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After fleeing gangs in Guatemala, family starts new church in Moose Jaw

The Garcia family has planted a new church called Iglesia de Dios Casa de Gloria and meets in the chapel in the Moose Jaw Church of God South Hill campus building
Church of God Spanish church plant
Pastors Marvin and Rose Garcia pose in the chapel of the Moose Jaw Church of God South Hill Campus building. The Garcias planted a new church there called Iglesia de Dios Casa de Gloria (Church of God — House of Glory). Photo by Jason G. Antonio

Marvin Garcia was a successful businessman in Guatemala when the cartels began harassing him, forcing him and his family to flee the Central American country for North America — an event that he believes was God-ordained.

“I had a milk company over there. Everything started going bad when the cartel came to me and (asked) me to work for them. And I said no,” Garcia said recently. “I had to escape from them. They tried to kill me.”

Garcia barely escaped with his life when he fled to the United States in 2007, as the cartels hit him with 23 bullets in his back and head. It would be another 14 months before his wife Rose and two daughters joined him; a son would later be born in the U.S.

The family moved to Moose Jaw in 2017 — it’s 5,328 kilometres from Guatemala to The Friendly City — after living in the U.S. for more than nine years. 

A call from God

“When we came, we start feeling like God moved us to this place — to this city — for the community,” he said. “(So) we started praying (and) we came to Church of God.” 

When church Pastor Larry Hasmatali welcomed the family, he called Marvin and Rose “pastors,” a title they denied since they weren’t ministers or priests. However, Hasmatali replied that the Holy Spirit told him they were pastors even if they didn’t know it yet. 

The Garcias continued praying and asked God what they could do to better serve Moose Jaw. Finally, after 14 months of meditation, they felt called to find a space within Church of God that could support the Hispanic community here and abroad. 

“The feeling came very strong three months before we start the church. A feeling of, ‘You need to start; it’s time … ,’” said Garcia. “Every time I prayed, I heard a voice that said, ‘It’s time.’”

Online services

They eventually planted a new church at the Church of God South Hill campus called Iglesia de Dios Casa de Gloria (Church of God — House of Glory). The first Spanish service was live streamed on Facebook on Nov. 15, 2020; the service eventually moved into the main chapel in January and broadcast from there. 

The first service saw 900 people watch online. Over the next several months, that number increased until it reached 15,000 by mid-July. The broadcast reaches people in Guatemala, El Salvador, the U.S. and Canada.

“I can not come back to Guatemala for the problem of the cartel. So now my country is Moose Jaw … ,” Garcia said. “It’s a beautiful city. It’s multicultural with many languages and (people) from different countries. We want to direct everyone to Jesus no matter their nationality.”

While the church is focusing on reaching Spanish-speaking people, its goal is to hire a translator so more people can understand the services. 

Community worship

The Garcias initially met with other Hispanic families in Regina and Assiniboia to worship before planting their church since they didn’t know any Spanish-speaking people in Moose Jaw. 

The Hispanic pastor in Assiniboia held a multicultural worship concert several months ago, an event that Mr. Garcia also wanted to hold in Moose Jaw. After much planning, Iglesia de Dios Casa de Gloria — in partnership with Moose Jaw Church of God — will hold a similar worship concert on Saturday, July 31, at the Town ‘n’ Country Mall at 4 p.m.

“Honestly, we are moving by faith. We start doing planning the concert with no funds, no sponsors, no anything,” he continued. “I said we can do it. We pray and we can do it. Then we started doing it.” 

One thing that non-Hispanic Christians might notice during the concert is how expressive Hispanics are when they worship, said Garcia. 

“People call us a little crazy because we are charismatic. We make more noise,” laughed Garcia. “We express more emotions (and) focus on revival. Canadians are more reserved. We are not afraid to raise our hands and shout.

“It’s a different culture, but the beauty is God understands everybody.”

A big responsibility

God’s calling to lead a new church is a big responsibility, especially since the Garcias are being asked to guide people and help them connect to the Lord, Mr. Garcia said. Even though he enjoyed assisting at church, he never thought about being a pastor himself. 

“I am happy. I love so much to God,” added Mrs. Garcia, who wants to start a women’s ministry in Spanish. “It’s a great responsibility. (I want) to be a good example for others.” 

The pandemic made it difficult to reach people in person, which is why the Garcias started an online church first. However, with restrictions now lifted, the goal is to “get to work” and search for Hispanic people in Moose Jaw, even door to door if necessary, said Mr. Garcia. 

A new name

Picking the name of Casa de Gloria (House of Glory) was not that hard for Garcia since he knows his Bible well and felt God directing him to that name. The phrase “house of glory” appears in Haggai 2:9, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

“I hear before (I came) that Moose Jaw had big Christian churches and many people was going to church, and now all that is going down,” he said. “And God wants to use us to bring people back home. 

“This thing (the revival of the Church) will be big. In the future, it will be special.”

The Garcias feel blessed that Moose Jaw Church of God is allowing them to operate at the “beautiful” South Hill campus and appreciate the sponsorship. They can use everything inside and don’t have to pay for anything. 

“It’s a big blessing for us,” Pastor Garcia added. “It’s a big blessing to be a part of Church of God.”