God Calling, Sending and Using Youth in His Mission

What a joy to know that God continues to invite youth to respond to His missionary call!  In the past weeks we have been amazed at the stories of many teens who God is guiding and using powerfully. In this post, we share three testimonies of young volunteers who participated in Encuentro, held in Guatemala and Costa Rica during June and July of this year.  This event impacted the lives of hundreds of people from the communities where the teams and volunteers ministered:

 “I served as a translator during the time of Encuentro and Project Timothy, and one of the most treasured moments in my heart was the day when we went out to evangelize. The majority of the people we started to meet asked for prayer for healing. The most powerful instance was a lady that we met while we were on the road walking. She was going to buy tortillas when Pastor Cesar Robleto from the Gethsemane Church stopped her and asked if she had a prayer request. She said yes and even invited us to her house. She asked us to pray for her daughter, Andrea, who has cancer. We told Andrea that her mother had requested we pray for her. She was surprised, but also happy.

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That moment of prayer was beautiful. We could not hold back the tears. Only God knew the need, the pain, and the anguish that they were living through. After the prayer, we could see that Andrea’s face was filled with hope and gratitude. We too were grateful to God for that moment. It was a great privilege to pray with them. One of our North American sisters shared words of encouragement, and we could feel how the Holy Spirit was moving in that place bringing peace and tranquility. It was one of the most difficult times I have ever had to translate, because I did so with tears in my eyes, but it was also one of the most beautiful things that I have been able to experience.” – Valeria Narvaez (Nicaragua)

 Foto-2-Andrea-testimonio.jpgWhen I was little, I dreamed of being a doctor.  Later, like all children, I changed my mind and decided that I wanted to be a teacher.  Even though I changed my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was sure that in some way, whatever my job, I would help people. When I wanted to be a doctor, I imagined working somewhere in the mountains, helping people with limited resources.  When I wanted to be a teacher, I imagined being a teacher for needy kids.  A while ago, God began to also put in my heart the idea of being a missionary, but I ignored him because it scared me.

My parents are missionaries, and that means that I know how difficult it is to move to a different country, move to a different house, change schools and make new friends. That’s why every time I thought about being a missionary, it scared me.  But I began to pray (which is the best thing we can do when we are scared).  I prayed for a long time and in these two weeks serving in Encuentro, God answered my prayers and spoke to me through the testimonies, sermons and even the songs. In these weeks he confirmed what I already knew.  That’s why I decided to accept the call that God has given me and to stop being afraid.” – Andrea Salazar (Guatemala)

 “In the first week of Encuentro and Project Timothy, I served in the New Vision Church of the Nazarene along with a group from Kentucky. A large part of our work was a Bible School where we ministered to approximately 70 children. In one of our devotionals, someone said that stories connect people, and that it is important to know someone’s story to truly appreciate them. That happened with some of the kids. They were restless and it was impossible to keep them quiet and attentive. They always wanted to socialize and distract everyone else. We found out that many of them were being raised by their grandmothers because their mothers had abandoned them, often going to other countries. Others had fathers who had died for one reason or another.

Diana-González-testimonio-800x440.jpgDuring the week, we worked a lot with them: teaching Bible lessons, memorizing verses, and having fun with games and snacks.  Still, to be honest, I didn’t feel like I was having a great impact on the emotional life of these kids. But on the last day one of the children came up to me sobbing and so sad because we had to go. He told me, ‘You are like my sister.’ It broke my heart and I wanted to spend more time with him. I wanted the chance to continue being a part of his life because his need for love was so great. I pray that he and all the children we ministered to would be held by Jesus, and that they would feel his love and protection.” – Diana Gonzalez (El Salvador)

These testimonies were originally published at: Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica

Truly Encountering God

The following testimony was written by Ana Perdomo (Mexico), she served as a volunteer missionary in Project Timothy and Encuentro. God continues to call and use the lives of young people who are willing to listen and obey:

My first week in Guatemala I served as a translator for a team that had come from the Church of the Nazarene in Valparaiso, Indiana. We had the opportunity to work with the La Florida Church, serving 55 children in a Vacation Bible School and painting the church building with Pastor Juan and the youth leader, Selena. The last day they took us to a school where the original plan was to work with teenagers. But when the time arrived, they introduced us to more than 150 children!  There were only 22 of us in the open air without a microphone, and only one teen from Indiana spoke Spanish. God certainly gave us strength. I learned a lot and was surprised by the love, humility and sensitivity of the youth from the United States.  Most were between 13 and 15 years old, and they always had a smile and were willing to do whatever was needed.

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The second week arrived, and I served alongside a youth group from Kailua, Hawaii. Undoubtedly, God had planned for us to be a diverse team: one Mexican, one Guatemalan, and a missionary from El Salvador were there with the 9 Hawaiians. We worked in the Center of Family Worship (“CEFA”, for its initials in Spanish) with pastor Carolina, a wonderful servant of God who just two months earlier had tragically seen her second child murdered. She shared with us how God had been with her in those difficult moments. She is a warrior and a woman of faith, and highly respected throughout her neighborhood.

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Ana singing with two little girls.

The church was in one of the most dangerous areas in all of Guatemala. The policemen sometimes needed to accompany us in the activities we held in the streets with the neighbors. Each day we had the opportunity to build friendships with children, youth and their families. We held a Bible school and we offered them medical services. We became so connected that it became very difficult to say goodbye at the end of the week.

There are no words to describe how grateful and blessed I felt during these two weeks.  They were tough: I was sick with a fever for much of the time, had a throat infection, and even another infection in one of my molars that simply appeared in those days. What’s more, I received a call from Mexico where they told me that my dog, who had been with me for 14 years, had died on the last day of the trip. I know that Matthew 16:24 (“take up your cross and follow me”) is not just a nice verse written in the Bible. God needs you to believe and give over everything that is in you. He will do the rest in His time, not yours.

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My original plan during Encounter was to go, serve and talk about God, but I received more than I gave.  In fact, my concept of “pastor” changed radically. Having had the opportunity to live with young pastors for two weeks helped me see things differently. I am no longer afraid to accept that call.  Yes, I want to be a missionary, but I also want to be a pastor.

When you have a call on your life, maybe you feel unprepared to face it or live it out.  And it may seem even more complicated when you face difficulties with your family, work, friends, or even with your own thoughts or doubts. But if God is calling you, He has his strategies for working it all out according to His purpose. 

Enormous Results Seen in Project Timothy

In June and July, the first-ever Project Timothy was held, with volunteers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua serving along with young people from the USA and Canada during Encuentro 2018.

The participants from the USA, Canada, and the Mesoamerica Region donated between 7 and 18 days to serve alongside local churches in activities of evangelism, translation, sports ministries, Vacation Bible Schools, “Disturbing our City”, Work and Witness, hospital visitation, and medical clinics that benefited several communities in Guatemala City.

One of the volunteer missionaries, Billi Mendez (Guatemala), expressed joy at the privilege of serving: “My experience in Project Timothy and Encuentro has been the best thing that has happened to me. The best part of the week that I served as a volunteer occurred on the last day of my missionary service. During the week I had been praying to God, asking that I would be able to win a person for Christ through Nazagol (a soccer outreach). In the middle of the game, God moved me to share my testimony with the participants, and I give glory to God because 29 youth accepted Jesus as their Savior.”

The two weeks of work culminated in a time of evaluation and thanksgiving for what God had done in the life of many children, youth and adults. That same day many young people confirmed their call and desire to continue to serve in God’s mission.

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The leaders of Project Timothy and Encuentro shared the following results:

  • NYI (Nazarene Youth International) and Global Mission worked together in harmony
  • More than 1,472 children heard the message of Christ
  • More than 695 people were treated at the medical clinics
  • More than 104 people accepted Christ as their Savior
  • More than 2,167 people heard about God’s love
  • More than 7 countries came together to serve and impact Guatemala
  • The 42 participants in Project Timothy came from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, and all united in the Great Commission
  • More than 16 youth confirmed their call to missions
  • 21 churches on the Guatemala Central District were encouraged by the presence of the youth from Encuentro and Project Timothy

Praise the Lord for continuing to call and use the lives of young people who are willing to serve Him!

Every Career is Mission

Scott Armstrong

“An attorney? God could use an attorney on the mission field?”

Her mouth was agape.  She had come to a Cross-Cultural Orientation to learn about missions, and this was the first time she had heard that her “secular” career could be used on the mission-field.

Did you see how I put that word “secular” in quotes? We have grown up in Church and have been told that only pastors, evangelists, and missionaries serve the Lord “full-time” and are called into “ministry.”  Farmers and bankers and stay-at-home dads and moms are relegated to “secular” vocations.

What if God wants all of our lives – regardless of our job – to be ministry? What if God views all of our work and play and rest as part of our mission? What if nothing is truly secular for a follower of Christ?

The division between “secular” and “spiritual” has infiltrated our concept of missions, too. If you are called to be a missionary, shouldn’t you jettison your college major in psychology or dietetics or music in order to focus on what’s really important: theology and preaching?

Let me state this clearly: studying theology and Bible is essential for any believer and especially for missionaries.  You will need it on the mission field and in your ministry for sure!

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But a degree in something else as well may make you even MORE useful in your missions’ assignment.  Check out what some of our recent GENESIS missionaries have to say:

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“My diploma is in Theology, but I grew up in a family of cooks, caterers and chefs.  This talent I have utilized greatly over the past two years, catering for Church board retreats, brunches for visiting church heads and hosting special guests at the manse by preparing lunches, dinners, and everything in between.” –Crystalla Williams (sent from Trinidad and Tobago to Grenada)

 

21246416_1842539019094464_7988360317864889418_o.jpg“I graduated with a degree in Business Administration, and my career has helped me to: manage finances, keep a good budget each month, write reports and newsletters to my donors, plan and organize ministry events, and in general work with anyone I come in contact with.” –Alejandra García (sent from Guatemala to Santo Domingo)

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“My experience in music has been very helpful in the mission. I was able to teach Scripture using music as a means of learning, as some kids could not read and write. We have tools that can be used for kingdom growth; it just calls for creativity.” –Cleon Cadogan (sent from Guyana to Grenada).

 

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“I give thanks to God for allowing me to study the major that I always dreamed of: fashion design.  Now I realize that my career is an indispensable part of my ministry, not just because I have been able to meet so many people with whom I have shared the gospel, but also because I can teach them basics of sewing and use my creativity to artistically make different materials for all of the events and projects we have organized.  When I reflect, I see that my sewing machine has been transformed into a vital component of my ministry.” –Marlene Valadez (sent from Guadalajara to Querétaro, México)

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“I’m a lawyer.  That major helped me to think of the neediest in our society, and be a voice for those who have none, defending them.  I can enter prisons easier than a pastor could, and I can bring words of life, hope, and love when I do.  I have been able to help the elderly so that their properties are not taken away from them, help the undocumented with immigration issues, etc. The opportunities are endless.” –Daniela González (sent from Oaxaca to Veracruz, México)

And that’s only five testimonies! I received other testimonies from our missionaries who have studied biology, tourism, medicine, psychology, social work, and teaching, and I have decided to share them at www.transformtheglobe.com.  All of these missionaries have been effective in planting churches in urban contexts. But they have been effective in large part because of their “secular” degrees.

The point is: God can use you and your career for his glory – especially on the mission field!

This article was originally published at: Revista Línea

 

 

“Lord, I am Here to Serve you With What you Have Given me”

Guatemala and Costa Rica hosted Encuentro June 30 – July 14. It impacted the lives of hundreds of people, from the communities where the teams ministered to the volunteers. Linda Alguera, 26, a doctor from Nicaragua, shared her experience in Guatemala.

“ …My friend and I spoke with our pastor and received help from the church. Even though the situation in our country threatened the possibility of us going, we remained positive…We arrived to the seminary excited. Four of us traveled together, and so began the adventure of the unknown. I only knew that I was going to serve, but I did not know how. The next day I found brother Milton and he said, ‘Hey doctor, you did not tell me you were coming. You would help us with a medical clinic, right?’ I excitedly agreed. I had brought my tools with me in order to do just that. That same day all the participants met for a welcome time and an explanation of what we were going to do. They told us that we should do everything possible to win one person for the Lord, and I said, ‘Wow. How do I that?’ In my heart I said, ‘Lord, I am here to serve you with what you have given me.’

The next day we met with the medical team. We had trouble with the medicine and with the dental equipment, but we served with what we had because, even more than human medicine, we wanted to bring spiritual medicine. We began the medical clinic the first week and every day we attended approximately 60-80 people, including adults and children. One day we attended 110 people and I remember the faces of the whole team with expressions of satisfaction and happiness for having seen all those people.

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We not only attended to the patients, but we also prayed for them and shared the plan of salvation with them. God gave me the chance to talk to a person who did not need human medicine, but only wanted someone who would listen. Every word of thanks we heard was as if it came from God himself. Many accepted God in the medical clinics.

I thought that I would only be there a week, but God allowed me to serve for 2 weeks. The Lord had great things prepared for me.

The second week I had the best experience I have ever had. I had problems at home and in a devotional I cried and cried. I had an internal battle all day because I had to go to a church and serve. At night I realized that even more than the problem it was God speaking into my life through this experience. That night I went to my room and prayed. I told the Lord that if He told me what He wanted, I would do it. In the last prayer when we were saying goodbye, I asked God to confirm his call to missions, and in that prayer the person who was leading said, ‘Your call is confirmed.’ That has been my best experience. The greatest blessing was to serve God with the gifts that He has given me.”

This testimony was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

When Your Calling Feels Like Death

By Mandy Smith

Doing God’s will, even in ministry, isn’t always fun and flourishing.

What makes you flourish?

It’s a helpful question to ask when discerning our calling. It assumes that God’s call grows from our gifts and passions, that we experience blessing as he works through us to bless others. And that’s scriptural and true.

But what about when our calling feels not like flourishing but like dying?

Yes, I’ve known seasons when following God felt like life and growth. Times when praying for someone brought transformation, when obeying the call to start something new brought growth. But I’m not in that season right now.

Right now it feels more like obedience. Like setting aside what I’d like to do and choosing instead to do what he asks. More like endless spreadsheets and emails and starting big challenges and less like seeing lives transformed. Seasons like this mean stepping into places that feel unsafe, that make me look foolish, daring to care about broken things that may never be fixed. God dares me to pray for release for the person who seems beyond hope. Personally, I’d rather not go there. I might be disappointed.

Yes, I believe that God leads us into life and growth. At times, though, I believe he prunes us.

We have admiration for martyrs—people who die publicly because of their faith. We know their stories from the Bible and church history. But what about the kind of martyrdom that slowly draws the life from us, not in an execution, but from a daily choice of being poured out like a drink offering?

In today’s ministry, we easily equate our work with life fulfillment and career goals. So what do we do with these words of Jesus?

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35).

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How could it be that following the Lord’s prompts took me to a place where answers were scarce and God seemed absent?

In a culture that loves to measure success, how do we accept the example of the prophets? They were called to say and do faithful things to an unhearing, uncaring crowd, hammering on hard hearts. Prophets were called by God to feel his own pain, to long for things they would never see.

Dare we risk equating our story with the martyrs and the prophets, as ordinary as we are? It may be the only way our own story can make sense. The stories of martyrs and prophets may help us set aside other stories we’re tempted to believe. Twisted stories like these:

  • When you’re not seeing fruit, it’s because you’re doing it wrong.
  • When prayers aren’t answered, it’s because you’re unfaithful.
  • When ministries elsewhere seem more successful, it’s a sign something’s wrong with you.
  • When you don’t see God making all things new, it’s because God has forsaken you—or maybe doesn’t even exist?

How could it be that following the Lord’s prompts takes us to places where answers are scarce and God seems absent? 

This kind of discomfort can become a moment to discern if we’re in the right place. Sometimes lack of outcomes may be a sign something should change. As leaders we can use discomfort to motivate those we lead (or to guilt-trip ourselves) to try harder and longer: “Ministry is hard. Try harder.” But when we’ve discerned those things and still our work is hard, when we’ve prayed for release and no change comes, it may simply be that this is the life obedience has led us to.

This life of obedience will likely call us to do things we don’t actually want to do.

We may be called to say goodbye to people we’d rather be with, to be with people we wouldn’t choose.

We may be called to stay in places we’d rather leave, and leave places we’d rather stay. He may call us to long for healing for someone who may never be healed, to pray for someone who may never be “fixed.”

Giving up our time and energy and control all feel like death. We may not admire these deaths as much as martyrs’ physical deaths, but what is a life if not our will and time and energy? This is living sacrifice.

According to Paul, we carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that his very life may be visible in our bodies. While we live a life that daily becomes less and less our own, Jesus’ own life becomes more and more evident, not just in a sermon we preached but in our bodily witness. As we become less, Jesus becomes more.

During this season of serving a particular couple named Teo and Lily, I vented to a wise mentor about my pain. I had felt the Lord so strongly in the prompt to care for them. But caring for them meant working toward miracles I rarely saw, hoping for changes that hadn’t come. How could the prompt that grew from his presence lead me away from his presence? I thought those who made sacrifices for him would at least get the pleasure of sensing him with them. My wise friend smiled kindly and said, “It seems you think your pain is your own.”

Could it be I was feeling the Lord’s pain every time Theo wondered how he’d care for his disabled wife every night she slept on concrete? Could it be that by daring to care for this couple I was being shown a tiny corner of God’s heart for every way this world is lonely and cold? Perhaps he was giving me a glimpse of Jesus’ obedience to step into this broken, sinful world. The suffering face of Jesus on the cross had always made me feel guilty. I didn’t want to be reminded that he suffered for me. Now I knew he suffered with me. That he suffered with Theo and Lily and every lonely, poor, weary person around the world and throughout history. Jesus’ obedience to the Father had taken him into intense suffering. And now I knew that his physical pain was only part of the suffering.

While this may not bring the pleasant flourishing our younger selves imagined when we first followed this call, a life of obedience certainly brings another kind of flourishing. Day by day, we slowly die to our own preferences. It may feel like being buried. But with Christ’s example we see that burial as a planting of something hopeful in the soil, something that dies only to burst into life. So we learn to live out Jesus’ own story:

“I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

When Your Calling Feels too Small

By Alison Dellenbaugh

Success is measured in obedience.

Lately, I’m hearing a lot about “calling” and following wherever Jesus leads. And I’ve been right there on the front row, soaking it up. Meanwhile, my church is focusing on what it means to really be a disciple, no matter the cost.

When we hear these calls to radical discipleship and bold leadership, a lot of us have our spirits pierced and want to sign on–as we should. “Here I am. Send me!” we say with Isaiah. “Anything! Anywhere!” We’re ready to lay down our lives, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus into even rough waters. Go to Africa? Start an orphan care ministry? Plant a church in the inner city? No matter how big, Lord, we’ll do it!

But what if God asks us to do something small? That can be the hardest calling of all, especially for those of us who feel passionate about following him with abandon and making a difference in the world.

I’ve told God I’ll do anything he asks, then waited for the next assignment. And he seemed to say to me, “Will you be faithful to keep writing these church announcements?”

Um, of course, Lord, but…don’t You have anything more? Harder? Not so safe?

For you it may be something different. “Will you stay in your current position? Work in the nursery? Serve in the local soup kitchen instead of Haiti? Lead another Bible Study with only the same four people?”

Last year, I felt strongly that God was calling me into a new ministry, though I had no details. I expected a door to open any day, but instead I saw doors close. After a few months, I cried out in prayer late one night, asking God to please call me somehow the next day! And first thing the next morning, I was asked to do a new ministry task. A task that seemed small. A task that turned out to be tedious and stressful, requiring several volunteer hours a week, very much behind the scenes. Given the timing, it almost felt like a divine joke.

Yet the same day I got the assignment, one of my devotionals was on Zechariah 4:10, which says in part, in the NIV, “Who dares despise the day of small things…?” Or in the NLT, “Do not despise these small beginnings.” Message received.

I determined to stay faithful in what I was given, and I sought God hard along the way. Eventually I was relieved of that task, but meanwhile nothing new presented itself, and my husband, who wasn’t even seeking a new ministry opportunity, was given a big, daring one! At least in Zechariah the small beginnings paid off. Mine weren’t seeming to lead anywhere.

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During this time, a Bible study asked for my definition of success. I pondered what would make me feel successful, and it hit me: Success isn’t achieving a particular result. Success is obedience and faithfulness to God–doing whatever he wants me to do, wherever he has put me.

It isn’t measured by what I accomplish relative to what I think I should have accomplished, but by how I respond to God and whether I’ve done what he’s asked. Even if what he’s asked seems less worthy than what I’d hoped to give him.

I say, “But God, I could do this for you!”

And he replies, “Yes, but will you do what I asked?

If we accomplish great things in Jesus’ name–apart from his leading–they’re hollow and they will not last. If we do small things, unnoticeable to other people, because of his leading and out of love for him, those things will have eternal value. We’re often proved the most in the smallest things–the momentary choices to follow, step by step, high or low. Of course we should be willing to die for him, but also to live for him however he leads, even if it’s not what we’d envisioned. A bigger ministry might bring us joy or allow us to more fully use our gifts, but it won’t bring us more success than following him in any other calling.

Still, we’re all frustrated when we feel we have more to offer, or gifts that are not being used. When what we’re doing doesn’t match our passions, we may fear God’s letting us go to waste. But God, who started a good work in us and will be faithful to complete it, is growing and shaping us for his purposes in those moments. I heard Jill Briscoe say at a recent conference that sometimes we learn more of God when we work outside our gifts and passions. Indeed.

I didn’t go a day that season without learning more of God. Had he given me a bigger ministry when I expected it, would I have sought him so hard, or would I have shelved deep reliance on him until I had another perceived need? Would I have seen the opportunity as a sign of his goodness and love, forgetting he’s good and loving even without that? I likely would’ve thought I’d earned it by my super spirituality. And I might have found my security in that, instead of learning anew to find it in him alone.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m still praying for God to open new doors, even as I do what he’s called me to today. But meanwhile I have this confidence: As long as I’m obedient to God, I’m pleasing him regardless of what I’m doing, how important it seems, or even the fruit it bears. And that’s no small calling at all.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today