Paraguay Missionary Sacrifices Dream to Follow God

The following article was originally published at: Nazarene.org.

Yoan and Astrid Camacaro recently accepted the call to be missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene in Paraguay after serving as pastors in Ecuador for more than five years.

Both Yohan and Astrid are humble and willing to follow God’s lead wherever it might take them; however, their call to missions didn’t happen overnight. 

Yoan grew up in Venezuela in the underprivileged community of Andres Bellos. He started attending the Church of the Nazarene in his early teens and became very involved in church activities.

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Ever since he was a child, Yoan’s dream was to be a professional baseball player and rescue his family from poverty. His grandmother gave him a baseball glove as a gift when he was young, and his family quickly realized he was very talented. 

As he got older, he got better and was noticed by professional scouts. One day, he received a telephone call from the Atlanta Braves, who offered him a contract to go to America to play baseball. That same day, he received a call from his local district superintendent who believed Yoan had a gift for ministry and suggested that Yoan attend the Nazarene Seminary in Quito, Ecuador. 

Lost, Yoan went to his Bible and found the verse in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

At that moment, Yoan knew what he had to do. He declined the offer to play professional baseball, and he went to the seminary. 

During his time at seminary, Yoan met his wife, Astrid, who was born into a Christian home in Ecuador and felt called to ministry at 15 years old. 

Growing up, Astrid served as a youth leader and Sunday School teacher. She has always a strong passion for discipling, mentoring and involving young people in ministry and missions.

After graduating from seminary, the two were married in 2011. They lived in Venezuela for a while where their son, Yared, was born. Yoan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in cross-cultural missions with Nazarene Seminary of the Americas in Costa Rica.

In 2013, the Camacaros planted a church in Ibarra, Ecuador, where they have pastored until their recent call to missions. 

“We are excited to start this new adventure and serve God with love and passion,” the Camacaros said. “We know that great things are coming for the country of Paraguay, and we are ready to develop strategies for growth.”

Now, Yoan hopes that God will use his son to carry out his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. 

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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

In the Cities

Greetings from Kansas City, Missouri, USA.  I am attending a Regional Leadership Conference and have been invited to be a part of a panel focused on “Mission to the Cities.” It is such an honor to speak about this topic along with many urban mission leaders and General Superintendents as part of the panel.

Each one of us will be giving a short introduction to our ministry context, and I wanted to share with you what I will be saying at the opening of the panel:

Good morning! ¡Buenos días!

I’m a Nazarene missionary in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  My family and I have lived in five different countries in the last 15 years, and now we are coordinating an initiative called Genesis. Genesis seeks to bring a new beginning to the big cities of the Mesoamerica Region, which is ironic, because just 8 years ago, I hardly cared about urban mission.

We began our missionary career by living in Guatemala City, Guatemala and San José, Costa Rica: two huge cities with lots and lots of need.  And, of course, as a missionary, I was passionate about winning the world for Christ!  But during that time if you were to have asked me why cities are important to God, I would have stammered and faltered.  Aren’t all places important to God? What’s the big deal about cities?

It wasn’t until 2011 when my family and I moved to Panama City, Panama, that I started to get it.  You see, we went from living in a house to living on the 19th floor of a high-rise. The view was amazing.  Because of a healthy fear of heights, I did not go out on our balcony often, but one night I did.  I thought about all those lights representing one person, or even one family. And in that moment – I don’t know where it came from, but – for the first time I stretched out my arms and I whispered the prayer that now I have prayed a thousand times: Lord, give us the city!

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About that time, our region was researching where we, as a Nazarene Church, were strongest and where we were weakest, geographically-speaking. We found out that 79% of our region lives in an urban context, but only 29% of our Nazarenes are there! In other words, in the most populated places, we have the fewest Nazarenes. We realized that ministry in our region had to be ministry to the urban core.  We have spent the last eight years training urban missionaries and equipping our existing churches to creatively reach their cities.  Maybe later we will explore how urban ministry needs to look different compared to rural and suburban ministry.

Some of you are wondering: “But that’s your region.  What does that have to do with us?” Well, the statistics in the USA and Canada are a bit different.  This region is actually the most urban of any in the world.  Nearly 9 out of every 10 people in these two countries lives in a city of 100,000 or more!

As a Church of the Nazarene in the USA/Canada, we are not quite as rural and suburban as the Mesoamerica Region.  Still, did you know that Nazarene membership is .17% of the total population in our big cities?  In other words, not even 1 of every 500 urban dwellers in Canada and the USA is a Nazarene.

That may be more statistics than you were bargaining for.  So let’s simplify it.

We have a lot of work to do.

And that work must be in the cities.

As author and pastor in New York, Tim Keller, says, “We don’t need churches only in cities. We need them everywhere there are people.  Therefore, we need them especially in cities.”

David’s Promise

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) was proclaimed in 1992, by an United Nations General Assembly resolution. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

On this day it’s a joy to know that in our Nazarene Church we have a place for everyone!

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At JaxNaz Church in Jackson, Michigan, USA, adults with special needs have found a new way to serve through a unique day program. From tying blankets for children in foster care to creating recipes for a community cookbook, the members of David’s Promise are making a difference and gaining fulfillment.

Watch the video below to know more about this awesome ministry:

 

Help for Migrants in Mexico

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In October more than 7,000 children, women, men and older adults from Honduras started a journey that has taken several weeks.  Recently people from other countries have also joined them as they have traversed from the south border of Mexico to the north in order to eventually arrive in the United States. They have left their countries because of the reality of violence and poverty that confronted them there. 

The Church of the Nazarene has responded to a variety of the caravan’s different needs through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, and have fulfilled the call of God to freely give what we have freely received. 

Click on the video below to see how the Church has mobilized to help in the past  month:

Vacation Bible Schools Amid Economic Crisis

Churches across Venezuela are continuing to reach out to their communities despite the current economic crisis. At least 60 Vacation Bible Schools representing 75 percent of the country’s organized churches have been planned through September.

Many residents have emigrated from the country in search of better work opportunities, resulting in a rapid decline in public school attendance and an estimated 20 percent membership decline in the Church of the Nazarene in Venezuela. 

Despite the economy, the work of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International has not stopped, and the regional, national, and district coordinators are working on ways to promote and support these VBS camps.

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The Church of the Nazarene in Calabozo has already held two camps, including one at a church plant in Ciudad de Dios for 200 children. The other was held the following week, hosting 179 children and youth. 

In the eastern part of the country, the Renacer church in Punta de Mata held a VBS where 70 children and youth participated. In the Llanos District, which has the largest number of Churches of the Nazarene in Venezuela, the Cambios and Los Pozones churches held their VBS camps, with 70 and 84 children, respectively. Most of the other churches will wait until after the National Youth Camp during the last week of August to host their own VBS camps.

“We thank the Lord for so many workers who have made their time, energy, and resources available to plant the seed of God’s Word in the generations to come,” said Leda DeGouveia, national SDMI coordinator. “We are counting on your support in prayer that our God would revive His work in the midst of times like these.”

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene South America

Living Simply so that Others may Simply Live

And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

Have you ever been outside your country? Have you ever visited some of the poorest of the poor in another country or in the inner-cities of your own country? If you have seen the reality of poverty in our world today, like I have, you will view this passage differently.

I have to be honest.  Years ago, I read these verses in Luke and thought other people were the greedy ones.  Some of Jesus’ parables are confusing, but this one he explains right off the bat in verse 15.  The whole point of telling a story about a rich guy who keeps all his “grain and goods” to himself is to warn us against all kinds of greed.  And a while back I always thought that meant others.  I am not really rich, right? I don’t have to worry about this.

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Now I am convinced this rich fool is me—and maybe you. I have seen up close too many people who are suffering from poverty, disease, disasters, and bloody warfare, that I cannot pretend anymore.  How can you or I say that we are not greedy if we eat three enormous meals a day while a third of the world’s population starves? How can we live in our huge, comfortable houses while billions have nothing? I ate an ice-cream cone last week that cost as much as a farmer in some of our countries makes in a week to feed his family.  

So what are we going to do about it? We can continue as rich fools or we can begin to live more simply so that others may simply live.  We can store our possessions or learn to share and sacrifice in order to truly change the world.

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”