The Church of the Nazarene in Curacao

Some exciting things are happening with the Church of the Nazarene on the island of Curacao.  This work was begun a few years back, but has just recently been officially recognized by the denomination, which is an important milestone.  We realized that readers of this blog may have not heard of the origins of the Church’s ministry in this Dutch-speaking country in the Caribbean.  So, without further ado, we present to you an article that was originally published in NCN News:

Nazarene presence officially recognized in Curaçao

Jonathan and Lissett Petrus moved from the Netherlands to the island of Curaçao for work. It was during this time that they felt God leading them to Christian ministry. A couple years later they began partnering with Nazarene churches from the United States to minister to the people of Curaçao.

Curaçao, one of the “ABC islands” —Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao—on the north coast of Venezuela, is being introduced to the Church of the Nazarene. This is a story of new beginnings, for a country, for a young pastor and his team of church planters, and for an American pastor and his local church.

In 2010, the leadership of the newly-constructed Mesoamerica Region—formed out of the Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Regions—took a hard look at itself. What they learned presented a challenge: the witness of the Church of the Nazarene was the weakest in the areas with the most population. Fifty-eight percent of the population of the region lives in 169 large cities and islands, but only 28 percent of the church membership is in those areas. This called for fresh thinking and a new strategy.

Hope springs from another factor. Across the region, a revival is occurring, with youth and young adults experiencing a call to missions. “We don’t need to rely only upon missionaries coming from North America,” they are saying. “Let us carry the gospel into these new areas.”

The Genesis Project is the region’s response. Twenty-eight large population centers are targeted to receive teams of four missionaries each by 2020. Missionaries Scott and Emily Armstrong in the Dominican Republic was named to develop the strategy and a training program.

The Dutch island of Curaçao presents its own challenge. The high cost of living makes it difficult for missionaries from Mexico or other parts of the region to live there. Yet, its diverse population of 150,000 needs the gospel. There are some 80 Protestant churches on the island, nearly all of them with memberships below 50. No Dutch-speaking evangelical church is proclaiming the message of heart holiness.

An international team is responding to this challenge with a strategy for planting a new Nazarene church on the island. Through divine orchestration, a team has come together to open the Church of the Nazarene in Curaçao: Kevin Hardy, pastor of Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Ellicot City, Maryland Larry Orwig, Nazarene Missions International president at Crossroads Richard and Karen Brash, members at Crossroads, and sensing a call to full-time ministry Jonathan and Lissett Petrus: Young Dutch immigrants with a calling Scott Armstrong, missionary responsible for development and implementing Genesis in Mesoamerica Region.

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To find out more about this extraordinary story go to nazarene.org/generosity, and let’s keep praying that God continue to open doors where the church is not yet.

 

How the word YES is changing Mesoamerica

By Emily Armstrong

I got a text from Alejandra a few days ago saying she wanted to talk to me for a few minutes.

And a Facebook message from Merit asking me for prayer.

And an email from Daniela, updating me on what has happened in her life in the past few months.

3 women that we have had the privilege of training in missions, all 3 of them having participated in the past in Genesis ministry as missionaries for 2 years.  

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Alejandra, who is from Guatemala, has been serving for the past 10 months with a compassionate ministry in the USA.  A little over a year ago, we asked her if she would be willing to take a step of faith and submerge herself into US culture for a year to learn from their compassionate ministry strategy and help us contextualize that for our region.  As I spoke with her a few days ago, she was a bit torn – leaders of the ministry had asked her to consider staying for 1 more year in ministry, and although she thought she would be stepping all over our “plans”, I couldn’t help but smile.  I felt like a proud parent when she told me that she really just wanted to do God’s will – whatever that was.  It made me feel good to know that she was chosen.  She was noticed. I told her that we wanted whatever God wanted – our missionary position has always been to connect called people to international needs and knowing that her attitude has been that of Christ, taking the very nature of a servant, could not make us feel more proud.  

Alejandra is still praying about where God wants her to LIVE, but she continues to say YES to his call on her life, sure that a lifestyle of mission is where she needs to be.

Merit wrote in her facebook message that God has been tugging on her heart again, to serve in another city.  She asked for prayer regarding an open door with her district leadership as well as her family responsibilities.  In Spanish we would say that she has become “inquieto” or unsettled.  She is back in her home country and her home district, however the pull to international mission and serving the big city is ringing in her head and heart VERY LOUDLY.  I again swelled up with parental pride, knowing that Merit was ready to plunge into the waters of faith once again, ready to fundraise thousands of dollars and leave her family in God’s hands – all because He called.

Merit is still praying about God’s timing, but she has said YES to his call.  She’s ready to go when He creates the opportunity.

Daniela wrote to me and told me that she is presenting her final exam to obtain her license to practice law.  When she said yes to Genesis missionary ministry, she put her legal career on hold – all because she knew that God was asking her to be obedient.  She served faithfully and wrote to tell me that God is still kindling the fires of service in her heart, sharing with me how the earthquakes that have recently taken place in Mexico have caused her difficult days, but how she knew that God’s call on her life was to serve the city.  The “holy pride” as I like to call it came up again, as I exhorted her to consider her profession as VOCATION.  Doing EVERYTHING for the Lord.  Helping her to see that God had given her the gifts of legal understanding – something that we NEED in the city.

Daniela has said YES to God’s call, allowing him to guide her path, asking him to use her gifts and talents to impact the city by being the church. 

Every YES is changing Mesoamerica.  We are becoming the missional church that God desires us to be.  We are so honored to be a part of HIS story. 

 

Pray for the City

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Did you know today is the last day of our 40 Days of Prayer for the cities of Mesoamerica? In Genesis, we start every year by dedicating ourselves in intercession for the urban populations in our region.  We have prayed that God would give us his vision for the city.  We have prayed that God would raise up missionaries for the city.  We have prayed that God would use us to transform our cities!  It is happening, too.  He is changing our cities in Mexico and Martinique, Honduras and Haiti, Grenada and Guatemala.  And as we have prayed for others, God has begun a transformation in us as well!

I hope you have joined us in this journey.  If you have not, or did not even know about it, why not challenge yourself or your church to dedicate 40 days to prayer? We even have resources to help you! 

Two years ago, Gary and Naomi Faucett, our Genesis Member Care Facilitators (that big title basically means they love our missionaries bigtime!), provided a much-needed retreat for our missionaries ministering in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  Eunice Zaragoza, Freivy López, and Merit Córdova gazed out from the fifth story of their hotel on the sprawling city below them. Freivy began to introduce Gary to all of the neighborhoods of San Pedro Sula:

“Gary, that section of the city is so dangerous.  We’re not supposed to go there at night.  But we still do anyway because we have started a cell group there.”

“Over there is known as the center of gang activity.  But there are kids there, too.  We play in the park with them every Saturday.”

“Hey, most of the drugs that pass through Honduras come through that barrio over there.  But see that apartment? That’s where we have started to see a lot of youth come to know the Lord.  God’s really up to something in that place.”

Gary elbowed Freivy and half-joked, “Sounds like San Pedro Sula is pretty unsafe, brother.  Are you gonna be alright?!”

Freivy nodded.  “Definitely.  But I love this city.”

Do you love your city? Do you love the high-risk places, or just the comfortable ones? When was the last time you truly prayed for your city?

Now it’s a tradition.  In every retreat, we find a room where we can look out on the city.  And we pray.  The photo up top is of the Global Mission Coordinators in New York this last October praying for that great metropolis, but also for all of our cities.  The photo you see below is of the Guadalajara team praying over their city with over 6 million inhabitants.

Are you committed? Will you join us in praying for the city? It’s not over after 40 days.  Find a rooftop somewhere or a fifth-story window and take a picture of your family or church praying.

The city has gotten into us; it’s now under our skin.  It is hectic and noisy and oftentimes dangerous.

And like Freivy, we love it.

“Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper.” (Jer. 29:7 NET)

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Project Paul Changing the Border

In the Global Mission Regional Office, we recently received the annual report from the “Border Initiative” ministry in Mexico, and we are praising the Lord for the results! We’d love to share some highlights of that report, written by the coordinator, Rev. Manuel Molina.

The northern border of Mexico has a population of 24,800,000 people in 8 states, where there are 148 churches and missions made up of 6,600 Nazarenes. In light of that reality, the Border Initiative seeks to plant new churches in the cities and towns with no Nazarene presence, along with reactivating the churches that have closed and equipping the local leadership of the existent church.

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The main strategy that is being implemented in order to achieve these goals is Project Paul, a program that has been used in the south of Mexico for 10 years.  During a period of three weeks, Project Paul focuses on planting new congregations by using evangelism and discipleship tools. This strategy is now being implemented in the north of the country, producing excellent results in 2017:

  • Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. May 27-June 18 – 439 new believers
  • Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. July 15-August 6 – 438 new believers
  • Monclova y Ciudad Frontera, Coahuila. October 4-22 – 56 new believers
  • Zona Carbonifera, Coahuila. October 10-31 – 227 new believers
  • Comarca Lagunera. November 25-December 17 – 372 new believers

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Statistics of the five projects:

  • Missionaries involved: 120
  • Churches involved: 30
  • New missions started: 23
  • Churches “restarted”: 4
  • Church planters and leaders equipped: 23
  • New believers: 1,534

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God is definitely doing something BIG on the border! May God continue to bless this initiative and the Project Paul strategy. Remember that you can be a part of this too, by praying for the new believers, the new missions and the reactivated churches!

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Also, may God continue to call more and more people to engage in this church planting movement! If you are interested or would like to participate in Project Paul this year, visit the Facebook page of Border Initiative or contact Freivy Lopez (freivy.lopez@gmail.com).  They have a Project Paul scheduled for each month in 2018 – so there are plenty of opportunities for you to be involved!

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Let’s Not Forget

For many around the world, a disaster in another country grabs our attention as long as media covers it.  We are moved to pray, often to give, and sometimes even to send a relief team.  Thank you, Lord, for your Church worldwide that has done all this and helped meet the enormous needs before us!

At the same time, in the Caribbean we have not forgotten the devastation of the recent hurricanes that have destroyed many of our islands. Long after television crews have left, the hard work of rebuilding is still taking place. And it will be so for months and years to come in places like Puerto Rico, Dominica, and St. Maarten.  Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has released three videos in the past month that show how those three countries are still reeling. However, at the end of the videos they have chosen to highlight images of hope: a smile of a woman who has lost her home, a congregation praying and embracing, a pastor standing at his pulpit even with his church walls demolished around him. You can be a part of this rebuilding process still.  You can help bring hope to thousands of hurting families in these places.  Please visit www.ncm.org for more information.

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Here are the videos.  Let’s not forget.  Let’s act.

“Ascribe to the Lord”

Annual Report of Global Mission & Genesis

As Global Mission and GENESIS coordinators we have spent the last month remembering 2017.  One thing has been clear: God has done amazing things and will continue to do so!

Just a reminder: The Mesoamerica Global Mission ministry seeks to Discover, Develop, and Deploy missionaries from our region. GENESIS seeks to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica. Mobilizing our entire region to send missionaries, as well as focusing on the transformation of our cities has proven challenging and, at the same time, endlessly rewarding.

Here are a few of the exciting things that have occurred in the past year:

  1. In January and February 2017 the entire region dedicated the first 40 days to praying for the cities of Mesoamerica. This initiative has been launched again in 2018 and is proving highly effective.
  2. Three new Genesis missionaries were trained and deployed last year: Joselyn García was sent from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic and AJ and Chelsea Fry were sent from Florida, USA to become the Coordinators of construction of the new Center of Missionary Formation (CMF) in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic.
  3. Current Genesis missionaries in Santiago (DR), Grenada, and Guadalajara (Mexico) have done a stellar job planting five churches, and encouraging dozens of other existing congregations. Their testimonies are amazing, but I lack the space to tell them all here; thus, seek them out on the new Genesis app available in the App Store on iTunes.
  4. Five Work and Witness teams have come already to better the seminary campus and prepare the land for the CMF, and fifteen more are scheduled for the coming year.
  5. Although for nine years we had published articles and reflections on culture, leadership, missions, and much more in the transformaelmundo.com blog, on April 9, 2017 we began to do so as well in English at transformtheglobe.com.
  6. In May of 2017 we launched the Worthless Servants Podcast in both Spanish and English. Each episode includes a conversation on missions, culture, the Church, or other topics, and we currently have hundreds of listeners through iTunes, WhatsApp, and other platforms.
  7. Created in 2016, the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis Church (i.e. healthy and missional) have been further developed and publicized throughout the region in district training events, on all social media, and through the podcast.
  8. Two promotional videos were created in Spanish and English to be used in promoting Genesis in the local churches and at District Assemblies throughout the region.
  9. At General Assembly in June 2017 we utilized this once-every-four-years platform in order to promote Genesis in the region and in our entire denomination. We literally came in contact with thousands of people, shared information more closely with hundreds, and recruited dozens of potential missionaries, prayer partners, Work and Witness teams, and donors.
  10. Ten Cross-Cultural Orientations were held across the region with a total of 181 youth and adults interested in missions attending. This includes the first-ever CCO in Haiti held in December 2017. God is truly raising up his church in missions-sending!
  11. A multitude of inter- and intra-field short-term trips have been offered with an estimate of a whopping 112 volunteer missionaries dedicating over 2,000 days in service to the mission-field! I should also note that an estimate of 2,500+ people have participated in Maximum Mission or similar trips in the past year.
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Cross-Cultural Orientation in Guatemala, 2017

Looking back has been encouraging, but we must also look forward with expectation.  What do we sense God calling us to do in these ministries in 2018?

Goals for 2018:

  1. Discover, develop and deploy 12 volunteer missionaries to 3 priority Genesis sites (Monterrey, Querétaro, and Panama City).
  2. Receive 15 teams in 2018 that participate in the refurbishing of the seminary and construction of the Center of Missionary Formation in the Dominican Republic.
  3. Acquire 7 new partnerships for Genesis development, 2018 priority Genesis sites, and the CMF.
  4. Utilize technology and creative strategies (podcast, social media, etc.) to promote dialogue regarding issues of urban mission, missiology, and the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis church.
  5. Create “Continuing Education” training classes for Genesis missionaries to participate in during their 2-year deployment.
  6. Offer 1 or more Cross Cultural Orientation and short-term missions experience in each field.
  7. Recruit and deploy at least 18 youth and adults in six different “Urban Immersion” programs according to field.
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Genesis missionary serving in Grenada

Please pray with us that these goals would become a reality!

As we evaluate 2017 and as we plan for 2018, we must proclaim with King David that any fruit we have seen or any positive things that will ever be done in our ministry are only due to God’s strong hand and his astounding grace.  We ascribe it all to him!

“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:1-2)

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Youth in Mission serving in Haiti