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A mother and child show the desperately needed medicine they received through the Pegram Church of Christ in Tennessee.
Venezuelans show the medicine they received from Churches of Christ | Photo provided by Steve Watson

A trip to Home Depot leads to a baptism — and hope for Venezuela

Retired minister in Tennessee is "reignited" by a call to serve the suffering in South America.

Erik Tryggestad

Inside Story | Erik Tryggestad

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — ‘Go Dawgs!”

That wasn’t a phrase I expected to hear in the heart of Tennessee Vols country. (Actually, it’s more like Commodore country now since Vanderbilt has the national title in baseball.)

Nevertheless, there was my beloved Bulldog battle cry, coming from one of my all-time favorite preachers, Steve Watson. He ministered for the Campus View Church of Christ in Athens, Ga., when I was in grad school at UGA. 

I still remember the time he had a church member up in the sound booth pretend to be the voice of God and converse with him. Steve kept cutting him off. “Now, wait here, Lord!” It ended up being a real “not my will but thine” kind of sermon.

Steve and his wife, Jane, are retired now and worship with the Pegram Church of Christ, west of Nashville. I was emceeing a breakfast for Hope for Haiti’s Children at my other alma mater, Lipscomb University, and there they were.

Erik Tryggestad with Steve and Jane Watson at Lipscomb University.

Erik Tryggestad with Steve and Jane Watson at Lipscomb University.

(Y’all know I went to Lipscomb, right? That’s a joke for my fellow Georgia Christian Student Center alum Dustin Rector, who could do a spot-on Steve Watson impression.)

Dustin Rector does a convincing Steve Watson impression for students of the Georgia Christian Student Center in Athens, Ga., circa 1997.

I told the Watsons about my recent trip to South America to report on the Venezuelan diaspora. 

Related: Warm hearts, warm dogs and a not-so-warm hug in Chile

I was surprised by their reaction. You see, about three years ago Steve was at Home Depot looking for something. He ended up on the same aisle with a Venezuelan man named Cristian Yovera, who also was looking for something. 

(Either of them could have asked one of those folks in the orange aprons for help, but guys just don’t do that in Home Depot.)

Steve did, however, ask Cristian if he could help him find what he was looking for. Lo and behold, that turned out to be the Gospel. The two men became friends, and Bible studies and baptism followed. Now Cristian and his wife, Angelica, are members of the Pegram church.

Cristian Yovera

Cristian Yovera

Though his burdens were lifted, Cristian felt a different burden for his home country, where a deepening economic crisis has resulted in children dying from starvation. Even aspirin is scarce. 

So the Watsons and Yoveras started shipping relief supplies to Venezuela. Through their contacts, they’re able to get them to the people who most need them — no small feat. 

That providential trip to Home Depot changed not only the Yoveras’ lives, but the Watsons’, too. In the midst of their retirement, “it kind of reignited us,” Steve told me. “It’s like God knew we needed that kick.” 

In these pages I’ve reported on the impact of Venezuela’s crisis on Churches of Christ in Argentina, Chile and Colombia. But this story is at our doorsteps, too. At least 290,000 Venezuelans have come to the U.S. since the crisis began. 

Members of the West Broward Church of Christ in Florida and workers with Healing Hands International have sponsored relief efforts for Venezuela. 

The folks at Pegram sent nearly 75 boxes of supplies to Venezuela this summer. They need funds to keep the work going.

The Yoveras stand next to boxes of supplies destined for Venezuela.

The Yoveras stand next to boxes of supplies destined for Venezuela.

It’s amazing how God keeps leading me to stories of immigrants and refugees. Time and again, I’ve seen the melding of cultures bring out the best in us. 

That, my friends, is a real “not my will but thine” sermon. The common cause of serving others can unite Bulldogs, Vols and Commodores. 

And Bama fans, too?

Eh … let me get back to you on that.

Contact Steve Watson to find out how you can help send relief supplies to Venezuela.

In Venezuela, a mother receives desperately needed vitamins and food for her infant.

In Venezuela, a mother receives desperately needed vitamins and food for her infant.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @eriktryggestad.

Filed under: Church of Christ Home Depot Insight Insight Opinion Venezuela

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