Tenth Church global partner Pastor Jaime Leal of Santa Marta, Colombia, died of a heart attack at age 57 on May 29, preparing to go to the pulpit to preach to his congregation. He had a faith that motivated and energized people to believe that God would provide, which became contagious. He believed that people would really be saved, healed, and transformed by the gospel. Countless people both in Colombia and in the USA came to faith in Christ through his witness and preaching. In three months a struggling group of about ten in north New Jersey grew to a congregation of about 50 congregants. Numerous people received spiritual deliverance and physical healing from God through his prayers, including disappearance of cancerous tumors. He had faith in the power of the message of the gospel, so he would boldly preach in public without fear. He also had faith to believe that God could change people who were the outcasts of society—the street children, orphans, abandoned indigenous tribes, and drug addicts. He believed that something can happen out of nothing. So he would start feeding street children, which resulted in buying a property and building a children’s home. His faith that God could use him to bring to faith an unevangelized indigenous tribe led him to housing, feeding, and educating their children, through which many children became believers and their parents too.
Jaime’s vision came out of his deep faith in the sovereignty of God. Although he particularly focused on ministering to the disadvantaged, he was also used to bring upper class Colombians to faith in Christ and sought their involvement in the ministry to the poor. He had a vision for training up young people to serve in the ministry by providing them with theological education, mentoring, and practical service. Education was one of his priorities, with starting the John Calvin School at the Hogar la Providencia. But he also was used to build seven schools in poor communities that had no schools, two of which were in indigenous communities. Jaime was excellent at making connections with people everywhere, including with pastors from other denominations to whom he taught Reformed theology. He had a vision for expanding church planting across the north coast of Colombia and using the schools as a strategy for outreach to the communities.
What motivated Jaime’s tremendous energy was his compassion for the disadvantaged and poor. He gave very sacrificially to help others from his own resources; he would cook for them and give away his clothes. He was unselfish, at times to a fault. A theme passage for Jaime’s ministry was, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Another favorite passage was, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18). This became his vision and motivation for compassion.
Tenth Church began partnering with Pastor Leal in 2002 when Pastor McDowell went to visit along with Noe Acosta. From then on Pastor McDowell continued visiting once or twice a year, taking many Tenth shortterm teams. The teams assisted with medical outreach, fitting eye glasses, VBS, painting, construction, sports, evangelism, and training. Tenth Church also provided the major portion of support for building the children’s home Hogar la Providencia, Iglesia la Puerta, and an outreach center in the village of Taganga. Also for years Tenth helped to sustain the Chimila indigenous children at the Hogar. It was a wonderful partnership that benefited both the believers in Colombia and the Tenth congregation. Some of those short-term missionaries to Colombia are now long-term missionaries.
Pray for the leadership and congregation in Santa Marta that Jaime Leal left behind as they seek to reorganize their ministries without him. Also pray for his widow Esther and sons Isaias and Mateo.