Hope and Prayer

By: Board of General Superintendents 27 Mar, 2020

Even though these are challenging times, this past weekend was a blessing in the Church of the Nazarene, as worship services from around the world were broadcast through live stream or by video. Many churches reported reaching more people than ever before with the hope of Jesus Christ. People who would not normally feel comfortable entering a church building entered into digital space and encountered grace and peace. We give thanks to the Lord for this!

We are also deeply appreciative of the efforts so many of our churches are making to serve the needs around them in creative ways. We have seen so many examples of creative responses, from a congregation in Maine, USA, stepping up to fill the gap for food deliveries to the elderly to the Cape Verdean Nazarene pastors who were invited to bring a worship service to the country via a national television station, to Sunday school classes meeting by video conferencing, to a drive-in church where people drove to a parking lot and worshiped in their cars as the pastor and worship leaders led from an outdoor platform to a youth group in Ohio, USA, who decided to bring joy to people living in a senior care center through a drama program (from an appropriate distance outside, of course). These are just a few of the many stories we could share. All these are testaments to the faithfulness of God and the creativity of our people. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary means.

Some have asked for suggestions of how to pray during this season of COVID-19. Here are a few ways to focus your intercession:

1. Pray for wisdom for the leaders of your countries, states or provinces, and cities. Ask God to give them good counsel and wise discernment to know what is needed to protect their citizens. Pray for other countries besides your own that may be faced with difficult and complex situations unlike what you are experiencing. Every region of the world is seeking to weather the pandemic.

2. Pray for the protection of medical professionals and health care workers laboring to care for the sickest and those most needy. Pray for divine understanding and supernatural strength from God for their daily tasks. Many are facing a shortage of the most basic medical supplies. Pray for researchers, scientists, and manufacturers who are working to find cures and produce treatment equipment.

3. Pray for healing and comfort for those who are sick, lonely, and afraid, particularly the most vulnerable and endangered. This includes the elderly, those with chronic pre-existing health conditions, those without adequate health care, and those who are isolated due to quarantines.

4. Pray for those most at risk economically. The entire world is confronted with enormous financial implications, but for those who are single-income families, those caring for children and older parents at home, those who are self-employed, those who are in the service industry, and many others, this is an especially devastating time.

5. Pray for your pastors and church board leaders to know how to navigate the ministries and mission of the local church with a balance of caution, courage, and compassion. Pastors are front-line caregivers and “shepherds” of the people of God. If you are able, remember to support your church financially during a time when public meetings are not possible.

6. Pray for the Church around the world, including those of other traditions and denominations. While we ask God to bring an end to the pandemic, we also pray that the Church will find ways to serve, comfort, and love our neighbors for the sake of Christ and the healing of the world.

Phineas Bresee dreamed of a worldwide church when he said, “The sun never sets on the Church of the Nazarene.” Today that dream is a reality. We can literally cover the earth in our prayers, 24 hours a day. Let’s be faithful to that calling.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Grace and peace to you all,

The Board of General Superintendents

Website Church of the Nazarene

Jeremiah 29:11 – A Poem by Ana Brunk

Some of the greatest people on the planet are Missionary Kids (MKs).  Emily and I have been able to invest in different groups of MKs through the years, and we, of course, have two of our own that we think are dynamite.

Missionary Kids possess a great deal of cultural intelligence and seem to be able to adapt to a multitude of challenging situations.  But that does not make them impervious to pain and loss.  Recently I re-read a poem that a wonderful MK wrote in 2011 when she was 14 years old.  I hope that it gives you a window into what a teenage MK deals with and the hope that they can find in God even when the burdens seem unbearable.

Jeremiah 29:11

Ana Brunk, Nazarene MK in Singapore, 14 years old (July 2011)

Imagine yourself in Heaven,

Where the beauty of God’s creation thrives

Where the light and love of your Father surrounds you

Imagine yourself sitting in a vast field full of color and beauty

Your Father is there with you

You crawl onto his lap and hold his hand

As you do, he lifts your thumb for a closer look

Do you see those tiny lines all over your finger?

Your thumbprint is so special and unique, just like you he says with a wink

You look up at your Dad and smile

I have a purpose for everything that I do

Even the pattern on your thumb was made the way it was for a reason

Before returning to your home here in Heaven you suffered many hardships

Dear friends would have to leave

Your best friend moved away from you too

You felt alone, like you were the only one who really cared about your relationship with me

I felt your pain in all those situations

I cried with you in the bad times and celebrated in the good

But I knew the plans I had for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you

Plans to give you a hope and a future

You look up at your Father with tears of joy in your eyes

And it all worked out perfect, thank you Daddy

Christianity in Times of Calamity: Lessons from Habakkuk

 

By: Dr. Antonio Carlos Barro

“Calamity” (from the Latin calamitate) or the word “catastrophe” mean public disgrace, or even scourge. Public calamity refers to an abnormal situation provoked by disasters that cause damage and loss on a large scale.  Such tragedies involve a substantial commitment from governments and the society at large to respond quickly in midst of panic and crisis.

At this point in our history, it is almost impossible to think that anyone could not be aware of the calamity that has affected the world. Everyone is being affected. Nothing and nobody can escape this reality.

While reflecting on this, I thought of the prophet Habakkuk and the calamity that plagued his time.  I believe this book can give some answers to the problems we face. The following words are pastoral (another article that covers this topic from a different angle is: https://coletivobereia.com.br/igreja-e-irresponsabilidade-social-os-paradoxos-da-pandemia-de-2020/), and I wrote them thinking only of how we can better face these coming uncertain days.

Habakkuk is little-known in the Scriptures. We know that he lived at the same time as the prophet Jeremiah and that he had extraordinary faith rooted in God’s long-standing relationship with his people. He lived in southern Israel, and his prophecies, like Jeremiah’s, date back to just before Babylon’s invasion of Jerusalem in 597 BC.

Habakkuk discussed with God what seemed to be his unjust way of ruling the world. He was baffled by the fact that wickedness, strife, and oppression were rampant in Judah, but apparently God was doing nothing about it. When they told him that the Lord was preparing to do something through the “cruel” Babylonians (1:6), his perplexity only intensified: how could God, who is “too pure to look at evil” (1:13), instruct such a nation to “execute judgment” (1:12) on a people “more righteous than themselves” (1:13)?

God made it clear, however, that eventually the corrupt destroyer would be destroyed. In the end, Habakkuk learned to rest in the sovereign actions of God and to wait for his work in a spirit of worship. The message: Learn to wait patiently in faith (2:3-4) because the kingdom of God will be expressed globally, even universally (2:14).

The book ends with a note of faith and hope: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (3:17-19).

Here are some lessons for us, although I’m sure others could be brought out, as well.

  1. We are all subject to disasters of all kinds. It can be health-related, economic, political, social, relational, etc. These disasters affect everyone without distinction. There is no such thing as praying and then assuming that nothing will ever happen to me or my family.
  2. Israel was God’s people in the past, but due to disobedience was not saved. In fact, it was God Himself who raised Babylon against His people. Babylon did not act outside of the sovereign will of God.
  3. Habakkuk understood what God was doing and decided to have faith and hope for the future. One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible states that God is working and that people will know His name and that His glory will be seen throughout the world: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14).
  4. We must have that same confidence. God has not forgotten his purposes; his mission is not yet over. While Habakkuk was still alive, he wrote. And while we have life, we are to “write,” as well.  Let’s write our hope, let’s write about God acting in us during this time. Could a calamity be strong enough to shake and destroy God’s goals for his people?!
  5. Let’s be realistic and practical. Habakkuk went to see what was happening. He saw the shortage, he saw the lack of food, he saw a distressed situation. He experienced it first-hand and knew it would shake everyone up.
  6. Even so, when he sees the results of the calamity looming, he stands up in a cry of faith and hope: “Though…”. Although everything is as it is, although I cannot see it, although everything is dry and without the possibility of flourishing…Even so I will rejoice.
  7. In the midst of it all, he prophesies: “I will rejoice in the Lord and rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Circumstances should lead us to praise God and not despair; they must lead us to believe and not to a state of unbelief. If circumstances end up determining whether we have faith or not, our relationship with God is finished.
  8. Finally, Habakkuk expresses his complete confidence in the sovereignty of God. That same sovereign God is your strength and will bring you out of this calamity. Perhaps the doctrine that will be most questioned these days by the people of God is his sovereignty. Surely there will be much written in these days about the injustices of God, about the ineffectiveness of God, and about the silence of God.
  9. It is up to us as the people of God to act with faith, courage and bravery.
  10. Let’s be like Habakkuk. He was not out of touch with reality; he knew what was happening and made sure he was familiar with the devastation.
  11. Now it is up to each of us to act in the midst of our calamity. We might question God, but we must finally believe in His sovereignty. We can convey, like Habakkuk, with our words and actions a message of hope to those who are bewildered. We can be a light in the dark. We can be providers. We can be what God wants us to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Conclusion

It was for this hour that God saved you. He not only saved you so that you could go to heaven, but also so that you would bring heaven to earth.  Bring it now – and soon!

He saved you so that you would shine today and not just in eternity. He saved you so that you would do good today. He saved you in order that you would live through this crisis with faith and boldness.

Believe and obey. Create and act. Today and always remember that God has not yet fulfilled his promise that the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of his glory. Reflecting on these truths will provide great peace of mind about the future.

Dr. Antonio Carlos Barro

General Director, South American Theological Faculty

Londrina, Paraná, Brazil

 

A Pastoral Letter To Our Global Nazarene Family

So much has changed in such a brief time. Our daily news cycle is filled with reports of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Government leaders, medical professionals, researchers, and scientists are diligently working to stem the tide of the contagion and to protect the citizens of their countries. We have all been impacted in great and small ways.

We have been advised by national, state, and municipal authorities to restrict our public gatherings, maintain social distance, and to observe rigorous health protocols. The threat is serious and real – immediate action is necessary to “flatten the curve” wherever possible. We believe it is essential that the church around the world do our part, even as the mission of the church continues.

We have been in ongoing communication with regional, field, and district leadership. We are hearing wonderful reports of how our churches are responding with compassion and creativity, being careful yet courageous. So many are doing their part to adapt because they understand that Christlike ministry extends much farther than the walls of a building. Crises often reveal our dependence on God and opportunities for ministry we could not see before. Thank you for allowing the light of your witness to shine brightly.

However, we also realize that there are many new challenges, unlike we have faced in our lifetime. Because the Church of the Nazarene is a global church, it is difficult to make comprehensive recommendations that fit in every situation. In our various countries, there are different government health protocols recommending restrictions on gatherings. While we believe in the vital importance of the gathering of the saints, due to the highly contagious nature of this virus and as a way to show our respect for governing authorities and to love our neighbors, we ask every local church to cooperate with and follow the recommendations from your nation, state, and municipality. Further, we are empowering district leadership to offer directives and provide guidelines to local churches in the matter of congregational gatherings in accordance with health department instructions. We will find our way through this time with God’s help and the strength of the Body of Christ.

We want to call the church to prayer. As one of our district superintendents said: “Pray now and often. Pray for peace. Pray for patience. Pray for learning. Pray for the Holy Spirit who is unbound by any of temporary restrictions to come over people in their homes. Pray for His power to flow out of us in Christlike compassion and conviction, so much that even though we aren’t gathering for worship according to our customs, we will experience the presence of Jesus and reflect Him in what we say and do.”

Finally, let us be reminded of God’s Word: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The people of God do not live in fear and respond in panic. We know God will never leave us or forsake us. Perfect love casts out fear. Moreover, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to respond in love and grace to our neighbor, regardless of our circumstances. We have been given a sound mind to make wise decisions and the fruit of the Spirit to give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control as we follow Jesus and pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We pray for God’s healing of COVID-19, but we also pray that we will have the grace to be faithful to our mission, “To make Christlike disciples in the nations.” National borders may be temporarily closed, social distancing may be necessary for a time, but the gospel will not be deterred.

Grace and peace to you all,

The Board of General Superintendents

Eugénio R. Duarte

David W. Graves

David A. Busic

Gustavo A. Crocker

Filimão M. Chambo

Carla D. Sunberg

Pastoral Letter Web Site

Pioneer. Develop. Resource.

By: Dr. Verne Ward, Global Missions Director, Church of the Nazarene

“I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” – I Corinthians 3:5-9

Pioneer. Develop. Resource.

In the Church of the Nazarene, missionaries work in these three areas, leading the growth of the church from its embryonic state, through its development, to its maturity.

Over the course of their service, some missionaries will serve in all three roles: pioneering, developing, and resourcing. Other missionaries will serve in one or two of these roles. Often, missionaries fulfill several roles at once.

Missionaries may start out pioneering, then move into development before God calls them to another work. A pioneering missionary may team up with another missionary who will take responsibility for development. Yet another missionary may be sent to serve in resourcing. The Apostle Paul described this process in 1 Corinthians 3.

God calls some to serve for decades while calling others to fulfill a role for a few years. This is why we have changed our retirement eligibility from 20 to 15 years. We also recognize contributions of 5 years, 10 years, 20 and 25 years. We not only celebrate with those who obey the call to go but also those who obey God’s call to return to their home country when they have fulfilled their calling.

What do these roles look like in our church today?

Alonso and Alicia (names changed for security) are pioneering. They have moved to a nation in the Eurasia Region where the Church of the Nazarene previously had no presence. As they prayerfully develop relationships and discover their community’s needs, they have taken steps to meet those needs by partnering with a nursing home and an orphanage. Eventually, with God’s blessing, discipleship will lead to church planting.

As new believers grow in their faith and service, pioneering becomes developing, and others may join them in the work. Development includes discipling, modeling, and training believers so they have the skills to be the Body of Christ in their community and cultural context. They may also develop systems that sustain the church in the areas of theological education, literature creation, or financial management.

Missionaries in resource roles often hold responsibilities in areas such as strategy, communications or education, to support the ministry of local believers who are engaged in evangelism, discipleship, and compassion. Resource roles often involve helping to connect the local church with its larger global church family.

God calls people with a wide variety of skill sets and experiences as the church grows from a pioneer to a developing work and finally to a mature church.

 

 

Cross-Cultural Orientation in Bonao, Dominican Republic

A Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO) was held March 6-8, 2020 at the Donald Wunker Christian Bible Campgrounds in Maimón, Bonao, Dominican Republic. 46 participants with missions interest attended the activity, and the 16 trainers present gave workshops, shared devotionals, and led dynamics as they guided all those present who were exploring their cross-cultural mission call.

The CCO began with an innovative strategy where participants registered and entered the event in a peculiar way.  The surprise of that first culture shock made it clear to everyone present that the event was not just another meeting.  The call to serve is a call to value what we have and take advantage of every opportune moment in order to grow and develop oneself.  Visiting “CCO Country” and becoming acclimated to its culture ended up cultivating an identity in the group as a whole.

Participating in a CCO is a great opportunity to understand and explore the missionary action of the Church of the Nazarene on the global, regional and local levels.  Every missions-focused dynamic and activity was developed by leaders who understand and are very passionate about each topic.  Participants were led in new ideas, making them aware of God’s urgent call to serve in cross-cultural missions and the many opportunities available to do so.  We thank the Lord for waking us up to a reality that we didn’t even know existed before participating in the CCO.  As the following testimonies show, we highly recommend that EVERY Nazarene experience what it is like to live in “CCO Country”. 90012613_225918755194436_6526149265209688064_n

“In 2011 I began asking God to place me in a Christian ministry, that he would release me from my ‘secular’ job.  In 2015, I prayed again and told God that we are a missionary family, and that my children and I would be available for full-time service.  God has continued to place this desire and need in our hearts. In October 2018, the Lord very clearly called me to missions and in 2019 he called my sons.  My daughters are now praying, dreaming and seeking God’s guidance.

Being in the CCO is the continuation and confirmation of the call that God has placed on my life, along with my children, to serve Him in missions.  It has been one of the ways that the Lord is preparing us and orchestrating our lives to be in service to Him.  We will continue to be involved in missionary activities, following the call that God has placed on our lives.” –July Quiterio Cuello. 90095074_212987919768350_7084061818993246208_n

“I will look back on the CCO as a “before and after” event in my spiritual life and ministry.  This camp has confirmed God’s call in my heart and at the same time his direction and guidance for me to follow it.  God has raised up a focused generation willing to fulfill the Great Commission and take the restorative gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.  I can simply say thank you because becoming a missionary is not a sacrifice that I will make, but a gracious gift that God is giving me.” –Rachel Mariel Compres Morel.

“I am grateful to God and to the leaders that have instructed my daughter, Elba, regarding missions.  God called and she began to follow his instructions, understand her call, and obey.  This is the way that God has allowed me to send my daughter as a missionary.  To God be the glory for allowing me to participate in that blessing!  In the CCO, I asked the Lord to speak to me, because I wanted to know Him even more.  My life belongs to the Lord.  I want to be a mother, a leader, and a pastor with the knowledge to speak to youth and other families about how important it is to support our youth and children in missions.  There is a new generation that should be preparing to take the message of Jesus to a new world.  Being able to participate in this great event, I learned more about God’s call, I learned about why we exist, and what we are called to do.  There are simply not enough words to describe everything that I experienced during these three days. I want to serve the Lord until my last breath.” –Maribel Duson (Pastor).

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Declaration From General Superintendents On Coronavirus

 

Declaration from General Superintendents on Coronavirus:

https://nazarene.org/article/board-general-superintendents-statement-coronavirus

To our global Nazarene family:

These are unprecedented days in the life of the church and for the citizens of the world. The global pandemic as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has led us into new territory. The good news is that all of this is not a surprise to God, and while we may feel unprepared and uncertain, we know that we are able to put our faith and trust in God. We encourage you not to live in a spirit of fear but to allow His peace to lead and direct each and every day. Today, we pray for the peace of Christ to bring us calm in the midst of this storm.

Throughout history, the church has been used by God to reflect Christ in a time of crisis. This is the time for the church to shine. Reach out in holy love to those in our communities who are in need. Do not allow prejudices to form our opinions regarding particular people groups, but instead, “love your neighbor.” Consider those who will be the most affected by restrictions, and be prepared to share resources with those in need.

The Board of General Superintendents and additional Church of the Nazarene leadership continues to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the church and people around the world. We are working closely with districts and churches to provide guidance regarding legislative and jurisdictional questions during this time.

Click here for general guidelines for local churches.

We continue to pray for all those affected by this illness and are believing for the Lord’s wisdom, healing, blessing, and guidance during this difficult time. Let us not stray away from our faith into fear during these hard times, “for the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

For the latest information regarding COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization website.