The evangelical pastor Héctor Peñafiel, a master welder, teaches his craft to refugees seeking asylum in Italy. “Now they can plan for the future,” he told Protestante Digial.
Preaching Christ in the midst of red hot irons; that is what Héctor Peñafiel, an Ecuadorian evangelical pastor, master welder, husband and father of five children, and resident of Tione di Trento, a region of Trentino’Alto Adigio, does daily by his example.
A little more than six years ago, his wife traveled to Italy from Ecuador to visit her mom (he married an Italian citizen) and she witnessed the spiritual needs of the region that is close to the Las Dolomitas mountain range. There, the majority had not heard the Gospel, just religion.
“In Ecuador, I had a small business, and we were really active in our local church. We felt the call to move to Italy, but it was not easy an easy decision to choose to leave everything. However, we prayed and God confirmed that that was His will. So, we moved to Italy on February 14 of 2010, without speaking the language or really being familiar with the culture. But the Lord was gracious to us and opened doors we couldn’t have imagined,” explained the man who is now the pastor of the only evangelical church in Tione di Trento and neighboring cities and the Vice President of the Italian Christian & Missionary Alliance.
In the beginning, Peñafiel worked caring for senior citizens. “On various occasions people would call me to be with someone in their final moments, and I had the opportunity to guide many in giving their lives to Christ and dying in peace,” he told us.
Two years ago, the Lord surprised him with a new plan: the organization MORE, located a neighboring village and affiliated with the Catholic church, hired him to teach welding to a group of African refugees. The project has been so successful, that they are now in the process of forming a co-op to sell their exclusively designed iron products, made from donated iron. “What is trash to others we make into something beautiful and very valuable. And these men don’t just learn welding, but to love what they do, and they work tirelessly at it. “Sometimes, I have to turn out the lights to get them to go home,” said the master of Aliou, Alani, Dildar, Obina, Morris and John. The men call him “Capo” and respect him like a father. While they work, he talks to them about the love of God and encourages them to seek his guidance in making decisions.
The first thing that Héctor and his wife Cristina had to learn was that they couldn’t openly preach the gospel without first reflecting Christ in their daily lives. They had to be “open books.”
In the province whose capital celebrated the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563, in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church still has significant influence.
In the province whose capital celebrated the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1563 as a response to the Protestant Reformation, is still governed by significant Catholic influences. “If we say that we are evangelical Christians, the people don’t know what we’re talking about. They don’t understand why we carry around Bibles if we’re not part of the clergy. Because of this, we make sure not to miss opportunities to share our faith in Christ and our confidence in God, and to pray with both Catholics and Muslims for divine intervention in midst of whatever difficulty they are facing. Through this, we have won the love and respect of many including the local priest!” said Peñafiel.
Being a part of the organization MORE has allowed us to be trendsetters, to be salt and light, and to preach through our example. “I am grateful to God for this privilege. For the organization’s leaders, I’m the model of the organization and various have told me that ‘You are a real Christian,” he told us.
The conversation with Protestante Digital took place July 2nd, the Italian Republic Day. To celebrate this important day, civil entities hold official events and special activities all throughout Italy. On this day, the welding workshop “La leggerezza del ferro” had the opportunity to exhibit their products in the Forte Larino, in the city of Lardaro, in the province of Trento.
The project is now known throughout the region and everyday there are more and more opportunities to sell their products. This equates to hope and life for the program participants, that after having had to endure so much suffering and months or years in refugee camps where they weren’t incentivized to do anything, finally have something to work towards in life. “They now have a craft, receive Italian classes, can make plans for the future, but most importantly, they now know that God loves them,” said Peñafiel contently.
Upon establishing themselves in Tione di Trento, the Peñafiel family found many Ecuadorians in their city of 3,600 habitants and the other small populations surrounded by the mountains. Héctor purposed to see where they met on a regular basis and introduced himself along with his family. However, upon identifying himself as an evangelical pastor, he wasn’t received very warmly. But, he didn’t give up. One day, someone gifted him three boxes of apples, and he took that opportunity, to go door to door with his son to distribute bags of apples to the fellow Ecuadorians living there. “Those apples opened many doors. From those interactions, I was able to set up times to visit them again and that’s how I started to share the Gospel. Several people came to Christ and those we started to disciple.”
Now, the church is an official, legally recognized organization. “God has provided us a big house and it’s there that we live and meet as a community of brothers and sisters. We are looking for a different location but we still haven’t found an owner who wants to rent to an evangelical church. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that many pastors face here in Italy,” he explained.
One of the new believers that Peñafiel discipled during this time was the singer Enrique Fares, who at that point was living in Italy. He later returned to Ecuador and now works as an evangelist impacting many for the kingdom.
The church supports their pastor in his work with immigrants. They pray for them, and recently have committed to pay for part of the rent of a home that houses several refugees that have received asylum. When refugees officially receive asylum in Italy, they are kicked out of the refugee centers and left on the street. In other words, compliance with international standards is a façade: they accept the refugees but do not give them the tools that they need to start a new life. For this reason, we’ve decided to form a co-op, to continue to provide classes not only in welding but also in other crafts, teaching them the language and equipping them for their new life. That is what God calls us to do. The Bible speaks very clearly about helping the poor and the foreigner among us,” said Peñafiel as he said goodbye to us at the train station in Trento.
Originally published online in Spanish by Protestante Digital.
Author: Verónica Rossato / Translated by: Jackie Socha / June 6, 2017
Link to original article: http://protestantedigital.com/internacional/42306/Un_forjador_de_la_fe_en_Trento