From One Language to Another

May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. (Psalm 67:2–3)

Poverty and abuse were all she knew while growing up in a broken family. During this darkness, however, God shined the light of His grace and power in her life when she was 12 years old. She recently recounted her story to Visión Para Vivir (VPV), the Spanish-language ministry of Insight for Living Ministries (IFLM):

I went to bed one night, and for the first time in my life I was afraid of dying and going to hell. Right there in my bed I cried out to God to forgive me.... I trusted Jesus.... I felt safe and calm for the first time I could remember. My problems did not disappear, and my life remained very difficult. BUT I had [the] Holy Spirit inside of me to help me and guide me. I walked to and from that little church where I had gone earlier [as a child]. I often went to my room and read the Bible I had found in Mama’s room.... Now many years later, I can say that life is not easy, but God is always faithful.

It is the deep joy and high honor for Visión Para Vivir (translated “Vision for Living”) to come alongside precious believers like her to help them in their walk with Jesus and strengthen their confidence in our faithful God in their own heart language.

God has declared that He will be exalted among all the nations (Psalm 46:10), that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9–11). From the beginning of IFLM in 1979, our goal has remained the same: to teach the study and application of the Scriptures wherever the Lord opens doors. We simply desire to participate in God’s global, self-exalting work.

Only a few years into IFLM’s existence, the Lord opened a door for the ministry to expand into a new language! It occurred in 1986, as one student at California’s Biola University determined to translate into Spanish Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s sermons.

From one language to another

In 1984, Chilean pastor, David Hormachea, began studying at Biola to deepen his understanding of God’s Word and sharpen his skills for lifelong ministry. He never expected “chancing” upon the Insight for Living radio broadcast which features Pastor Chuck’s clear expositional method, engaging presentation, and aim at the heart.

But when does God ever work within the realm of our expectations?

These sermons not only fuelled David’s spiritual growth but soon led to a partnership in ministry that would last nearly two decades. He quickly reached out to IFLM with the earnest desire of translating and broadcasting Pastor Chuck’s sermons into the Spanish language. Due to the newness and complexity of the endeavour, Pastor Chuck felt hesitant to pursue it. With a new language comes a new culture. But once IFLM’s president and chief executive officer, Cynthia Swindoll, heard from her husband about the opportunity, she thought YES!

Then, after prayerful consideration, VPV was born!

David quickly began translating and recording Pastor Chuck’s sermons while also developing key contacts in Latin America to prepare to launch. In 1988, HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, and KHCB in Houston, Texas, began airing the first broadcasts of VPV. For the following 10 years, David led a small team that produced and distributed the VPV broadcast.

With David focused on carefully translating and faithfully contextualizing every word of Pastor Chuck’s sermons, the team required additional leadership. So he reached out to friend and former colleague, Ken Grant, who had grown up in Latin America as a child of missionaries and at the time was working in radio at HCJB. Ken joined VPV as manager.

This was a unique season for IFLM because the ministry had begun relocating its international headquarters from California to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Ken relocated straight from Ecuador to Texas while David stayed in Los Angeles to continue his local ministry.

When Ken stepped onboard, VPV was already airing on about 200 radio stations, but Ken streamlined the operations by knowing which of these stations would maximize VPV’s reach across the Americas. Furthermore, Ken also transitioned VPV’s broadcast delivery method from cassette tape to compact discs (CDs), which were much cheaper to produce and ship. (Now, VPV delivers messages via the web using the standard File Transfer Protocol [FTP] system.) The transition to CDs allowed VPV to engage in even more ministry expansion. VPV enjoyed more than five years of Ken’s leadership. Then, as VPV’s global ministry efforts were humming smoothly, God...yet again...ushered in a season of transition when least expected.

But if God worked within our realm of expectations, wouldn’t He be limiting Himself...and us?

From one pastor to another

Our Lord performs new work in our lives that we might sing to Him new songs (Psalm 40:3). First, IFLM called on Ken to pioneer a new international office in Brazil to enhance the ministry’s reach in the Portuguese language. Shortly after Ken transitioned away from his role as manager of VPV in 2006, the time came for Pastor David Hormachea to transition away as well. Both transitions fell into the lap of one person...Carmen Montgomery.

Carmen began working for VPV in 2001 as marketing analyst. Her attentiveness to detail, her insistence upon excellence, and her driving desire to minister to all people in the Spanish language made her a vital part of VPV. Ken’s first request as he transitioned away was that Carmen become VPV’s director. Little did she realize her first task would be to find a new pastor!

Indeed, this new person must be more than a mere translator and “voice” for Pastor Chuck...he must be a pastor. As often as possible, IFLM has used 2 Timothy 2:1–2 as its model for expanding its ministry into a new language:

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Timothy 2:1–2)

Key biblical truths must transfer via relationships from one pastor to another for the benefit of God’s people. Multiplication—that’s the goal. Well, as God was increasing the scope of VPV and finetuning its operations, He was also raising up a new pastor who, in partnership with Carmen, would take VPV to a whole new phase.

Carlos Zazueta in Mexico first discovered Pastor Chuck through English cassette tapes of his classic series Grace Awakening. These tapes revolutionized Carlos’ faith because he had never heard the radical grace of God presented in such a way. Soon, God orchestrated the opportunity for Carlos to study at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).

In February 1998, Carlos first met Pastor Chuck in DTS’ registrar’s office while Pastor Chuck was serving as the seminary’s president. Carlos immediately told him, “I have dream. A book that was given to me, The Grace Awakening, changed my life and defined my ministry. I would love one day to translate your sermons into Spanish.”

God began preparing Carlos to accomplish this dream.

In 2001, Pastor Chuck called on Carlos to found the Spanish-language service at Stonebriar Community Church (SCC), in Frisco, Texas, under Pastor Chuck’s senior leadership. For nearly six years, Carlos co-laboured alongside Pastor Chuck, absorbing his teaching as well as his pattern of ministry. Then, a small series of events led to Pastor Carlos having lunch with Bill Gemaehlich, IFLM’s chief operations officer, which led to Carlos becoming the pastor and voice of VPV in 2007.

Carlos continued his ministry at SCC when he joined VPV. This double connection with Pastor Chuck fueled Carlos’ ability to translate the heart of each sermon to reach the hearts of Spanish speakers all over the world. God so blessed Carlos’ influence that the ministry grew rapidly.

Bill Gemaehlich shared about a trip he took with Carlos to a Central America pastor’s conference:

Everyone treated Carlos like a star! In Guatemala City at Guatemala’s national fairgrounds, he preached before 5,000 people in the auditorium while about 10,000 more listened to him via loudspeakers spread throughout the grounds.

Experiences like these became common as VPV listeners grew accustomed to hearing a new voice on the air. Pastor Carlos has been invited to countless conferences, including many pastor conferences, to teach God’s Word and how to apply it to every area of life in the heart language of his listeners. God saw to it that His goal of multiplication occurred—exponentially so!—through Carlos along with Carmen and the small team of VPV.

Furthermore, because of His abundant grace, God not only used Carlos to take VPV to a new phase of ministry, He also used IFLM to take Carlos to a new phase of life.

The IFLM 2010 Israel Tour would be the first place he laid eyes on her. Yes, Karla immediately caught Carlos’ eye as he shepherded the bus to which she was assigned as a tour participant. Less than two years later, Pastor Chuck pronounced them husband and wife at a beautiful ceremony at SCC. In 2018, Carlos stepped down from his ministry at SCC so he could focus full-time on VPV along with his and Karla’s newly adopted son, Asher, from China. It truly is better to embrace God and His unexpected ways!

Recently, Carlos was called to begin pastoring a Spanish-speaking congregation in Bryan, Texas, as a plant of Grace Bible Church in the College Station, Texas, area. From there, he will continue his work as the pastor, translator, and voice of VPV. While Carlos will remain the only voice of VPV, he does not remain the only pastor.

From one country to another

For the sake of pastoral presence, IFLM always aims at having a local pastor within the country or cultural locale to meet listeners’ needs within that heart language.

In 2009, VPV established its first local pastor Carlos Lopez in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He was the assistant dean of Seminario Teológico de Centro América (SETECA), an Evangelical seminary that has partnered with DTS for more than 90 years. Those who tuned in to the more than 120 radio stations of Central America that aired VPV could connect with Pastor Lopez and the local VPV office in Guatemala City for biblical counselling or to purchase resources for spiritual growth. Now, the baton of leadership in this local office has passed to Jorge Ponce, who uses his extensive experience as a seminary professor, ministry executive, and local church leader to provide a shepherd’s touch to VPV’s listeners across Central America. But that’s not all!

More recently, God provided VPV the opportunity to register a local office in Spain to support our Spanish-speaking listeners across Europe. Indeed, wherever God seems to be opening the door, VPV wants to seize the opportunity to walk through it. God has been faithful to VPV for more than 30 years, so that His Word might reach more and more listeners to bring them into His family and grow them as His children.

Today, the VPV broadcast airs more than 1,600 times a day on more than 700 stations across the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Spain. The website averages about 28,000 visitors every month, and more than 41,000 users have downloaded the VPV app.

When Carmen was asked what excites her about this work, she said:

God is making a huge impact across the world through only a small group of people. It is such a joy to see how God is multiplying our efforts to serve millions of people across 22 countries!

Multiplication—that’s God’s aim. God is exalting Himself from one person to another, from one language to another, from one pastor to another, and from one country to another. Your support of IFLM and VPV makes you a part of God’s self-exalting work. Thank you for partnering with us to preach Christ and His Word in Spanish across the world. Isn’t it a grand privilege to be a part of such a grand mission!

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:10–11)