LATIN AMERICA DIRECTOR
My name is Juan Carlos Melo. I serve as the Latin America Director with Multiplication Network Ministries (MNM). I am a native Ecuadorian but my wife Saara is from Finland. We have two adult children—Samuel and Sharon. Saara and I live in Quito, Ecuador.
I became a Christian when I was 12 after attending VBS for a few summers. Ever since then, the fire to serve God has burned in my heart. I immediately began to tell my family and friends about Jesus. I started a discipleship group in my friend's house and developed a youth program at my church. My work as an itinerant youth pastor put me in contact with many churches when I visited them at their invitation. My relationship with various denominations allowed me to understand the differences between each one and develop doctrinal flexibility and love toward all my brothers and sisters in Christ.
When I married Saara, we went to live in Finland for a few years. There we began working with a small group of Latino believers in the growth of the Hispanic church in Helsinki. We launched a project to help sustain Cuban pastors, who continue to receive monthly support through the church in Finland. In 2001, the church in Malmi and the Finnish missionary agency FIDA International sent us as missionaries to Ecuador. When we left, the church we had worked with in Helsinki had grown to 12 active Hispanics and more than 70 members.
In Ecuador, we began to work in restoring and revitalizing a small, ten-member church. In a year and a half, the congregation had grown to 180 people. At the same time we planted a church in another part of the city of Quito. The church began as a small group that met in my car. In its first 18 months, the church grew to 130 members. At that time, we gave leadership of the church to a pastoral couple.
During this time, I received training in church planting through a ministry in Ecuador and was invited to work with them as their National Ministry Coordinator. Through five years of ministry with this organization, God allowed us to help plant a great number of churches. At the same time, I served as the National Coordinator of Ecuador with FIDA International, introducing their drug, alcohol and domestic violence prevention program to the country. We worked with more than 450 churches to incorporate the program into their neighborhoods and schools.
The call to work with MNM came during the best times in my ministry, when everything was going excellently and producing visible fruit. But at the end of 2007, the Lord began to speak to me through John Wagenveld, the founder of MNM, about leaving the ministry I was working with and to begin to develop this new, small and unstructured ministry. This would be a step of faith that seemed to be madness and a very difficult decision to make. But the Lord made it clear to me that this was His will for me. He showed me this was the next step He had planned for my life and that it was an opportunity to grow for His glory.
As MNM's Latin America Director, I ensure the development of MNM's processes and that they are being implemented correctly. I create and strengthen alliances with strategic partners on the whole continent. I work with the development of volunteers, the work team and the field. I train each one of the national coordinators and develop MNM's structure and strategy in Latin America.
I am very excited about MNM's development because of its global growth and results to date—more than 8,000 active church planters in more than 20 countries in Iberoamerica with more than 60 strategic partners (from January 2010 to August 2014). For me, it is very important to continually look to serve God in a way that pleases Him. It is through His grace that He is giving us growth in vision, strategy, resources and partnerships.
I am currently the pastor of Iglesia Viña de Asambleas de Dios, which consists of a few congregations that are in a constant process of multiplication. This allows me to continue my work as a pastor and as a mentor to church planters. I am a visiting professor in the department of church growth at the South American Seminary Ecuador (Semisud), the seminary of the Assemblies of God (SEBAD) and others.
I studied marketing in Ecuador and industrial logistics in Finland. In 2014, I was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology from the University of North Carolina in 2014. In my ministerial work, I have learned one of the greatest obstacles we each encounter is ourselves. Many times our prejudices, barriers and limitations impede us in seeing what God has for us. We have fears and incredulity. We need to continually seek to break the status quo by putting ourselves into situations that make space for growth. It is impossible to grow in a rigid space. We need to break out of our "cocoon" so God can teach us to fly and show our colors for His glory.
My prayer request for my life is that I will always be teachable and responsive. The Lord has been speaking to me through Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
My wife and I desire to serve the Lord and His beloved Church for the rest of our lives. We want to do this specifically in the areas of awareness, training, and mobilizing the Church in the world toward planting new churches in a healthy and holistic way.