The Church of the Nazarene in Curacao

Some exciting things are happening with the Church of the Nazarene on the island of Curacao.  This work was begun a few years back, but has just recently been officially recognized by the denomination, which is an important milestone.  We realized that readers of this blog may have not heard of the origins of the Church’s ministry in this Dutch-speaking country in the Caribbean.  So, without further ado, we present to you an article that was originally published in NCN News:

Nazarene presence officially recognized in Curaçao

Jonathan and Lissett Petrus moved from the Netherlands to the island of Curaçao for work. It was during this time that they felt God leading them to Christian ministry. A couple years later they began partnering with Nazarene churches from the United States to minister to the people of Curaçao.

Curaçao, one of the “ABC islands” —Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao—on the north coast of Venezuela, is being introduced to the Church of the Nazarene. This is a story of new beginnings, for a country, for a young pastor and his team of church planters, and for an American pastor and his local church.

In 2010, the leadership of the newly-constructed Mesoamerica Region—formed out of the Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Regions—took a hard look at itself. What they learned presented a challenge: the witness of the Church of the Nazarene was the weakest in the areas with the most population. Fifty-eight percent of the population of the region lives in 169 large cities and islands, but only 28 percent of the church membership is in those areas. This called for fresh thinking and a new strategy.

Hope springs from another factor. Across the region, a revival is occurring, with youth and young adults experiencing a call to missions. “We don’t need to rely only upon missionaries coming from North America,” they are saying. “Let us carry the gospel into these new areas.”

The Genesis Project is the region’s response. Twenty-eight large population centers are targeted to receive teams of four missionaries each by 2020. Missionaries Scott and Emily Armstrong in the Dominican Republic was named to develop the strategy and a training program.

The Dutch island of Curaçao presents its own challenge. The high cost of living makes it difficult for missionaries from Mexico or other parts of the region to live there. Yet, its diverse population of 150,000 needs the gospel. There are some 80 Protestant churches on the island, nearly all of them with memberships below 50. No Dutch-speaking evangelical church is proclaiming the message of heart holiness.

An international team is responding to this challenge with a strategy for planting a new Nazarene church on the island. Through divine orchestration, a team has come together to open the Church of the Nazarene in Curaçao: Kevin Hardy, pastor of Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Ellicot City, Maryland Larry Orwig, Nazarene Missions International president at Crossroads Richard and Karen Brash, members at Crossroads, and sensing a call to full-time ministry Jonathan and Lissett Petrus: Young Dutch immigrants with a calling Scott Armstrong, missionary responsible for development and implementing Genesis in Mesoamerica Region.

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To find out more about this extraordinary story go to nazarene.org/generosity, and let’s keep praying that God continue to open doors where the church is not yet.

 

Pray for the City

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Did you know today is the last day of our 40 Days of Prayer for the cities of Mesoamerica? In Genesis, we start every year by dedicating ourselves in intercession for the urban populations in our region.  We have prayed that God would give us his vision for the city.  We have prayed that God would raise up missionaries for the city.  We have prayed that God would use us to transform our cities!  It is happening, too.  He is changing our cities in Mexico and Martinique, Honduras and Haiti, Grenada and Guatemala.  And as we have prayed for others, God has begun a transformation in us as well!

I hope you have joined us in this journey.  If you have not, or did not even know about it, why not challenge yourself or your church to dedicate 40 days to prayer? We even have resources to help you! 

Two years ago, Gary and Naomi Faucett, our Genesis Member Care Facilitators (that big title basically means they love our missionaries bigtime!), provided a much-needed retreat for our missionaries ministering in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  Eunice Zaragoza, Freivy López, and Merit Córdova gazed out from the fifth story of their hotel on the sprawling city below them. Freivy began to introduce Gary to all of the neighborhoods of San Pedro Sula:

“Gary, that section of the city is so dangerous.  We’re not supposed to go there at night.  But we still do anyway because we have started a cell group there.”

“Over there is known as the center of gang activity.  But there are kids there, too.  We play in the park with them every Saturday.”

“Hey, most of the drugs that pass through Honduras come through that barrio over there.  But see that apartment? That’s where we have started to see a lot of youth come to know the Lord.  God’s really up to something in that place.”

Gary elbowed Freivy and half-joked, “Sounds like San Pedro Sula is pretty unsafe, brother.  Are you gonna be alright?!”

Freivy nodded.  “Definitely.  But I love this city.”

Do you love your city? Do you love the high-risk places, or just the comfortable ones? When was the last time you truly prayed for your city?

Now it’s a tradition.  In every retreat, we find a room where we can look out on the city.  And we pray.  The photo up top is of the Global Mission Coordinators in New York this last October praying for that great metropolis, but also for all of our cities.  The photo you see below is of the Guadalajara team praying over their city with over 6 million inhabitants.

Are you committed? Will you join us in praying for the city? It’s not over after 40 days.  Find a rooftop somewhere or a fifth-story window and take a picture of your family or church praying.

The city has gotten into us; it’s now under our skin.  It is hectic and noisy and oftentimes dangerous.

And like Freivy, we love it.

“Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper.” (Jer. 29:7 NET)

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Let’s Not Forget

For many around the world, a disaster in another country grabs our attention as long as media covers it.  We are moved to pray, often to give, and sometimes even to send a relief team.  Thank you, Lord, for your Church worldwide that has done all this and helped meet the enormous needs before us!

At the same time, in the Caribbean we have not forgotten the devastation of the recent hurricanes that have destroyed many of our islands. Long after television crews have left, the hard work of rebuilding is still taking place. And it will be so for months and years to come in places like Puerto Rico, Dominica, and St. Maarten.  Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has released three videos in the past month that show how those three countries are still reeling. However, at the end of the videos they have chosen to highlight images of hope: a smile of a woman who has lost her home, a congregation praying and embracing, a pastor standing at his pulpit even with his church walls demolished around him. You can be a part of this rebuilding process still.  You can help bring hope to thousands of hurting families in these places.  Please visit www.ncm.org for more information.

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Here are the videos.  Let’s not forget.  Let’s act.

First Global Mission Coordinators’ Retreat Held in Barbados

Inform. Strengthen. Expand.

These were the general objectives set for the coming year by the leaders who met December 1-3, 2017 in St. Phillips, Barbados for the first Global Mission Coordinators’ retreat in the Caribbean Field.  Led by Revs. Dario & Lynda Richards (from Barbados and Guyana), Global Mission refers to the ministry in the Mesoamerica Region that seeks to discover, develop and deploy new missionaries to the nations.

After Regional Coordinator Rev. Scott Armstrong outlined the history of Global Mission in the denomination and the region, Lynda Richards highlighted the history and dynamics of this ministry specifically in the Caribbean context.  Statistics tell us that 106 people have participated in three-week “Called to Serve” missions trips since 2013, and a multitude of Youth in Mission and Work and Witness teams have also been sent within the field during that time.  Lynda also offered potential cultural challenges in the Caribbean and cultural resources that can help combat or address those challenges.

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Dario Richards then led the group in a valuable time of dreaming, brainstorming, and charting the vision and strategy for the upcoming years.

Attendees included Kayann Walker (Jamaica), Talesha Plumber (Jamaica), Danielle Miller (Barbados), Rev. Shawn Parris (Barbados), Sheena Small (Barbados), and Jonette Williams (Antigua & Barbuda).  Each of these individuals is passionate about developing missions and missionaries from the Caribbean, and together they will form a field team that agreed on accomplishing the following goals in 2018:

  1. Discover 150 Nazarenes interested in missions, in part by conducting 2 Cross-Cultural Orientations in St. Lucia and Bahamas.
  2. Develop 10 coordinators who will promote the sending and supporting of volunteer missionaries in their districts, including potential longer-term candidates to the regional GENESIS initiative.
  3. Deploy 50 missionaries through Called to Serve trips to Turks & Caicos and St. Lucia, as well as 4 GENESIS missionaries to other cities of the region.

It was also a great privilege for this team to be a part of the installation of the Richards as Co-Pastors in the Hope Road Church of the Nazarene.  Many pastors and leaders from the Barbados District attended and prayed for this couple as they continue their field ministry and begin their local church pastorate in this congregation.

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Please pray for these leaders and this ministry in the coming months.  Pray that each one of these goals would be met and surpassed! Pray also that Caribbean Nazarenes would continue to cultivate an environment where the call to missions is heard, accepted, and supported overwhelming by a Church that is passionate about reaching a broken and hurting world.

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Advent: Waiting on the Lord’s Coming

By Josue Villatoro

The emphasis during Advent season is on waiting. We are expectant; we are preparing to celebrate Christmas. I like that dynamic. However, Christmas is not an ordinary party: it is not about Santa Claus, the gifts, or even the family. It is good that there are gathered families, gifts under the tree, and a Christmas spirit! But Christmas celebration is more. Christmas is Jesus. In a few days, we will celebrate the God that became human and lived among us. What a wonderful celebration! But we can’t arrive to it all of a sudden, we must prepare ourselves. To celebrate Advent prepares us to commemorate Christmas in the best way possible.

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Each Sunday of this celebration has a value. Last Sunday we emphasized that we are expecting Jesus, because He is our hope. This coming Sunday, and during this week, we are focusing on waiting because we have “faith.” Little word, big significance. We don’t see Him, we haven’t seen Him, but we are sure that someday we will see Him. We prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas because we have faith in Jesus, because we trust His promises. But we are also waiting on His second coming, because we are sure that He will come. Have faith. May there be no argument, power or human evidence to make you doubt your faith rooted in Jesus, the Christ. We celebrate Him, because we trust Him!

Not God’s Favorite

By Scott Armstrong

Jesus Comes Home with a Sobering Message

Christmas is a time when many of us return home.  We laugh with relatives and gorge ourselves on excellent food.  Grandmas grab our cheeks and tell us we’ve grown sooooo big, which is awkward when you’re 8, but try when you are 40!

Luke 4 tells us of a time when Jesus returned to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.  The little carpenter’s apprentice had grown up and now was an excellent preacher, and the people were amazed at his eloquence.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (v. 22).  Surely this can’t be the same little kid that was playing in the sandbox back in the day!

So, as is often Jesus’ custom, instead of basking in the praise from everyone, he turns it on its head.  In fact, he immediately transitions his sermon from good news to judgement.  “I’m here to change the world just as Isaiah foretold” (see v. 18-21) quickly becomes “If you think you’re better than anyone else, I’m here to tell you you’re dead-wrong.”

The result is jarring.  The crowd’s transformation is stark.  The church folk are enraged, throw him out of their town, and are ready to throw him off a cliff (v. 28-29).  Wow! What made them convert from admirers to attempted murderers in the blink of an eye?!

Essentially, he yelled out, “You are not God’s favorite! Stop acting like it!”

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It’s a message that’s painfully appropriate and quite controversial even today.  Christian authors have made a lot of money writing that you and I are God’s favorites.  Preachers use that phrase to try to explain God’s boundless love for you and me.  It all seems obvious, right? And anyway, it feels good to know I am God’s favorite child; it kind of gives me a spring in my step as I leave the service on Sunday!

Here’s the problem: Baked into the definition of the word “favorite” is the singling out of something to the exclusion of something else.  When I ask you what your favorite food is, if you say, “They’re all my favorites,” it makes no sense.  You are either trying to hide something or way too indecisive.  Saying “I like all foods the same” would seem implausible, but it’s at least better than claiming that all foods are your absolute favorite.  Selecting a favorite by necessity means something else has not been selected: it is, thus, not your favorite.

When pressed on this, the authors and preachers insist that, well, when they say, “YOU are God’s favorite,” they actually mean that we are ALL His favorites.  It’s an effective communication technique, but it completely dilutes the word.  In fact, using the word “favorite” in this way can actually have some serious, unintended consequences.

When we start to view ourselves as God’s favorites, we subtly begin to believe that he likes us more than others.  The product of such thinking is ethnocentrism and religious selfishness, exactly what Jesus railed against in verses 24-27.

My political party is right.

My race is better.

My denomination is the best.

My way of viewing the world is the only real way anyone should see it.

And it also makes us spoiled.  We start to expect God to be at our beck-and-call.  The “favorite” child at Christmas demands that his parents save the last piece of pie for him.  Every gift becomes boring within a few hours. Nothing is appreciated. Everything is deserved.  Jesus says it this way, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum’” (v. 23).  We are here for the show, Jesus! Come on, we prayed; why won’t you grant us our every wish?

God lavishes his love on all of us in the same measure.

That’s the point.

He has no favorites.

As we near Christmas, hear again those amazing words from Jesus’ homecoming sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v.18-19).

Interesting last word: “favor.”

Our God comes to the poor, to the prisoners, to the blind and oppressed.  His favor is offered to all in abounding measure.

What if you were actually not God’s favorite?

It’s painful and humbling to acknowledge.  But maybe admitting it would open you up to truly receiving God’s favor for the first time.  Maybe it would allow the God who plays no favorites to anoint YOU, as well, to go to the broken-hearted and usher in the Lord’s favor.

May today this scripture be indeed fulfilled in your hearing.

 

CCO – Nicaragua, 2017

From November 24-26, 2017 the Nicaragua North District held a Cross Cultural Orientation, with 48 participants from 4 countries in Central America: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. In addition, 12 volunteer missionaries were serving in the CCO. During this time, the youth were able to listen to testimonies of what God is doing in other nations, and also what He is doing in the lives of the missionaries who have decided to be obedient to God’s voice. Many of the participants confirmed their calling and others found out how to keep serving in missions.

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Participants’ testimonies:

Kevin.jpg“Thank you, Global Mission for such an amazing job. This past weekend was exceptional and, without a doubt, God spoke to me and made my heart uncomfortable to leave my comfort zone. Learning about the missionary work that we do as a church trilled me, but knowing about all the need that is still taking place in our world touched my heart. The fact of knowing that there is still so much to do challenges me to be involved in different ways: giving, going, praying and fasting. I want to be Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth, I want to have a missional heart as He does, in which He gave everything through love to those most in need. This CCO helped me to change my perspective of missions, it inspired me to be a part of them and to have a willing heart to be able to serve and without fear say: Here I am, send me.”

– Kevin Rodríguez. El Salvador.

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COM nicaragua 8.jpg“The CCO is a space where the youth can discover and understand God’s calling to their lives concerning missions. It’s a huge blessing to begin to prepare yourself, to have a prelude of how all of our missionary brothers and sisters live, and to listen to their experiences, to be able to see how God is glorified in their lives, and also to learn how to do missions from our own home. I thank God for the opportunity of being able to participate in the CCO and confirm my calling to missions. The more a missionary is willing to let the Holy Spirit to guide him, the more He will bless his work.”

– Edgar Revelo. El Salvador.

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“I’ve been serving as a pastor for the Church of the Nazarene, and I have never understood missions until the day I attended the CCO. Before this I used to give only 10 cordobas for missions, now I’m going to give as much as I can.”

– Pastor Modesto Leal. Nicaragua.

Fily.jpg“It was an intense experience. The trainers had the necessary experience to communicate the message to the youth of our region who have the enthusiasm to serve our God. I’m thankful for the opportunity that the youth have to be involved in the churches. The CCO opens your eyes and heart to understand the calling that we receive from our Heavenly Father, in many ways. One of the sermons impacted me greatly. It was shared by Luz Jimenez. It made me reconsider, react and take up again the calling to missions with greater spiritual and physical strength. The CCO makes unique connections between the youth of our beloved Church of the Nazarene, and also brings us together as brothers and sisters. The CCO makes us share the tools that we are using to fulfill Jesus’ commandment for His Church. The CCO leaves a print in the heart that it will never be forgotten.”

– Filiberto Yat. Guatemala.