First-time Cross-cultural Church Planting as Grandparents: The Chilcott Story

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By Ed and Pam Chilcott

As I sit reflecting on the journey of our life, a warm breeze mingled with the fragrance of rain blows across my face. I am immediately taken back to a balcony in Puerto Rico and I hear my wife saying, “We can do this. We could live here and plant a church.”

But let’s rewind the story to the beginning, the real miracle.

We had never been to Puerto Rico before, but as we flew the first time into San Juan for a short-term missions trip, as I looked out of the airplane window, suddenly I saw this picture or vision of planting churches in Puerto Rico, setting up VBI, and training church planters and pastors. I’ve never been a big-picture guy, so this was different for me. I didn’t even share it with my wife yet, as I tried to identify what it was, but I sensed God was in it. Prior to going on the mission trip, I had been in an accident that had left me with nerve damage and chronic pain, but moments after arriving in San Juan my pain levels were less. By the next day, I was not needing the use of a cane. Others on the team could not believe it.

We immediately felt at home on the island and developed close relationships as we assisted with church repairs and VBS. As our first visit to the island ended, we sat down to talk with Pastor Marvin Suarez and shared our desire to return and assist in any way to advance God’s Kingdom.

When we returned to the mainland, we shared what we sensed with our pastors and things really accelerated! We began to immediately share with our friends and gather prayer partners. Soon, with Fort Collins Vineyard’s blessing, we started raising financial support. We sold our home and prepared ourselves for the changing culture and the move to Puerto Rico.

We prepared to meet with our sons and their families to talk about, “Why go?” and “Why now?” We wanted our grandchildren to understand the call we felt from God. I can still hear one of our youngest grandsons answering my wife when she asked, “Do you know why Grandpa and Grandma are going to Puerto Rico?” He stood up and said, “You need to tell other people about Jesus and His love so they can know.” Tears streamed, and we all hugged. Our families were very supportive, but leaving them behind was the hardest part.

In January of 2007, we made the leap!

The first months were filled with mixed emotions: happiness, loneliness, frustration over not having the items we were used to, not understanding or being misunderstood, and cultural differences, just to name a few.

Even with all the adjustments, the love God gave us for our new home and the people of Puerto Rico continued to grow. We adapted to the culture and learned to enjoy traditional island foods. In 2011, I began having new health issues. As these health issues progressed into 2012, I flew back to Colorado. During that next year, I had several surgeries and remained in poor health. My wife returned to Puerto Rico for a short time to gather our belongings and assist with the transition of passing the church plant to Carlos Morales and Carmen Morales Gutierrez. The church has grown despite several difficulties and has continued since we had to return to the States in 2012.  Metro Vineyard will celebrate their 11 year anniversary in July 2018.

Returning to life here in Colorado has been a challenge. It felt like leaving our children and grandchildren all over again. Five years later, we still feel a loss, and that uncomfortable question inside, “Where do we fit in now?”, still bubbles to the surface. Our hearts beat with the Father’s heart for the island of Puerto Rico. It is important to us that Metro grows into the church God wants it to be, so we have taken an observational role and stay in casual contact with our “family” in Puerto Rico. God has been faithful to the vision that he showed us on that first visit to the island. Under the leadership of Marvin & Cuchy Swarez, there are now four Vineyards on the island and more in the seed process as Puerto Rican inhabitants are now rebuilding life after Hurricane Maria. The longing to step out onto the water with the Master and walking into the unknown of growing the Kingdom wherever He may lead us next is still part of us and likely will be until the day we see Jesus face to face.