Teachers and Church Planters

By Scott Armstrong

On several occasions I’ve had the privilege of speaking with someone interested in Genesis, our ministry designed to make an impact in large cities within our region.  Sometimes these candidates have studied to be elementary or high school teachers.  “How can God use my career to plant churches in an urban context?” they ask me.

Recently I published an article that I wrote for the NYI Online Magazine that highlighted how God has used volunteer missionaries from all kinds of “secular” careers for his glory in the Genesis Initiative. In a previous entry, I shared a few more stories that didn’t fit in the limited space of the original article. Today I want to share the stories of three young teachers who are incredibly grateful for their “secular” careers, because they have opened the doors of ministry in surprising ways.

“One of the most important decisions a young person makes is what they will study when they go to college.  It will define them for the rest of their lives.  When I was 18, I had questions about what I should study, and I prayed that God would direct my decision.  I chose to be a teacher.

27797589_1799412403426391_3124110093619712361_o.jpgMy mother told me since I was six years old that I said I wanted to be a teacher, but I had forgotten.  I think that to be a teacher was in God’s plan for me.  It was through my profession that God prepared me for the mission field when I was sent to work far from home.  Now that I am serving in missions, God has used my education, work with children and teaching to open doors.  I know that we cannot separate the secular from ministry; everything that we know and everything we do should honor God.  Only through our work will God open new paths to expand his kingdom.” – Marleidy Sanchez (sent from Mexico to Panama)

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“I am a teacher, and I believe it is one of the careers that can get you most involved in the community.  A teacher knows different techniques to help with kids’ homework.  Through that contact, you can meet with parents and share the message of salvation.”
– Ingrid Jochola (sent from Guatemala to Panama)

 

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“My career as a high school social studies teacher goes beyond simply teaching in a classroom.  I believe that within this ministry I have had the chance to develop, plan, improve, and involve people in a different kind of environment, especially children.  Now I am working with the material we use in our Kids’ Club, but I am also available to share what I know with everyone involved in this new stage of service and love in order to share God with our neighbors.” – Maria de los Angeles Romero (sent from Peten, Guatemala to Queretaro, Mexico)

*For more information about Genesis, visit our website and let us know by leaving a comment in the space below.

God Can Use Every Career in Missions

By Scott Armstrong

Recently I published an article that I wrote for the NYI Online Magazine that highlighted how God has used volunteer missionaries from all kinds of “secular” careers for his glory in the Genesis Initiative.   There wasn’t enough space to share all of the testimonies I received when I asked for help from the 32 missionaries we’ve sent over the years.  That’s why today and in our next entry I want to share more of these powerful stories:

44733965_573786599724861_8443162038938632192_n.jpg“Being a doctor meant that many people were willing to get to know us when they needed some kind of medical attention.  It also allowed us to open a clinic in the community, and in that way the community got to know the church.   The local people knew us well and knew that there was a doctor in the church. They came for help at all hours. We could hold medical outreaches from the church and in other parts of the community where we worked.  I am grateful to God for the opening that my career has given me. Though sometimes it is exhausting, it brings me great joy to know that in some way it helps me to serve God.” – Eunice Zaragoza (sent from Tampico, Mexico to San Pedro Sula, Honduras)

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-17 at 10.22.20.jpeg“I am a social worker. The goal of my profession is to design and implement projects and strategies that assist individuals, groups, communities and societies inpreventing or solving societal needs and problems. The Church is called to show love and compassion in the midst of a vulnerable society. We created a program for teenagers to meet twice a week to play, spend time together, laugh and meditate on Scripture and what God wants from them. We’ve also developed strategies to work with women and children, such as a women’s conference and a Kids’ Club.  My career has helped me to focus on doing what God has called me to: preach his Word through actions and with compassion.” – Jhoselyn Barrios (sent from Guatemala to Queretaro, Mexico)

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“I have an Associates degree in Psychology.  My education has helped me a lot in family counseling.  When I mention that I have a degree in Psychology in a meeting out in the community, it opens doors for people to find me and open their hearts in search of help.  I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management, which has helped in general organization and in the planning for activities that we hold.”
 – Maritza Mendoza (sent from Miami, USA to Queretaro, Mexico)

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“I have a degree in Tourism Management that helped a lot in the ministry when I was in Genesis. I used to be very quiet and shy, but my career helped me to lose my fears and be able to talk with people. That is why during my time in Genesis, I always felt confident to talk to people, start a relationship with them, and then be able to share the love of Christ.” – Zabdi Jessica Delgado (sent from Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Mexico to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)

* For more information about Genesis, visit our website and let us know by leaving a comment in the space below.

Recommendations from a Caribbean Missionary

In our previous entry, Cleon Cadogan shared his testimony from his time spent in Grenada as a volunteer missionary as part of GENESIS.  The primary objective of his time there was to plant and organize a new Nazarene church in the community of Content.  Within the first year of his arrival, God had done the work and this goal was met.  Now there is a thriving congregation in that community that is preparing to start another church in order to reach their island.

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As Cleon concluded his time in GENESIS, he shared several pieces of advice that he would give to anyone saying yes to a missions’ call. Here are his 15 recommendations:

1: Be sure that God has called you to the people you are going to.

2: Learn and love the people you are going to live among; be willing to drop your preconceived ideas of them.

3: Prayer support is vital to your physical and spiritual health.

4: Fasting and spending personal time with God is necessary to keep your sanity.

5: Do not let money be the factor for you not being able to accomplish your task.

6: Remember: God provides for the mission in every way.

7: Be creative in the methods you use to partner with persons who will be giving to the mission.

8: Demonstrate a level of transparency and accountability with your partners.

9: Communicate the vision clearly to your prayer partners and donors.

10: Do not fail to use varying mediums to communicate and keep in contact with your partners.

11: Listen to the needs of the people with whom you are working.

12: Let the creative juices flow within you at all times.

13: Rest when Jesus says to rest.

14: Do not forsake your friends and family for the sake of the mission.

15: Nothing should be done without consultation with God.

Seeing the Harvest Grow

Sent from Georgetown, Guyana to the island of Grenada as a part of the GENESIS initiative, Cleon Cadogan served as a volunteer missionary for two years. A month ago, he finished his primary work of planting a new congregation in the community of Content, and he has recently shared his thoughts regarding the challenges and blessings of that assignment:

Working in the Island of Grenada, the challenges were many. Leaving family, friends, and work to live in a place of uncertainty was indeed a challenge. But you must know the one who has called you is able to keep and provide for you. He can only do what He has promised if you are willing to go through the valley of shadow of death experience according to Psalms 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (KJV).  We must go through challenges to experience the power of God. One is reminded of Jesus, who went through difficulties and great temptations, and came out victorious. He (Jesus) took on the sins of the world but came through.

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In ministry, one may encounter negatives such as who is in charge, identity crisis, unsettled hurts, and power struggles, just to name the more prevalent ones. These are just strategies that the enemy uses to distract the missionary from the bigger picture at hand: souls for the kingdom.  Michael Youssef writes the following in Conquer: Your Battle Plan for Spiritual Victory: “If the enemy can get you to debate any of the issues that are settled in the word of God, he’s two-thirds of the way through” (p. 34).  The enemy seeks to make us question each other’s motives.  He desires to use it as a means of sowing seeds of negativity, discord and confusion. Yet, the word of God reminds us in 1 Peter 5: 8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV).  We must be vigilant, sober, and in the spirit of warfare for the mission that is before us. Jesus was and is our ultimate example.  We must not allow the negative to outweigh the good. Some of the tools I used to defeat the negative were prayer, writing, speaking with persons who have a heart for the vision, fasting, and equipping myself with the word of God. Without continually hearing the voice of God, you will kill yourself trying to accomplish the mission.

There were other churches that had gone into the mission area where we were located but failed to return. The community of Content is seen as a “hotspot” by the local government and has been known for “nothing good”. I guess you can say it’s their “Nazareth”.  But John 1:46 tells us: “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip” (NIV).  Even the men of old had issues with places that did not fit their status quo. However, Jesus came for all of humanity.  We will truly reflect Jesus to a postmodern society when we change the way we ARE and DO CHURCH. This does not mean the gospel will change according to our doctrinal and theological distinctives or preferences, but we must show Jesus.

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Reflecting on our time in Content, I remember that the same members of the community worked along with me and the new believers in celebrating their first community dinner. The congregation now has an established church board, ladies’ ministry, youth ministry, Sunday School, Bible study, intercessory prayer meeting, deliverance group, and they are already looking in the next six months to launch an outreach. If we are not willing to trust God, and let people develop, then we are wicked farmers who plant seeds and pay no attention to them, or plant seeds and dig them up the next day. We must be willing to see the harvest grow.

Let Me In

By Scott Armstrong

I have been reflecting recently on the way that we evaluate and train our Genesis missionaries.  As a team, we tinker with the content of our workshops and attempt to provide hands-on experience that will also prepare them for their two years in a different culture and in an explicitly urban context.  However, the thing that keeps coming to my head is: What good is training if the missionaries do not have a deep desire to love the downcast and brokenhearted around them? That is something we cannot teach or motivate into them.

The great news is that, in almost every case, our Genesis missionaries are passionate about serving others.  This is not a service that comes on their own terms or with their own demands; they all possess a profound love of God and neighbor.  I have recently heard stories of our missionaries arduously cleaning entire apartment complexes in nearly 100º heat, holding sick and malnourished children, and embracing and weeping with abandoned single mothers.  This type of ministry requires a compassionate willingness to walk with any needy person through every hellish thing they are going through.

I recently read this surprising story from G.K. Chesterton, the renowned Christian thinker and writer:

A man who was entirely careless of spiritual affairs died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends.  His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back.  But though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded.  His priest also went and argued: ‘He was not really a bad fellow, given time he would have matured.  Let him out, please!’ The gates remained stubbornly shut against all their voices.  Finally, his mother came; she did not beg for his release.  Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan: ‘Let me in.’  Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges.  For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.” (Quoted in Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality)

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Our missionaries have not signed up for an easy assignment, and they certainly know they will not be on a two-year vacation.  There is something else that calls them to the lost, the last, and the least.  Evaluation and training are essential, but when I receive reports like I have recently from their work in the urban landscapes of our region, I know something deeper than basic training has compelled them.  God’s love has taken them to the gates of hell, and they have asked to enter.  And because of it, God is transforming hell into heaven right in the heart of those cities.

*For more information on Genesis, or any of our missionaries, please visit us at: www.mesoamericagenesis.org. You can also download our mobile app for Android or iOS.

Prayer Requests – Grenada

As we met recently with Crystalla Williams and Cleon Cadogan, closing out their time in Grenada as missionaries with Genesis, they shared the following prayer requests.  Please accompany them in this transition time as they pray for the people and places they have left and prepare for the new doors God will open for them as they return home:

Prayer Requests

For the Fontenoy Church of the Nazarene

1) For Pastor Alvin Forsyth, Min. Elizabeth Forsyth, Natisha Benjamin (daughter and church board secretary), Alvonn and Kareem Forsyth (not yet Christians).

2) For the Church Board: that there will be commitment to their calls and that they would function in their ministry rolls with excellence and passion.

3) For church members: that they would grow in faith, love and unity and that everyone will rise up to do, be and go.

4) For the youth of the community: that they would find direction amidst a confusing and manipulating world.

5) For evangelism and discipleship to become engrained in the church’s DNA.

6) For greater opportunities to minister in the community.

7) For the new community (Concord) we began working in at the end of May.  Pray that persons will stand up and walk into the graces that God has called them to.

8) For financial stability.

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For the Content Church of the Nazarene, officially organized August 13, 2017

1) For the pastor and his family: Alister Douglas, Lorraine Douglas and their children (one of whom is in medical school).

2) For the work of God to continue to grow in their community.

3) That, as the only church in that neighborhood, God will use them to transform a whole community.

4) For them to become a church-planting church within the next 2-3 years.

5) That land becomes available for the building of a sanctuary.

6) For the youth in the community to find purpose and strength in God.

7) That discipling of the new believers will be thorough and that they will understand who they are in Christ and as Nazarenes.

Personal Prayer Requests of Cleon and Crystalla:

1) That persons ministered to in Grenada will continue to grow in Christ.

2) For an easy transition back into life at home.

3) For their families, who have greatly missed them in their absence.

4) For a job to support housing and living expenses.

5) For all their relationships.

6) For a door to open for them to continue studying other cultures and languages.

7) That God would provide mentors for those that they are leaving behind in Grenada.

8) For their home churches and countries: that the transition back into ministry will be smooth.

I am Here to Serve

Recently I received a testimony from our Genesis missionary from Trinidad and Tobago, Crystalla Williams.  She wrote these words in her final days serving in Grenada. Wow!  I knew at once that her reflection needed to be shared with a wider audience.  May God stir your heart as you hear her heart come through loud and clear.

As I reflect on the two years of ministry in Genesis, I am almost brought to tears as I wonder at my God: His love, compassion, patience, grace, mercy, peace, power and provision. 

I would not – definitely could not – make it without Him. Truthfully, there were many who didn’t think I would finish; some even said it to my face. Honestly, there were times that I believed them: times when things were so hard that I couldn’t see my way through. But God made a way!

There is no doubt in my mind that certain breakthroughs I have had would not have been possible without this assignment. I now have a better understanding of what it means to be patient. God has somehow increased my capacity to love, to be understanding, to be compassionate and to be forgiving. This assignment has taught me how to pray deeper, and fast more intently and strategically. 36268094_10160602430915118_1541711199895289856_o.jpg

As I look forward I am excited. I am excited to go back to my district, home country and home church to work and minister. What that will look like I am not entirely sure.  One thing I know: I am here to serve. 

Before leaving for Grenada I already had my exit plan. I had a job waiting, an apartment that would be ready when I got back, and projects that I would be working on. Over the last two years, I have seen every plan of mine fly out the window. 

But as I have seen my plans turn to dust, I have also seen God work things out in ways I am still in awe of.  Because of this ‘crazy faith’ journey I have been on, I am assured that my God, who has done so much more than I could ever imagine or think, will take care of me. 

These two years in Grenada have been great. Great joys, great hurts, great support, great breakthroughs, great tears (of happiness and sorrow), great laughs, great love, great triumphs, great purpose being realized, great new friends, great spiritual healing and growth…a true representation of how great my God is and will always be to me.

I am eagerly awaiting what God will do next. There is no one like me and there is no one like my God.  Oh, what awesomeness He will do!!!!

I am honored to be a part of an organization, a church, and a family that wraps around the world. I am honored to have the support that can never be quantified by human standards. And it’s all afforded to me because of what Jesus did so long ago on a ‘tree.’ Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thank you for your continued service and care to others called by God.

Yours in Christ,

Min. Crystalla J. Williams

Genesis Missionary

Grenada