A hand-painted sign reading “Iglesia Monte Carmelo” hangs above a door at the corner of Frankford and Tioga streets. Inside, festive decorations, such as yellow and white tissue-paper flowers, balloons, a garland of red roses, and gold drapes welcome visitors to the church that Moises and Lily Valentin moved from Florida to Philadelphia, Pa., to plant.
“People prayed for a church here,” Lily explains, translating for her husband. “It used to be a really bad area … and the police were always around.” But by “planting seeds” of hope and faith in people who struggle with addictions and homelessness, the Valentins have helped make the area safe. “The police don’t need to be here, because of us,” Lily reports.
The Valentins’ work centers on prayer, and Moises’ eyes light up as he shares stories of the miracles that have resulted from it: Women with cancer and asthma, cured. A son born deaf and mute, now speaks and hears. Brain tumors, shrunk. Serious infections, healed. Vision problems, vanished.
“We never get tired of doing this work, because God called us and He never gets tired,” says Moises. “We need to follow Him. We need to love like Him to save people. It’s not easy. But people’s lives are worth more than anything.”
Atlantic Conference Bishop Craig Sider commends the Valentins for their work in Philadelphia, explaining that their service represents a broader mission of the BIC Church: “We believe God is calling us to impact our cities. In doing so, our congregations will better reflect the growing diversity in our region.”
Back in Philadelphia, the Valentins and the 50 or so people who make up their congregation dream of a bigger building with rooms for the kids and space to store donations. But until then, they’ll just keep praying—and watching for miracles.
Update: Moises and Lily are still hard at work in Philadelphia, Pa., especially in ministering to people who struggle with drugs, alcoholism and homelessness. “Working with these people is different,” Lily, whose own brother lost his life to drugs, explains. “They come for prayer, and then leave and return whenever they want. We see them change over time. If you put the seed in dirt and water it, it grows. It may be slow, but it will grow.”
Monte Carmelo is serving the community abundantly in other ways, too. Over the summer, four college students helped organize a summer camp in a local park. The camp reached out to 40 neighborhood children and the five parents who helped.
In September, Monte Carmelo held a marriage conference for 40 church and community members, and in October it extended an invitation to other local churches for a tent meeting. Then, in November, the Valentins visited other local churches to share the story of Monte Carmelo and to seek donations of clothing and food, which the church distributes every few weeks to community members in need.
“We are here to serve the community,” Lily says. “My husband is always there for anyone, at anytime. What he has is not his; he gives it away to others. He loves people, suffers a lot for people. We don’t have a lot of money, but God helps us, and we satisfy Him.”
As they continue seeking to satisfy the Lord, the Valentins also continue to pray and dream. They hope that one day they will have a bigger church with rooms for the kids, with space to store donations, and maybe even with extra apartments attached so that they could open a rehab house.