The first Encounter held by the Salta church plant was powerful for everyone. There were 8 participants in the Encounter itself, but even the missionaries putting it on were impacted. The team had spent about two months praying together specifically for this event. We prayed for the victory of Christ in the life of every person that came, for unity in the project, and for God’s will to be done that special weekend. God heard and answered our prayers. Everyone that came that weekend undeniably encountered the Holy Spirit.
It was a roller coaster as we prepared the week of the Encounter. We were rushing around trying to not leave out one single detail. But even bigger is that we were scrambling to get a firm number of participants. Every couple hours there was a new number! We even had someone come that Saturday morning that we hadn’t even thought of inviting. They just showed up!
The encounter is a time to learn about the basics of Christianity, as the majority of people that attend are just learning about who Christ is and his sacrifice for us. There are twelve lessons in the span of two days, and the sessions cover everything from God making mankind in his image, to forgiveness and repentance, to receiving the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful moment when the participants decided they truly wanted to give and receive forgiveness and when they wanted to give the Holy Spirit control of their life. That’s what we’d been praying for: that there would be a Before and an After in each person. On Saturday night there was a surprise party to celebrate the prodigals that had returned home to the Father that day.
At the end of the sessions on Sunday, the pastors had some time to listen to the participants give testimony to how God had impacted and changed their lives over the last two days. Meanwhile the 40/40s set up and decorated the sanctuary to be a beautiful surprise worship service. Families of the attendees snuck in during that time also so that when the participants walked in they could not only be surprised but also feel the joy and support from the special people that fill their lives. There were most definitely tears flowing!
In the service, a few participants shared their testimonies from the weekend. Brian Tibbs also spoke in the service, telling about how Jesus changed Peter’s life and how He changes the life of every person that asks him. He ended the sermon asking anyone who wanted to accept Jesus and let him change their life, too, to come forward so we could pray with them. Not only encounter participants but their family members as well came forward, even asking others who’d remained seated if they were sure they didn’t want to come let Jesus change them, forgive them, and love them.
In the span of two days, God worked in the lives of more than 30 people! From the team members praying in the back room for the Holy Spirit to come, to attendees sitting in the sessions and hearing about this incomprehensible love and forgiveness, to family members simply coming to a service to celebrate with someone else, every person encountered God’s Holy Spirit. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the lost coin and how when it is found, the person celebrates. He says in verse 10: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” We can be sure there was a celebration in heaven that day over the lost having been found again. Praise be to God!