God is moving in your neighborhood, run with it!
By Lee and Teresa DeMatos
God tricked us into becoming church planters. When you read our story, I think you’ll understand why we say we were tricked. Lee and I had been married five challenging years, raising three wonderful children—mine, his and ours. Our marriage was a mess. One day my estranged father invited me to attend a family reunion where I met Uncle Dan for the first time. He asked me two questions: “Do you know Jesus? Do you put Him first in your life—before your husband and your kids?”
Those questions haunted me. About a month later, my marriage exploded. This was my second marriage to fail. I screamed at God about marriage and how it doesn’t work. When I stopped yelling, all I could hear echoing in my mind were those two questions Uncle Dan had asked: “Do you know Jesus? Do you put Him first in your life?”
I was ready to surrender and prayed, “Lord, I do want to know you, and I will put you first.”
Immediately peace and hope entered my heart. Surprisingly, Uncle Dan called and asked, “Why are you on my mind?” I answered, “I’m going through a crisis in my marriage, and I just surrendered my heart to Jesus.” Uncle Dan drove from Alabama to Massachusetts to see us and led Lee in a prayer of salvation. Believe me, Lee was ready. He said he saw the change in my life and wanted what I had.
Two years later we attended our first DOVE church, Lighthouse Christian Center, and knew we were home. Later, we traveled a bit but remained with DOVE churches. Some were house churches, some large churches, one was a youth church held in a garage. When we came to Worcester, Massachusetts, we attended Calvary Worship Center and helped with a DOVE youth church on Tuesday nights. I taught children’s church, and Lee formed a worship team. Through serving with Calvary Worship Center, we learned valuable principles of church planting, but we had no intentions to plant a church.
We live on an island on a small lake in Worcester. Living on the water was a dream for us . . . so right away, Lee asked God if he could buy a boat. The Lord said, “No, I want you to ask the neighbors to take you skiing instead.”
That was a great way to connect with people. You see, we had prayed for opportunities to meet and build relationships with our neighbors. Lee loves water skiing, 4-wheeling, snowmobiling and construction work. Our neighborhood is full of guys who love those activities, so building relationships was easy for him.
I stayed home and prayed—and that brought results. A neighbor invited us to a Christmas party that conflicted with our church Christmas party. We prayed and asked the Lord what to do. We went to the neighborhood party where Jesus opened the door for us to share our testimony. A woman was deeply touched and shared her struggle with depression and suicide. We asked if we could pray for her. Two weeks later, God answered exactly as we had prayed! That same year, we had a terrible ice storm that left our island without power for six days and gave us the opportunity to share our generator with our neighbors and build relationships. These are a few examples of how we live out Christianity in our everyday lives.
Lee is the evangelist, and I am the prayer warrior. The Lord led me to pray and fast during the month of March that first year we lived on the island. All that I heard from God were the words: “It’s time to march!” We obeyed, not knowing specifically what was coming.
That first summer, the Lord moved like lightning! The lady from the Christmas party got saved and other neighbors too! We started a Bible study August 12, 2009 with five people. Soon thirty-five people attended. By October, we didn’t fit into any living rooms on the island. At that time, multiplying the group was not possible because the attendees were all new believers. We kept inviting all of our neighbors to church on Sundays. November 2009, Pastor Joe Ford told Lee to go and get a building. Lee said, “I don’t want a building. You have a great building. I’ll flip them up on the dock and you clean them.”
But Joe said, “Nope. God is moving in your neighborhood, run with it. . . .” That is how God tricked us into becoming church planters.
As I walked around the island, the Lord spoke to me about a carpet of prayer. We discovered that many Christians before us (for fifteen years earlier) had prayer walked through our neighborhood. We received the harvest from those that went before us. The Lord led me to lay hands on the local bar in our neighborhood while the home group prayed. I laid hands on it and claimed it for the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ name! The bar closed in six weeks! YAHOO JESUS!
We prayed for another month before asking the landlord if we could start a church in the building of the former bar. He said, “yes” and even dropped the rental price by thirty percent. For forty years, the bar had been known for drug dealing, prostitution and even murder. Demons were all over that place, but the body of Christ surrounded us and helped us clean the place.
On March 3, 2010, we held our first worship service in the former bar. It was the anniversary of the murder of the brother of one of the guys who I led to the Lord. He prayed the dedication prayer, “LORD I dedicate this place that the devil used for evil. You will restore it for good.” We all cried and shouted victoriously! God certainly answered that dedication prayer. During that service and ones to follow, many lost people came to receive Jesus: drunkards, drug addicts, prostitutes, strippers, bullies. . . .
People have been physically healed, delivered from drug and alcohol abuse, marriages restored, broken families made whole and disciples made. We are so humbled by how God uses us. We continue growing. We meet in home groups during the week and hold two services Sunday morning. We’re looking for a bigger building! Thank You, Jesus! HE truly gets all the credit. The name of our church is Indian Lake Community Church.