This article is translated to English by Andrés Castillo. Original article appears in Mosaic News En Español: Banda de Cinco Niños Hacen Travesuras, Hablan por Señas, Corren a Escondidas de Ana y Estudian en Computadores Carta a Julia Donde se Habla de la Inimaginable Marta Castillo y su Ministerio Orgánico by Javier Marquez
The cold has not stopped, and you more than anyone knows that the cold creates bad music in my heart. I haven’t forgotten last winter, when we had the fortune of studying together in the city where you were born and that you love more than any other. Where we shared, apart from readings, a teapot to prepare your tea of aromatic plants, and heat up the water for the coffee that I prepared myself, refusing to use the coffee maker.
As I promised you before leaving for the mission that you’ve given me, I’ll now begin to tell you through this letter of the findings of my surveying, which you have arranged for me during your kind and noble tutoring and discipleship.
After so much effort of long readings, serious reflections, and faithful service, your wise will has understood that the next thing to do is set out on this search of, as you have described it to me, “finding the deep parts of the heart of God in the people I meet and the actions I witness” on this research trip.
It hasn’t been long since I left the comfort of your tutorials, and I now have the joy of being able to tell you of my very first findings. I’ve seen God, in the sense that you’ve incited in me, as the result of a marvelous conversation with a woman who presented a few shards of her life to me—shards which have been more than enough to begin to better understand what “finding the deep parts of the heart of God in the people I meet and the actions I witness” means.
Luego de tanto esfuerzo de lecturas largas, reflexiones serias y servicio fiel, tu sabia voluntad ha entendido que lo siguiente es emprender esta búsqueda de, como bien me lo has descrito, “encontrar lo profundo del corazón de Dios en las personas o en los hechos que conozca en mi viaje de investigación”.
Her married name is Marta Castillo. She lives in Norristown, a place in Pennsylvania that I wasn’t sure was a small city, or a large town. She has lived in this place for many years, where she married years back and raised two sons, Andrés and Daniel. Her husband is from Cali, Colombia, and his name is Julio. Similar to yours—a calendar name.
However, she didn’t always live in Norristown. She is the daughter of two missionaries who brought her up and educated her in Indonesia. Already with only these short lines I am giving you a sheet of implicit information. A childhood in Indonesia, a country of islands and spiciness; the wife of a Colombian, people of coffee and music; plus the ingredient of her United States nationality, a people who you know better than I—but I rise to say about them that they are people with an admirable capacity of curiosity, and of a country with much geographical variety. Marta told me that ever since she was a child she always felt like part of a ministerial team, because her parents always involved her and her younger brother in their work of serving.
She enjoyed this life of service so much that, when she learned that she would have to leave Indonesia, she wanted to travel to any other country that wasn’t her parents’ home country in order to be able to continue with her life of service. This didn’t happen, but as she herself commented in our conversation, “God always has his own plans.”
She studied to be a teacher and after graduating, she volunteered for three years to teach English to children with learning difficulties in Washington, D.C. This gave me an idea of her levels of patience. Afterwards, she was called to lead a youth program at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (NVNNL—Norristown, PA), with the detail that when she arrived, she would be the only young person to lead in the program. Despite this small inconvenience, she remained at NVNNL, a place where she found an honest community that warmly received everyone, and that held its services in different languages, uniting multiple cultures. There, as you have surely begun to suspect with your shrewdness, she met Julio, who she married barely fourteen months after beginning to date. Love is more simple than what one figures.
At this moment our conversation was momentarily interrupted because the waitress brought us hot drinks and some sweet bread that we had ordered a few minutes before. Just then, I noticed a book that Marta had in her bag: Re-discipling the White Church. She noticed that I had turned my attention to her book, and she briefly told me that it contained reflections of a Christian man who had gone through many intercultural experiences, and in that way was able to talk to his brothers and sisters of white churches about what he learned.
At NVNNL, she helped in each corner of the camp. She carried out each task necessary, and one day was offered to be pastor. It was a calling that built up throughout the years. At first, it was a difficult thing for Julio. He wondered, “What does it mean to be the husband of a pastor?” Marta wanted his support, and after about a year, Julio heard God telling him that he couldn’t be an obstacle in the way of his wife’s calling, but rather the total opposite—her support.
In that way started her pastoral ministry that lasted 10 years—a period in her life where she learned something fundamental to her, the importance of sustaining her job as a pastor on the basis of relationships, walking alongside others, conversing with and accompanying people. When the time came when this stage of her life ended, confirmed by a dream of God, she found herself working with Mosaic conference, supporting three churches as Leadership Minister. Today she continues, and it seems that next year she will work with a total of eight. She is also a member of the intercultural team, a job that doesn’t seem easy. She says that working with people of different nationalities and cultures demands flexibility and humility.
Well, the afternoon passed very rapidly despite the cold. But, before I say goodbye to you I’ll share a few words from Marta that I’ve liked:
- “I’ve always liked challenges, my position is to always say yes to God. When one doesn’t feel prepared, or that he or she isn’t capable, God will provide.”
- “At NVNNL I learned from the latino congregation to pray with more freedom. I feel more comfortable and free praying in Spanish than in my own language.”
- “That feeling of never being completely prepared, but always ready.”
I hope to write to you soon about a new discovery on this trip. See you soon, Julia. Protect yourself from the cold and respond to me about your impressions of the first results of my mission. Apologies for the lengthy letter, as I know you’ve repeatedly told me that they’re not your favorite.
The one you only call by the nickname of the Curioso Impertinente (“the Curious Meddler”).
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)