Font Size » + | -By Edgar E. Figueroa We all love to hear the “rags to riches” stories. Our family’s story, however, is quite the opposite. I was born in Miami, Florida, where my dad, Edgar R. Figueroa, had a great job and made good money. In fact while growing up, I was able to buy a brand new pair of tennis shoes every week. My dad chose to give all that up in obedience to God calling him to be a full-time pastor in a migrant community. It started around 1995 when my dad would go to visit my aunt who lived in Moore Haven, Florida. Moore Haven, a small community of no more than 3,000 people, is known as “fisherman’s paradise.” Located on the banks of Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River, Moore Haven offers freshwater fishing, camping, and hunting. Dad loved the outdoors and our family would visit to go fishing or duck hunting. Edgar R. and Ana FigueroaMoore Haven is also known for oranges and sugar cane and employs many agricultural workers (migrant workers). My aunt speaks English but a lot of the workers don’t, so my aunt would help them out. When my dad went to visit, he also connected with the agricultural workers and learned they were hungry for the Lord. Soon Dad was going up to Moore Haven on a weekly basis, ministering under a tree to about five or six guys and their wives and children. My aunt had a shed on her property (basically a few two-by-fours with a zinc roof overhead) where she stored some tractors. It was no bigger than 10 by 15 feet, but after a few months of meeting underneath a tree, we emptied the shed out and added some chairs. Dad would speak every Saturday evening to whomever would come. This weekly gathering turned into a service with praise and worship and a hot meal. The workers could come straight to “church” from work, and they and their families could go home having had a hot meal. We did that for a few years. The neighbors were not happy at first. They would throw oranges and lemons at us. It got to the point that the banging of fruit hitting the zinc roof didn’t even startle us anymore. Finally in 1998 we bought an abandoned brick house on the highway that we transformed into a church that could seat around 60 people. One day when I was around 14 years old, my dad called the family into his bedroom. (Our youngest sister had not yet been born.) He said, “We’ve been traveling every weekend to Moore Haven for two years now.” (In fact, Dad was traveling on Tuesday nights for Bible study as well.) “I feel the Lord is calling me into full-time ministry. You understand when God calls someone, He calls the entire family as well. If we do this, we will have to leave the house and luxuries we have here in Miami. I want to make sure you guys know what you are doing because I don’t want you later to complain that before we served the Lord we had abundance and now that we are serving the Lord there are things we want that we can’t get. This season may last months or several years.” My mom and sister and I looked at each other and decided that if God was calling us, we were willing to “come at” whatever came our way. Dad went from making a good income to making no income. Not only was the church small, but the average yearly income of our parishioners was probably about $30,000. We were not a wealthy church. Nonetheless a funny thing happened. Dad met Bob Burdin, and for whatever reason Brother Bob liked my dad. It’s funny because Bob is a tall, white man. My dad is short, a little on the chubby side, and Hispanic. It was quite amusing watching them embrace and interact. My dad referred to Bob as a divine connection. Agape Christian Academy serves students from kindergarten to twelfth grade.At that time we were sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor of the church on the weekends. During the day we would use the rooms as classrooms for the church and then at night turn them into bedrooms. When Brother Bob found out about our sleeping situation, he said, “Brother Edgar, I believe God sent you to this community for a reason. I don’t want you to stay here [in the church] anymore. I have extra beds at our house. Right now it’s just me and my wife at home. We have five bedrooms and two living rooms. I’ll separate a bedroom and living room for me and my wife. The rest will be your house for the weekends.” In 2000 my parents moved to Moore Haven. I stayed in Miami to pursue my college education and traveled to Moore Haven for church with some friends each weekend. A couple years later, Bob told my dad that years back when he bought his house the Lord had told him that one day he was going to give that house away to one of the Lord’s servants. He then told my dad, “Pastor Edgar, I believe that guy is you.” My dad was getting ready to leave on a trip to Mexico to minister at a church when Brother Bob said to him, “Pastor, I want you to know something. Right now you are going to take care of God’s work in Mexico. But this house is a testimony that as you take care of God’s work, God is taking care of you and your family.” “…this house is a testimony that as you take care of God’s work, God is taking care of you and your family.” He gave Dad the keys to the house, the deed, and a couple thousand dollars for ministry in Mexico. The house is beautiful. It has five bedrooms, a pool, and a pool house. My parents live there yet today. That’s just one of the testimonies we have experienced. One of our church members, the owner of a car dealership, has given us about five cars. He’ll come up to my parents, drop off the keys and the title, and say, “The Lord told me this car is for you.” Ministry Provision Miracles Classrooms are cheerfully decorated and well equipped. On a ministry level it has been even more exciting. Our school is a miracle. In 2005 my youngest sister was attending a small, Christian school in the next town. The board of the church that sponsored the school was frustrated because the church’s newly constructed building was getting damaged. (Anyone who has children can understand how that happens!) The board told the pastor, “We have to close the school or this building won’t be here much longer.” The pastor called my dad and said, “When I was praying the Lord brought your name to my heart. I believe the Lord wants me to talk to you about taking over the school. I will sell you the rights to the contract with the curriculum company and the furniture for $3,000.” Astonished at the incredible deal, my dad said, “How much?” The pastor explained, “We don’t want to make a profit. I want to give it to someone who continues the vision because I believe in it.” Dad asked our board to pray about the matter because in addition to the $3,000, we would need to raise an additional $4,000 to remodel our facilities to accommodate a school. One of the ladies said, “Pastor, I know your vision and your heart. I think this is a response to your prayers.” Dad said, “If that is your sentiment that is great, but we will need $7,000.” A student happily poses for a picture.Our church had a savings fund of $3,000 that we planned to use for a bus someday, but even with that, we were still about $4,000 short. The lady said, “Don’t worry. By the end of the day, I’ll bring you the money.” At the same time with around 70 in attendance for Saturday and Sunday services, our church was already filled to capacity. There was a labor camp in our community complete with residences for its workers. They had also built a soccer field, a playground, and a church, which had not been used in years. The church was picturesque, a white, old-fashioned country church with a bell on top. We went to the camp manager and asked if they would let us use it. The manager, who had heard about our ministry, said, “Pastor, I believe that anything that is God oriented can only bring good to a community and if you use the building nothing but good will come to this community. If you clean it up and pay the light bills, you can use anything you want.” The entire church, which sat around 110 people, was constructed out of wood – even the walls. The pulpit was beautiful. So at the time we were signing paperwork for a new school, we were also signing paperwork for a beautiful, larger sanctuary. Our church was drawing around 100 people a weekend. God was moving in awesome ways. I moved back to Moore Haven to help with administration of the school. We began classes with just over a dozen students, using the transformed brick house for the school. In fact many of us survived a hurricane in the school. Most of our parishioners live in mobile homes. Since they had to evacuate, they came to our brick building, and we ended up having a healing crusade. One lady who was unable to have children was healed. A young man who couldn’t speak was healed. Even though Hurricane Wilma raged outside, we were having a healing service inside. By 2007 we had outgrown our beautiful, wood church. The brick building we used for the school could accommodate 25-30 students, and we were maxed out there as well. Knowing our resources were limited, we just prayed. God connected us to another amazing resource, the J. J. Wiggins Memorial Trust Fund. J. J. Wiggins was a wealthy gentleman who had donated resources into a trust fund to help local youth. Part of the money had been used to build a youth center, which we had used for some of our youth activities. Aware of our ministry in the community, their board asked to meet with us to discuss our future plans. After a couple meetings with them, one of the board members said, “Edgar, you are looking for a building to rent or buy. We are looking for a way to better expand our funds. The funds were to serve the youth and we believe that’s what you are doing. I think God has connected us.” Two weeks later we got a call to come to the Trust’s board meeting. They said, “We want to construct a 9,000-square foot building and rent it to you for $2,000 a month. It includes plenty of space (five acres) for kids to play in. You just have to keep it up and pay the utility bills.” The building was constructed in 2008, and in 2009 we got the keys to a brand new building. We would still need to furnish the building and put in carpet, which we had estimated at $35,000, so we knew we had to do some fund-raising. Then a friend of ours “happened” to receive a visit from one of his friends. The two of them had come over to tour our new building, and we were sharing with them how God had provided for us. We mentioned that we still needed furnishings and flooring. The friend said, “That’s funny because I own a carpet installation company. I want to donate the carpet.” A glimpse of some pf the faces of students thankful to receive a quality, faith-based education.We explained that the carpet was for the entire building, including the sanctuary. Looking at the building, he said, “Over the Fourth of July holiday, I’m going to send you seven of my guys. All I need you to do is to feed these guys and they will carpet your building in three days. It will be my gift to you.” So all that carpet ended up costing us a mere 60 tacos. It has been provision after provision. My cousin who works for DHL delivery solutions told me she had a warehouse they had to close that contained office furniture they needed to clean out. We got desks, cubicle panels, chairs, and executive wood desks. God furnished our new building that we did not pay for with blessings and donations God has divinely connected us with. So our church and school now had a new home. By 2017 the J.J. Wiggins Trust had stopped using their original youth center. Since they had put up our building, they now had two buildings. Last July they asked if we wanted to use the first building as well. That building has 12,000 square feet of space, 12 acres of land in the front, and 80 acres in the back. We would not have to pay rent, just water and lights. So in August of 2017 we moved the school into the original youth center of the J. J. Wiggins Trust, freeing up the new building for the church and children’s ministry classrooms. Transformation Miracles We have seen miracles such as liberations, former drug addicts now serving the Lord, several women who couldn’t have children being able to conceive, and students who left for college coming back and serving here. Each summer we lead our youth on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic. In 2011 we opened a school there which we support from offerings we collect during our chapel services. It’s a lot less expensive to operate a school over there. “The way God trusts us is exciting and scary at the same time. We believe in God but the crazy thing is He believes in us, and we can’t disappoint Him.” We are intentional about catering to both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people. It’s exciting to see what God does. As you can imagine, a lot of our congregants have money troubles because of low-income jobs, so we teach Financial Peace classes. (I translate a lot of that material.) As people learn to manage the little they have, God trusts them with more. One of our high school students who graduated in 2010 has his own business now. When someone accepts the Lord in our church, we often take them to a retreat to help them deal with their past, talk about their new life in Christ, and just minister to them. One gentleman accepted Christ and went to a retreat but then ended up going back to Mexico because of immigration issues. We are excited to report that he attended a Bible institute and is now starting a church and transforming his community there! Testimonies like his abound – families who have accepted the Lord here are now pastoring churches. Thanks to Open Bible Agape Christian Center the future looks bright for these beautiful children.Many who attend our church are migrants and we don’t always get to keep them, so we have to teach them as much as we can while they’re here. When they move, social media helps us stay connected. I lead a young adults small group and we FaceTime with our college students during that time. That way we are still connecting them with their home church while encouraging them to get educated. Inste Global Bible College (IGBC) has been a great discipleship tool. Our church team makes all this possible. Our discipleship team is willing to do whatever it takes to help people grow in their faith. My dad says, “If I’m remembered for anything, I want to be remembered as someone who believes God.” Dad has what we call “crazy faith.” In a recent board meeting we were talking about my dad’s faith and concluded, “The way God trusts us is exciting and scary at the same time. We believe in God but the crazy thing is He believes in us, and we can’t disappoint Him.” We recently had an interview with Edgar E. Figueroa! Watch the interview below. About the Author Edgar E. Figueroa is the Education Administrator at Centro Misionero Agape Biblia Abierta (Open Bible Agape Christian Center) and an administrator at Agape Christian Academy, a K-5 through 12th grade Christian school, both in Moore Haven, Florida. He has invested himself in preparing the next generation of leaders.