. My father lived very busy in his work as he was running a small industry related to food products. My mother was also busy at home and working with other sisters to visit women's programs in the church choir (she had a very good singing voice), and as a Sunday school teacher. I do not remember ever hearing my father preach, but instead he liked to give Bible studies. At home, however, our devotional life was poor. I remember my father praying "in tongues" and that was a bit strange because he was always repeating the same words that I could not understand, and it even scared me.
At that time, my father also spent a lot of time in church planting. He was not a pastor, but had a strategy to reach different neighborhoods by showing Christian films and attracting many people. He did this several weeks until the group was large enough that another brother could come to take over the church. As a child, along with my sister, we used to sing special songs during worship services.
In short, I can say that I grew up in a very active ‘church’ environment, but that in my close family environment, I did not have much access to my parents. I only remember two occasions when my father had some meaningful gospel conversation with me, and in both cases, it was during my adolescence. One of them to tell me a dream I had had in which I looked like I was lost, and in the other to warn me of the dangers of meeting with unbelieving friends. On the other hand, my mother was very hard with us. She was the one who led the discipline at home.
So I grew up, attending churches but not understanding the gospel. When I finished high school, I still attended church but more because of the custom and because I did not want to contradict my parents. My interest changed when I met the woman who is now my wife (Ruth), who was attending another church. My parents did not insist that I continue to accompany them to their church, so I decided to go with them some Sundays, but on Saturdays I went to the other church.
Then came the time to start my university studies. When I was eighteen, without much thought, I decided to go to another city far away to study. During my first vacation, I came home and started a dating relationship with Ruth. At six months, I wanted to be baptized, so on another trip home, I asked the pastor.
I lived as if in two waters. One that led me to want to be faithful to the Lord and another that made me depart from him. It was always a very strong internal struggle. I knew that I offended the Lord because I lived like my roommates, but then I tried to appease Him by doing good works when I was in my parents' house and in the church.
It was on one of these trips home when the Spirit of the Lord put a true conviction of sin in my heart. I remember that it was one night that I understood my situation of spiritual misery and I cried before the Lord bitterly. However, it was not until later that I realized that the Lord had forgiven me. It was two different moments, but in the end, it was the very work of God bringing conviction of my need for Him. I still did not understand all the truths of the gospel, but I knew I was His son, and that He forgave me!
A year after finishing my engineering studies, I married Ruth and decided to live in the capital and began attending another church. It was a young church and we soon joined and began to develop ministries among teenagers. Thus, from the beginning of our married life, we have always been linked to churches wherever we have lived.
However, it was not until our arrival in Spain in December 2000, with our three children and studying a doctorate, that by the providence of the Lord we began to grow in our understanding of biblical doctrine. I thank the pastor who took the time to teach us. It was a special time in which I was freed from a great weight of not being clear about what God's grace meant. I began to spend many hours with my children, and to learn personally the biblical doctrines by reading from the Word. This was a vital time of growth in my faith and family. It was then that I started to realize what the Lord had already begun long ago – leading me to serve Him in ministry.
Today I can say that I love the Lord, that I want to continue serving Him, and be an instrument in His hands. All of this is in response to His immense mercy He has shown me.
Calling to Ministry
From the beginning of our marriage, the Lord has allowed us to serve in different ministries. Immediately, we started ministry with the group of adolescents in our church. We had weekly meetings, retreats and camps with them. Also at that time, the church wanted me to be part of the leadership team. I was young and inexperienced, but being with missionaries and pastors led me to learn how to deal with the different situations that were present in church life, to trust in the Lord's guidance, and to wait upon Him.
After this experience, we went to live in Mexico City because the institution I worked for granted me a postgraduate scholarship. When we arrived, we had a hard time finding a church, since we did not know any Christians in that big city, and those we visited initially turned out to be very fundamentalist. But after a few weeks, we found a small church that was beginning its plant in the city. We met wonderful brothers who welcomed us and made us feel at home. Our participation was more limited, because my studies were very demanding. Additionally, living abroad was a greater emotional burden. The support of the church was vital to us, not only for its warmth, but for its valuable help when my wife lost a baby we were expecting; and also when our second child was born. I knew then that the church was not just for the teaching of the Word, but was a refuge for the most needy.
Upon returning to Colombia, we went to live in a town because the big polluted city was not beneficial for our new son as he had to be hospitalized for a few weeks. We arrived at my wife's hometown and immediately joined the church. By that time, I already had experience in church leadership and in the teaching of the Word. I understood that the Lord had given me the gift of being a teacher so I was able tohelp the pastor and carry out work in both aspects during the next ten years that we were in that town. My ministries were teaching, preaching, administrative work, and helping in the church´s small school. There was a time when the church was left without a pastor, so I took on more church responsibilities by preaching, visitation and counseling, and that is when I began to think about serving with more dedication.
After these ten years, I had become a professor in a university in Colombia, and I came to Spain to study for a doctorate degree in engineering. Here we began attending a reformed Presbyterian church. It was the first time that I encountered the reformed doctrines in an explicit way. It was very liberating for me, and for my family to be able to understand these great truths. During my studies, my service in the church was limited, but I also had an opportunity to preach. It was then that by the Lord's providence, David Barceló arrived in Barcelona after studying at seminary, with the intention of planting a reformed Baptist church in Barcelona.
We immediately joined the small group. We were there for the entire process of church formation, and witnessed the way God was working. I began to participate in leadership meetings, to lead the prayer group, and to preach sporadically. Over time, the church and Pastor David saw me as a potential co-elder. After a process of verification of the biblical requirements and prayer, I was called by the church. In February of 2010, I was ordained as a pastor of Evangelical Church of Grace.