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.

The Art of Turning

The World Cup is here! In the past eight years of our Spanish blog, that has meant that we have highlighted various nations and their cultures, while offering perspectives on the state of the Church in each country as well as some prayer requests. See, for example, Pamela Alvarado’s write-up on Ghana or Mario Josué López’s article on Croatia.

This year we will be doing things a bit differently. Every now and then during the next month we will be offering articles and sometimes videos dealing with different aspects (namely the “culture” side) of the World Cup.  So, to start us off, read this testimony by a former Premier League Player who God called to be a Pastor.  The following is an excerpt froma Christianity Today article originally published in June 2016.

By Gavin Peacock

One skill my dad taught me as a child was the art of turning with a soccer ball. I was never going to be tall, so he would take me into our backyard in Southeast London and teach me how to quickly switch directions with the ball at my feet. “The big guys won’t be able to catch you!” he said. For hours I would practice turning to the left and right, dribbling in and out of cones, spinning this way and that. My dad was right: the art of turning served me well. Many of the goals I scored in the years to come were a result of that lesson.

I was not brought up in a Christian home and never heard the gospel preached. Sunday school gave way to Sunday soccer. The most biblical form of instruction I received was in assemblies at the Church of England school that I attended. I was a kid who intensely wanted to achieve in the classroom and on the field. My father taught me the necessary self-control, discipline, and skills to succeed in education and in the professional sports arena.

At age 16, I left school and signed a professional contract with Premier League Queens Park Rangers (QPR). I had achieved the goal—and I wasn’t really happy. I was playing for the England Youth National Team, and it wasn’t long before I broke into the starting eleven at QPR. But I was an insecure young man in the cutthroat world of professional sport. Soccer was my god. If I played well on a Saturday I was high, if I played poorly I was low. My sense of well-being depended entirely on my performance. I soon realized that achieving the goal wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

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Turning to Christ

Then, when I was 18, God intervened in my life, the first of two dramatic turning points. I was still struggling to find purpose, so I decided to attend a local Methodist church one Sunday evening. I don’t remember what the minister preached on, but afterward he invited me to his house, where he and his wife hosted a weekly youth Bible study.

I decided to return to the Bible study the following week and the next, and I began to hear the gospel for the first time. I realized that my biggest problem wasn’t whether I met the disapproval of a 20,000-strong crowd on Saturday; my biggest problem was my sin and the disapproval of almighty God. I realized that the biggest obstacle to happiness was that soccer was king instead of Jesus, who provided a perfect righteousness for me. I realized what Augustine had expressed many years before in his Confessions: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Over time, my eyes were opened through that Sunday meeting, and I turned, repented, and believed the gospel. MY HEART STILL BURNED FOR SOCCER, BUT IT BURNED FOR CHRIST MORE.  

In professional sports, the highs and lows of life are extreme, very close together, and very public. The scrutiny is intense. Christian maturity is a slow process, but in the world of professional sport, your slow sanctification is on show. You can sign a lucrative contract one day, and your career could be finished by one tackle the next day. Those were thrilling and testing days, filled with massive highs and lows, cup finals and promotions, defeat and relegation. I experienced the full gamut as a believer.

Uncertainty plagues the professional soccer player. On one level the uncertainty and drama spur men on to play their best; on another level they cause deep insecurity. That used to be me as a young man, but as a Christian I now feared the Lord more than the crowd. Soccer wasn’t my idol anymore.

Turning to Ministry

A door opened after my retirement for a broadcasting career with the BBC, and it wasn’t long before I was covering weekly shows, like Match of the Day, for several million UK viewers. It was a job that found its apex at the 2006 World Cup. Yet shortly afterward the second turning point came: the call to pastoral ministry.

Until then I had always had opportunities for Christian witness as a soccer player and broadcaster, but never had the urge to preach. Then, while reading though the pastoral Epistles, I began to feel a strong desire to pursue pastoral ministry. My church affirmed the call, and after a period of testing, I knew I was going to give up a second dream career for ministry. In 2008, I left the shores of England. Within weeks I went from speaking on TV about David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo to writing papers on John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards.

All those years ago, my earthly father taught me the art of turning, but it was my heavenly Father who turned me first to Christ and then to preach his gospel. Turning from sin and trusting in Christ for salvation isn’t just a one-time initial event; it is the substance of the Christian life. This is a message the church needs to recover. And so, I continue to turn and teach others to turn.

Gavin Peacock is missions pastor at Calvary Grace Church in Alberta and coauthor of The Grand Design: Male and Female He Created Them.

8 Ways to Wreck a Marriage

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our 18th wedding Anniversary. Outside my salvation and sanctification, Emily has probably been God’s most extravagant gift to me through the years. We have shared tears and many laughs. And we love each other more today than even on our wedding day – way more, in fact!

Several years ago, I read an article from Dave Willis (LINK:) on how to wreck a marriage.  Pick your jaw up off the floor; his purpose in writing about how relationships are destroyed was to help his readers AVOID such devastation.  So, in that spirit, and as my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, I somewhat ironically share Dave Willis’ Eight Ways to Wreck a Marriage.

As I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world, I’ve discovered most marriage problems can be traced back to a few deadly (but also very common) mistakes. Here’s a list of some of the most common marriage-killing behaviors. Avoid these at all costs and you’ll be taking a big step towards building a divorce-proof marriage!

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  1. Stop communicating with your spouse.

Communication does for a marriage what breathing does for lungs. Communication is the lifeline of any relationship, so if you stop communicating with your spouse, you’re choosing to starve your marriage of one of its most basic needs.

  1. Confide in a “friend” of the opposite sex.

One of the most common patterns I’ve seen among divorcing couples is that one of the spouses develops an attachment with someone of the opposite sex for emotional support instead of looking to their spouse for that support. The moment you allow someone else to take your spouse’s place in your mind, your heart or your bed, you’ve made a choice to wreck your marriage.

  1. Stop making love.

Sex is a God-given gift to bring fulfillment, intimacy and mutual bonding to a husband and wife. The moment you stop prioritizing what happens in the bedroom, your marriage might be headed for a courtroom.

  1. Belittle, nag or insult your spouse.

You should be your spouse’s biggest encourager, not their biggest critic! If your communication has taken on a consistently negative tone, then your marriage will quickly take on a negative tone as well.

  1. Keep secrets from your spouse.

Secrets in marriage are as dangerous as lies. If you start hiding money, conversations or anything else from your spouse, you’re choosing to sabotage your relationship.

  1. Blame your spouse for your problems.

Couples who make it are the ones who choose to work together to find solutions. Couples who don’t make it are the ones who blame each other instead of supporting each other.

  1. Surround yourself with people who don’t know or don’t like your spouse.

The wrong friends can wreck a marriage. If you surround yourself with people who support your marriage, your marriage will probably improve. If you surround yourself with people who don’t support your marriage, then you need some new friends.

  1. Give up.

The couples who make it aren’t the ones who never had a reason to get divorced, they are simply the ones who choose to find a way to make it work. They’ve discovered that a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!

Guatemala Volcano Response – You Can Help

On Sunday, 3 June, the Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala erupted, killing more than 69 people, a number that is expected to rise. Fast-moving avalanches of rock and ash tore down the mountain, reaching temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Villages in three provinces — Chimaltenango, Escuintla, and Sacatepéquez — were covered with ash and debris. The full extent of the damage is still unknown as rescue efforts and rehabilitation have been hindered by further eruptions and rain. 

People affected by this disaster need your help. 

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GIVE NOW

Entire communities have been destroyed, and Nazarene brothers and sisters are among those who have lost loved ones. A team of Nazarene volunteers from nearby communities arrived in Escuintla on Monday to visit shelters and distribute emergency medical supplies, but the needs are still great and urgent.

It will be a long time before those affected are able to recover or return to what may seem normal; entire homes and livelihoods were engulfed. The loss will linger for many years. By supporting the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund, you are coming alongside local churches to provide for urgent needs now and support long-term recovery efforts into the future. 

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The needs are great and recovery could take years.

GIVE NOW

How You Can Help 

PRAY

Please pray for families and individuals affected by the eruption and subsequent landslides. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Pray for the energy, resilience, and success of the rescue workers and volunteers. Pray for those experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for those who are most vulnerable, especially senior adults, individuals with disabilities, and people living in poverty. 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.

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GIVE

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food, water, and medical supplies, as well as for long-term rebuilding.

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 132290 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 132290 in the Memo area.

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

This information was distributed by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Photo credit: Mesoamerica Communications.