Fortino Guzman, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista el Buen Pastor Ingleside, maintained the conviction that believers must be good stewards of all God gives them, including handling money. For 24 years, Pastor Fortino has led his congregation to live in such a way as to leave a biblically-based, positive impact on their community. These principles weighed heavily on Pastor Fortino’s heart as he prepared for the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas in McAllen in June 2019. There he found STCH Ministries Faith & Finances ministry, a nine-week study teaching families and individuals how to overcome financial obstacles. The opportunity to understand practical issues of money management based on biblical principles taught in Spanish excited Fortino. Finally, he knew how to equip his congregation to impact the generations to come.

Through the study, ten families learned to create a budget, set goals for saving and discovered how to avoid new debt while managing existing loans. Jeny Guzman, Pastor Fortino’s wife, shared that most people operate within the thought that they deserve to buy whatever they want, never considering God’s expectations. She learned the popular idea that money buys happiness is a lie. “This class has taught us the importance of discipline; we have to be responsible for everything God gives us to show others true happiness comes from Him.”

Jeny realized, “responsibility demands sacrifice.” The importance of working together to stay within the family budget led the couple to commit to meet their financial goals. Each found habits needing a change. Jeny decided to run the laundry machines only when she has a full load to save money on energy, water and detergent. Pastor Fortino promised to turn out lights when he leaves a room. Making these lifestyle changes allowed them to become more available to serve as a blessing to fellow believers when the need arises.

Newlyweds, Alejandro and Fatima Mendez, the youngest couple in the class, were surprised to learn God cares about financial decisions and that the Bible speaks clearly on the subject. Alejandro shared that he feels most people would benefit from the Faith & Finances class. He explained the importance of knowing what pleases God. “The more money we have, the less we think about it – we forget what money is truly for.” Together, they reduced their spending and created a monthly spending plan and a plan for saving money too.

Three generations of the Chapa family attended the meetings. Neither Rafael nor Enedina were Christians when they got married. Rafael came to Corpus Christi from Mexico in 1990 to work in the oil industry where he could earn a good salary. Earning a decent wage gave him a sense of accomplishment. The young couple did not understand how to manage the money they received; they never established good spending habits. Enedina spent much of her free time shopping, because she could. After they gave their hearts to Christ and started to tithe, they understood God had kingdom purposes for their money. Rafael began working as a welder. As he matured in his walk with Christ, his employers recognized his trustworthiness.  They promoted him to Shift Leader, then to Foreman and finally a Superintendent in his company. He expressed great expectations for the future as the family managed their finances according to the principals of the Bible. Through the Faith & Finances study, Enedina developed the habit of only going to the store when she had a list of actual needs in hand. Two of the couple’s three adult children attended the study as well. “We are leaving a legacy, teaching our children that the Word of God applied to our finances can impact people’s lives,” Rafael reflected.

Miguel and Conchita Martinez, leaders in the church, have been married for 50 years. Miguel kept careful control of the family’s finances even before placing his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, he discerned the importance of money after he began to tithe regularly 48 years ago. Their children learned well from Miguel to follow God’s plan in all things. Their adult kids never considered the possibility of not tithing. When Pastor Fortino first introduced the Faith & Finances class to the congregation, Miguel did not pay much attention to the idea. Conchita’s suggestion they attend together caused him to wonder why they needed to listen to someone else teach them what they already managed well on their own. She reminded him that believers never learn in a vacuum, “The Lord teaches us so we will pass the blessing along to the whole church; God blesses our obedience when we care for the community.”

STCH Ministries’ commitment to partner churches continues long past the final class. Yesenia Acosta, Administrative Assistant for Faith & Work as well as Faith & Finances Corpus Christi, moderated the class at El Buen Pastor.  She will continue to follow up with class participants after three and six months to encourage them to continue with the action plans that they put into place. Pastor Fortino will host another session of Faith & Finances in 2020. Alejandro and Fatima along with Miguel plan to become mentors for other Hispanics in their area who take the course. Rafael, Enedina and Jeny will soon take the facilitator certification class to lead their church family  and any others wanting to understand Biblical money management principals. “We are a church with a future,” Jeny said. “It is important that we leave this fingerprint, this teaching, for those who are yet to come.”

For more information about Faith & Finances, please visit: https://www.STCHM.org/faith-finances/