An Open Letter to the Churches of Mesoamerica

For the past five weeks we have been traveling through our 40 Days of Prayer for the Cities of Mesoamerica.  We have been so encouraged by the responses of many leaders and local churches as they mobilize their people in prayer!  This campaign has become an annual emphasis, and this year especially we are starting to see the vision take hold.  Thanks to all who have daily interceded for the urban settings in our region – it is truly making a difference!

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There are some exciting things happening in the months ahead.  First, the prayer does not need to stop! Please stay tuned to our updates and prayer requests throughout the year on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our mobile app (available for Android or iOS) will also start to become more and more useful as our missionaries on the ground provide stories as well as personal prayer requests and praises.  And don’t forget that all around the region we have dedicated Tuesday mornings as a time to pray and fast for a genesis to occur in the cities of Mesoamerica.

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Sugey Barrón

Second, did you know that we are developing many new materials and tools to equip the existing churches that are in urban areas? Sugey Barrón, a former Genesis missionary sent from Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic, has decided to continue serving as a missionary in the D.R., now focusing on training the thousands of Nazarenes that live in our cities to be missional.  I am so excited about what she is coming up with (you’ll hear more in the months ahead)!

Third, next month we will be training and sending out a new crop of Genesis missionaries who will impact Monterrey, México and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. These are some really great young people.  Assuredly you will read about them in the coming weeks, but for now I can say that it is a high honor to witness how God keeps calling people to cross-cultural ministry, and how they are still responding in passionate obedience to his voice!

Podcast_English_FinalAll that, and I have not even mentioned the ongoing articles we provide regularly on our website, the “Worthless Servants” podcast episodes we are pumping out biweekly, and much more.  There is a lot going on! The point is: we need you to continue praying for all this. Don’t let the end of a 40-day campaign cause the need for effective urban churches to be “out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, add to that prayer a whole lot of action.  Get involved in some way and help others do the same!

Thanks for your continued collaboration.  God is using you – and thousands of others – to make a difference. What a privilege to be a part of this adventure with you.

Scott Armstrong
Coordinator, Mesoamerica Global Missions and GENESIS
February 8, 2019

An All-Terrain God

In our previous post we published a report of what God did through the 4×4 All-Terrain missions project in Queretaro, Mexico. In the week between Christmas 2018 and New Year’s Day 2019, a group of youth served along with the already deployed Genesis missionaries in Queretaro.

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Now we would like to share a few testimonies from the youth who played an important role in this missions experience:

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“This was an experience that taught me a lot.  I experienced in a palpable way how incredible it is to serve God.  It motivated me to continue working, to continue sharing the Word of God with as many people as I can, and above all to put myself in God’s hands for whatever plan he has for my life.  It was really a blessed week for me and, as the name of the project says, I could see that God is a 4×4 God.  He is without a doubt a God who works in all terrain.” – Teresa de Cuesta.

“Going out to evangelize and see the needs in the community made us more sensitive to the circumstances of the people; to take the message of God’s love to those who need it brings hope to everyone.  “Remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).  4×4 All-Terrain is a platform to teach, participate in missions, love, give hope and practice obedience.” – Gaddiel Antonio.

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“Participating in this project was an answer to my prayer that I would be able to serve God in this place.  I thank God for the chance to spend a week with the Genesis missionaries serving in Queretaro.  Each one taught me great things.  I could see that their passion to share the gospel comes from the head, but above all lives in their hearts.  Their work has impacted me because they consistently showed love to the lost, especially through the hugs and attention they gave to the children.” – Rosa Amaro.

“The decision to participate in 4×4 was a little bit difficult because of time constraints, the cost, and my family.  But thanks to the God who made a way, I ended up in Queretaro! I really liked spending time with the Genesis missionaries and seeing how they had developed their ministry and the joyful way they worship God.  Every day was a great blessing for me.  I was a witness to the way God changes hearts!” – Alejandra Aguilar.

20181228_084154.jpg“I was sick from the moment I arrived and during the entire week of activities.  God had other plans for me because I believe that, in the end, what is important is a willingness to serve and not our ability. The Lord knew my intentions were to help the team, and since my terrible health didn’t allow it, the Lord provided a valuable tool for everybody else that I was able to drive: a car. Even though everything turned out differently than I expected, today I can say that despite physical illness and weakness, the Lord used me for his purposes.” – Ariadna Romero.

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“Participating in 4×4 was a great blessing, because it gave me a chance to serve God through my profession (general medicine). When people asked why we were offering free medications and medical service, it gave us the best opportunity to publicly thank God and remind people that the Lord has a plan for them.  We are only offering back to Him what he gives us, and in that way every one of us can share that we have been changed by his love.” – Navith Ayala

If you would like to be a part of an experience like this, leave a comment or contact us on our Facebook page: Global Mission Mesoamerica.  God can also use you in all terrain!

Kingdom Workers – 4×4 All-Terrain

Written by Ariadna Romero

From Dec. 26, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019, the Mexican city of Queretaro was the site for the 4X4 All Terrain event.  For the last nine years, the event has encouraged Mexican youth to participate in missions in a place far from their homes.  They work in rustic areas, using their abilities and strengths to their limits in order to share the Good News of salvation. 

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Queretaro was no exception.  The Genesis missionaries were waiting for the 16 youth participants when they arrived in order to begin the activities at the ministry site. Some of the activities they planned in the local community were: a Project Gol soccer tournament, vacation Bible school, movies, house-to-house evangelism, and distributing tracts. Through all that, we were not only brothers and sisters in the faith, but also workers together in the Kingdom, roommates, hikers, friends in times of illness and exhaustion, and apprentice cooks.  We even became amateur singers in order to celebrate the end of another year on Earth and the end of 4×4.

Devocionales.jpgThe Lord blessed our efforts for the children and adolescents who were attracted to the different activities throughout the day.  The house-to-house evangelism was not very successful because most people would not open their doors or were not at home.  There were also challenges to handing out the evangelistic tracts.  The local police stopped us several times from handing out fliers.  According to them it was against the law.  Thanks to the tenacity and creativity of Maria Eugenia Rodriguez, who was in charge of 4×4, and the bravery of the participants, things took a different direction.  We ended up at the intersection of a main road passing out brochures, hugging people and wishing people a happy New Year and blessings for their families.  In the end, we accomplished our objective despite the obstacles that always come up when someone tries to share the message of salvation.

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We are thrilled at the achievements we witnessed during the last week of 2018. We know that we were able to help in the missionary work that is beginning in the Queretaro territory, and we know that nothing is impossible in Jesus’ name.

Statistics: Contacts through the VBS, Project Gol, movie showings, and house-to-house evangelism – 108; Number of people who heard the message of salvation – 63; Hugs – 132; Faith decisions – 21; Initial discipleship – 21.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III remembered

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A week ago I shared about the impact that the nazarene missionary Harmon Schmelzenbach III made in my life and particularly in my call to missions. Today we want to share an article published by NCN News that honors the memory of this great man of God. 

At 12 years old, Harmon Schmelzenbach III spoke to Swazi evangelist Joseph Mkwanazi at a camp meeting in Endingeni, Swaziland. Harmon later shared that this conversation confirmed his call to be a pastor and missionary like his father and grandfather. He would spend the next 13 years preparing for this work.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III was born in Nampa, Idaho, in 1935. His parents, Elmer and Mary, were about to become missionaries in Swaziland, where Elmer was raised. They took Harmon to Africa when he was only a few weeks old.

He spent his early childhood in Swaziland. When he was 11, he and his sister Marilyn began attending boarding school in the Republic of South Africa. Boarding school was a common experience for many missionary kids. In their case, the school was close enough to their parents that they could come home some weekends.

In 1952, Harmon returned to Nampa and enrolled in Northwest Nazarene College. He met Beverly, two years younger, and they married while they were students. After graduation, he served as a pastor in the area until Beverly completed her degree.

They received their assignment as missionaries to the RSA in 1960 and worked at first among the Pedi people of the Northern Transvaal. Harmon later commented that the Pedis spoke “a difficult, guttural language that I had been unable to pick up as a child.”

The next year, they moved to Blouberg, the northernmost Nazarene station in the RSA. The area’s rugged terrain required a jeep for travel. Southern Africa remained their field of labor for a quarter-century.

They stood, to some degree, on the shoulders of two generations of missionary predecessors. His grandfather, the first Harmon Schmelzenbach, opened the original Nazarene missions in Swaziland, South Africa, and Mozambique in the early 20th century. After a half-century in Africa, though, Nazarenes had barely reached beyond their base in the south.

By the late 1970s, there was a growing sense that expansion into West and East Africa was overdue. Implementing these initiatives would call for entrepreneurial leadership, and Harmon had been demonstrating precisely this.

In 1971, he took personal initiative to register the Church of the Nazarene in Botswana. In 1977, he and Beverly moved to Namibia to build a new district there. They remained there until 1984.

At that time, the World Mission Department chose Harmon to guide Nazarene expansion in a new area. He became the East Africa Field’s first director. They moved to Kenya, purchased property in Nairobi, and began directing strategies that led to opening new missions and churches in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Zaire.

In Kenya, Harmon established a school to train preachers but dreamed of something grander — a Christian university for East Africa. His early planning laid the groundwork for others to build Africa Nazarene University, which the General Assembly and the Kenyan government authorized in 1993, which then opened in 1994.

“Dr. Harmon Schmelzenbach personally chose the land on which the university sits, claimed it for God and the Church of the Nazarene by faith in prayer and later arranged for the purchase of the land. Today, the building that houses the university’s administration is named after him — the Harmon Schmelzenbach Building,” said Stanley M. Bhebhe, vice chancellor of Africa Nazarene University.

By then, the Schmelzenbachs had been in Addis Ababa for two years, pioneering Nazarene work in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A Marxist regime had closed Ethiopia to new Protestant work for nearly two decades, but the regime had changed. Ethiopia would prove to be a productive field.

In 1994, Harmon was appointed “Missionary at Large” and began traveling widely, speaking at conventions and assemblies, raising mission awareness among Nazarenes generally by retelling family stories from Africa.

Harmon and Beverly retired in 2001, establishing their home in Clearwater, Florida, but they contributed to missions even in retirement. The Eurasia regional director at the time, Franklin Cook, asked them to train new Nazarene leaders in Hungary, and they lived, without complaint, in a cramped room in Budapest for a season.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III died on 2 January 2019 at age 83. He is survived by his wife, their three children, and their grandchildren.

This article was originally published at: NCN News

Urban Evangelization – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

Jeremiah continues his prophecy and tells the Israelites to involve their children in marriage ceremonies and to increase in number. We are talking about generational impact in the city – our evangelism must produce transformation and change that will be seen for generations in the city.

In order to impact generations through our evangelistic methods, we must embrace a posture of challenging the broken social systems of our day. We must begin to know the young people that are being courted by the gangs in our neighborhoods, the children that are being forced into human trafficking, the broken families that seek healing in alcohol and drugs.We have to get our hands dirty. Urban evangelism is not easy – it’s heartbreaking. When we begin to see the people that NEED the good news of Jesus, we begin to respond to those environments differently.

Recently I spoke with some urban church planters that are in an area that is filled with apartment buildings. They told me about the building that they felt the most comfortable in – the building where the neighborhood gang is in charge of who’s coming in and out!  At first, they were nervous every time they thought about going into that building.  But because they are now known by the neighbors as “good people who are serving God”, the gang extends their “protection” over them. I smile to think about the day when we hear that the gang members have given their lives over to Christ, and they start to see generational and societal changes in their lives. 

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We must pray for our city.

Perhaps the most blatant instruction we can take from Jeremiah is: seek the peace of the city and pray for her prosperity

Praying for the city is one of the most important parts of urban evangelism. The spiritual forces at work in the city are battling every day, and we engage in spiritual warfare when we step into its realms. We must pray and truly long for the SHALOM, the holistic well-being, of our city. And to pray effectively, we must deeply know our city. We need to know her rhythms, her hurts, and her people.

God is already at work in the city, and prayer is our connection to Him and His work.  When we engage in the prayer of peace for the city, God begins to guide our path to the daily encounters that He wants us to have, and He replaces fear with love. Then and there, in the supposedly mundane and secular, God uses us to evangelize: to bring His good news to the people of our city.

Evangelism in the city is not about the latest and greatest technique (we wish it were that easy!). Urban evangelism is based on creating strategic and intentional relationships. And quite simply, that takes time. If you are called to urban evangelism, you are called to a long-term vision. Consider moving into a neighborhood where you see God already at work. Spend time with people in their places of work and times of entertainment. Get to know the people that are involved in systemic sin and befriend them. Above all, pray for peace in your city. Trust that your city is on God’s heart and that He desires to use your daily testimony and interactions to bring peace to your city.

Urban Evangelization – Part 1 of 2

By Scott and Emily Armstrong

The city has it all, doesn’t it? Schools and universities, hospitals and doctor’s offices, theatres and shopping malls – the list goes on and on! With more employment opportunities and access to health care and education, it’s obvious why people want to live in the city. Global statistics tell us that the Mesoamerica Region is already URBAN.  Over 80% of our people live in a heavily-populated city, and many of these people are unchurched.

You might be thinking that city evangelization is no different than in the suburbs or rural areas, but you’d be wrong. How do we make Christlike disciples of people that live a fast-paced life and don’t have time for Jesus? How do we create relationship and gain the trust of someone that works 7 days a week? What does hope look like in the midst of substance abuse, gangs and poverty?

First things first: God has a plan for the city.  You have to believe that truth if you ever want to be a successful urban evangelist. Oftentimes when we think about the city, we think about the problems found there – everything from traffic jams to air pollution to stressful schedules to gangs.  However, we must begin seeing the city as God sees it: a place of influence where righteousness and peace can be obtained.  Imagine with me for a minute the vision revealed to us in Revelation 7:9-10,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

That’s the CITY of ZION that we are reading about!  God’s infinite story goes on forever IN A CITY.  We will gather together with every nation, tribe, and language and praise God forever! Isn’t it interesting how our cities are already becoming the home to so many cultures at the same time?  Could we even imagine that maybe, just maybe, God is already giving us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven on earth right in the heart of our cities?

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Jeremiah 29:4-7 is another passage that speaks to us about God and His desire to use His people to impact the city:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”

This passage offers us three principles we must keep in mind when we evangelize the city:

We must live in our city to love our city.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

We must pray for our city.

We must live in our city to love our city.

Jeremiah bluntly tells the exiles of Jerusalem (city dwellers by the way!) to “build houses and settle down…”  He didn’t say to enjoy a short respite there or to view it as a temporary tourist destination. He told them to settle down there. 

I recently sat in a workshop listening to urban church planters tell of their experiences and one of them said, “If you are commuting to the city, it means you work there, not that you care for the neighborhood.”  What he was saying was that the city is a hurry up, come-and-go environment for so many people that are only there for 10 hours during a workday. But the people that LIVE in the city? They are always there!  The decisions that are made in local government affect their personal lives, the school systems mold their children, and the lack of public transportation there affects their employment capabilities.

How are you going to care about all of the dynamics of the city if you don’t live there? Often times we see evangelism as a task to accomplish, but this model will not work in the city.  If you are only coming into the city to evangelize every once in a while, the neighbors will begin to see your evangelism as WORK and not as love.  And every neighborhood is different: a single city can be home to hundreds of different communities that all have their own culture and opportunities.  Thus, it’s so important to live where you are evangelizing, because it’s the normal everyday interactions that speak loudest.

Because life moves at such a fast pace, our relationships in the city are typically built around economic activities.  We purchase our groceries every few days, and we go to the same supermarket and get to know the local employees. We go to a sporting event and meet fellow fans that hold similar interests.  We enjoy the community of a local mall and come into contact with others that are enjoying free entertainment as well.  Our interactions with people are numerous every day, but turning it into an intentional meeting is key to evangelism in the city.  One contact – or even a dozen contacts – does not necessarily make a lasting relationship.  We must live in the city, allowing us to live life with our neighbors as well, which then opens up the door to deeper spiritual conversations and continual evangelism through our daily testimony.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III: A Missionary Legacy

A few days ago much of the Church of the Nazarene worldwide was informed of the death of Harmon Schmelzenbach III on January 2, 2019.h schmelzenbach  NCN News published a worthy obituary of Harmon, which should certainly be read by any Nazarene who wants to become familiar with missions in our denomination.

I was never able to formally meet Harmon III, although I have ministered alongside his son, Harmon IV, and his grandson, Quinton, in different settings during the past several years.  However, without knowing me, Harmon III made an impact on my life.

I grew up as a part of Central Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa, Kansas, USA.  We often had 8-10 missionaries a year preach in our services (side note: I cannot fathom when churches who receive one or two missionaries a year complain of “having too many missionaries”).  All were important in building the foundation for what later I would recognize as God’s missions call on my life, although I would not say many were memorable, per se.

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Quinton and Harmon Schmelzenbach IV have carried on their family’s missions legacy.

Harmon Schmelzenbach III was the exception!  As an adolescent, I remember his tales of traversing the African landscape in order to preach the gospel to new villages and people-groups.  I remember some of the perils of the wildlife he encountered on those trips.  By the time he told us he had crossed the fourth river, I looked down at my watch and realized he had literally been preaching for an hour and 45 minutes! That may seem shocking, but what stuns me even more is that at that age I had not even noticed!  He had our entire youth group (and the rest of the congregation) entranced by his evangelistic passion and ability to tell the story of missions and of God himself.

Needless to say, when God called me five or six years later to be a missionary, I was ready.  It was not an “out-of-the-blue” thing.  If God was calling me to be like Harmon, my answer would be an immediate “yes.”  And now, having ministered cross-culturally for 16 years, I see how I have been influenced by this “giant of the faith” both on the field and as I share with churches on home assignment.

Missions has changed in the past three decades since then and now more of us live as missionaries in big strategic urban centers.  Many of us will never need to cross many rivers and fend off venomous snakes at every turn.  But the passion for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ must never wane.  Harmon III learned that from his parents and grandparents and passed it on to future generations of Schmelzenbachs.  But he also passed it on to me as well.