A Return to Rainy Season

By Scott Armstrong

I need to confess something at the onset of this article.  It’s regarding my spiritual walk and I am not proud of what I’m about to say.

I am very faithful at doing my devotions every day, but I do not always meet with God.

Perro-con-cara-de-sorpresa.jpg

Your reaction is probably this right now

What?! Doing your devotions is reading the Bible, praying and reflecting, all with the purpose of growing closer to God.  How can you do all those things and not meet with God? It doesn’t make sense!

You are right; it’s insane!  It’s like meeting up at a café with a friend you’ve longed to catch up with, and then spending the entire time on your cellphone.  I’ll go further: it’s like doing THAT and then returning home and contentedly checking “Meet with friend” off your to-do list.

I am faithful every day to read my Bible.  I pray and sometimes listen to Christian music.  But if I am not careful, it is all hurried.  Lost in the assault of appointments to come.  And worst of all, forgotten 5 minutes after I close the Bible.

It needs to change.  And that is why we took yesterday as our office to dedicate to a day-long spiritual retreat: listening to God through silence and his Word, confessing to one another, and praying for individual and ministry requests.  It was a necessary time of renewal that each one of us sorely needed.

grass-1369144_960_720.jpg

As the rain started to softly fall upon the grass and shrubs in our front yard, God led me to Isaiah 55, especially verses 10-11:

“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I sensed him say:

“Just as the literal rain falling around you replenishes the soil,

allow me to refresh your soul every morning.

Don’t just open your Bible; dwell in my Word and let it dwell in you.

I desire to remake you into my likeness, but that takes time.

Are you willing to enjoy me or do you see me as another task to be completed?”

Ouch.

So I have committed to preparing the soil of my life to receive his nourishment every morning.  That can’t happen in five minutes of express-devotions.  Honestly, it won’t occur in 15 minutes either.  It will require making sacrifices in other areas.  THIS is the most important area.  THIS is the only real area that matters anyway.

If you have no devotional life, creating a habit of 5 minutes a day may be the first step.  God will honor that.  But if you have already developed the habit (or fallen into a rut), you need to take the next step.  Will you commit with me to make the necessary adjustments in order to move from ritual back to relationship?

In other words, let’s make sure we are faithful at “doing our devotions” every day.  But let’s make sure we truly meet with God during those times as well.

“Listen, listen to me…and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” –Is. 55:2

 

“Ascribe to the Lord”

Annual Report of Global Mission & Genesis

As Global Mission and GENESIS coordinators we have spent the last month remembering 2017.  One thing has been clear: God has done amazing things and will continue to do so!

Just a reminder: The Mesoamerica Global Mission ministry seeks to Discover, Develop, and Deploy missionaries from our region. GENESIS seeks to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica. Mobilizing our entire region to send missionaries, as well as focusing on the transformation of our cities has proven challenging and, at the same time, endlessly rewarding.

Here are a few of the exciting things that have occurred in the past year:

  1. In January and February 2017 the entire region dedicated the first 40 days to praying for the cities of Mesoamerica. This initiative has been launched again in 2018 and is proving highly effective.
  2. Three new Genesis missionaries were trained and deployed last year: Joselyn García was sent from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic and AJ and Chelsea Fry were sent from Florida, USA to become the Coordinators of construction of the new Center of Missionary Formation (CMF) in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic.
  3. Current Genesis missionaries in Santiago (DR), Grenada, and Guadalajara (Mexico) have done a stellar job planting five churches, and encouraging dozens of other existing congregations. Their testimonies are amazing, but I lack the space to tell them all here; thus, seek them out on the new Genesis app available in the App Store on iTunes.
  4. Five Work and Witness teams have come already to better the seminary campus and prepare the land for the CMF, and fifteen more are scheduled for the coming year.
  5. Although for nine years we had published articles and reflections on culture, leadership, missions, and much more in the transformaelmundo.com blog, on April 9, 2017 we began to do so as well in English at transformtheglobe.com.
  6. In May of 2017 we launched the Worthless Servants Podcast in both Spanish and English. Each episode includes a conversation on missions, culture, the Church, or other topics, and we currently have hundreds of listeners through iTunes, WhatsApp, and other platforms.
  7. Created in 2016, the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis Church (i.e. healthy and missional) have been further developed and publicized throughout the region in district training events, on all social media, and through the podcast.
  8. Two promotional videos were created in Spanish and English to be used in promoting Genesis in the local churches and at District Assemblies throughout the region.
  9. At General Assembly in June 2017 we utilized this once-every-four-years platform in order to promote Genesis in the region and in our entire denomination. We literally came in contact with thousands of people, shared information more closely with hundreds, and recruited dozens of potential missionaries, prayer partners, Work and Witness teams, and donors.
  10. Ten Cross-Cultural Orientations were held across the region with a total of 181 youth and adults interested in missions attending. This includes the first-ever CCO in Haiti held in December 2017. God is truly raising up his church in missions-sending!
  11. A multitude of inter- and intra-field short-term trips have been offered with an estimate of a whopping 112 volunteer missionaries dedicating over 2,000 days in service to the mission-field! I should also note that an estimate of 2,500+ people have participated in Maximum Mission or similar trips in the past year.
20615856_1726982030677463_5404750380290688663_o.jpg

Cross-Cultural Orientation in Guatemala, 2017

Looking back has been encouraging, but we must also look forward with expectation.  What do we sense God calling us to do in these ministries in 2018?

Goals for 2018:

  1. Discover, develop and deploy 12 volunteer missionaries to 3 priority Genesis sites (Monterrey, Querétaro, and Panama City).
  2. Receive 15 teams in 2018 that participate in the refurbishing of the seminary and construction of the Center of Missionary Formation in the Dominican Republic.
  3. Acquire 7 new partnerships for Genesis development, 2018 priority Genesis sites, and the CMF.
  4. Utilize technology and creative strategies (podcast, social media, etc.) to promote dialogue regarding issues of urban mission, missiology, and the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis church.
  5. Create “Continuing Education” training classes for Genesis missionaries to participate in during their 2-year deployment.
  6. Offer 1 or more Cross Cultural Orientation and short-term missions experience in each field.
  7. Recruit and deploy at least 18 youth and adults in six different “Urban Immersion” programs according to field.
19723790_10213831827612755_753315225_o.jpg

Genesis missionary serving in Grenada

Please pray with us that these goals would become a reality!

As we evaluate 2017 and as we plan for 2018, we must proclaim with King David that any fruit we have seen or any positive things that will ever be done in our ministry are only due to God’s strong hand and his astounding grace.  We ascribe it all to him!

“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:1-2)

1-800x600.jpg

Youth in Mission serving in Haiti

4×4: A Cold and Rainy Terrain – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

Each young person, upon arriving at the event, shared the obstacles they had to overcome in order to be part of this evangelistic experience. In each activity God showed them that He was with them and His Spirit encouraged them to be intentional about the time to evangelize. The Word of God reached the hearts of many people in this neighborhood and although some remained undecided, others gave their lives to the Lord. There was tears and smiles alike. Even though the children’s attendance dropped due to the intense cold, there were always children present to share the gospel. At night during the movie, when they thought no one would show up, God surprised them. There is a need, people thirst for God. Even though some got sick we still sang the hymn,

“In Him there is joy without an alloy;
’Tis Heaven to trust Him and rest on His words;
It pays to serve Jesus each day.

It pays to serve Jesus, it pays every day,
It pays every step of the way,
Though the pathway to glory may sometimes be drear,
You’ll be happy each step of the way.”

26232929_10155752778411351_5887647163686274513_o.jpg

To the glory of God, we can report that 33 people accepted Christ through the door to door evangelism, 22 kids also accepted salvation at Vacation Bible School and 5 kids accepted Christ thanks to the Project Goal sport event, and 3 accepted Christ through evangelistic movies. A total of 63 souls won for Christ! The Sanchez family and the hosting church have a lot of work now to do.

26685266_10155752777196351_6196769630214181035_o.jpg

Let us pray for these new souls and for those who have to believe by the word that will be given in the following days.

“God has called us to be bearers of His love, to share joy, to give hope to those who do not have it, to comfort the afflicted, He has called us to be light. No matter what you have to leave or if you have to make some sacrifice to be there, the best you can receive is the satisfaction of crying with someone in need, wiping a tear, giving a hug and looking at a smile on a child’s face and the satisfaction of being able to share with others the Good News and hope in JESUS!”–Lupita Calderón.

“I still marvel at how God uses us despite all our shortcomings. His love continues to mold us. It was not necessary to try to convince anyone, simply to just proclaim, serve and love. God took care of all involved because His grace covers everything. We have lived through difficult things before, during and after our travels; The enemy wanted to attack, but we were safe in the rock of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Father takes care of us and the Holy Spirit guides us. This experience made me grow in faith, humility and in love. I was very happy that people could meet their Savior and surrender their lives to Him.”–Mitzi Villegas

26220798_10155752790261351_4393364973166701680_o.jpg

” I met Mrs. Silvia, who is one of the people we evangelized. When we finished sharing the message, she was engulfed in tears, then calmed down and told us the following, ‘I’ve had days of great despair and I don’t know why. It’s an anxiety that does not go away. All of a sudden I cry, I get sad. Last night I was full of anxiousness, I had despair and nothing calmed me, so I asked God to help me and to show me what I should do, and now you are here! I know God heard my cry.’ This tells us a lot about the need that exists in the world, and the responsibility that we have as a church. Thank God, Silvia accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. “–Adriana L. Barraza 

We give thanks to God for the life of these young people, if you are interested in missions or would like to participate in a 4×4, contact us at misionglobal@mesoamericaregion.org or on our Facebook page .

This article was written by Maru Rodriguez, coordinator of Global Mission for the Mexico Field.

4×4: A Cold and Rainy Terrain – Part 1 of 2

With frigid temperatures and under a mist of rainy conditions the 4×4 All Terrain 2017 event was held in the Espino sector. This area is one of more than 15 sectors in the Valle del Roble neighborhood of Nuevo León, Mexico. The Sanchez family, originally from the southern part of Mexico, recently moved to this area. They searched for a church of the Nazarene in the area and could not find one, so they made the decision to rent a vacant house in the area and start a mission church. Given the urgent need to evangelize this area and knowing that someone could follow up on the work done, volunteer missionaries from 4×4 All Terrain offered their gifts and talents to advance the kingdom of heaven. Fourteen young people from Southern, Central, West, North and Northeast districts gathered, regardless of weather conditions that awaited them.

26233428_10155752777491351_5569209919098575697_o.jpg

During the last week of 2017, the 4×4 All Terrain team performed two simultaneous events in the mornings: the first was, The Goal Project, which was hosting many soccer teams in a field nearby. The second event was going door to door evangelizing the nearby neighborhoods. To help them with the evangelism they used the evangecube and distributed pamphlets to interested families.

Each day began with breakfast and participating in devotional, where testimonies were shared. After breakfast, the team began the day’s activities. The team also held night VBS where there were clowns dressed in awesome costumes, games, songs, and biblical stories. Each night ended with chairs set up in the park to watch an evangelistic movie and an invitation to follow Christ.

Read the testimonies of those who participated:

26232393_10155752777226351_3913626031354020134_o.jpg“Many times, I had asked myself if at some point what I experience and what I go through in life could be useful in the kingdom of God. After this event, I now understand that all the things that happen help us when we least expect it. During the activities with the children, several of the older teens helped us take care of the younger kids. I especially admired Mariel, a teenager who even shared her blankets to cover some of the kids. I was surprised at how much she resembled me when I was that age, and how we are similar. God used that incident to talk to me about how Jesus Christ transforms and changes lives. She felt validated, understood and accepted. The last day of activities Mariel accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior, knowing now that He loves her, He will transform her life and He will take her to places she never imagined.”–Ana Constantino.

“The Valle del Roble neighborhood, where we held the 4×4 All Terrain, is as needed as any other place. It was amazing to see how people took time to listen. God touched the hearts of those people, God made the right call. He was with us at every moment and gave us the strength to talk about Him, even with rain, God was listening to our prayers. He is great and I am very grateful and very blessed! I cry, but I cry with happiness, because I know that God made this possible and I thank Him. He is good to me, and I am ready for wherever he sends me.”–Waris Dirie Sánchez.

“By participating for the first time in an 4×4 All Terrain event, God showed me the need that exists outside our local churches. Every house that I visited with my partner, made me realize that people are waiting to receive the love of God.”– Valeria Rodríguez.

“I give thanks to God because He allowed me to participate again in this missionary program and to share the love He poured out on the cross. I love being a participant in this type of event and being able to share the message of salvation to other people. I love obeying the mission and commission that the Lord entrusted to us through His Word, “Go and make disciples.” This does not imply that we only share the gospel when we go to another city or participate in these events, but wherever we are, in all times and places we must speak of Him who called us. “– Abraham Barboza.

Foto 31-12-17 14 07 16.jpg

*This article will continue in the next post.

If you are interested in missions or would like to participate in a 4×4 All Terrain event, contact us at misionglobal@mesoamericaregion.org or on our Facebook page .

I Learned to Listen to His Voice

I am Marvin Ac, I received Jesus Christ in 2008, after leaders of the church shared with me the Good News. I was baptized as a witness of my new life in Christ and by a public statement of my new faith in Jesus.

I was one of the first to receive a diploma in Youth Ministry offered by the Church of the Nazarene in 2010. It was during this time I received the tools necessary to encourage me to have a more effective ministry and provided me the understanding and need to go into all the nations and make Christ-like disciples.

21743270_1403600909676864_1427308628900893585_n.jpg

To accomplish this, I made the decision to serve as a volunteer missionary with the Genesis Initiative in Veracruz, Mexico from 2014 – 2016. This was a wonderful experience where I saw the glory of God manifested in my life and in the lives of others when they recognized Him as their Lord and Savior. It was during this time, I recognized that I was not only would give, but  receive as well. Genesis helped me to rely completely on God in all areas of my life.

23380017_1448211615215793_2546143860160897879_n.jpg

While with Genesis, I also learned to listen to His voice and to understand more of His faithfulness. I learned to see His presence glow on the faces of those who praised and sought Him in prayer. I can say with certainty today, that being a part of Genesis was the most important decision I’ve made in my life. I will never regret having the opportunity to serve and be a blessing to the people in Veracruz.

21751732_1403602869676668_3737327622293359187_n.jpg

The Lord took what I learned from Genesis and led me to where I am today, serving as missionary pastor in Mission “La Loma.” This is a mission we’ve started from what was once just a concept. We currently have a children’s ministry and a small group of adult teachers and leaders.

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. Psalm 2:7-8

“Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. Isaiah 54:2-3

Mission Briefing: Culture Shock

By Howard Culbertson

People often think the feelings arising in encounters with strange foods or customs constitute “culture shock.” In reality, those brief moments of discomfort are not what anthropologists mean by culture shock.

depression.jpg

Anthropologists and psychologists use “culture shock” to describe the confusion, doubt and nervousness common to people who have recently begun living cross-culturally and who are also experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Exaggerated homesickness
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Avoiding contact with local people by spending hours on email, the Internet and social media
  • Suffering psychosomatic illnesses
  • Frequent feelings of boredom or apathy
  • Inexplicable bouts of weeping
  • Eating compulsively
  • Diminished ability to work effectively
  • High level of irritability
  • Hostility towards people of host culture
  • Jingoism or super patriotism
  • Stereotyping of people of host culture
  • Exaggerated attention to cleanliness

Real culture shock is thus more deep-seated than the momentary discomfort felt when confronting strange things to eat or unfamiliar social norms. What anthropologists call culture shock grows out of a long period of coping with unfamiliar ways of doing, organizing, perceiving and valuing things. Indeed, because people experience culture shock symptoms over a period of time rather than in one isolated event, some anthropologists say “cycle of adjustment” rather than “culture shock.”

Culture shock symptoms appear quite prominent in some people and less so in others. Nonetheless, the cycle of adjustment (or culture shock) –– honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance –– is inevitable.  Though culture shock is not a medical condition, the psychological disorientation, the withdrawal and excessive sleeping can be compared to organisms going into physical shock after a trauma.

Culture shock symptoms may come and go over a period of time. Describing her experiences in Senegal, missionary Linda Louw said, “I thought culture shock was something that you got through and it was done, but it just keeps coming.”

The sense of unease and heightened irritability common in the frustration stage can be triggered by small things. The adjustment stage usually does not kick in until a person has become familiar with and increasingly comfortable in a new culture.

Fortunately, the effects of culture shock can be somewhat mitigated. Here are half a dozen coping suggestions:

  • Realize what is happening to you and why.
  • Remind yourself that this happens to every expatriate to one degree or another and that people do regularly survive it.
  • Refuse to succumb to the desire to withdraw from people. Choose instead to engage with those of your host culture.
  • Get involved in a hobby that involves in some way the place where you serve.
  • Be bold about reaching out to people in your host culture to build a support network of confidants, including enlisting individuals to help in improving your language and cultural acquisition.
  • Consciously cultivate your curiosity about the wildlife, geography, plant life, history, literature, foods, social norms, folk tales, children’s stories, proverbs, legends and fables of the place where you serve.

This article was originally published at: Engage Magazine

 

Trickle-Down Evangelism

By Jeff Christopherson

Are disciples becoming disciple-makers?

Does trickle-down evangelism work? If we feed the disciple enough, will he or she become a powerhouse warrior for the Kingdom of God?

sequia-mexico.jpg

Here’s the version you’re most likely to hear: “We have to focus on our people. So many of them are immature and in desperate need of spiritual instruction. If we prioritize the growth and maturity of our people then that will have a trickle-down impact on their passion and ability to live on mission and share the gospel.” And so we design our churches for growth, consciously or unconsciously, through this filter.

This rationale at first seems prudent, but far too often the stated goal never comes to fruition. Rather than passionate, mobilized, mature believers, the church’s efforts end up fostering an inwardly-focused people who are increasingly isolated from the world they are commissioned to reach. Instead of a kingdom warrior, our trickle-down efforts seem only to muster an isolated, insulated, and evangelistically impotent churchman.

In reality, the longer it takes for new disciples to become disciple-makers, the more unlikely it is they will prioritize this work. Over time, the gravitational pull of their new relationships in the church will extract them from their relationships with others who are far from God and his church. The stronger the signal that church sends of ‘come and see’ over ‘go and tell,’ the less likely personal evangelism will ever take place. What’s worse, the more the pastor is observed as a ‘teller’ rather than ‘doer,’ the less likely the flock will be personally engaged in the work of evangelism.

So the trickle-down evangelism theory suffers from two fatal flaws: it creates a busy leadership that in their busyness become largely evangelistically unengaged; and, in our unending efforts to ‘equip,’ we have unintentionally isolated the mission force from the mission field.

New Believers and Evangelism

That’s why it’s vital that we create structures to unleash new believers into the harvest immediately after conversion. Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds believers that all those who have been reconciled to God through Christ have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16–21). This work isn’t for those who have crossed a certain threshold of sanctification; it is a mission given to all those who’ve trusted in Jesus for their salvation. “God saves and sends” isn’t a trite cliché; rather, it is the two-fold pattern God uses throughout Scripture and history to foster his missionary work in the world.

The temporal link between saving and sending maximizes the potential evangelistic impact and builds life rhythms that foster evangelistic intentionality throughout the new believer’s maturation process.

First, those who have recently come to faith are far more likely to live, learn, work, and play with those who are far from God and his church. Their previous patterns of life were likely infused with those in need of seeing and hearing the gospel. Not only are they in relationship with the lost, but these relationships are the prime context to model the transformation that the gospel brings.

Who better to notice the change of thought and practice that follows conversion than those friends who have seen the fruit of unrighteousness that once defined a person’s life? Since the relational bridge to these relationships is already in place, it is wise to immediately leverage them for the sake of the gospel.

Second, this level of evangelistic intentionality creates rhythms that should define the life of anyone seeking to walk faithfully with Christ. The malaise and apathy toward evangelism that far too often characterizes God’s church is likely attributable to the fact that many new believers internalized their church’s priorities which failed to engage them in evangelism early in their Christian walks.

As a result, in order for evangelistic fervor to mark God’s church once again, they must unlearn all sorts of habits that seem to imply that evangelism is an arbitrary add-on to an otherwise sufficient Christian life. Linking saving and sending allows the church to build healthy practices from the outset, rather than expecting healthy rhythms to mystically emerge after long contradictory patterns have already been forged.

This mindset need not imply that it’s unnecessary to equip and train believers to maturity. What’s at issue isn’t this laudable goal, but the pursuit of discipleship in a way that is disconnected from the work of evangelism. We can’t expect that an extracted disciple’s growth in maturity will trickle-down to a waiting harvest no matter the quality and quantity of the sacred buffet that we offer.

After all, if disciple-making is the assignment that Jesus gave his church, then evangelism really isn’t finished until the evangelized find themselves as evangelists and disciplers.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today