In 2006, Johnny Cabezas opened an industrial freezer and refrigerator repair business south of Guayaquil, Ecuador, across the street from a Seventh-day Adventist church. Sometime later, Cabezas met neighbor Mariana Navarrete, and they became friends.
Navarrete, a Seventh-day Adventist member who attended the church, invited Cabezas to go with her on several occasions. Every time, Cabezas politely declined.
“I am not into religion,” he said.
But Navarrete did not give up. One day, after discussing with Cabezas the biblical teaching about tithe — the return of 10 percent of one’s earnings to God — she encouraged him to give it a try. Cabezas complied, and before long, his business began to thrive. Now he was impressed!
He kept thinking, however, that church was not a place for him.
Pathfinders and Bible Studies
After a decade in the neighborhood, one day in 2016, Cabezas’s son said he wanted to enroll in the Pathfinder Club offered by the church across the street. Pathfinder clubs are Adventist Church-sponsored clubs that cater to the physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs of young people, and the young boy wished to be part of it. The local Pathfinder Club helped Cabezas to get closer to the local church community, and he finally accepted an offer to study the Bible.
“But I was more interested in my business than in learning about the Bible,” Cabezas confessed recently when he and his family became members of the Adventist Church through baptism. Local church members shared, however, that God had another tool to bring Cabezas to church. A church member would make him, so to say, an offer he could not refuse.
A Business Helper
One day, Benjamin, one of the Adventist members at the church across the street, stopped by to talk to Cabezas.
“I know how to repair freezers,” Benjamin told him. “I could help you.”
Cabezas accepted, and soon a friendship developed. As they worked together, they would discuss various topics.
“We would exchange opinions about different things, but somehow, we always ended up talking about God,” Cabezas said. “And then Benjamin would end up inviting me to church.”
Cabezas kept rejecting Benjamin’s offers, until the day he was invited to have herbal tea and cookies with a small group of church members. It seemed to be a non-threatening environment, and he accepted.
The herbal tea event was a watershed moment for Cabezas. When he was invited for a second time, he gladly accepted, and he finally decided it was time to start attending the church across the street. A special Family Week sealed the deal, as Cabezas and Monica, his longtime partner, enjoyed the evening meetings.
When the church invited the couple for a special initiative called “10 Days of Prayer,” they said they would participate. Now joining in with the whole family, they began to spend time worshipping God every morning at home.
“I began to close my business on Saturdays and attend church,” Cabezas said.
One Family in the Lord
But there was one more change they felt they needed to make. After studying God’s ideal for the family, Johnny and Monica, who had lived together for many years, decided to get married. Their marriage ceremony before hundreds of members and visitors was a memorable one. Two days into their marriage, they asked to be baptized.
“It was a long journey, but God did not give up on them,” one church member said. “Now we all worship and serve the Lord together, as we await the soon coming of Jesus.”