Church of the Nazarene Established in a New Country

The following article was originally published at Nazarene.org.

The Church of the Nazarene has established its presence in a new country on the Eurasia Region through a local church planter and evangelist named Sam*.

It is not easy for missionaries to enter this country since the government prohibits Christian evangelistic activities. So, when Sam expressed a desire to plant Nazarene churches in his own nation, regional leaders met with him to discern how God was leading.

As a result, the young man and his wife have become Nazarenes and are the denomination’s first step to establishing its presence there.

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The first Nazarene
Sam grew up in a family with no religious faith, but when his younger sister was 7 years old, she became a Christian through involvement with a local Protestant church.

“It did not make us so happy,” Sam said. “We were so dead set against Christianity.”

Several years later, his sister became deathly sick. Sam, who had moved away to find work, rushed home to her deathbed, where she was reduced to skin and bones.

Members of her church visited to pray for her.

“One member told me about the greatness of God and what is possible in Him,” Sam said. “She started sharing the love of Christ. She told me about John 11:25 — Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.’”

At these words, Sam was hopeful that if he believed Jesus was real and put his trust in Him, his sister might be healed.

“So, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior,” Sam said. “I could see that right away she was better. Although she had been sick for six months, a week later she could get up and walk. She went through a successful operation, and she is healed. She is a living testimony.”

Call to ministry 
This healing miracle led Sam to commit his life to Christ. He went to India and enrolled at South India Bible School. This is where Sam first encountered the Church of the Nazarene.

He completed his education and returned to his home country equipped to share the gospel with his people. He patiently talked about Jesus with family and friends, and eventually, his entire family accepted Christ.

“We have a church there in my village,” Sam said. “My uncle is looking after the church. I am so excited and so happy because we all are in one place right now, following one God.”

Partnering with the Nazarene denomination
In 2017, he reconnected with a Nazarene leader from India responsible for Nazarene churches in several countries.

The next year, he met a number of other regional Nazarene leaders. They invited Sam to join the denomination and establish the Church of the Nazarene in Sam’s country.

“I admire the work he and his wife are doing with their people,” said one local Nazarene field leader. “I love the passion and commitment they have to share the Gospel with people.”

Friendship evangelism
Sam’s approach is to first establish friendships with people before talking about what God has done for him and his family.

“I start making a relationship [with people],” Sam said. “After a close and intimate friendship, I call them and maybe go somewhere for coffee, and then I start sharing about Christ.”

On one occasion, he was invited to preach in a village church outside the city. Afterward, he stopped by a butcher shop.

“I had a conversation with the guy who was working,” Sam said. “I made a friendship with him and his family. I got the privilege to reach them, and I shared about Christ’s love. Now they all are in Christ. This month I will baptize them.”

Facing persecution
Despite the legal right to practice the Christian faith, Sam and his wife face discrimination for their faith.

Recently, they relocated to a larger city. However, a series of landlords refused to rent apartments to them when they discovered the couple are Christians. Finally, the couple found a Christian who would rent them an apartment.

Despite these hostile circumstances, Sam opened his own business so he can share Christ through everyday conversations.

“We started the ministry in this country last September, and now we already have a small fellowship group worshipping the Lord Jesus,” said the field strategy coordinator. “We look forward to seeing more beautiful things happening through the ministry of Sam and his wife in the near future.”

*Names changed for privacy

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Children’s Missionary Retreat – 2019

In the midst of the reality our world lives in, where for various reasons people are increasingly moving away from God and his calling, the Church has been concerned with creating an opportunity where children can learn about the importance of love, serving others, and being part of God’s mission.

On July 16 and 17, a “Children’s Missionary Retreat (“COMi” in Spanish) was held for the first time in the Dominican Republic. The country’s five districts were represented, accompanied by national and district leaders of NMI (Nazarene International Missions), SDMI (Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International), NCM (Nazarene Compassionate Ministries) and Global Missions volunteers. Similarly, leaders from Guatemala and Puerto Rico attended, with the special participation of Ana M. Crocker, Regional Coordinator of NMI. They all came together to bless the lives of 47 children who attended this event.

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The COMI was created with the purpose of cultivating in children the responsibility of responding to God’s call to make disciples in all nations. Through games and activities, the young participants learned the true meaning of missions and how they can be part of God’s mission. They received lessons on holistic mission, cross-cultural missions, local missions, and much more.

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Children toured the past, present and future to meet the missionaries of each era and understand their lives, their calls, and their ministries. The children also meditated on the importance of prayer through a time when they interceded for their communities, families, and missionaries. They also enjoyed songs, a theatrical presentation, and several awards.

To conclude this event, participants reflected on the life and calling of Samuel, followed by a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the life of each of the children. As we concluded the event, we were convinced: if we invest more time in teaching our children to hear the voice of God, they will not only dream of being missionaries, but they will BE our future missionaries. 

 –Elba Duson, Global Missions East District, Dominican Republic.

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Hound of Heaven…or African Lion?

The Hound of Heaven” is a poem written by Francis Thompson in which the author tells of a God who pursues him (metaphorically like a bloodhound, of course) through difficulties and disbelief, and even occasionally in spite of the author’s desire to know him.  That title has often been used to help describe what some Christian denominations refer to as “prevenient grace.” Such grace goes before, preparing the way for us to know God and preventing us from harm in many cases even though we certainly do not deserve such protection.  This gracious God woos us into relationship with him.  The apostle John echoed this truth when he said, “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

I recently came across a story that made me think of the hound of heaven in a different light.  I hope it will give you a new lens through which to see prevenient grace.

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“An old Christian was trying to explain faith to Father Donovan, who lived sixteen years with the Masai in Tanzania.  ‘Faith is not like when someone fires a gun and kills from a distance with a simple twitch of the finger. No, faith is like when a lion leaps against his prey.  His nose, eyes and ears sense it.  His feet speed him forward.  All the strength of his body is tensed to make a terrible leap and deal the deadly blow.  When the victim falls, the lion drags it towards him and makes it part of himself. That is how a lion kills. And that is how a man believes.  That is like faith.’ 

Father Donovan thought he understood.  He supposed faith is effort, sometimes painful, in search of God.  Our souls are tensed, like the lion.  But the old African had not finished. ‘We Masai did not go out searching, Father, nor did we want you to come.  You told us we had to seek God.  But it was God who searched for us and found us.  We always believe we are the lion, but in reality, the lion is God.’”

Blameless? That’s Impossible!

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’” (Genesis 17:1-2)

By Emily Armstrong

God is renewing his covenant with Abraham that the promise of a great nation would come from Abraham and Sarah.  Verse 1 says that Abraham is 99 years old when God has this conversation with him.  I can only imagine that he was thinking, “OK, God, I’ll be a first time dad, but only with your help.”  As long as we are talking about doing the impossible, did we miss the small but significant phrase in verse 1 that says, “Walk before me and be blameless”? Again, Abraham has to be thinking, “OK, God, but only with your help.”

Does God really expect Abraham to be a dad at age 99? Yep.  Does God really expect Abraham to walk before him and be blameless? You bet.  And God expects the same from us.  Is it a fair expectation? Yes, but only because we have the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit helps us to make the right choices, and helps us continually walk before God and be blameless.  It’s not to say that the Holy Spirit makes our decisions for us, but he’s continually guiding us in the correct paths, if we allow him to.

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I remember when I was in college that I really started struggling with the concept of being blameless.  I had been a Christian since I was a little girl, but the Holy Spirit started speaking to me about the kind of music that I listened to.  It wasn’t BAD music, but it certainly wasn’t the best.  I had to really wrestle with the Lord and see if what I was listening to was helping my relationship grow stronger with Him.  I’m sure you aren’t surprised to learn that I realized that the Holy Spirit was right, and I made some changes in my music.  It was hard, and it was a process, but I know that it’s helped me even to this day to walk blamelessly before God.

So, are you up to it?  Have you been feeling like the Holy Spirit’s been talking to you about some of the habits that you have that are keeping you from walking blamelessly before God?  If so, then start evaluating the changes that you need to make, and start making them. You’ll soon learn like I did, that walking blamelessly is possible, with God’s help.

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong.  

 

I am not Ashamed

By Scott Armstrong

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” There it is, in black and white in verse 8 of the first chapter of 2 Timothy.  No getting away from it; testifying about what Jesus is doing in our lives is the expectation.  It’s what Christian’s do.  So, why is doing it so hard?

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I’ve been a missionary in various countries for the last sixteen years, and I’ve realized over that period of time that I, too, fell into the category of being “afraid” to share with non-believers what Jesus was doing in my life.  As a missionary, it’s part of my job description to be ready at all times to share Jesus Christ with whoever I might meet.  But amazingly enough that was part of my job description before I became a missionary, as well.  It is something that I should have been doing on a daily basis since the day that I became a Christian.

Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not experienced enough. What would you say anyway? Well, is God working in your life? Have you seen his healing hand, or his hand of protection, or his hand of mercy? Those are stories that you can share – nobody can say that they didn’t happen.  They might not believe that GOD was the reason that they resolved, but it shouldn’t stop you from sharing them.  Every time that you share about the greatness of God, a seed has been planted.

So, are you ready to start sharing what God is doing in your life with your friends? Don’t be ashamed to testify about how awesome our God is.  In fact, once you start doing it, you’ll find that it becomes easier.  Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong.  

All Hands on Deck

Knowing what mission is and being on mission are two very different things. To be on mission requires initiative, but above all you need a ready and willing heart to work in response to the love of God.

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From June 23 to 30, eleven young Nazarenes dedicated their week to support the construction of the Center of Missionary Formation on the campus of the Nazarene Seminary located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We were accompanied by members of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, Oklahoma, USA, and were led by the coordinators of Work and Witness in the country, AJ and Chelsea Fry. The coordinator of Global Missions in the Dominican Republic, Wendy Rivera, also assisted in the trip.

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In addition to the building projects, we held Vacation Bible Schools in two Nazarene churches located near the seminary. There we had the opportunity to minister to more than 150 children.  Our goal was to serve the Lord, and we understood that by doing so we would need to work with all our hearts to serve others.

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We experienced moments of intense construction work, and other times of great joy while we shared with the children of the churches.  We also enjoyed the time as a team that we were able to spend in communion with God and with each other.  We are grateful for what God did in our lives, as well as what He will continue to do. This was an unforgettable experience and a great blessing! However, I hope that it is not only an experience, but a motivation to, wherever we are, continue working for the Lord.  We willingly declare: all hands on deck!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

 –Yerys Amador, Work and Witness volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

Operation Rescue

 “And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

With this verse in mind, from June 20th to the 23rd, the Church of the Nazarene in the Eastern District of the Dominican Republic held its second Maximum Mission in three low-income communities in the town of Bayaguana. With a willing heart to serve, about 50 participants from four districts of the country met to carry out this missionary work.

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“Operation Rescue” was the title of this great activity, which sought to fulfill what Jesus said in Matthew 20:28: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The participants mobilized to SERVE and share with many people who needed to hear a message of hope.

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More than 60 families were blessed with the Word of God and baskets of food. The group also shared workshops on self-esteem, a Vacation Bible School was held, houses were repaired, a film was shown, a revival service was celebrated, and many other activities impacted the people of Bayaguana.  Four people decided to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives and to start their walk with Him.

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We believe that this is the time for the Church to be mobilized and get out of its comfort zone. The needs are abundant, and many souls wander without direction and without God. Men and women are needed who are ready and willing to say: Here am I, send me!

— Elba Isabel Duson, Global Missions Coordinator, Eastern District, Dominican Republic.