Ten Missional Strategies for a Quarantined Missionary

Did you see the video that we dropped a week ago on this blog? Here is the link to it on YouTube, or you can literally just read my previous post.  The point of the video is clear: even in this funky, don’t-leave-your-house COVID-19 time, we’re still the Church!  We’re still on mission!

This is the message I have been sharing with our missionaries serving with Genesis for the last month.  In fact, in the first days that our nations began to mandate that we #stayathome, I shared a devotional with each church planting team about closed doors actually being accompanied (if we look hard enough) by other, more creative doors being opened.  I also offered them several important, practical ways to stay engaged and on mission even during curfews and quarantines.  Many of you have asked what those are, so here are what I am calling…

Ten Missional Strategies for a Quarantined Missionary

  1. Get closer to God than ever before. “Hey, that is not missional,” you say.  Au contraire. This is always the most missional thing we can do.  The only way any of us can reach a lost and broken world is by first sitting at Christ’s feet.  In fact, Jesus himself appointed the twelve as his apostles (“sent ones”) with a dual purpose: 1) that they might be with him and 2) that he might send them out to preach and drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15).  You can’t have one without the other.  When we spend time with Jesus, that is an expressly missional endeavor.pray-3611519_1280
  2. Pray and prepare for a revival. “Wait,” you say.  “These first two suggestions are things we should be doing all year long, even when there isn’t a pandemic.” Correct! But do we? In the past weeks I have had dozens of conversations with pastors and Christian leaders who are sensing a spiritual awakening in our people.  We are finally realizing that the Church is not the building, and that the word of God is not confined to a sanctuary.  Wouldn’t you hate to get to the end of this life-altering event and have missed God’s moving because you spent weeks and months watching cats play the piano (or other drivel) on YouTube?
  3. Cultivate and bless your contacts (ie. relationships) in the community. Many of our missionaries had gotten to know and even evangelized hundreds of children, youth, and adults in the weeks before the virus hit.  Do we just forget about them now that we can’t visit them? Not a chance. Our missionaries are using social media and texting apps to call and stay in touch with a ton of people in these days!  In fact, some of them have reached out to civic leaders like doctors, nurses, and police officers and offered to pray for them each day by telephone.  Wow! God is opening doors for ministry in this desperate time that we had perhaps never realized were open before!
  4. Disciple new converts through videoconference technology. Our Genesis team in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala had just had an outreach event the weekend before the government abruptly called a halt to all activity.  A young man named William came to know the Lord.  They had given him a Bible, and then – BOOM – they couldn’t follow-up in any way. Or could they? Now the team of four is meeting twice a week with William and teaching him the Bible and what it means to be a Christian.  That’s what I’m talking about!
  5. Further your studies. What better time than now to enroll in online classes to learn more about missions, theology, ministry, etc.?! In our countries of the Mesoamerica Region, we offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral programs through SENDAS in great part online.  This week we even launched a new School of Leadership lay-minister’s program for those interested in missions.  Our goal was to have 40 students enrolled.  We have 133.  They are realizing that a call to serve in the future is a call to prepare (and also serve) now.
  6. Strengthen your relationships with your missionary team and the church leaders around you. Our Genesis teams are from multiple nations and cultures and are usually made up of younger men and women. It is undoubtedly an adventure for them to all live together and cook together, let alone minister together.  And even if they eventually form a close bond akin to a family (which oftentimes happens), they also find themselves daily in touch with pastors and leaders that live and work in the same city.  Sometimes busyness causes us to not nurture those relationships.  Now more than ever we can invest in these people closest (literally) to us, encouraging and praying for them.webinar-4216601_640
  7. Strengthen your relationship with your donors (and intercessors). How many times as missionaries do we find it challenging to be in good communication with the people who are constantly giving to us and praying for us? “Oops, that newsletter didn’t get written this month; I’ll try to find time to do it next month.” As my wife and I have been relegated to the house this past month, we have found ourselves more than ever contacting those faithful people who fund and fuel the mission.  Through video, online services with local churches, notes of gratitude, etc. we are updating them more intentionally than ever.  Another plus: reaching out ends up being an encouragement to us as well.
  8. Evaluate, dream and plan creatively and strategically. Four weeks ago, I contacted our Genesis team in Monterrey, Mexico, hoping to inspire them to keep on engaging in mission. I was amazed to hear that they were already creating new discipleship material for the new Christians in their neighborhood, and an entire children’s ministry curriculum that they will use once the quarantine regulations are lifted. Way to go, guys! This time when we are “stuck at home” can actually end up as a way to evaluate our effectiveness and strategies, so that we can get “unstuck” in ministry.  I have talked with many colleagues who are recognizing during this pause that in certain facets of our lives we needed a “reboot” any way.
  9. Connect with family. Have you ever heard the saying: “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? That goes for all members of the family, actually.  If you have a parent struggling with their health or a child struggling with their grades, those can feel all-consuming.  Likewise, if things are great at home and with our extended family, it positively affects our mission.  It sounds crazy, but COVID-19 is helping us realize that a healthy family dynamic aides our ministry and, in fact, IS OUR MINISTRY. Whether family is far away or in the same home, we cannot fall for the lie that says that family and ministry must constantly compete with each other.  We truly can be healthy in both areas at the same time, and the health of one can lift the other.
  10. Utilize your career and degrees to help others. All of our missionaries with Genesis have studied theology at some point, but most of them possess a college degree in something else.  During this quarantine I have witnessed our church-planting psychologists listening and counseling to neighbors online, as well as teachers offering to tutor kids from the community online.  And then there is the couple from Tuxtla Gutierrez, México who is using their engineering degrees and skills to create protective masks for medical personnel, free of charge.  God knew that our careers would be needed in this challenging time.  Let’s utilize them for maximum effect in His kingdom!

So, there are ten missional strategies for quarantined missionaries.  We’re still the Church!  We’re still on mission!

What is your perspective on this odd time of missions? Do you have any other suggestions that I missed?

Still on Mission

I got the text at 11pm three weeks ago.  A fellow missionary had sent me an image printed with the words, “Notice: By instructions from the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, all missionary activity around the world has been canceled.”

I sat up in bed.  I knew this was false.  As the COVID-19 virus began to affect every nation, we had been receiving updates directly from the Director of Global Missions and from the General Superintendents telling us that we should postpone large events or gatherings and stop traveling from country to country for the next few months.  However, they always encouraged us to keep going, keep inspiring, keep seeking creative ways to fulfill the Great Commission.  Yes!  That’s great leadership, and that’s how we feel, too!  My family is even more passionate in this time that God is still on the move, and that we must accompany him – even if it looks different right now.

But the image looked so official.  It had the Nazarene Missions International and the Church of the Nazarene official logos on it.  Where did my fellow missionary get it from? Somebody else who got it from somebody else who got it from…you get the idea.  I sent it to our Regional NMI Coordinator.  We agreed that this was “fake news” for sure, although it became important even at that late hour to debunk such a dangerous misconception.  By the next day, and with the help of other authorities in the region and the denomination, we had effectively squashed any such rumors.  The Church of the Nazarene will most definitely be engaging in missionary endeavors during this time of “staying at home”, and we will ALWAYS do so!  It’s part of our DNA!

Even before that image came across my phone, I had met with our missionaries on the field ministering with Genesis.  I encouraged them but also gave them several ways that they can take advantage of and even advance in their ministries in this weird, quarantined time (In a few days, I will publish those suggestions, as many of you have wondered what they were).  But one thing that we decided to do in the meantime is send out a message to all those who have prayed for, given to, or supported Genesis in any way.  Gary Faucett (together with his wife, Naomi, serving as Member Care Facilitators for the ministry) deserves all the credit for what you’ll see below.  Share it with someone today!  Making this video has encouraged us, and we hope it inspires you as well!

Six Missionaries Trained to Bring a Genesis to Two Cities

By: Alejandra García

On September 29, 2019 the new missionaries assigned to Genesis arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for training before going to the field. After six weeks of previous online training, these four weeks would be the final step to prepare for their task: planting new churches in Monterrey, Mexico and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.75271515_2430500563712655_1334343848062615552_n.jpg

Oscar Isem Quej (from Guatemala), Elba Duson (from Dominican Republic), Teresa De cuesta García (from Mexico), Diana González (from El Salvador), and Edgar Daniel Santiago and Andrea López (both from Mexico) brought with them an eagerness to bring the good news of salvation to those in need, the desire to see lives transformed through Christ and to be used for his glory, and most of all, the conviction to obey and always say “yes” to the Lord.

Once they finished their classes on Urban Mission, Church Planting, Missionary Anthropology, Personal Care, Teamwork, and much more, they departed on October 25 for Monterrey and Quetzaltenango with many useful tools and a new knowledge of how to serve in their cross-cultural ministries. They learned a great deal and expressed an unwavering commitment to continue serving the Lord. Let’s hear some of their testimonies:

Elba: “During this time of training and living with my fellow missionaries in Genesis, the Lord confirmed even more strongly the special call that he had placed in my heart about 4 years ago. Each of the topics discussed were of great importance to us as we carry out the work ahead. As we reached the last day of training, I was more convinced than ever of what God wants to do through our obedience in the city.”

Oscar: “I thank God for the time of training in the Dominican Republic because it was a great blessing and help. I thank Him for all the facilitators who taught us the courses, the moments of evangelism and the prayers of Scott and Emily Armstrong, and the help and care of Gary and Naomi Faucett and Alejandra García. I feel more prepared after seeing how God is leading me and giving me wisdom for my missionary work. It is a joy to be part of this mission.”

Diana: “The training time was a great blessing and full of challenges. Above all, God spoke to my heart about the love and interest he has for the city. Sometimes, when we think of the city, we focus on material abundance, busy lives, self-centeredness, or people living their lives as they want, but now I thank God for the opportunity to serve in the city by sharing the hope Jesus gives us.”

Teresa: Without a doubt it has been a time of great blessing, full of laughter, learning, tears, but above all challenges. During this month God has touched my heart and has made me see that Genesis begins with me. He has completely demolished some barriers in my life and has now begun to build a new city, a new life, as I am comforted with the vision of preaching the message of salvation.  I am sure that God is already working in the hearts of those I will meet and that these two years will be of blessing to Xela (Quetzaltenango).”

Daniel and Andrea: “From the moment we arrived in the D.R., everything felt different. We began to miss several things from southern Mexico, and God showed us in a surprising way what He wanted for our lives in each of the topics discussed. During several activities in the city, we could see the difference in urban classes, and we were surprised to see the large number of houses and people living in the apartment buildings. Seeing the lack of water and basic sanitation services also impacted us, since the garbage trucks do not pass through the places we were walking. During this month of training, we touched lives, and we are positive that the seed was sown in their hearts and that God will continue to work in them.”

76762622_2398626683713206_4071879294417108992_n.jpgWe thank God for the life of each of these missionaries. Pray for their ministries in the next two years. And may God bring a genesis to Monterrey and Quetzaltenango!

 

Youth in Mission and Genesis Collaborate to Impact Queretaro

Youth in Mission and Genesis Collaborate to Impact Queretaro

Lohuther René Gutiérrez Méndez

Two days ago, I wrote about the incredible things God did this summer through Youth in Mission in Mexico. One thing I omitted (on purpose, in order to share it here) is the following.

After several days of training and house-to-house evangelism, we came alongside the missionaries who are serving with the Genesis initiative in Queretaro.  That state is known for its lack of openness to the gospel, and it forms part of an area that has been named the Circle of Silence.Querétaro 2

The four missionaries there are doing a great job of reaching many people through classes or lessons on literacy, computer programming, football, and even psychological consultations.  It was a privilege for us to listen to them and see the deep desire they possess to be part of God’s mission.

The Lord allowed us to work with many children and adults, giving educational talks to the parents, which was a great blessing.  In the afternoons we presented dramas and free-style rap concerts that proved attractive to the kids and teens.  Our purpose was to make relationships and share the gospel with them, and we were able to do so by emphasizing positive lyrics and topics in our music.

What a wonderful time we had in Queretaro: 25 days in all.  We experienced so many beautiful things and witnessed the presence of God at work in the lives of the people in the community as they were being transformed.

The Lord gave us the opportunity to celebrate the first-ever congregational service in that Genesis site, which also included a marvelous time of prayer for healing.  The people present opened their hearts and, with tears in their eyes, were able to give their burdens to the Lord and receive the peace that only he can give.

Querétaro 1We were able to assist an elderly woman in moving from one house to another, and that opened doors for us to lead her to Christ.  After she was baptized a few days later, we all gave glory to God because his Holy Spirit always goes before us, convincing of sin within and guiding us into the light of his salvation.

During our final days on site, we held an activity in a large park.  We presented a sketch and shared the Word of God with all who were present.  Afterwards we formed groups of two or three and prayed prayers of blessing for all who had gathered.  The missionaries told us that this was the first service they had seen where all of their contacts came together; without a doubt, it impacted all of us.

When Sunday arrived, we were anticipating what would take place.  This morning was important: all the months of the missionaries’ hard work was about to bear fruit. Ten Christians were baptized that day and we rejoiced with them, knowing that there had been parties all over heaven because of their decisions!

We knew that God was backing us up at every step.  Our time in Queretaro was full of culture shock and moments when, as a group, we opened up and shared our concerns and conflicts.  God helped us to become united as a team, and our ministry began to benefit from it.  Out of the entire summer of Youth in Mission, our time in Queretaro was what impacted us the most.

*In our next entries we will share some testimonies that came directly from the young men who served as Youth in Mission missionaries this summer.

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The Story of Christina Begins

Recently, we have been receiving reports from our missionaries who have been planting churches through the Genesis initiative. They have been serving for more than a year in each of their assigned places and they are starting to see a great harvest. Here, we want to share one of the team’s testimonies in Queretaro, Mexico, written by Jhoselyn Barrios.

Christina is a 22-year-old young woman who has four siblings. She and her siblings live with their parents in Los Olvera. They moved to this place last year; previously they had lived in another municipality called Cadereyta. As a family, they have a plant nursery, which is their source of economic income.

We met Christina at the Community’s Center of Human Development, where we are serving as volunteers teaching computer classes and basic literacy. Some time ago, we enrolled in a Zumba class with the purpose of better getting to know the women of the community. Maybe some people will read this and say: That’s crazy! Zumba classes? But the truth is that it is a good place to meet people, to laugh, to empathize with others and to initiate conversations.

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After two days of getting to know her, Christina got in touch with us. We let her know that we were having a special activity for Women’s Day and also a beauty workshop. That’s how Christina began to get involved in our activities.

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After getting to know her more, we were able to schedule a visit to her home. Praise the Lord: that day all her family accepted Christ in their hearts!

A few weeks ago, Christina celebrated her birthday, and everyone was invited to eat at her home. We brought a birthday cake and a present for her. We spent time with her family and we felt at home when we visited them. Now they are one of the families that are receiving discipleship in order to be baptized. God is doing a marvelous thing in Queretaro!

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Isn’t it exciting to see what God is doing in our cities?! Please pray for Christina and her family. Also, pray for our two teams of missionaries working in Panama City and Queretaro.

 

The Dual Dangers of Legalism and “Traditionalism”

Our Mesoamerica Genesis office is working diligently on assisting churches that exist in large urban areas to become healthy and missional.  One of the first steps in doing so is to take a church health survey in order to discover strengths and weaknesses.  It’s a brave task to undergo actually.  No one wants to find out they are sick, or even worse, dying.

One of the biggest reasons we have found for lack of health in congregations is a combination of legalism and worship of tradition.  Having order and obeying the laws of God are quite important to be sure.  But if we allow our adherence to rule-following to get in the way of mission and loving the world around us, we’ve missed the mark. Tradition is a wonderful thing, and celebrating our rich heritage is a must as Christians.  But if we think the methods from decades ago are holy in and of themselves, we are in dangerous territory.

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Jean David Larochelle’s book in Spanish, A Natural Development of Faith, has much to say about legalism and “traditionalism,” as he calls it:

“The message of the gospel is not negotiable. We do not doubt it. Every principle is eternal.  Every principle is immutable.  Every principle is spiritual and every principle is divine.  But strategies are not principles or doctrines. Neither are they eternal.  I say again, one of the greatest sins of the church is to try to win a postmodern generation with primitive strategies.”

The Good News is not good if it is not understandable. When we do not update our methods for different generations or cultures, we can be almost certain they will not understand them, let alone respond positively.  Grace is diluted by the importance we place on rules and tradition.

“Doctrinally, legalism and traditionalism can become positions essentially opposed to grace . . . God has given freedom to his church, but many continue tying it to legalism and traditionalism.”

In reference to the Pharisees in John 9 who questioned the blind man who received his sight, Larochelle continues, “It is sad to note that, for them, the day of rest had been given priority over the person. Things, interests and laws were a priority over the human person.  Nevertheless, Jesus also made them see that he was opposed to the foolish traditions and legalism they had invented in respect to the day of rest . . . They did not rejoice with the man. They saw humanity through eyes of judgment.”

In closing, the author invites us to evaluate ourselves. “Consider if you have legalistic, rigid attitudes or thoughts towards others or towards yourself.  In the story we are analyzing, which role would you like to take – that of the Pharisees or of Jesus? Which role have you played? Which would you like to play from now on?

These are essential questions for the whole church and for each Christian who desires to reflect the love of Christ in their society.

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.”