On a March afternoon in Moses Lake, Washington, Pastors Mike and Mary Alvarado were walking down their street, when Mike said, “Hey, let’s do a Facebook Live.” Mary was hesitant, but, after transitioning to online services earlier that month, she knew the gesture would be meaningful to their friends and family at Sendero Life Center. So, they began recording.
The Alvarados talked about life in quarantine and focused on encouraging and relating to their viewers. “We shared how we really felt about the virus,” says Mary. “How I was scared, but that my devotion says don’t be led by fear. God really wanted me to share that.” As they talked, the viewership spiked. People commented on how much they missed church, and Mike and Mary laughed and responded with the same. When they ended the video, Mike turned to Mary and said, “I think we might have hit gold here.”
In the next “Live with Mike and Mary,” Pastor Mike told viewers what he felt God was convicting him and Mary to share in these videos. “Proverbs says that laughter is medicine to our bodies,” he said. “So, we are going to provide laughter in these videos. If you want serious stuff, join us on Sundays. But, on these personal videos, we want to provide medicine to your bones.”
The Alvarados continued to hop onto Facebook Live now and again, and they even encouraged other leaders in the church to do the same. Pastor Mike said to his staff, “I really feel like what the Lord wants each of you to know right now is people want to hear your voice.” Like Mary, many of the leaders were reluctant at first, but several eventually started their own Facebook Lives to share life and laughter with their church. “People commented on how much joy we were bringing them, that it would cause them to forget the fear,” says Pastor Mike.
Eventually, the staff proposed a drive-thru event so their church family could continue to see their pastors and each other. The nursery ministry handed out curriculum packets, the children’s pastor distributed bags of candy, and the youth ministry gave Red Bulls, Mountain Dew, and energy drinks to the teens. “We had eight stations around our parking lot,” says Pastor Mike. “We gave away Bibles and devotionals, and our worship team actually recorded a CD to give to everybody.” A few weeks later, they handed out 12 dozen roses in another drive-thru event for Mother’s Day, and, most recently, Sendero Life Center held their first outdoor service. Church members arrived with lawn chairs to sit in the grass (while maintaining social distancing), while others stayed in their vehicles and listened to the sermon broadcasted via an FM transmitter.
In addition to the love and compassion Pastors Mike and Mary have received from their church, they’ve also been blessed financially. “Our people have been so generous during this time that we’ve actually grown financially,” says Pastor Mike. As a result, Sendero Life Center has been empowered to support their community. They sent out their media team to help other churches in Moses Lake update and install new technology for online ministry. They delivered gift baskets to the police department, the fire department, hospitals, and other first responders around town. Pastor Mike has even sent checks to fellow pastors and churches in the area.
Along with these endeavors, Pastor Mike started a podcast called “Heart & Soul” to support full-time missionaries and evangelists who have struggled through the pandemic. “I do a 30-minute podcast, where I come up with a topic, interview them, and then ask viewers to give an offering for them,” says Pastor Mike. The first episode featured Dr. Luke Holter, senior director of Prophetic Sheep Ministries and the founder of The Samuel Institute. Dr. Holter is a licensed counselor and spoke to listeners about the topic of overcoming anxiety. Following the episode, he received more than $1,000 in donations, and, with each new guest, the church has continued to respond with overwhelming support. “It’s been amazing to see the generosity of our people,” says Pastor Mike. As Sendero Life Center pursues new opportunities amid the pandemic, Pastors Mike and Mary continue to remember God’s message to them in March — do not be led by fear. “Especially in those first three or four weeks, there was a lot of fear,” says Pastor Mike. “It’s very real, and it has hit us. One of my best friends lost his father in New York to COVID-19. And then, there’s the financial burden that some pastors are feeling — that can really weigh on you.” Through this season, God has repeatedly urged the Alvarados to lead authentically, even in fear. He has prompted them to speak truth and to trust His sovereignty, and, as they look back on the last few months, they see clearly how God has used their voices to invite hope for the future. “If I could say anything to pastors and ministers, it’s don’t allow this to stop you from speaking,” he says. “Be authentic and transparent. Be a source of encouragement. But, don’t allow this to mute your prophetic voice. People need to hear you — the real you.”