The Power of Prayer and Presence

By Cheryl Paden

Valerie joined our writers’group with the enthusiasm of a bee after nectar. She instantly became everyone’s encourager and energized us to write and to send out our work for publication. We rejoiced with her when she published her first article, and we thanked God for the birth of her long-awaited son, Jack.

Jack was six weeks old when doctors diagnosed Valerie with cancer. We all began to pray for healing. She started treatment and suffered from the side effects. After losing her hair, she glued sequins onto an oversized pink handkerchief. She bounced into our writers’ group that night and announced, “No one will notice that I am bald, they will only see my beautiful new bandana.”

We laughed as we watched her exaggerated modeling techniques and admired her new look.

At the close of the evening Valerie added, “I feel a cold coming on; as long as we are praying to heal the cancer, pray for that too. Might as well pray to heal everything.”

We agreed, and our praying continued.

We attended our annual writers’ group retreat at the St. Benedict Retreat Center. Valerie left the meeting to go visit with Father Thomas, the retreat center’s director. She explained that she wanted to ask him for prayers for her healing. As Valerie and I walked together that evening she confided, “I can just feel the love of everyone’s prayers. It is an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful!”

Valerie’s condition continued to worsen. We continued to pray, but the miracle we asked for would not happen. I called Valerie to ask what I could do. “Just come hold my hand.”

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So I did. I sat at her bedside and held her hand. She whispered to me about her fears of leaving two-year-old Jack.
Valerie died the next day. Our writers’ group attended the funeral. The prayers for healing—at least our idea of complete, physical healing—were not answered.

Valerie’s words, “I can feel the love,” I believe was God’s response to our prayers. Our requested miracle of healing was not answered, but we loved our friend through her illness, and I believe she knew that.

Years later, when I suffered from my own illness, I spent time in the emergency room, doctors’ offices, and completing medical tests. Unable to attend work, social functions, or keep to my regular routine, I sat at home, fretted, and waited for medical answers. For that entire month, no one knew the details of my situation.

Then I remembered Valerie’s words.

I went to my keyboard and emailed every friend that I knew to be a prayer warrior and asked for prayers. By that afternoon, the burden of the illness had lifted. I still did not have the medical answers, but I felt the love of God and of my friends.

Through shared prayers and through simple presence, I learned the significance of what Valerie conveyed to us: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

This article was originally published at: graceandpeacemagazine.org

Does Praying for Missionaries Make a Difference?

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

Does praying for missionaries make a difference?

There are always testimonies to support in some dynamic or dramatic way that, indeed, prayer does make a difference. But I want to testify today that it makes a daily, sustaining difference also. Our top daily prayer supporters are my wife, Connie’s, parents. But Hannah Babin, the little girl in this picture, was six when we came to her church in Baton Rouge on Home Assignment in April 2014 and now she is ten. She told us and her mother, Heidi, that she was going to pray every day for us and she has faithfully kept her promise.

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As we reflected on this past year, we are amazed that neither Connie nor I have needed to see a doctor other than for routine checkups. Nor have we been really sick. We are in our sixties and this is unusual among our peers.

We have driven (well, Connie is our main driver) in the worst traffic in the world in Manila, Philippines without any fender-benders or incidents. We have found every church building or location we needed to find over this time in places that have no addresses and where, therefore, GPS is almost useless.

We had a really tough time on one day in April, and we were tired and burdened and overloaded. We always know that God has Connie’s parents and a host of others who we may not know by name praying for us every day. But that night I said to Connie not to lose hope because a ten-year-old girl in Louisiana is praying for us today.

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If God could raise up a young prayer supporter like that, we should take courage that he will never leave us nor forsake us. How could he fail to answer the prayers of a sincere girl? Our hearts were strengthened, and I proceeded as professor to proofread the thesis that had to be done by morning. I finished at 5:00am and rose at 7:00am to live another ministry-packed day. I am convinced that that student graduated this year because of Hannah’s prayers.

I have no conclusion to arrive at other than daily prayers have been holding us up. Thank you, Mom and Pops, Hannah and the Babin family, and all our other prayer supporters. Anything that has been accomplished through our lives this year for Christ and his kingdom was made possible and is equal to the credit of your uplifting prayers. To God be the glory! We are a team and we could not do it without you all!

–Dr. Clark Armstrong is Professor in Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines.

Guatemala Volcano Response – You Can Help

On Sunday, 3 June, the Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala erupted, killing more than 69 people, a number that is expected to rise. Fast-moving avalanches of rock and ash tore down the mountain, reaching temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Villages in three provinces — Chimaltenango, Escuintla, and Sacatepéquez — were covered with ash and debris. The full extent of the damage is still unknown as rescue efforts and rehabilitation have been hindered by further eruptions and rain. 

People affected by this disaster need your help. 

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GIVE NOW

Entire communities have been destroyed, and Nazarene brothers and sisters are among those who have lost loved ones. A team of Nazarene volunteers from nearby communities arrived in Escuintla on Monday to visit shelters and distribute emergency medical supplies, but the needs are still great and urgent.

It will be a long time before those affected are able to recover or return to what may seem normal; entire homes and livelihoods were engulfed. The loss will linger for many years. By supporting the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund, you are coming alongside local churches to provide for urgent needs now and support long-term recovery efforts into the future. 

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The needs are great and recovery could take years.

GIVE NOW

How You Can Help 

PRAY

Please pray for families and individuals affected by the eruption and subsequent landslides. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Pray for the energy, resilience, and success of the rescue workers and volunteers. Pray for those experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for those who are most vulnerable, especially senior adults, individuals with disabilities, and people living in poverty. Pray for church leaders and churches responding to the needs around them. To send a prayer or note of encouragement, go to ncm.org/pray.

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GIVE

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food, water, and medical supplies, as well as for long-term rebuilding.

To send donations by mail:

In the U.S., make checks payable to “General Treasurer” and send them to: 

Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
P.O. Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

In Canada, make checks payable to “Church of the Nazarene Canada” and send them to:

Church of the Nazarene Canada
3657 Ponytrail Drive
Mississauga, ON L4X 1W5

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

For additional countries, please give through your local church or district, designating your gift to Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Guatemala Volcano.

This information was distributed by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Photo credit: Mesoamerica Communications.

In the Face of Suffering and Social Problems

Written by Rev. Leonel de León, Northcentral Field Strategy Coordinator, Mesoamerica Region

In the face of suffering and the social problems we are going through, I share the following perspective:

Our prayers for the current reality facing us are a plea to the Lord so that He can care, protect, and assist His people. We also pray for a miracle, but we understand that circumstances won’t change as long as we allow the fallen nature of the human race to prevail. 

If we read and understand history, we will discover that such social problems have been a result of the fallen nature of humanity, and it has been God who has changed and mobilized His people in the Old Testament and then His Church to bring about change. 

Sometimes we get frustrated when we don’t see “specific” answers to our prayers.  We expect an “angelical revolution” that brings justice, equality and love, but sadly we don’t see it. Therefore, we ask in prayer for the Church to be strengthened and intervene, not through political or social protests, but with the powerful message of justice and repentance. “The kingdom of heaven has come near…” And this Kingdom is different than any earthly kingdom.

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We feel sorry when we see kids, youth and adults being massacred.  It hurts us to see the social and cultural decay wrought because of vandalism, hatred and retaliation. But our prayers do help, for God continues to touch, heal and intervene as the Church plays its role as the salt and light of the world.

When England attempted to move onward during the devastation of World War II, Winston Churchill invited his people to pray.  The miracle of prayer was seen in people’s changed attitudes, and certain victory was the result. Therefore, pray NOT for missiles to fall from heaven on the wicked.  Pray NOT for evil ones to die.  Rather, let’s PRAY for God to change our attitudes and strategies about the circumstances we are living in.  Let’s allow God to guide us.  Let’s not impose on God our desires or intentions. God’s silence a lot of times is the SELAH of the church. (Selah means being still and reflecting on God’s message.)

Latin America has suffered multiple civil wars, exploitation and plundering, as well as vandalism and the pain of losing thousands of loved ones. Siblings have killed each other simply because they belong to different sides in politics or war. The Church, however, is not a political party, and it doesn’t belong to any side. The Church is the Church of Christ: its message is different from any other extreme ideological message. The Church is immersed in and between cultures, but neither culture nor ideologies should ever come above the Kingdom’s message, nor above the government of Christ. The mission of the Church is to reach both good and bad.  Christ’s message is not discriminatory, and it doesn’t adjust according to politics or ideologies. The message of the Kingdom is JESUS CHRIST, providing the opportunity for the fallen to stand up. That is why we as the Church support peace and justice, and vow to never support any fallen human ideology.

I powerfully believe that the God of history is with us and weeps at these disastrous situations.  Yet, that same God of history also expects that the Church would play its role of salt and light. Together under the flag of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and will take action so that our people suffer less.

 This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Pray for Guatemala

The Volcano of Fire (Volcán de Fuego), located 50 km from the Guatemalan capital, caused much damage after a powerful eruption yesterday. The most recent report from CONRED, the Guatemalan disaster response organization, said that over 1.7 million people have been affected, 3,265 people have been evacuated, 1,195 people have been left homeless, 20 were injured, and 25 people died as a result of the eruption.

Damaris Kellogg, the Mesoamerica North Central Field Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) Coordinator, shared that there are currently no reports of damages to Church of the Nazarene buildings or properties. However, members of the Church of the Nazarene have been moved to temporary shelters and are very frightened.

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Field NCM leadership has maintained constant communication with local pastors, who have shared information about current shelters. This morning a team left from the North Central Field Office to visit shelters in the department of Escuintla to bring both physical and spiritual aid. The team is bringing basic supplies, such as water, food, diapers and blankets. Included in the group are NCM Coordinator Damaris Kellogg and Field Strategy Coordinator Rev. Leonel de Leon.

Kellogg said, “There are several families whose loved ones are missing, and others who have family members in the hospital. There are emergency responders who are missing as well. We ask for your prayers for the families who are affected and for the church, that we would see both physical and spiritual needs with the eyes of Jesus. We know that God is in control and that God loves Guatemala!”

Source: Damaris Kellogg, North Central Field NCM Coordinator, Mesoamerica Region, via Mesoamerica Communications

This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Loss Felt by Global Family: BGS Statement on Cuba Tragedy

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The Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene, extends its heartfelt love, passionate prayers, and deepest condolences to the families of all affected by the Friday, May 18 plane crash in Havana, Cuba.

It was with heavy hearts we learned that 10 Nazarene pastoral couples were among the 100-plus people who lost their lives in this tragedy. They had just completed a national conference for the Cuba Nazarene Church.

“Sharon and I had the privilege of being at the Cuba East District Assembly in January,” said David W. Graves, jurisdictional general superintendent for the denomination’s Mesoamerica Region. “We were touched by their love and passion for Jesus and the Church of the Nazarene. Our hearts are heavy for the families, churches, and the district, and the loss is personally felt by our global family.”

We are comforted by the report from Rev. López, president of the Church of the Nazarene in Cuba, who said the couples were singing, praying, and testifying on their way to the airport. The promise of the resurrection assures us that we will be reunited in praising and worshiping God together.

We grieve with the families of those who lost their loved ones. We also grieve with Regional Director Rev. Carlos Sáenz, Rev. Leonel López, and East District Superintendent Rev. Luis Batista during this time. May the Lord carry the children of these mothers and fathers, surrounding them with His all-embracing peace and love that transcends our understanding.

To Nazarenes around the world, please continue to join us in prayer for all affected by this tragic loss. We embrace Christ’s mandate to console the grieving and care for the widows and orphans.

To Cuban Nazarenes, East District churches, and all hurting in that nation today, we love you. You are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mourn with you, hurt with you, pray for you, and will continue to lift you up in prayer in the days, months, and years ahead.

Our prayer is that God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). May you hold on to the reality that God, our “Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Our prayer is for the peace of Christ to be with the people of Cuba during this time of grief and pain.

We are grateful for and we remember their consecrated lives:

  • Mirza Rodríguez Rondón & Juan Luis Vega Velázquez
  • Luis Manuel Rojas Pérez & Maricela Peña
  • Norma Suárez Niles & Jesús Manuel García Oberto
  • María Virgen Filandez Rojas & Rafael Vega Velázquez
  • Ronni Alain Pupo Pupo & Yurisel Milagros Miranda Mulet (Nazarene Missions International district president)
  • Eloy Ortiz Abad & Elva María Mosqueda Legrá
  • Juan Carlos Nogueras Leyva & Noelbis Hernández Guerrero
  • Gelover Martín Pérez Avalo & Yoneisi Cordovez Rodríguez (pastor and district treasurer)
  • Manuel David Aguilar Saavedra & María Salomé Sánchez Arévalo (district secretary)
  • Grisell Filandes Clark & Lorenzo Boch Bring

This article was originally published at: nazarene.org

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.