Called to Bethlehem in the Holy Land
Storytellers: The Contreras Family
Writer: Sheila Holliday
As Joseph and Danielle Contreras set their sights on their move to Israel, the last words spoken by Jesus in Acts 1:8 spur them on: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
This will be the second global outreach call accepted by the Contreras couple, who met in Bible college. Their first calling was to Spain in 1998, where they spent 15 years teaching, letting their lights shine, and enjoying the Spanish culture. Their three sons (now ages 19, 20 and 21) were born there, and Danielle homeschooled them through the 9th grade. With several lifetime friendships made, the family returned home to the U.S. in 2014.
Danielle has known since age 10 she wanted to be a teacher in global outreach. Joseph recalls having a burden for the people of Spain. Joseph shares, “I remember thinking, Spain is in Europe and they don’t need global outreach workers. But I soon discovered most of the people were agnostic, and there was a whole new generation who had not heard of God. What further convinced me was what God told Jonah about Ninevah: And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…? In Romans 10 I read, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
Serving at Home
Three years ago, in 2017, after three years near Danielle’s parents in Florida and with a heart for Spanish-speaking ministry involvement, the Contreras family moved to Southern California. Joseph, Danielle and their sons became active at CrossPoint Church in Huntington Beach. Joseph played electric guitar in worship services. The youngest Contreras, Mike, plays the drums. Middle son Drew plays guitar. Oldest brother Isaiah recently married, works and serves in his local church in Virginia. Their mom, an elementary school teacher, taught CrossPoint preschoolers while she and Joseph facilitated a small Bible study group. Joseph has been making a living working for the U.S. Census Bureau.
In the summer of 2018 while at a Spanish worship service at Refuge Church in Huntington Beach, Joe and Danielle were delighted to run into friends from their college days – Jeff and Ghada Pribble. Their friends were on leave from Bethlehem Academy, a school they had helped establish and where they taught.
“We found out the school needed native English speakers and Bible teachers, and we immediately knew we wanted to use our gifts to help the families of Bethlehem,” says Danielle. “The hardest part will be leaving our boys here – we haven’t done this without them before. Now that they’re in good colleges, it’s the right time. They’re happy for us to get back into full-time global outreach.”
Danielle continues, “Our kids, who grew up in Spain, are what’s known as third-culture kids (children raised in a culture other than their parents' or country of nationality during a significant part of their development years). It’s an important part of who they are, and they really identify with other third culture people. We’re so blessed that all three of our sons are very involved with their church family and want to continue with global outreach.”
From “I’ll Never” to “Send Me”
No one is more surprised about their journey than Joseph. “I always said I’d never do global outreach anywhere other than Spain or in a Spanish-speaking ministry,” he admits. “Danielle and I never planned to learn another language. God has changed our hearts.”
Danielle says she’s excited to learn Hebrew, Arabic and the culture. Joseph says he wants to learn to play a local stringed instrument called the Oud – the ancestor of the guitar. Foremost, however, they’ll need to raise support.
“We know it’s going to be a long road ahead, but we’re stepping out in faith,” says Joseph. “If God wants us there, He will provide.”
For Danielle, she is leaning into one of her earliest life verses: Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. When she thinks about her sons being far away, she finds resolve from Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.
The couple has purchased a trailer where they can live and store a few possessions. When the leave , they will park it on Danielle’s parents’ property. They hope to arrive in Bethlehem by late spring/early summer 2021, and take the summer to prepare for the English, Bible, sports and possibly music classes they will teach for the children.
The Contreras family asks that we please pray for God to open doors and provide the needed funding; that their sons will continue to thrive and grow in their faith; and that Joseph and Danielle will be effective in bringing hope, peace, joy and love to Bethlehem’s children and their families. For updates and to offer support, please “like” Contreras2Bethlehem on Facebook, and visit contrerasforchrist.org.
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