A Heart for Sharing God’s Word

Pastor Jose, his wife, Laila, and grandchildren.

What happens when God takes our passions and redirects them? From a young age, Jose Fuertes had a heart for sharing God’s Word and thought he had found his place of service. However, the Lord was preparing him for ministry beyond what he had ever dreamed.

Something Happened to You

Jose and his three older siblings were born in Panama City, Panama, to parents who loved the Lord and served Him with great joy and enthusiasm. Jose’s father used to tell him Bible stories at bedtime as a young child and always made going to church a priority. One day, his father talked to him about Heaven, and Jose started to ask questions. “Dad, I want to go to Heaven,” was his young heart’s desire. After telling Jose how he could have a personal relationship with Jesus, his father led him to faith in Christ. Jose says, “I still feel great joy in my life when thinking about this memorable moment.”

Jose wanted the church to know he had surrendered his life to Jesus the following Sunday. Their pastor gave an invitation to come forward, and Jose was excited to be the first to walk down the aisle. He was a new person in Christ. His schoolteacher saw an immediate change. “Something happened to you,” she told him.

“…speak because what you know they don’t know.”

As a teenager, Jose became a children’s leader and teacher at their church as he continued to grow in his faith. During his college years, his heart to share the Gospel grew bolder. “I was afraid, but I remember the Lord told to me to ‘speak because what you know they don’t know.’” A calling was beginning to form in his heart and life. Jose felt led to organize a college group whose sole purpose was to share the Gospel. The ministry still exists forty-five years later.

Thrilled to Join

The local church and his faith played a vital role in Jose’s life. He met a young lady named Laila at a church event and invited her to be a part of the university ministry. She joined, and the two soon became a couple. This year, Jose and Laila have been married for 39 years.

Jose owned a barbershop and cosmetic salon, while Laila was a college professor. The Lord has blessed them with three daughters along the way. Life was going well for the Fuertes family, and Jose’s passion for the Gospel grew stronger. He often shared his faith with people at his workplace and in the community.

One Sunday, Jose heard about a meeting for men who wanted to serve the Lord in a higher capacity. His pastor recommended him to the event. Jose learned about the ministry of The Gideons and was thrilled about the possibility of being a part of such efforts. So, in 2010, Jose eagerly joined the Association. “Their emphasis on the Word of God was so evident. I knew there the power of God’s Word, which began as a young child with me and my father’s time in the Scriptures,” he recalls.

“I recall many teachers asking us to pray for them and inviting us to share the Gospel with them. I also had the joy of seeing several children come to know the Lord.”

Jose was a Gideon for six years—taking part in various Gideon-related activities, all while sharing the Gospel. He vividly remembers ministry to schools where principals and teachers invited Gideons into classrooms to share their faith with children. “I recall many teachers asking us to pray for them and inviting us to share the Gospel with them. I also had the joy of seeing several children come to know the Lord.”

A Different Calling

Being a Gideon gave Jose so much joy, yet something wasn’t quite right. As he interacted with local pastors and his own pastor, Jose often felt led to a different calling—to serve the Lord as a pastor. God was redirecting his passions. On one occasion, a pastor felt led to tell Jose, “I feel the Lord has called you four times to pastor.” He knew this to be accurate but always thought he was too young and made other excuses for not surrendering to what the Lord had for his life.

The most challenging part for Jose was knowing he had to give up being a Gideon. The following month, his pastor asked him to be an associate pastor at his church. In 2017, Jose surrendered to full-time ministry as a pastor. Ministry was going well at the church but it was a reasonable distance from where he and his family lived. “It was difficult when I would share my faith and then not have a church to point them to in our community.” They felt led to begin a small group Bible study in their home, and they would invite those they witnessed to in their community to be a part of their small group. Their house was full of people at one point—transforming from a small group to a church. With his pastor’s blessing and the backing of his denomination, they began Iglesia Casa de Fe (House of Faith) in 2018—a church for a community where no evangelical churches existed at the time. Today, the congregation has 40 people and has recently moved into a new meeting space. They are guided by Romans 10:17 and are passionate about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and helping those in need.

The door of his church is wide open to The Gideons—a ministry he still loves dearly. He invites Gideons to frequently share what God is doing in the Association in his church. All three of his sons-in-law are Gideons, and his daughters are all active Auxiliary. He readily recommends that men in his congregation be Gideons, knowing first-hand the impact it will have on their lives.

Shepherding people as a pastor is a calling Jose never saw coming. Yet, God took his passions for God’s Word and witnessing and redirected them. From his time as a Gideon to his current calling to lead Iglesia Casa de Fe, his mission is the same…to share Jesus with as many people as he can for the glory of God.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” –Romans 10:17 (ESV)

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