A Missionary Adventure

During May and June 2018, Nazarene Missions International (NMI) in the Mexico Gulf District held 4 “Missionary Adventure” events for children ages 4 to 14. More than 100 kids from 4 different areas of the district attended the camps, with the purpose of making them aware of the missionary work of the Church of the Nazarene around the world, and to help them discover their call to missions.

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The children “traveled” to South Africa, Japan, Palestine and the Dominican Republic, where they learned important facts about each of these countries. The district NMI president, Elizabeth Roa, along with NMI council members Judith Galindo and Rebeca Ramirez, were in charge of preparing this great adventure. Missionary Freya Galindo, who serves with regional initiatives Genesis and Global Mission in the Dominican Republic, also helped with the events. Freya visited churches in the Mexico Gulf District during these weeks as part of her home assignment.

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In addition to the Missionary Adventure events, NMI leaders from the different areas of the district, specifically those who work with children, received workshops on how to educate and involve children in missions, using teaching materials and other tools.

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Several kids expressed that they were feeling a call to missions during the activities. This event would not have been possible without the help of local churches that supported the event.

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We praise God because He continues to call children! They are also part of the Church!

This article was originally published at Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica Region.

Be Joyful

Many readers of this blog know that my family and I are in Russia right now for the World Cup. Yesterday we attended the France v. Denmark game, which was amazing. Interestingly enough, Dr. Eugénio Duarte, one of our General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, wrote about Denmark and their positivity.  I can confirm from my limited experience with fans of Denmark that they are a happy nation, indeed. I hope you enjoy this article on Denmark, but really more focused on the contentment that Christ gives every believer.

By Eugénio R. Duarte

Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. My only stay in the city was short, but I was able to spend a couple of hours on a tour that introduced me to its historical, cultural, economic, political, industrial, and social life. One of the things I heard, and needed to ponder, was this statement by one of the tour guides: “Denmark was recently rated the happiest nation in the world.”
 
The moment I made my first purchase and saw the bill, I decided that with such a high cost of living, people must require a sizeable income in order to stay happy. But a quick recall of what the same tour guide said about how highly they value community and mutual accountability — especially as it relates to family life — caused me to think again.

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When we learn to appreciate one another and the contribution each can make without constraint to the overall good, our human tendency to complain about any distress or hardship disappears.

Indeed, we are amazed at what some social doctrines can do by using the spirit of tolerance and responsibility. They can generate and even sustain contentment.
          
However, we need more than contentment. Our lives are meant to be full of joy, and joy is far more consistent, reliable, durable, stable, and fruitful. Joy is rooted in “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and “guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Contentment and joy both reside in our hearts and minds, but contentment is there in a relationship that relies on temporary things, conditions, promises, and results, while joy is established on eternal values. When the title to our hearts and minds is in the hands of Jesus, our part in maintaining joy is trust and faith.

The Bible says, “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). God empowers us to be joyful not on the basis of a temporary agreement or arrangement. His Holy Spirit faithfully fulfills the mission of pouring — not dropping — His love into our hearts; the love that generates, feeds, and grows real joy in us. 

“It is Jesus, the vine, that produces fruit; and we, the branches, bear the fruit, including the fruit of joy.” — Billy Graham 

 

2018 World Cup

Hello, readers, and greetings from the 2018 World Cup!  Our family has been saving and planning this vacation for five years now and we are ecstatic.  We have tickets to two games and are hoping to obtain tickets to a third while we are in Russia.  We arrived yesterday (June 25) in Moscow, and we are recovering from some jetlag before we attend our first game today (France v. Denmark)! 

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In the last month, some friends and acquaintances have asked why we would dedicate the time and money to go to Russia and attend the World Cup, especially if the United States did not qualify this time (I am still embarrassed about that to be honest!).  Others have wondered why I occasionally write about sports in this blog that normally is dedicated to missions, leadership, etc.  The futbol (soccer) fans who read this understand completely, so I do not need to persuade you all.  But to the others, here are the reasons the World Cup is so important to me, and why we have written about it in this blog for three straight cycles (2010, 2014, and 2018): 

  1. Culture – and cultures – fascinate me. While in the London airport we were with people from seven different countries all going to the World Cup.  We all look different, speak different languages, and have different customs for sure.  But there is a respect – and even appreciation – for differences here that can prove instructive in a world of so much ethnocentrism.  How can we learn from each other? How do these other people enrich my life and understanding?
  2. Passion, passion, passion. A life without passion is a sad existence!  I confess that I have a hard time comprehending how people can float through life without urgency or excitement.  And admit it: the World Cup is THE place to find fans and players and coaches that are crazy about futbol and their country! Did you see the Brazilian coach who celebrated so hard that he tripped all over himself after a late goal against Costa Rica? Or what about the Panamanians celebrating their first-ever goal in the World Cup, even when they lost the game 6-1? Did you know that Mexico’s goal against Germany arguably caused an earthquake in Mexico City due to the euphoria in that mega-city? Yeah, passion.
  3. Sports can be a microcosm of life. Sports are results-based.  If you succeed, you are rewarded; if you underachieve, there are consequences. This is not to say that the most talented team always wins; sometimes the most well-prepared underdogs can pull off some stunners (See: Iceland v. Argentina). But even that gives us a lesson. There are so many things I have learned from sports about teamwork, perseverance, leadership, and integrity.  The World Cup will bring out the best and the worst in many players and fans and coaches.  It puts a magnifying glass on our character.

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Those are just three of the many reasons that I write about sports and the World Cup in a blog that hopes to help Transform the Globe.  I could go on and on, but it is now time for me to head to the stadium – who knows what cool things we will experience there and in the next week!

Update – Cuba and Nicaragua

The last month has been difficult for our Mesoamerica Region; however, we have seen God’s love and faithfulness. The following information is an update of what has happened in the last weeks in Cuba and Nicaragua, and we want to encourage you to keep praying for these countries.

CUBA

A group of ministers from the Mesoamerica Region Church of the Nazarene traveled to Cuba on May 23 to help after the terrible plane crash on May 18, in which 10 Nazarene pastoral couples died. The Regional Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Coordinator Dhariana Balbuena shared her experiences in Cuba.

In the middle of the loss that our brothers and sisters suffered because of the terrible air accident 3 weeks ago, in the middle of the pain and sadness that they are still experiencing, we give glory and thanks to God for the miracles that have occurred.

Before my eyes in the first days, along with the regional leadership team, I could feel the mercy of God through the life testimonies, like the one that was shared during the funeral of sister Maria Salome. She was a servant of God who, with her studies in civil engineering, could serve the Cuban people in many ways. Many people shared their appreciation for our sister Maria.

It was also marvelous to learn that 37 people gave their lives to Christ in the funeral services, and more in the other services that followed.

The mother of one of the pastors who passed away surrendered at the feet of Christ in the first service after the incident in the church that her son pastored.

We are very grateful for the solidarity from our brothers and sisters from the Mesoamerica Region and from the global church. Your prayers, offerings, and words of encouragement have been a great blessing to the children that were orphaned and to their families.

God is glorified even in the midst of pain and his love transcends affliction.

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NICARAGUA

The country of Nicaragua is in an ongoing crisis that began in April 2018, when protests sparked violence. 

According to human rights groups, more than 100 people have been killed, and thousands more are wounded or missing. The most affected cities are Masaya and Managua. Many have lost their jobs as businesses have shuttered, and dozens of roadblocks around the nation have paralyzed traffic.

In the midst of this unstable situation, local Nazarene churches have continued to meet for worship and prayer. Churches have reduced scheduled meeting times or are meeting in homes as a security precaution. Nazarene volunteers have also delivered food to 150 families in Masaya, where the protests have led to extreme food shortages. 

The Nazarene district office was forced to close on May 29. The district also had to cancel several Work & Witness trips that were scheduled for teams working on local church buildings, including a team from Costa Rica planning to work on the Nazarene seminary in Nicaragua.

Church leaders in Nicaragua are monitoring the activity of the protests to determine the best time to reopen.

“This situation brings us great pain,” says Rev. Maria Antonia Ponce, who serves as the Nazarene district superintendent in the area. “We ask that as the Body of Christ, we would unite in prayer for peace in Nicaragua.”

How You Can Help

Pray

Please pray for churches, families, and individuals affected by the recent violent outbreaks. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who cannot work or travel freely. Pray for those experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for peace to come to the nation. Pray for church leaders and churches responding to the needs around them. To send a prayer or note of encouragement, go to ncm.org/pray.

Give

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Nicaragua Crisis Fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food and water. 

To send donations by mail: 

In the U.S., make checks payable to “General Treasurer” and send them to:

Global Treasury Services

Church of the Nazarene

P.O. Box 843116

Kansas City, MO 64184-3116

Be sure to put 132300 in the Memo area.

In Canada, make checks payable to “Church of the Nazarene Canada” and send them to:

Church of the Nazarene Canada

3657 Ponytrail Drive

Mississauga, ON L4X 1W5

Be sure to put 132300 in the Memo area.

For additional countries, please give through your local church or district, designating your gift to Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Nicaragua Crisis.

–This information was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.orgnazarene.org and ncm.org.

 

 

 

The More You Know

“The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Cor. 8:2)

In college, I was given a topic for a research paper.  I spent a good part of the semester reading, investigating, checking sources, and taking notes.  Every article cited another 20 journals and papers.  When I finally sat down to write the paper, I had so much new knowledge, but I was also convinced of something else: I was nowhere near understanding this subject completely!

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Has that happened to you? Have you ever had a moment where you read or researched a topic extensively, only to find that all the knowledge you had newly acquired was only .01% of the vast information on that subject?

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

In this world of bravado and braggadocio, both Aristotle and Paul were onto something.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

The Famous Know-it-All

“We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

Have you ever met a know-it-all? He (or she) justifiably has a lot of information in his brain, and he wants to let the world know every bit of it.  You’ll know when you’ve met one if they cut off your story or exciting piece of news with a “Well, of course, but did you also hear that…”

There’s no better way to bring a conversation down than with a know-it-all.

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Through social media today we all seem to want the world to know our thoughts and opinions.  We work hard to graduate and get a diploma that verifies that we possess the expertise necessary in a certain area.  Knowledge is vital, and we should strive for more knowledge every day.  However, if all that knowledge is used to bring attention to ourselves or –even worse– to disrespect someone, we have missed the boat.  Knowledge very often puffs us up.  But love? Love builds both you and others up.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

Christ-Centered Discipleship

A few months ago, Dr. Rubén Fernández published in the Didache theological resource website an essay on discipleship within the context of the Mesoamerica Region.  I found it to be a bold, insightful rebuke of our current Church leadership and methodology (I include myself in that distinction).  Below I have provided an extract of this article that I hope you’ll find challenging.  The entire document is here.

We need a greater commitment to the life of holiness. As disciples of Christ we need to fight against the desires of the flesh that want to impose themselves on those of the Spirit. Desires that lead us to accommodate ourselves, to avoid situations or confrontations that may cause us harm, to believe that we have the right to ‘enjoy life’ by turning a blind eye to sin and the suffering that surrounds us.

We must practice a biblical and Christ-centered discipleship that mobilizes the Church to serve the world.

Today, for many Christians (both Roman Catholic and Evangelical), the cross is simply an element that is part of their dress code or a sort of protective amulet for their house or vehicle. Jesus died for our sins. That’s true. But it is also equally true that Jesus died because he confronted the corruption of power. The ministry of Jesus, was really transformative, countercultural and revolutionary and, therefore, highly dangerous.

Biblical and Christ-centered discipleship should shake the church out of its comfort zone and out of its ‘heavenly spirituality’ and lead the church to serve people by transforming their communities.

Young people are waiting for a militant, dissenting, reactive church. We are losing the new generations that reject a church interested in keeping things as they are.

How much do we teach people what it would be like to take up the cross today? To be radical will involve denouncing violence, defending those who are attacked unjustly, taking the side of the weakest, children, the elderly, the unprotected, etc.

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What is the price that a person pays for condemning these things? They will not have more money or win friends. More likely, they will probably be ‘in the sight’ of the Central American gangs, drug cartels or human trafficking in Mexico, corrupt police, purchased judges or unscrupulous politicians almost everywhere. If we put ourselves in the place of those brothers and sisters who have been victimized and others who live under threat to their families, it seems difficult to believe that our ‘prophetic voice’ could deal with those issues.

John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.” How can we mobilize each Nazarene to carry their cross with dignity, so that they may respond to their personal call and become actively involved in the transformation of that place in the world where God has sent them to serve?

My observation in Mesoamerica is that the leadership of the evangelical church in general terms is of a conformist type. What we do well is preserve the status quo. We do not develop true discipleship on the road to the cross. We do not carry out real transformational leadership, like that of Jesus; we only put bandages on the wounds (and not that that’s wrong, but is it enough?). There are some of the countries in our region, such as in Central America, where the percentage of evangelicals is high and growing, but with a tiny impact on the change of society.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered in cold blood at mass in 1980, said in a homily a year before his death: “A sermon that does not point to sin is not a gospel sermon…When the Church hears the weeping of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that nourish and perpetuate the misery from which the cry comes.”

How do we Nazarenes see the involvement of our church members in political careers? What message are we communicating to our members about the value of investing life in professions related to service and public administration?

How can we change the paradigm that still exists in many churches that the only way to serve God is through the pastoral profession or intra-ecclesial leadership?

How can we change from being trainers of church leaders to being trainers of leaders for our present context and reality?

***Dr. Rubén Fernández is Rector of the Seminario Nazareno de las Américas (SENDAS) in San José, Costa Rica.