The Ashes of our Journey – Lenten Wanderings

By Teanna Sunberg

Tomorrow, across the globe, many Christ followers will line up at altars to be marked on the forehead or the hand with ashes. It is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of Lent – this plodding and sometimes painful wandering towards the brokenness of the cross that culminates in the miracle of the resurrection. This journey begins tomorrow with ashes.

Tradition dictates that, as the believer stands before the priest or pastor, the sign of the cross is drawn and accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Or, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

It is a powerful statement that on this one day of the year, believers in Christ wear an outward and visual symbol of their faith. As we shop, as we work, as we engage in the public areas of life, this cross functions as a filter for how the world understands us. The ashes define us this day.

The ashes themselves bring their own profound symbolism to the story. They are all that remains of the burned branches from the Palm Sunday celebration of the year before. But, Palm Sunday is such a troubling chapter in our narrative. How is it that the very people who waved those palm branches in welcome and celebration for Jesus are raising their fists and crying out to crucify him less than a week later? What kind of weakness? What kind of traitorous hearts? What kind of people?

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In truth, that Palm Sunday crowd allows us an honest picture of our human reality – perhaps, even, the truest mirror of our hearts. We both want Christ, and we don’t want him. Our human nature is in state of war between accepting God’s mercy and rejecting his authority. It’s easy to love God for what he gives us and it’s equally easy to be angry with God when he doesn’t give us what we want. The palm branches easily give way to the fists of Good Friday.

So, we will wear the ashes tomorrow on this first day of Lent. We set our feet towards the cross and we plod towards Friday. We mark ourselves with the ash that represents our broken dreams, our broken physical bodies, our broken relationship to God’s creation, our broken relationships with others, and our broken relationship with God himself: the ash that defines our human state. We wear the ash that reminds us of our sin. We wear the Palm Sunday ash and we proclaim that we believe.  

What do we believe?

We dare to believe that the triumphal entry of Jesus in AD 30 is a glimpse of truth: Christ is both a powerful king and a merciful Savior. We dare to believe that His triumphal entry into our hearts is a sure sign of his love and his power over darkness, death, and sin. We dare to believe that at death’s door, when our bodies return to dust, in some miraculous way, it is then we who make that triumphal entry – we step into eternal life with Christ. We are free.

On this Wednesday, those ashes define us. They tell the world that we recognize our need for repentant hearts. They remind us of the reality of our fallen nature. And, they speak of hope – the hope of resurrection, the gift of life and the treasure that is Christ.

On this Ash Wednesday – this first day of Lent:

Remember. Read Genesis 3.

Repent.

Believe.

This article was originally published at: TeannaSunberg.com

Encuentro Guatemala 2020

 

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ENCUENTRO GUATEMALA 2020

“Serve and experience transformation”

  1. General Description: We seek to offer a two-week missions opportunity in the summer of 2020, where youth from the United States, Canada, and the Mesoamerica Region will minister together, specifically from June 20th to July 4th.

 

  1. Objectives:

General Objective

Expose youth with a missions call to a cross-cultural experience.

Specific Objectives

  1. Provide youth from the Mesoamerica Region a missions opportunity so that they may confirm their call in a cross-cultural missions environment.
  2. Guide participants in responding to God’s call on their lives and allow them to become familiar with several different missions opportunities available in our denomination.
  3. Engage in evangelism using a variety of creative methods.
  4. Minister holistically to the communities of the Central District of Guatemala during the Encuentro event.
  5. Promote volunteer missions trips in our districts and local churches, encouraging the financial support and sending of our own missionaries.

 

  1. Justification: Encuentro Missions provides missions opportunities for any young person with a call. During the past 50 years, EM has facilitated trips to the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. More than 250,000 students have participated, which has resulted in more than 2 million children and adults hearing the gospel message through Encuentro events. This year (2020), Encuentro visits Guatemala again, partnering with local Churches of the Nazarene in order to aide in Vacation Bible Schools, church planting, medical clinics, and small-scale construction events, all in the name of impacting the communities where the churches are located. The North Central Field of the Mesoamerica Region has the privilege of hosting Encuentro in Guatemala. We have come alongside the vision of Encuentro Missions and together will show the love and compassion of Jesus, sharing his message to the needy and lost, and provide a cross-cultural missions opportunity for all those youth from our region who testify to a call to ministry.

 

  1. Candidate Selection

Promotion:

Each GM Coordinator in the 5 fields of the region will be in charge of disseminating this information.  The idea is to recruit the highest number of youth possible.

Candidate Requirements

  • Be a member of the Church of the Nazarene
  • Testify to a call to ministry and/or a desire to serve cross-culturally
  • Have participated in a Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO)
  • Have participated in a missions experience of at least 3 days previously
  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Be a leader in the local church or district
  • Possess an intermediate knowledge of the English language
  • Obtain a letter of recommendation from their pastor

Official Registration

After the candidate has received approval from their pastor, he/she should contact their Field Global Missions Coordinator in order to fill out the Exploring Missions Form online.  Registrations will be accepted through May 2020.

 

  1. Financial Timeline

 

Description

7 Days

14 Days

Food

45

$ 90

Transportation on site

35

$ 70

Housing

70

$ 140

Tourism

30

$ 60

     

Total

$180

$360

 

If you would like to download the complete document with Encuentro information, please click on this link

Best Practices for Increased Giving

In the past seven years, I have had the privilege to learn from a Christian leader, Jamie Levy.  Jamie is the President and Chief Vision Officer of  https://jdlevyassociates.com/), which offers individuals and organizations, among other things, “strategic philanthropic consulting services.”  Essentially, they have been most valuable to us as they’ve helped us think purposefully about raising up and caring for donors and volunteers for and with our ministry.

We all find ourselves with limited resources, right?! Well, in a recent newsletter, Jamie revisited research he did about 20 years ago on keys to increasing giving to an organization.  His findings were the result of researching 15 different national studies on increasing giving, along with other research that had assessed thousands of donors. He narrowed all of the research down to 13 critical things that were present in all of the research, no matter what the focus of the constituency.

Over the years, Jamie has continually tested these in practice and seen many of them continually pop up in new research.  Recently, he shared them with an international group of leaders.  It was very impactful to them and validated by what they have observed as well.

Thus, here are the 13 influences that existed in every study.  They have proven to be a good way to reflect on all that we are doing in the Church of the Nazarene, and specifically in Genesis and Global Missions ministries.  I have underlined some of the key words that jump out at me from each characteristic.

1.    The organization has a clear mission and case for support.
2.    The organization has credibility in its philosophy and operations.
3.    The public has trust in the organization.
4.    People can see the vision and connect to it.
5.    People served are represented and their views are expressed.
6.    The organization is actively engaging the community in volunteering.
7.    Core donor relationships are closely stewarded (they give 2.5 X’s more).
8.    Youth and adult volunteers can have opportunities to serve together.
9.    Services and programs are aligned with the need.
10.  Solicitation is highly donor focused and personal.
11.  Stewardship is accomplished through wise spending and keeping donor interests as a priority.
12.  Offering tax deductible contributions because those that deduct give more.
13.  Sharing stories of strong donor relationships with the organization and offering opportunities to engage through giving.

These are pretty helpful, right? Keep them in mind as you focus on stewarding relationships with donors and volunteers. Reflect on them with your leaders. As Jamie says, “Thankfully, old wisdom still rings true–these are still the ways we can most effectively build support for the causes we serve.”

Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO), Puerto Rico 2020

By: Javier A. Otero, Member of the Global Missions Team in Puerto Rico East

On January 10, 11 and 12, 2020, a Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO) was held in Puerto Rico. This training was organized by leaders from four different countries: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and the United States, showing once again that the Church of the Nazarene is a global Church.

com 222 participants from 2 districts and 8 different churches attended the event. Among the participants were 3 Senior Pastors, all of whom testified to the importance of clergy involvement in missions. Participants ranged from 17 to 65 years old, making evident that involvement in missions has no age limit; one need only be ready to respond to God’s call.

15 of the participants went through the process of interviews as they sought guidance for how to participate in future mission opportunities. Frances G. Rivera Medero (participant), shared with us: “The CCO helped open my eyes to many possibilities and opportunities that God has for me.”

Responding to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ to “go and make disciples” was the heart of every activity. The group took a big step towards the Great Commission by equipping themselves during the weekend. com

The faith of the organizers and the participants was put to the test three days before the event when Puerto Rico was hit by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake, leaving thousands homeless and much of the island without power and running water.  Still, leaders and participants left their homes and families to respond to God’s call and arrived at the CCO trusting that God was in control.

Another participant, Sandra Lugo, commented that Jesus “showed me that I must work for Him and look at the cross; not in the style and differences of other people.”

com 3This CCO showed that the Nazarenes in Puerto Rico are accepting the challenge of the Great Commission. Pastor Jorge Cádiz was impacted by the event.  “In every detail of this event, we could see the Nazarene missionary impulse at work.  Every new activity or workshop kept surprising me. As a pastor I feel extremely honored to belong to this movement.  Every Nazarene should live the experience of the CCO.”

All of us who have participated in the CCO feel the same way.  In fact, we continue living out the CCO, and we invite you to do the same!

A Sent People

By: Dr. Verne Ward

Global Missions Director, Church of the Nazarene

Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch…. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.”
Acts 13:1-3

God’s people are a sent people. God calls each church to preach the gospel to its Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the furthest ends of the earth.

In being sent by God, sometimes the local church sends missionaries to areas beyond the congregation’s immediate reach to fulfill Christ’s words in Acts 1:8.

God calls and the Church sends. It has always been this way. Before there were denominations, local churches sent missionaries. Within individual congregations, there were people who sensed and accepted the Spirit’s call to preach the gospel to places and peoples where the Church was not yet. These local faith bodies anointed, commissioned, and supported these gospel emissaries.

Today, the ancient responsibility for preparing, discipling, and sending missionaries still rests primarily with the local church. Who, besides the local church, is better positioned to walk with them in discipleship as they explore the shape of their call? Where better to provide opportunities to gain critical experience and vital skills for cross-cultural ministry? Where else will experienced leaders mentor them as they grow into spiritually mature Christians? Who will fervently pray for and support them if not those who discipled and sent them?

Over our denomination’s 100-year existence, responsibility for walking that journey with missionaries has shifted from the local church to the global denomination. Yet, a small global or regional team cannot disciple missionaries-in-training as effectively as the local church can—and is called to—do.

To return this responsibility to the local church, we have created the Office of Engagement, a small team within Global Missions, led by Rev. Joyce Tempel. Joyce works with Regional Engagement coordinators, and these teams are tasked with coming alongside and resourcing candidates and the local church as each fulfills God’s call.

As you communicate with local churches, you may have opportunities to answer questions about the church’s role in sending and how Global Missions can help. In Mesoamerica, please contact Scott and Emily Armstrong (sarmstrong@mesonaz.org; earmstrong@mesonaz.org) with your questions or to request resources.
In December, I spent time with Nazarene leaders in Korea, bringing them this message: Missions is the heart of God for the lost! The Church of the Nazarene needs you to accomplish missions.

“This is a message we haven’t heard before from the global church,” they told me. One leader added, “We always saw the USA as the big brother who doesn’t need our help.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as the local church meets its pastor’s needs so that the pastor is free to care for the church, local churches and districts around the world sustain Nazarene Global Missions with their support. As a result, we can pioneer where the church is not yet and develop and resource the local church as God’s primary agent of mission in the world.

God calls the whole church to missions, and the local church sustains missions. May we live into this call as we start a new year together in His mission.

 

From the City on to Bigger Things

From the City on to Bigger Things?

By: Scott Armstrong

We are nearing the end of our annual 40-day emphasis on praying for the cities of our region. Have you been a part? Thanks for praying and for mobilizing others to do so too! Did you miss out? No problem: although we suggest congregations and individuals start the year by praying in a focused way for the city, you can do it any time. Our document of the requests isn’t dated, and they can be used all year long.  Just visit our website or head over to our Facebook page for the daily images we have produced.

Every February 9, when we get to the end of the 40 days, I get a little worried.  Will churches forget about our cities the other 325 days of the year? Is urban mission a program that gets focused on for a while and then we move on to other things?

I hope not.

I honestly pray not.

For many years as a missionary I lived and ministered with a passion for the entire world to be saved. I still have that same longing, by the way.  But even up until ten years ago, I did not much think about why cities are important theologically, biblically, and strategically.  It wasn’t until I moved to Panama City, Panama in 2011 and I lived on the 19th floor of a high-rise apartment that I started to understand.  As I looked out each night from the balcony on the thousands of lights and buildings and families that they represented, God began to change my heart.  How many of these people in this enormous city did not know Christ as Lord and Savior?

Around that time our region did some research and found out that the majority of the population of our countries in the Caribbean and Mexico and Central America lived in big cities (think 100,000 or more).  But only 29% of our Nazarenes lived in those same places! We had some work to do.

Now we as a family have dedicated the last ten years to learning about city ministry and immersing ourselves in urban mission.  It’s what we talk about every day.  It’s in our blood.  We have actually started to understand more about God as we have comprehended his redemptive plan for the city.  As Pastor Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York as well as City to City ministries, says, “It’s true that we must bring the gospel to the city.  But we should also recognize how much the city brings the gospel to us.”

Are you there yet? Or is urban ministry just a 40-Day emphasis for you and your church?

In the days following our 40 Days of Prayer, my prayer for you is that you’d get up and get into the city, and that maybe, just maybe, the city would start to get into you.

 

More Testimonies of Impact: 4×4 All-Terrain

In our last few entries, several youth that were a part of the 10th Anniversary of 4×4 All Terrain a month ago have shared their experiences.  Today we are wrapping up this series with some brief testimonies from four more participants.  We certainly hope they challenge you to pray, serve, and participate in future mission trips like this!

“We noticed the community of Oak Valley was different; they had their own type of needs.  We had been evangelizing in other places, but this time it would be door-to-door, which made me afraid.  I had no idea what the people would be like or how they would react.  But the majority of the people accepted Christ! That surprised me!  I was so excited, but I asked them again if they were certain of their decision to follow Him.  They again said yes, and I know God was speaking to their hearts.” – Abdiel Isaac Rodríguez.

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“The enemy was extremely angry.  During the event we encountered many obstacles like illnesses and bad reports.  At one point the vehicle that we relied on to get from place to place broke down.  However, the Lord gave us the strength and the wisdom to keep moving forward without letting any of that get to us.  He was always there accompanying us.

I invite you to get out of your comfort zone and preach the gospel.  Don’t waste a single opportunity, and above all, when an event like this comes your way, don’t hesitate to participate. It will be a massive blessing, and you will experience indescribable things. My experience in 4×4 changed my way of thinking and seeing the world.  I thank God for that.” – Daniel Alexis Aguayo

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“I could sense God’s Spirit in me, speaking on my behalf.  He used my lips and guided my steps.  Although I had thought I wasn’t spiritual enough to be used in ministry like that, God showed me on more than one occasion that He has control of my life.

Besides, being able to share these experiences with other teens who are my brothers and sisters in Christ is another reason to celebrate.  We aren’t talking about just one or two willing people; I was with so many who constantly responded in love and obedience.  Each one of their lives confirm why I believe in God and why I desire to follow his plan for my life.” – Navith Paolette Ayala Bedolla.

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“I truly invite you to participate in a 4×4.  I thought when I signed up that it was to be a blessing for others, but I never imagined how blessed I would end up being.  God confirmed my call, not necessarily to be a missionary, but it was through ministering to others that he started to deal with me.  I have to wonder: if I had never participated in 4×4, how long would I have gone without realizing what he wants for me? I’m not sure.  I can only thank God for moving in that way.” – Saraí Avelino Castillo.

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