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. 

 

Training Workshop Leads to Salvation for Unintentional Participant

Project Paul leaders in Mexico recently organized a training seminar for volunteer missionaries interested in serving at the event. As the workshop started, the organizers assumed that the attendees were all there to participate in the project, but one man arrived for the first time without knowing what the activity was about.

At the end of the session, the teacher invited the attendees to the altar to pray, committing themselves to the Lord and the project. While the people walked to the front, the visitor raised his hand and said to the teacher “Pray for me; I want to give myself to God.” Before praying for the missionaries, the leader guided the visitor in prayer and he gave his life to Jesus Christ.

The next day, the workshop continued and the man was there again. The church members congratulated him for his decision to follow Christ and for returning to join the missionaries.

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After the workshop, the man told organizers he came from another city where he had lived a life of violence, vices, and bad business that led him to endanger his life and abandon his wife and children. The day he found the church, he felt a great need for God but thought he did not deserve forgiveness because he had done many bad things. He said that during the workshop, he heard many times that “God is looking for the sinner,” which convicted him and led him to surrender to Christ.

The pastor invited the man to a discipleship class and the missionaries invited him to share the gospel in the streets. He has not stopped testifying of his new faith to his colleagues, neighbors, and friends. He has also shared his testimony by telephone with his wife, asked her for forgiveness, and hopes to recover his marriage. He continues to be discipled and has recently been baptized. The pastor and the missionaries are very surprised since everything happened in a period of three weeks.

This testimony was originally published at: nazarene.org

A Swift and Radical Change

In one of the neighborhoods in the city, two missionaries were doing door to door evangelism, knocking on doors to present the gospel using the “Wordless Book.” They knocked on the door insistently, but no one would open. When they were about to leave, a woman about 40 years old leaned out of a small window.  They told her why they were there. Even though the weather was not cold, the woman was wearing a coat; she seemed nervous and concerned, and she was walking from one place to another. She told the missionaries she couldn’t receive them because she was waiting for her therapy session with her psychologist. The missionaries asked for ten minutes to share a Bible story, and so she let them.  At the end, they guided her to accept Christ as her Savior.

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During the prayer, the woman broke down weeping. She told the missionaries that when they prayed she started sweating, feeling really hot and restless at the same time. After giving her some advice, they left, promising her that they would return the next day to give her a discipleship lesson. When they came back, she shared with the missionaries how she had wanted to cancel the appointment with them.  Unable to contact them, though, she began to think that it might be important – even exciting – to receive them again.

At the end of the discipleship lesson, once again the missionaries prayed for her.  But this time the Holy Spirit started to minister to her in a beautiful way, performing a miracle of change in her life. When the missionaries returned for the third time, they were astonished: the woman’s appearance had changed, she looked healthy, and her house was cleaned and organized. She shared that for ten years she had dealt with depression and anxiety; in fact, for the past eight years she hadn’t been able to leave her house. She told them that she kept a lot of resentment in her heart against people that had hurt her, and she had even thought about ending her life to stop the suffering. But on that day, when the missionaries talked to her about Jesus and then prayed for her, she felt a strange heat that invaded her body, and it felt like someone had removed a weight from above. She started to feel joy and shared the news with her parents and brothers whom were disconcerted when listening to her.

After reading the Bible, the missionaries prayed for her once again. This time the woman started crying, asking for God’s healing for her life. By the fourth visit the woman was beaming, and she told them that for the first time in eight years she was able to leave the house and go with her husband to the main square of the city. She told them she was amazed by the joy she felt without medication, any therapy sessions, or even consulting with her psychiatrist at all (who, by the way, had never showed up for the appointment).

The missionaries were joyful to see this swift and radical change. When they were about to pray for her, she asked them to wait.  She ran to the house next door to call her parents, husband and brothers so they could also be a part of the prayer. Her family came and told the missionaries that they couldn’t explain what they were seeing in her life. They said they were religious people, members of the main church in town, but they were amazed by the change in her. They asked the missionaries to pray for them, too, and for other family members. The missionaries prayed for everyone and promised them to continue sharing with them about Jesus. The missionaries are members of a local Nazarene Church, and before this encounter, they had never shared their faith with anyone who did not know Jesus.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

This information has been provided by Rev. Manuel Molina, and comes from one of many “Project Paul” church planting trips in the north of Mexico.

 

A Look at Lent

Just recently we have finished our 40 days of focused prayer for the cities of the Mesoamerica Region. Every January we begin the calendar year by asking the Lord to begin a genesis in us and in the urban populations around the world.  Let us continue to intercede for these cities, and may we give and serve sacrificially in order to witness their transformation!

In 2018, those 40 days ended just a few days before another 40-day experience begins.  In the Christian calendar, this upcoming Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  This is a significant season where we as Christ-followers do just that: we follow Christ, and we follow him specifically to the cross.

Our friends at A Plain Account have shared a description of Lent (below) that I hope will prove helpful to you and your congregation during this time.

Lent is a period of fasting and sorrow for our sin in preparation for the celebration of Easter. The purple colors that decorate many sanctuaries in this season represent sorrow, mourning, and suffering. However, purple is also a royal color, reminding us of the sacrifice of our King, Jesus.

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Lent is an exceedingly ancient custom. There is tradition that suggests the original Apostles instituted the practice.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, Lent lasts 40 days, not counting Sundays. Ash represents our repentance, our sorrow for our sins, and our mortality. The period of 40 is common in the Bible, associated with Moses, Elijah, Noah, Jonah, Jesus, and others. Ash represents the death and destruction caused by sin. To receive an anointing of ash is a sign of repentance.

During this time people often fast from something such as chocolate, TV, or eating meat.  The purpose of a fast is to heighten your awareness of the presence of God. You also might consider adding something to your life during Lent like a spiritual discipline or being more generous. It can be a great way to begin a good habit.

Lent concludes with Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday (the Triumphal Entry) and includes Maundy Thursday (when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet), Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (a day of deep sadness at Christ’s death).

During Lent we recognize our need, and we repent of our sinfulness. The essence of sin is broken relationship. It is when we say “no” to God’s call to love at each moment. Even in this somber time of the year the Resurrection is in the background. There is hope. There is forgiveness. Easter is coming.

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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That’s not Fair!

By Scott Armstrong

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)

(Read Psalm 37:3-8)

When they are little, siblings often complain about “fairness.”  Is that not the most burning issue to a small child? If one toddler takes a toy away, another exclaims for all to hear, “Hey, that’s not fair!”  If one brother gets to go over to a friend’s house while the other stays home, the “tortured” sibling mopes to his dad and mom, “But that’s not fair!”

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Even as teens and adults, we are usually concerned about fairness.  She got those grades and didn’t even try. He makes more money than I do and I work much harder.  The issue is even more complex when we see followers of Christ suffering and those who don’t even care about God living the high life. It is definitely easy to focus on those around us and ask God, “Are you seeing this? It’s just not fair!”

Maybe that is why David writes Psalm 37.  In its first 8 verses, he says 3 times, “Do not fret,” especially with regards to the apparent success of “evil men” who carry out “wicked schemes.”  It is as if David is saying, “I know it’s not fair.  But don’t worry about it.  God knows.”

Perhaps more importantly, David gives us some great advice.

“Trust in the Lord and do good…”

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart…”

“Commit your way to the Lord…”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Those are words of guidance and also of encouragement.  Although the circumstances in your life may not be fair, God sees and knows everything.  He has incredible promises in store for you if you continue to faithfully serve him (vv.4-6).  Instead of focusing on others, let’s focus on the Lord and trust in him.

The Winning Formula

By Scott Armstrong

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

In the church we make knowing God’s will seem so easy.  There are formulas we can follow!  For example, James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (1:5).  There’s the Wisdom Formula: we lack it, we ask for it—Boom, we get it!  So why is it hardly ever so simple?

As a youth pastor and now a missionary, I have seen many teens through the years who have struggled with knowing God’s will for their lives.  Who am I supposed to marry? Where am I supposed to go to college? What does God want me to do today, right now?

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Romans 12:1-2 is a well-known passage that contains another formula for knowing God’s will.  It promises that we will “be able to test and approve what God’s will is” if we just follow the aforementioned instructions.  We must offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.”  A sacrifice has no rights; it is surrendered completely on an altar.  Even a living sacrifice has to be surrendered entirely.  Then the instructions say, we must not be conformed to the world around us, but be transformed.  There has to be a genuine change in our lifestyles and even mindsets—something that is visually different from the surrounding culture.

Although many of us are tired of quick and easy formulas, I believe the key to knowing God’s will is wrapped up in these instructions.  We will know God’s will if we surrender everything to him.

Of the hundreds of teens I have seen struggling to know God’s will for their lives, do you know which ones have seemed to understand God’s will more than the others? The ones who have been sold out to God, 100%.  The ones who have longed to not just know his will, but to know God himself more and more each day.  The sacrificed ones.  Those who are not conformed to the world around them.  Those who have been transformed.

Do you want to know God’s will?

Are you a living sacrifice yet?