Three Missionary Events Impact the Dominican Republic

During the past three months, various districts in the Dominican Republic organized events that ended up impacting the churches and communities where they were held.

Having observed how many local congregations have recently atrophied in their work of disciple-making, sponsored missionary Sugey Barrón, together with her leadership team, organized a Maximum Mission entitled “NO LIMITS” in Bella Vista, Santiago September 6-7.  The objective was to mobilize the churches of the city and share the message of salvation in creative ways.

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38 participants from the entire country joined the work of the local “New Life” church, a congregation with a deep desire to be on fire and reflect Jesus.  The workers took on the challenge together of impacting a neighborhood called Papatín Hill, known in the city for its poverty and crime.

 

According to the theme, participants were not limited by normal setbacks.  They planned with faith and ended up ministering to the community through artistic events, evangelism in homes and small businesses, sports, workshops, street clean-up, children’s activities, and sharing food.  They sowed seeds of the Word of God in over 200 people, they visited 50 houses, and after all was said and done, through the various activities 70 people had come to know the Lord.

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Sugey shared that God surpassed all of her team’s expectations and that each participant left Santiago believing and declaring the event’s motto: NO LIMITS!

Three weeks later, 500 Nazarenes from the East District of Dominican Republic celebrated a combined service that was entitled “Committed to the Mission.”  Pastor Ramón Joseph explains that this event has been held every year since 2010, with the purpose of motivating the Church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and the Church of the Nazarene: “Making Christlike disciples in the nations.” On September 29, the entire district joined together to reaffirm their commitment to play an integral part of that mission.

During the service a mass baptism was held, dozens of new members were received, and the Lord’s Supper was administered.  Those present also had the privilege of praying for and sending out for the first time their own missionary, Elba Isabel Duson, who currently is serving with GENESIS in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  Everyone rejoiced at the end of the day when the activity closed with a concert led by the Revelation Maranatha orchestra.

A little over a month afterwards, November 1-4, the South District held their first ever Maximum Mission, entitled “REBUILD.” The primary goal of this mission’s trip was to reopen a church and church building that had been closed for a long time in the 2C sector of the city of Azua.  27 participants traveled from all five districts of the D.R., and they were hosted and assisted by the District Superintendent, Luis Daniel Pérez, the District Presidents of NYI, NMI, and SDMI, as well as the District Treasurer.

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Wendy Carolina Rivera, National Coordinator of Global Missions, noted that 75 families were reached through house-to-house evangelism.  44 additional families received food baskets, and 31 received basic hygiene kits.  During the four days, workshops were also offered to young women and single mothers teaching physical and emotional care, and the missions team offered them facials, manicures, and much more.

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The men and boys of the community received free haircuts, snacks, and participated in sports tournaments organized by the Nazarene youth.

Another group of tireless workers invested their time in the children of the neighborhood through Vacation Bible Schools, washing hair, cutting fingernails, playing, and crafts.

During the four days, the team managed to paint two entire houses in the community as well!

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By the end of the weekend, approximately 25 people had received Christ as their personal Savior, and 14 people had begun discipleship classes.  Rivera beamed as she shared that the community was very receptive to the gospel, and upon hearing that the church was reopening they were overjoyed, and many said they would like to come to services!

It is astonishing to see how God is mobilizing his Church in the Dominican Republic.  Please continue praying that more and more people would decide to involve themselves in the Lord’s mission in this nation!

Contemplating God

By: Scott Armstrong

Almost all of my life I have struggled with prayer.  I am not talking about “arrow prayers” or praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17) throughout the day.  I tend to do a lot of that, and it has been meaningful to see how God is at work in the mundane of every task or relationship.

I wrestle more with the focused times of intercession.  Sometimes I have viewed those times as items on the to-do list, and other times I have found myself so distracted that I can hardly maintain a decent stream of thought – let alone conversation – with God.  It is all quite embarrassing for a person who has been a Christian for 38 years and happens to be a missionary as well.

The two things that have recently given me hope are accountability (praying with someone else, namely my wife or kids) and using praise music to reflect and worship.  I am growing in my understanding of prayer, and starting to enjoy it, thanks be to God.

Kallistos Ware, bishop in the Orthodox Church, http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-prayer/tells this story: There was an old man who used to spend hours in church each day, and his friends said to him, ‘What are you doing during all that time?’ And he said, ‘I’m praying,’ and they said, ‘Oh, you must have a great many things you need to ask God for.’ With some indignation he said, ‘I’m not asking God for anything.’ ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘well, what are you doing all that time in church?’ And he replied, ‘I just sit and look at God and God sits and looks at me.’”

My best times of prayer have been when I lay my “list” to the side and begin to contemplate God.  The requests are still shared, but the process becomes more of knowing – and being known by – Him.

In Luke 11, Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock incessantly (v.9-10).  However, he also identifies the best response to our prayer not as economic prosperity, physical healing, or the changing of our circumstances (things we often pray for), but rather his very presence:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 13).

Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Friar, puts it this way: “The answer to prayer is always the same – it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Amen.  Come, Holy Spirit.  Help me to pray.  Help me to know You abundantly and to be known fully by You.

 

Diminish The Power Of Negative Circumstances (Part II)

By: Laurie Polich Short

Excerpt taken from: When Changing Nothing Changes Everything

As a child, I remember vaguely hearing about a man serving a 27-year sentence for wanting what his people deserved. But my adult eyes watched as that man emerged from his prison cell and four years later was elected president of a sovereign state. Under this man’s leadership, an entire nation was transformed.

For the 27 years that I moved freely from childhood to adolescence, and then adolescence to adulthood, Nelson Mandela lived every day in prison, with the same schedule, the same limitations, and the debilitating structure of prison life. He spent nearly a third of his life in captivity. However, in more than one interview, Mandela said he learned things in those 27 years that uniquely prepared him for his presidency. Though Mandela would not have chosen the route he was forced to take, it was clear his circumstances shaped him into the person he became.

While he was in prison, Mandela informed his ideals through books he disciplined himself to read and built bridges of friendship with enemy prison guards to widen his grace. He never surrendered to a sedentary life. When he finally emerged from prison, it took little time for his country to recognize their new leader. But the time Mandela spent in adversity helped make him the leader he turned out to be.

When we see our circumstances with the long view in mind, it empowers us to live them well, because we are viewing our circumstances as an important part of our story. Difficult circumstances shape what happens to our character and often position us for what our story will become, but we usually see this only in hindsight. Keeping this perspective in front of us enables us to persevere with promise and hope.

If we don’t see our circumstances with the lens of the big view, we may draw conclusions, based on our limited view, that could alter what happens next. Certainly that was true for Nelson Mandela, for at any time in those 27 years he could have surrendered in despair to the apparent realization that prison would be his life. History now shows that prison served as preparation for his life; however, Mandela didn’t know that when he was living it. He made a decision not to give in to despair, and his grit and perseverance helped him make the next good choice in front of him. The way he grew in grace and knowledge while in prison gave him a deep well to draw from in his presidency.

Though our story is somewhat limited by the circumstances we are given, the stories threaded through the Bible support the fact that we play a significant part in how our story gets written. The narratives indicate that God writes our story with us, not around us, and our story evolves by the way we respond to each scene. God’s overall plan may be secure, but we have been given freedom for how we live our part.

Looking at what is happening to us as building something in us helps us view our circumstances as giving us something we need for the path ahead. This can infuse us with hope and optimism in those seasons when we are waiting for something to change. Our faith is stretched when the path is long, and the route seems unclear. But during those times, God does his finest work in writing our story—if we can hold on until he is through.

 

*Laurie Polich Short serves as associate pastor at Oceanhills Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California. A speaker at numerous conferences and colleges, she is the author of When Changing Nothing Changes Everything and Finding Faith in the Dark. This excerpt was taken from When Changing Nothing Changes Everything. Copyright 2017 by Laurie Polich Short.

© 2019 Christianity Today

Diminish The Power Of Negative Circumstances (Part I)

By: Laurie Polich Short

Excerpt taken from: When Changing Nothing Changes Everything

In 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon titled, “Looking Beyond Your Circumstances.” It was eight years before his “I Have a Dream” speech that would change America’s course. In this lesser-known sermon, Dr. King suggests that one of the great temptations is to become too absorbed in our circumstances, which leads to the conclusion that changing our circumstances is the only way out of them. Under that mindset, Dr. King states, our personality becomes “thinner and thinner, ultimately disintegrating under the pressing load.” Martin Luther King concludes that we are part of the equation in determining the outcome our circumstances give to us. Seeing that can change everything.

My grandfather’s story was a legend we heard many times growing up, a true tale embedded in our family history. Each time I heard it, it nurtured the traits of perseverance and grit that run through my Serbian veins.

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Todor Pero Polich left Serbia in 1906, at the time when his country was struggling under Austro-Hungarian rule. Like a multitude of immigrants across the globe, he came to America to make a new start. Boarding a boat by himself, he traveled two and a half weeks across the Atlantic, accompanied by no one he knew. At the age when I graduated high school, my grandfather left his homeland, never to return.

He knew no English when he arrived in the U.S.  His possessions consisted of a dollar in his pocket and the clothes on his back. After he got off the ship at Ellis Island, he traveled by train to California, where his fifth cousin gave him a job washing dishes. With only a few English words and very few contacts, he was lucky to get even that. However, Todor never limited himself to the way his circumstances might have looked. Instead, he viewed each circumstance as part of his journey and persevered to where they would lead him next.

Forty-one years later, my grandfather sold his first construction company for $7.5 million. That amount doesn’t sound like much until you realize that the year was 1947. After Todor sold his company, he started a second construction company, which he turned over to my dad after he retired. The money he made in his businesses didn’t only foot the bill of many of his grandchildren’s college education (including mine), it also contributed toward building several churches that still stand today.

Yet in spite of his financial and material success, my greatest memory of my grandfather consists of two words he repeated over and over until the day of his death. To this day I cannot read those words without hearing them in his deep Serbian voice. He would lean in close and repeat them to me every time he had a chance:

“Morale and character,” he’d say, with a tremor in his voice. (Although with his accent it sounded like modal and chadacter.) “Thees is most important,” he’d whisper, shaking his long bony finger up to my face. “Never forget, Lauritza Annitza.” And I never did.

Morale is defined as a person’s courage, optimism, and determination. Character consists of the distinctive qualities and reputation that sets a person apart. These two words helped my grandfather persevere in his circumstances instead of disappearing under their weight. Somehow he believed that the way he lived his circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves, would make a bigger impact on the way things turned out. He was right.

My grandfather looked at each chapter of his life as giving him strength and fortitude, knowing it was shaping him for the dreams that were ahead. He believed each circumstance was equipping him for where he was going and paving the road to what was next. The vision he had for more than what was immediately in front of him ended up charting his course.

With the lens of the big view, we diminish the power our circumstances have over us. And we are buoyed by the truth that the way our circumstances look is not always an accurate indicator of what is ahead.

*Laurie Polich Short serves as associate pastor at Oceanhills Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California. A speaker at numerous conferences and colleges, she is the author of When Changing Nothing Changes Everything and Finding Faith in the Dark. This excerpt was taken from When Changing Nothing Changes Everything. Copyright 2017 by Laurie Polich Short.

© 2019 Christianity Today

Lift Up Your Eyes

By: Joselyn García, Missionary serving with Genesis in Panama City

“Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

In order to make the message clear for his Hebrew hearers, Jesus used illustrations from their daily life, including many dealing with agriculture. In John 4, Jesus tries to teach his disciples how to take advantage of opportunities to extend the kingdom.

Discerning that a field was ready for harvest was not the specialty of a few who understood the subject. The golden color of thousands of spikes of grain clearly would have indicated to all who passed by that the harvest time had arrived. But in order to see it, one thing was necessary: the lifting of your eyes.

I want to tell you the story of Judith, a new believer in Carrasquilla, Panama City. Judith is a very helpful and active lady, and we saw her every week when we went through her neighborhood for the kids club we were organizing. Sometimes she wasn’t in a good mood, and we always greeted her, but we hadn’t ever had a deeper conversation with her. Several months passed. Judith3.jpeg

Taking John 4 into account, we might say that we had not yet learned to lift our eyes to see that there was an opportunity in front of us. How many days had we passed by the field and not noticed the harvest?!

One day we were able to have a conversation with her during a difficult time in the community. A great storm had come over the neighborhood, and we decided to visit each family, pray with them, and deliver food and water.

From that point our relationship with Judith grew. We shared Jesus with her, and we began discipleship in her house. She has grown a lot. She constantly tells us how her life has been transformed by Christ and how she has left behind actions and attitudes that did not please God. A few days ago, she took another step of faith. She was baptized!

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We thank God for her life, and what he will continue to do in her.

The Holy Spirit is the one who helps and guides us, but many times as a church we have missed countless opportunities to share the gospel. Lifting our eyes is an act of will. Let us decide to look at the world with the eyes of Christ, for He has said in his word that the harvest is ready.

May our prayer be: Lord, give us vision. Count on us. Use our hands to harvest. Lift up our eyes so that we can see beyond the faces of the people we meet. Help us to see their hearts.

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The Two Faces Of The Moon

By: Marleidy Sánchez, Missionary serving with Genesis in Panama

In life, we learn the most in times of difficulties, complicated circumstances, and when life does not go as we would have expected. If we were to receive everything we wanted too easily, we would undoubtedly lose the value of effort, perseverance and, above all, patience.Marleidy selfie niños.jpg

Author Pablo Latapí Sarre writes a reflection where he compares the life of a teacher to the two faces of the moon. On the dark side he mentions all the hardships and problems one faces, and on the bright side the greatest of pleasures: seeing the student learn.

This causes me to think about missionary work. Every missionary faces many things that at the moment seem to make no sense. On the dark side, I could mention the difficulties on the field: the cultural shock of finding ourselves in a country not our own, limited economic resources, the lack of interest of people in responding to our message, or even if they do their lack of growth afterwards in their spiritual lives, etc.  If we focus on all this, we can lose sight of the most beautiful, luminous part of serving.

What can we say about the bright side? Throughout the entire time we have been Niños cajas.jpgserving in Panama, I have seen many lights: children and adults listening to Jesus and inviting him into their lives, the Word transforming minds and hearts, people leaving their pasts and beginning to lead new lives in Christ, and meeting every Sunday morning with a new church to praise God in a place where months ago there was nothing. In ministry we will have to pass through lights and shadows. Trusting in God’s promises makes us believe that, in the midst of difficulty, He has control.

There is a phrase that fits perfectly with this concept: “Do not forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” Shadows are part of ministry and also part of our growth. When we do everything with love, we can be assured that (in the words of Latapí Sarre) “the lights outweigh the shadows, and we know that the moon is decidedly bright and beautiful.”

 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light, we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

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Waiting Power

By: Dr. Dan Schafer

President, World Gospel Mission

*The following is an extract from the book: Transformational Vision

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14

Mind boggling! Sitting in the sweltering heat of an Ugandan afternoon, I typed up and sent off an important email with several recipients. One of those recipients sat across the table from me, the others were scattered around the world.

“Got it!” was the reply from my colleague seemingly before I lifted my finger from the sent button. How is it possible for that email to travel from my computer in the depths of Africa, across the continent, over the ocean, to the heart of the US, and then repeat the journey back, signaling its arrival into the inbox of my table companion in just a few seconds?

Not only is this possible, but its occurrence is expected. If the email fails to make its appearance within those few acceptable seconds, our impatience grows. What’s wrong?! We should have gotten that email 30 seconds ago.

Like our email, much of life is delivered at ultra-high speed. Many of us have grown accustomed to next day delivery from Amazon, instant downloadable movies, and an Uber “taxi” driver waiting just around the corner for our beckon call. delivery

What a wonderful convenience these ultra-fast services and products bring to our lives. But writer Tim Elmore shares that there is an unexpected consequence of all this high-speed delivery. There is a significant danger that we will conclude that everything slow or that takes time is bad. This results in a practice of avoiding anything that takes time.

Why is this a danger to us? Simply put, we need the resistance that time consuming activities produce in our lives. Without it, we will not develop into the fully healthy persons God intends for us to be. It is these time-consuming activities that build character in our lives. For example, it is only as we practice waiting that we learn to be patient.

Waiting is important! Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. There is something about speeding through life that causes us to miss the power of God that is available to us. Elijah had to slow down from the events of Mount Carmel to hear the still, small voice of God.

Such a voice can only be detected when we are standing still. Remember, God’s voice wasn’t detected in the wind that went rushing by. It’s only when we learn to wait, that we can truly experience the strength of our God.

Again, waiting exercises the muscle of patience. Without the discipline of waiting, we will find ourselves woefully short on patience. Without patience — we will find ourselves short on love.

Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). The mathematical law of equality informs us that we can flip this equation and restate it — patient [or patience] is love. The reality is that it requires a great deal of patience to live with and to love others. We must learn there are times when it is important to go slow because it builds the patience we need to love one another. And without that perseverance-developed patience we will not have what it takes to maintain the relationships with others that are needed to navigate life.

So, go ahead and enjoy the conveniences that bring speed to our lives, but don’t write off everything that requires time and hard work.  Those mental, spiritual, and emotional exercises are important to your mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

My Prayer:

Lord, teach me that some good things only come by waiting. Amen.