To Cross the Barrier

By Freya Galindo Guevara

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

We can define culture as the combination of knowledge, ideas, traditions and customs that characterize a people group, social class, age, etc. Culture does not only refer to superficial, visible aspects.  Culture goes deeper.  It is inside of people. It is part of us.

Cultural factors can at any given moment, directly or indirectly, negatively or positively, affect the interaction between people of different cultures.  Crossing cultural barriers is not easy, but if we look to the Bible and specifically Jesus as our greatest example, we will realize that it is possible.

Jesus became flesh.  He became a man.  He became one of us.  He even lived among us! Jesus immersed himself in our culture.  He did not only share a message from a pulpit or a microphone. He truly lived among us as a human being. He identified himself with our bodies and our weaknesses.  And the incredible thing is that he invites us to do the same!  It is not enough to immerse ourselves solely in our own culture, ideas, values or customs. 

“Immerse ourselves.” An interesting phrase, right?

pexels-photo-1389098.jpeg

In a swimming pool, if someone really gets in, they will end up completely wet because they are totally immersed.  Jesus wants the same from us, but not only in our own culture but also in the cultures of others.  What is the point of being immersed in our own culture?  It is something we already know and with which we are familiar.  It is where we feel comfortable and unchallenged.  God wants something more from each one of us.

Our God is multicultural.  He sent us to love all other people, including those who seem different from us.  What I am trying to say is this: we are called to love those who look different from us. In the end, when we do not share the same customs, ideas, or language, we must still understand that we are human and have the same need for God’s salvation and forgiveness.  That is where we truly demonstrate our love for our neighbor.

Jesus became flesh.  He became human and lived with us.  He invites us to cross the barriers that make us different and to make bridges that allow us to see us all as equals in our need for Him.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

 

Advertisements

Seek Peace for the City

By Claudia Cruz Martinez

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…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.” Jeremiah 29:5,7

29171.jpgI have missionary friends who live in Mexico, and none of them have thought about changing their citizenship.   They are officially temporary residents.  They’ve built houses and planted fruit trees on the properties where they live.  Their children study at the schools in their cities. Societal and political problems affect them, even though they are not Mexican.  They wish that the cities were safer, that there would be less trash, that the roads would be in better shape, and that there would be less delinquency and corruption.  I have never seen them close their eyes to the social problems of this country, and I have never seen them indifferent to its needs.  They have always felt like one of us, but they know that Mexico is only their temporary residency.  It does not mean that they are anxiously awaiting a chance to return to their countries, but they are certain that God could take them to another country or send them back to their own nation.

God spoke his word through Jeremiah to a people who had been exiled from Jerusalem and taken as captives to Babylon. His advice was that they do everything necessary to live as residents because they would be there for a long time (70 years, according to Jer. 29:10 and Jer. 25:15). On top of that, they should seek peace for Babylon and intercede for the nation, because their own well-being depended on the security of Babylon.

As Christians, we know that we are foreigners on this earth, and that our presence here is temporary.  Still, we enjoy life, and make an effort to live in a way that reflects the eternal.  We cannot close our eyes to the needs of people around us.  We must not be indifferent to caring for creation, since God designed this place for us.  We cannot act as if we do not care for the hundreds of missing people, or the countless robberies and murders.  We must not be indifferent! If the city is unsafe, we also feel unsafe.

Wherever we live, we must long to see people reconciled to God. Jeremiah’s counsel is for us today as well: we must intercede and seek peace for our city.

*Claudia Cruz serves as the youth pastor in the Betania Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is also the Global Mission Coordinator for the Mexico Field.

Love that Destroys Cultural Barriers

A devotional adapted by Claudia Cruz Martínez from William Barclay’s commentary:

The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” John 4:9

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is well-known.  There are so many lessons that we can take from this passage, but in this short scripture, the idea is to reflect on the preeminence of the love of Jesus over cultural barriers.

First of all, let us set the scene of this incident. Palestine is only 200 km from north to south, but in the time of Jesus it was divided into three parts.  Galilee was in the north, Judah in the south, and Samaria was in the middle.  At this stage in his ministry, Jesus wanted to transfer his operations to Galilee. To take the shortest route, he had to pass through Samaria, but a centuries-old feud between the Jews and the Samaritans complicated things.  For a Jew, the safer route was to cross the Jordan River, head north on the eastern edge, and then cross the Jordan River again into the high country of Galilee. The safer route took twice as long. Jesus chose the shorter route that cut through Samaria, possibly not only to gain time but also to fulfill part of his mission.

9-jesus-and-samaritan-woman-well8.jpg

In this passage we see Jesus breaking down the cultural and racial barriers of the people of his time in several ways:

  1. Jesus dared to cross Samaritan territory.
  2. The disciples bought food in a Samaritan town (it is unlikely that they would have done that themselves without Jesus requesting it).
  3. Jesus showed his true human character, his weariness and his thirst.
  4. Jesus showed his love and compassion by speaking with a woman. In that time men did not seek out conversations with women.  Usually they would not even speak directly to them. This woman would have been ashamed that a religious leader of the day would speak with her.  Added to this, she unknowingly had allowed Jesus to discover her sinful condition, because of the hour of the day in which she went to draw water.
  5. Jesus broke down the racial barrier. This woman was a Samaritan.  The struggle between the Jews and the Samaritans was an old one. For that reason, the woman was surprised that Jesus spoke to her.  Jesus broke down national and racial prejudices.

What cultural barriers do we need to tear down today?  What barriers have infiltrated and grown up in our churches?  When was the last time that you tried to cross a border to give a message of hope and love?

“Here was the Son of God, tired and weary and thirsty. Here was the holiest of men, listening with understanding to a sorry story. Here was Jesus breaking through the barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish custom. Here is the beginning of the universality of the gospel; here is God so loving the world, not in theory, but in action.” William Barclay

*Claudia Cruz serves as the youth pastor in the Betania Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is also the Global Mission Coordinator for the Mexico Field.

 

Shouting With one Voice: Salvation Belongs to our God!

By Ramcely Cozar Castro

“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 in front of 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.’” Revelation 7:9-10

In this beautiful passage it is obvious that God himself has focused all his attention on assuring that the whole world will be saved.

When we read these verses, we must notice that God sees humanity as a single people, without borders, political divisions or cultural divides. Still, he respects and delights in its diversity, the vast spectrum of skin colors, as well as its linguistic and creative, cultural expressions. These are given by God to man.

John 3:16, a passage used broadly in evangelism, mentions that “God so loved the world…”  The last word does not refer to a single people group, but rather the whole world, with all of its peculiarities: every nation, every race, every people and every language.  God gave his only son, Jesus Christ, as one sacrifice for all because each of us individually is equally valuable.  “…That whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Everyone has the chance to be saved.  We can all reach the Father.

MulticulturalBanner.jpg

The vision in the passage from Revelation says every nation will be before the throne, in front of the Lamb, unified by particular clothing that represents the redemptive work of God in them.  All, regardless of their contexts, will be worshiping.  The Lord does not change who they are.  Each one, taken as they are with their own characteristics, is shouting with a single voice, “Salvation belongs to the Lord,” recognizing him as the only Almighty Lord.

Once I had the chance to organize a youth camp, and two of the participants were deaf from birth.  Even though I am a special education teacher, I don’t speak sign language fluently enough to be able to evangelize.  I communicated in a very basic way, and I used a lot of paralinguistic expressions.  In the middle of the forest on the outskirts of Mexico City, I began to preach an evangelistic message with only the firelight illuminating the dark night. But I had forgotten about these two young people! I preached without signs and without visual aids, and quickly the presence of the Lord came to that place.  The Holy Spirit touched one of the two deaf participants in such a way that he gave his life to Christ.

Of course, it was not because of my words or talents.  It was God himself speaking into that person’s life and breaking down cultural, linguistic and physical barriers.  He moved, as he has done and will continue to do in every corner of the planet, using his servants.  We must be his instruments so that more and more people will join this celestial chorus that will shout with one voice, “Salvation belongs to our God!”

*Ramcely Cozar is the pastor of the La Olimpica Church of the Nazarene in Naucalpan, Mexico City.

 

Knocking Down Obstacles and Building Bridges

By Ramcely Cozar Castro

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” I Corinthians 9:19, 23

“When someone is aware of their cultural foundations, they cease to be obstacles to effective communication.” – Nobleza Asuncion-Lande

The book of First Corinthians is a letter to the church in Corinth by Paul, who was known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion to Christianity.

Paul, in contrast to the 12 disciples of Jesus, did not meet Jesus before his crucifixion.  He was an educated, religious person who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.  He did not grow up in Jerusalem, but rather in Tarsus, a Greek city in the province of Cilicia.

This places Paul in a privileged situation since he received his education in Tarsus, a city known for its excellent Greek school and the high cultural level of its inhabitants.  Later he moved to Jerusalem where he studied to be a rabbi.  Taken together, this means the Apostle was an expert in Greek culture, religious Jewish culture, and Roman culture.

The phrase from author Asuncion-Lande says that becoming aware of our cultural foundations will minimize the communication barriers between an individual and people from the same country as well as those from other countries.

Paul is a clear example of the truth of this phrase: he was a great missionary and succeeded in taking the message of Jesus to the entire known world.  Language was no limitation to him, and neither were geographic divisions or cultural differences.

072519f74a95ea36f571d1e83f1c23bd_XL.jpg

Paul, a man profoundly grateful for what the Lord had done in his life, did work that required heavenly faith and wisdom. It also required him to evaluate his cultural baggage and paradigms so he could keep the fundamental concepts and jettison the rest. That allowed him to build bridges to connect with other cultures.

Those who want to work in different cultures must be aware of their own ways of seeing and living life.  They must understand themselves and their relationship with the surrounding world. We must ask the Lord, the master of all and the one who sustains us in his hands, to help us be flexible regarding any inconsequential things, and remain steadfast when it comes to that which truly forms the basis of our faith.

*Ramcely Cozar is the pastor of the La Olimpica Church of the Nazarene in Naucalpan, Mexico City.

 

 

There’s an app for that! Well, maybe not…

By Scott Armstrong

I use apps on my smartphone several hours a day.  You probably do, too.

Twitter? Fantasy Football? Tracking your steps every day? Yes, there are mobile phone apps for all of those.

But you already knew that.  Did you know there’s an app for virtually shaving yourself? What about milking a cow? Or that there’s even an app for nothing? That’s right.  It literally does nothing.  The screen goes gray…………and does nothing.

Make sure you download it today.

There seems to be an app for everything.  There are millions of apps for things I truly have never thought of in my life.

icon-1328421_960_720.jpg

But as far as ministry goes, there are still areas that apps have not touched.

Giving me 26 hours a day instead of 24? There’s not an app for that.

Helping me to fit in seamlessly in a new culture within 1 week? No app for that.

Getting my neighbor down the street to respond to the gospel and see his life changed? Nope.

Many apps help you save time.  But they don’t give you more time.  Time is the great equalizer.

Some apps help you to learn a language or discover more about a culture or country. But the hard work of spending time with real people and eating their food and beginning to love them for who they are with no selfish or ethnocentric motives? That can’t be microwaved.

I’ve explored lots of apps that provide ways to share the gospel, but no app exists that guarantees life transformation.

The idea of apps is usually to make life easier.  They might help us get work done, interact with others, or have fun. Apps are handy ways to directly assist us in some way and streamline sometimes complicated daily processes.

But ministry just isn’t like that.  Honestly, it drives me crazy.

Recently I was lamenting to my wife that the local church we planted in Dominican Republic just isn’t advancing like I want it to.  Supposedly we are equipped, capable ministers who have been effective in many different places and ministries.  We have not just gone to the training seminars on how to impact the city; we now GIVE the training seminars! What, then, is the problem?! Why aren’t all the neighbors we love and care for flocking to service every week? Why do new Christians take two steps forward and seemingly three steps back in their walk with Christ?!  On a less spiritual level, why are our accounts always so low and why does the stupid bathroom outside our sanctuary keep malfunctioning?!  Aaaargh!

Much of our lives are dominated by apps that help us do things quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently.  But almost always ministry – genuine, roll-up-your-sleeves, incarnational ministry – isn’t like that.

I would love for there to be shortcuts.  But no app exists for this stuff.  The Holy Spirit needs to do a deep work in people’s lives, finances, and even bathrooms.

Lord, quick or slow, app or no app, begin that work in us.

Cross-Cultural Orientation, Guatemala, 2019

29 participants from Guatemala and El Salvador attended the most recent Cross-Cultural Orientation held March 30-31, 2019 in the installations of the North Peten District office of Guatemala. Several of the participants shared that it was a very special and blessed time where they were able to hear God’s voice through the testimonies of others and also through the preaching of the Word. The leadership team in charge of the event included 11 Global Missions coordinators and helpers from all four of the countries of the North Central Field (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) as well as Mexico. We give glory to God for this new generation of young people who are being obedient to the call of God to make Christlike disciples in the nations.

IMG_4134.JPG

North Central Field Global Missions Coordinator, Luz Jiménez, was encouraged:  “I am really happy to see the response of the participants, but it also impacted me to be able to count on the 11 emerging leaders who supported us in this event.  All of them traveled long distances in order to serve as volunteers, and I have loved to see their sacrifice and passion for God and missions.”

20190330_221903.jpg

20190330_221855.jpg

IMG-20190331-WA0063.jpg

IMG_4142 (1).JPG

Volunteers from Northcentral Field