First Global Mission Coordinators’ Retreat Held in Barbados

Inform. Strengthen. Expand.

These were the general objectives set for the coming year by the leaders who met December 1-3, 2017 in St. Phillips, Barbados for the first Global Mission Coordinators’ retreat in the Caribbean Field.  Led by Revs. Dario & Lynda Richards (from Barbados and Guyana), Global Mission refers to the ministry in the Mesoamerica Region that seeks to discover, develop and deploy new missionaries to the nations.

After Regional Coordinator Rev. Scott Armstrong outlined the history of Global Mission in the denomination and the region, Lynda Richards highlighted the history and dynamics of this ministry specifically in the Caribbean context.  Statistics tell us that 106 people have participated in three-week “Called to Serve” missions trips since 2013, and a multitude of Youth in Mission and Work and Witness teams have also been sent within the field during that time.  Lynda also offered potential cultural challenges in the Caribbean and cultural resources that can help combat or address those challenges.

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Dario Richards then led the group in a valuable time of dreaming, brainstorming, and charting the vision and strategy for the upcoming years.

Attendees included Kayann Walker (Jamaica), Talesha Plumber (Jamaica), Danielle Miller (Barbados), Rev. Shawn Parris (Barbados), Sheena Small (Barbados), and Jonette Williams (Antigua & Barbuda).  Each of these individuals is passionate about developing missions and missionaries from the Caribbean, and together they will form a field team that agreed on accomplishing the following goals in 2018:

  1. Discover 150 Nazarenes interested in missions, in part by conducting 2 Cross-Cultural Orientations in St. Lucia and Bahamas.
  2. Develop 10 coordinators who will promote the sending and supporting of volunteer missionaries in their districts, including potential longer-term candidates to the regional GENESIS initiative.
  3. Deploy 50 missionaries through Called to Serve trips to Turks & Caicos and St. Lucia, as well as 4 GENESIS missionaries to other cities of the region.

It was also a great privilege for this team to be a part of the installation of the Richards as Co-Pastors in the Hope Road Church of the Nazarene.  Many pastors and leaders from the Barbados District attended and prayed for this couple as they continue their field ministry and begin their local church pastorate in this congregation.

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Please pray for these leaders and this ministry in the coming months.  Pray that each one of these goals would be met and surpassed! Pray also that Caribbean Nazarenes would continue to cultivate an environment where the call to missions is heard, accepted, and supported overwhelming by a Church that is passionate about reaching a broken and hurting world.

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Another Stellar Report from Grenada

We continue to see the mighty acts of God in our new start church, the Content Church of the Nazarene. The month of November was filled with the spirit of praise and revival.  The owner of the community bar converted his bar into our place of worship, and he and his father, Mr. Mathlin and Kabir, were baptized on November 11.  We give God all the glory for adding to His church.  We also gathered November 14-16 for three nights of ministry, and saw five persons give their hearts to the Lord.

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Our potential leaders were trained by “Come Up Higher International Ministries,” in a two-day workshop. This was made possible by the District Superintendent, Rev. Kelron Harry, and Dr. Cathy Norville-Rochester and her team from Barbados. The team worked with both Fontenoy and Content Churches of the Nazarene.

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Our site coordinator, Rev. Samuel Pile of Barbados, was present for our crusade and workshops, and he was a needed blessing and support to our team. Let us continue to pray for the others that will be baptized soon and accepted into membership. We continue forward in this ministry with your prayers, love and support.

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– Cleon Cadogan, Genesis volunteer missionary.

Christmas Day 2017

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Here we are.

Christmas.

Lots of waiting for today, and now the hope is realized.

Little kids finally get to open those presents.

Busy workers finally get a day off.

Family members finally get to see each other.

Eat together.

Laugh together.

And each one of these “finallys” is an echo of that first Christmas day.

Estranged and lonely, we find we are – He is – family.

Exhausted and cynical, we find rest in Him.

The Great I Am takes our past, offers us a future, but most of all gives Himself to us as the ultimate present.

Jesus.

We are changed by Your arrival.

We receive You once again.

We need You this day,

this season,

always.

Come.

Advent: Waiting on the Lord’s Coming

By Josue Villatoro

The emphasis during Advent season is on waiting. We are expectant; we are preparing to celebrate Christmas. I like that dynamic. However, Christmas is not an ordinary party: it is not about Santa Claus, the gifts, or even the family. It is good that there are gathered families, gifts under the tree, and a Christmas spirit! But Christmas celebration is more. Christmas is Jesus. In a few days, we will celebrate the God that became human and lived among us. What a wonderful celebration! But we can’t arrive to it all of a sudden, we must prepare ourselves. To celebrate Advent prepares us to commemorate Christmas in the best way possible.

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Each Sunday of this celebration has a value. Last Sunday we emphasized that we are expecting Jesus, because He is our hope. This coming Sunday, and during this week, we are focusing on waiting because we have “faith.” Little word, big significance. We don’t see Him, we haven’t seen Him, but we are sure that someday we will see Him. We prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas because we have faith in Jesus, because we trust His promises. But we are also waiting on His second coming, because we are sure that He will come. Have faith. May there be no argument, power or human evidence to make you doubt your faith rooted in Jesus, the Christ. We celebrate Him, because we trust Him!

Learning from Mary

By Charles W. Christian

I once heard a Catholic priest tell a joke about a scene in Heaven. Jesus walks up to a Protestant and a Catholic and says to them, “I am glad to see you two getting along so well.” Then Jesus turns to the Protestant and says, “I would like to introduce you to my mother.  I don’t think you two have met!”

We Protestants in the crowd laughed, but it challenged me to take a closer look at what we as Christians – both Protestants and Catholics – can learn from Mary.

Based on the Gospels, here are a few lessons that come to mind:

  • We can be available for the work of God: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
  • We can allow faith in God to override our fears:  [Elizabeth said to her], “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her” (Luke 1:45).
  • We can embody thankfulness:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
  • We can allow God to use us to speak prophetically to a world in need of a Savior: “He [God] has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered the proud. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:51-52).
  • We can learn to treasure God’s gifts: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There are many other lessons we can learn from Mary’s example.  During this season of Advent, may we, like Mary, approach the future with humility, faithfulness, and hope.

God has chosen His Church to be the bearers of the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Let us adore Him, and let us share this good news by the power of the Holy Spirit as we journey together through Advent.

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Prayer for the week:

Teach us obedience, Lord
In every part of our lives
Ears to hear your word
Hands to do your work
Feet to walk your path
A heart for all your people
A mouth to shout your praise
A childlike faith
Humility
Confidence
That says
To the possible
And the impossible
I am the Lord’s servant
May it be to me as you have said.
Amen

(John Birch at faithandworship.com)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

Not God’s Favorite

By Scott Armstrong

Jesus Comes Home with a Sobering Message

Christmas is a time when many of us return home.  We laugh with relatives and gorge ourselves on excellent food.  Grandmas grab our cheeks and tell us we’ve grown sooooo big, which is awkward when you’re 8, but try when you are 40!

Luke 4 tells us of a time when Jesus returned to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.  The little carpenter’s apprentice had grown up and now was an excellent preacher, and the people were amazed at his eloquence.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (v. 22).  Surely this can’t be the same little kid that was playing in the sandbox back in the day!

So, as is often Jesus’ custom, instead of basking in the praise from everyone, he turns it on its head.  In fact, he immediately transitions his sermon from good news to judgement.  “I’m here to change the world just as Isaiah foretold” (see v. 18-21) quickly becomes “If you think you’re better than anyone else, I’m here to tell you you’re dead-wrong.”

The result is jarring.  The crowd’s transformation is stark.  The church folk are enraged, throw him out of their town, and are ready to throw him off a cliff (v. 28-29).  Wow! What made them convert from admirers to attempted murderers in the blink of an eye?!

Essentially, he yelled out, “You are not God’s favorite! Stop acting like it!”

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It’s a message that’s painfully appropriate and quite controversial even today.  Christian authors have made a lot of money writing that you and I are God’s favorites.  Preachers use that phrase to try to explain God’s boundless love for you and me.  It all seems obvious, right? And anyway, it feels good to know I am God’s favorite child; it kind of gives me a spring in my step as I leave the service on Sunday!

Here’s the problem: Baked into the definition of the word “favorite” is the singling out of something to the exclusion of something else.  When I ask you what your favorite food is, if you say, “They’re all my favorites,” it makes no sense.  You are either trying to hide something or way too indecisive.  Saying “I like all foods the same” would seem implausible, but it’s at least better than claiming that all foods are your absolute favorite.  Selecting a favorite by necessity means something else has not been selected: it is, thus, not your favorite.

When pressed on this, the authors and preachers insist that, well, when they say, “YOU are God’s favorite,” they actually mean that we are ALL His favorites.  It’s an effective communication technique, but it completely dilutes the word.  In fact, using the word “favorite” in this way can actually have some serious, unintended consequences.

When we start to view ourselves as God’s favorites, we subtly begin to believe that he likes us more than others.  The product of such thinking is ethnocentrism and religious selfishness, exactly what Jesus railed against in verses 24-27.

My political party is right.

My race is better.

My denomination is the best.

My way of viewing the world is the only real way anyone should see it.

And it also makes us spoiled.  We start to expect God to be at our beck-and-call.  The “favorite” child at Christmas demands that his parents save the last piece of pie for him.  Every gift becomes boring within a few hours. Nothing is appreciated. Everything is deserved.  Jesus says it this way, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum’” (v. 23).  We are here for the show, Jesus! Come on, we prayed; why won’t you grant us our every wish?

God lavishes his love on all of us in the same measure.

That’s the point.

He has no favorites.

As we near Christmas, hear again those amazing words from Jesus’ homecoming sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v.18-19).

Interesting last word: “favor.”

Our God comes to the poor, to the prisoners, to the blind and oppressed.  His favor is offered to all in abounding measure.

What if you were actually not God’s favorite?

It’s painful and humbling to acknowledge.  But maybe admitting it would open you up to truly receiving God’s favor for the first time.  Maybe it would allow the God who plays no favorites to anoint YOU, as well, to go to the broken-hearted and usher in the Lord’s favor.

May today this scripture be indeed fulfilled in your hearing.

 

Incarnation – Moving into the Neighborhood

Yesterday (December 14), the Worthless Servants podcast published a new episode touching on an appropriately Christmas topic: the Incarnation.

When we speak of the Incarnation, we are referring to God becoming man.  This is the essence of Advent and of Christmas; these are the moments in the Christian calendar when we celebrate that God sent His only son in the form of a baby and in actual human likeness. That’s phenomenal and mind-blowing!

In present day, the concept of God becoming man is something that we as Christians accept by faith as a normal part of our story. However, 2,000 years ago, the average Jew could not have imagined that their sovereign God would put on flesh and walk alongside us.  Even nowadays this concept is astonishing and blasphemous for many other religions!

For the Christian, the Incarnation is of utmost importance.  God smashed himself into human flesh and came to earth, clothing himself in our own frailty.  It’s not like God hadn’t communicated with the people before the manger, but this was radically different.  These were not the words of a prophet this time; this was the very Word becoming man, coming alongside us.  Eugene Peterson famously puts it this way:

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14b

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Many of us are used to the theme of Incarnation around Christmas.  But, what does all this have to do with missions? Could it be that the God who is with us would also send us to be with others? Does an incarnate God also, in some way, ask us to incarnate ourselves and become flesh in new cultures, new languages, and new neighborhoods?

Jesus moved into our barrio.  He identified with our needs and even our sickness.  Are you willing to follow his example? Are you willing to live and laugh and suffer with people from other races, cultures, religions, and languages if it means they will see Jesus in you?

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…” (John 20:21).

Would you like to dive more into the topic of the Incarnation? You can listen to the most recent episode of the Worthless Servants podcast by clicking here: mesoamericagenesis.org/podcast/ or you can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher!

In this Advent season, may the Incarnation of Jesus Christ himself compel you to incarnate the Good News in your neighborhood and community!

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