Antonio Estrada, Senior Pastor, Baptist Mission La Gracia de Dios, San Carlos, La Union.
Antonio was born on December 9, 1954 in San Miguel, El Salvador. He lived with his parents in a rural area outside San Miguel during his early years, but at age 14 he moved into the city, to live at an aunt’s house, so he could continue his education. Then, in order to finish High School, he got a job as a mechanic and worked during the days at the shop and went to school at night.
A few years later, in 1978, he was offered a better job in a more prestigious and multinational shop. He worked there for 20 years.
When Antonio was 26 he met his wife, Emperatriz, in a business that was located close to his shop. He recalls that it was love at first sight. They began to go out together and get to know one another and after just 3 months of dates and talks they decided to get married. Their marriage began full of dreams yet they were both missing Christ in their lives and vices were a growing problem in those early years. Fighting about Antonio’s alcoholism became a daily battle. In 1982, right after their second wedding anniversary, their first son, Jose Alberto, was born on May 15, 1982. Parenthood brought Antonio to the point of realizing that he needed God, deep in his heart he desired to be a good father and a good example to his first born son.
Empeatriz’s sister invited Antonio and his wife to church. At church Antonio was very impressed with the joy and peace he perceived was present at church. Soon both Antonio and Empeatriz understood and trusted Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives. Then they began their spiritual growth and the beginning of their service to the Lord.The Estrada family also grew larger as two more children were born, Gerson Daniel, on May 2, 1985, and Sara Eunice, on May 27, 1987.
In 1987 the Estradas were called along with another pair of families to start a new mission in Chaparrastique, San Miguel. Antonio took on the role of the co-pastor while also continuing his secular job. During 11 years he worked and served in ministry preaching and holding evangelistic outreaches.
Then Antonio received a promotion at this job and a big raise. He thought that life had never been better; he had a fantastic and well paying job from Monday to Friday and was a co-pastor of a church that was growing quickly on the weekends.
Then, Antonio and several members of that congregation began to feel a burden for the department of La Union. It was being taken over by gangs and crime; wide spread violence was the daily norm. Antonio knew that La Union needed Jesus. So he began to pray and soon a team was formed, which included him. Soon they decided to travel from San Miguel to La Union every weekend and preach the gospel in the streets of La Union. The need to open an evangelistic work there became more and more evident in Antonio’s heart and mind.
After a few months of prayer, trips, and service, Antonio began to ask the Lord to send him to La Union. And the Lord began to intervene in circumstances. Antonio’s boss informed him that he would be transferred to another shop location, one that would no longer allow him to serve the Lord as co-pastor of the Chaparrastique church due to the distance. Antonio was at a crossroads in his life, he decided to quit his job and by faith, dedicate his life to full time ministry.
A few months later Antonio was commissioned to be the Senior Pastor of this new work in La Union. Still to this day, Antonio remembers, with joy, how the Lord blessed his step of faith and has used him to fulfill His purposes in La Union.
In 1999 the Estrada family moved to La Union and established themselves there. To this day Antonio and his family continue to serve in this work.
A Little bit about the Baptist Mission La Gracia de Dios, in San Carlos, La Union:
The founding members numbered 12 people. Nevertheless they still always received a lot of support from the Chaparrastique home church family, who traveled on weekends from San Miguel to give the Estradas all the support they needed for Sundays.
The Estrada family worked together and raised up such ministries as Sunday school, a youth group, and a praise and worship team. And at the same time Antonio and Emperatriz began doing serious discipleship with the new believers. Eventually these people were trained to be teachers and workers within the church and for the purpose of strengthening the church.
Over the years the economic situation in La Union has gone from bad to worse. The gangs and crime have increased and little by little the citizens of La Union have moved to other departments of El Salvador or to other countries.
This situation has affected the youth more than any other age group. The Estrada family has been saddened by the number of children who were once faithful members of their Sunday school classes, but who are now part of gangs. They have walked away from the faith; please pray for them that they will return to the Lord.
Some specific details from 2013:
- The current average church attendance is 56 adults.
- About 300 people have heard the gospel through the evangelistic activities in La Union during the year 2013
- 60 people have made professions of faith
- 4 people have joined the church and are currently being discipled
- 6 people have been baptized
- The current church ministries include:
o Women in Victory, led by Emperatriz Estrada
o Sunday School, led by Wendy Oviedo
o Youth Ministry, led by Antonio Estrada
o Small Home Groups, led by Antonio Estrada
- There are 2 Sunday services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Please join us in supporting this mission church by praying:
Please pray that the Lord will protect all the families at this church, especially the youth, so they will not be drawn into the gangs, but rather give their lives to the Lord and live for Him.
Please pray that more souls will be added to God’s Kingdom in La Union and that they may grow in their desire to know Christ through discipleship.
Thank you so very much!
May God Bless you Abundantly!