In the Face of Suffering and Social Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Pray for Guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Let Go and Become New!

By Cathy Spangler

In the last decade, it has become popular on television to see different make-overs.  Sometimes it is a wardrobe, haircut, and make-up that bring a drastic change.  But other times entire homes are transformed from run-down to state-of-the-art in just a few days!

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Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

In this day of “make-overs”, the verse above seems easy to understand.  God gives us a new look: a better and healthier one for sure!  But the Apostle Paul is not referring to our outward looks, although many times God changes our appearance, too.  This verse talks of a new life: something that requires a deep changeon the inside.  I used to think that was a one-time whammy that comes in the salvation experience.  But now I realize this making of me into a new creation is also a process that is ongoing!

“And I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ez. 36:26).

When God removes our stubbornness, he does so in order to release us to be all that He created us for.  He empowers us.  He gives us the ability to overcome discouragement and emptiness!  Heenables us to love Him and others like we never could before.  Hehelps us look past difficulties to the victory beyond.  And hefills our hearts with trust and faith!  All this comeswith a flood of peace and contentment!

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Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:22-24).

Did you know that we have a responsibility in this “make-over”? God gives us a new nature, but we have to put it on!  We let the Spirit change our attitudes by paying attention to the Word and applying it as we come to understand it, a little at a time. 

“Forget the former things.  Do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Is. 43:18-19).

Part of becoming this new creation is LETTING GO of the past.  “The old life is gone…” So often we limit ourselves because of fear and failure in the past.  The “what – ifs” keep us from getting out of our boat of safety and comfort and walking to Jesus out there on the water.

Do we want miracles in our lives? Do we want to walk in the glory and fire of God? Of course! So, quit holding on to the past and take a chance on a NEW walk with God, in His light and in His Spirit.  We can access power beyond our wildest dreams.  We can see financial breakthroughs by faith.  We can see our loved ones delivered, saved, healed and protected.  Really!

That’s what it’s going to take in this end-time season.  Let’s expect!  Let’s receive!  Let’s let go and become NEW!

Praying for Peace in Nicaragua

Many readers of this blog have recently seen the news and are aware that Nicaragua is in crisis.  Thousands of protesters have marched in the Nicaraguan capital Managua and other cities to promote democracy.

Demonstrators blocked main roads, waving placards and chanting slogans.  Weeks of anti-government protests have led to at least 76 people being killed in clashes with security forces.  Four people were killed in clashes on Saturday, police and witnesses say.

Yesterday and today I have been in contact with Rev. María Antonia Ponce, District Superintendent of Nicaragua Central.  Although I had heard reports of persecution of our Nazarene churches, she assures me that as of today there have not been any attacks on our congregations.  Still, the situation is critical.  “Each day we wake up with uncertainty,” Ponce says.  “Many have died, almost all youth, and the majority of them are students in different universities.”  One month has passed since the first conflicts erupted and the superintendent urges Nazarene members in the Mesoamerica Region and around the world to intercede for them and their country.Pray for Nicaragua

“We feel very sad, because for more than a month we have been under great pressure due to the disturbances in Nicaragua. Sadly, today for the first time, with tears in our eyes, we have closed the district office. We remain under the protection of the Most High and wise God. We do not wish to continue risking our lives and so we have chosen to leave since we had found ourselves in the crossfire between the police and the students. There are many people injured and we do not wish to join the list of the deceased. This situation brings us great pain. We ask that, as the Body of Christ, we would unite in prayer for peace in Nicaragua.”

In spite of all that is occurring, Ponce rejoices in the generous spirit of her fellow Nicaraguans.  In the midst of pain, unemployment, and even cancelling of worship services (in Managua, Masaya, and León, all services other than those held on Sunday mornings have been cancelled for security reasons), the Nazarene churches are collecting offerings for their Cuban brothers and sisters affected by the plane crash two weeks ago.  “It’s an honor and a blessing for us to be able to help in the midst of our own crisis,” she declared.

Our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua need our encouragement and spiritual support.  Even though they have felt alone in these days, they know that they are connected to a global denomination that is lifting them up.

Let’s pray for the peace of Nicaragua.  Let’s pray that God’s will be done in this nation as it is in heaven.  Nicaragua, we are with you!

Global Mission Coordinators’ Retreat – Northcentral Field

The second Global Mission coordinators’ retreat for the Northcentral field was held May 17-19. Nine coordinators from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua participated in the retreat, along with several of the young people they are discipling and preparing for missions.

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During the retreat, the participants:

  • Heard testimonies about how God is working in the lives of young people in the field, as well as the progress and current reach of the Global Mission ministry.
  • Learned about their roles and responsibilities as district coordinators.
  • Understood the importance of discipleship and follow-up for young people with a missionary call.
  • Heard testimonies about what God is doing in the Mesoamerica Region through the Genesis ministry.
  • Enjoyed times of fellowship, worship, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Reflected on and confirmed God’s call on their lives.
  • Shared the gospel with the community of Apastepeque, San Vicente in a creative way, through a mini-circus.

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God really blessed this time together, and we could see the Holy Spirit moving in the life of each participant.

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I thank God for the opportunity He has given me to serve in the Global Mission ministry in the Northcentral field. I also thank God for the lives of our leaders and servants: Scott and Emily Armstrong, and Leonel and Maria Luisa de León.

After the conclusion of the coordinators’ retreat, the young people sat down to share their feelings about the retreat. They decided to fast as a team one day each week and also pray for our field, our vision and ministry, as well as for the Genesis missionaries currently on the field.

–Luz Jimenez, North Central Field Global Mission Coordinator.

Dejected…and Rejoicing

By Scott Armstrong

As many in the Nazarene world and beyond are aware, a week ago a Boeing 737 airliner with more than 110 passengers and crew crashed Friday near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, shortly after takeoff. The plane, Cubana Flight 972, was on its way to Holguín, Cuba, when it went down about 12 p.m. local time.

On board the aircraft, 10 couples from the East District were on their way back to their home Province of Holguín after being part of a National Conference for pastors from the Church of the Nazarene. In the days after, expressions of grief and solidarity were expressed from the General Superintendents and brothers and sisters around the globe. On May 21, Dr. Carla Sunberg dedicated her message at the Global Ministry Center’s chapel service to the couples who were killed and the family members and Cuban leaders who are picking up the pieces after this tragedy.

In the Dominican Republic the missionaries and National Office leadership met, as we do every week, for devotions and prayer.  This time the mood was somber.  We knew the right theology: God is sovereign.  He has a plan.  He offers eternal life to those who die in Him.  However, the questions remained: why did this happen? Why didn’t God stop this? What about the ten orphaned children who are now weeping and will not see their parents on this side of heaven?

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In the midst of such struggle, the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Coordinator for the Central Field (Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Puerto Rico), Paquita Bidó, began to read from Psalm 100.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Worshipping with gladness? Joyful songs? Thanksgiving and praise? Clearly, this is not a lament Psalm!

Paquita acknowledged that we mourn with our Cuban family, and we recognize our bewilderment.  We must not explain away this devastating loss with trite words of affirmation or theological maxims.  At the same time, she explained that she brought this psalm to us as an expression of faith in the very midst of sorrow.  The Lord is God; we are not.  He is Creator, and we are his creation.  As sheep, we enjoy the care of the Shepherd and obey his voice.  What a privilege to serve him for as long as he gives us breath.

Paquita continued.  If we proclaim that God is faithful only in the good times, then what good is that? Our trust would be based merely on circumstances going our way and not on a loving Father who allows pain in our lives because he knows best.  However, we do, in fact, declare that He is good, and His love endures forever, even in – or especially in – this bitter reality confronting us.  And his faithfulness is promised not only to us, but it continues through all generations.

In the light of this reality, and even in the midst of sadness, we shout for joy!  Our tears co-mingle with thanks and praise.  God is good.  Still. Even now.

Our entire region is devastated. We have mobilized to give and pray for Cuba.  And as we weep, we also rejoice that we serve a good and faithful God.  Yes, his love endures forever.

Hope in the Midst of Grief

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On May 21, 2018, 
General Superintendent Carla D. Sunberg delivered the message at the morning’s Global Ministry Center chapel service. The Nazarene pastor couples killed in Friday’s plane crash were honored as their names were read aloud, and Dr. Sunberg reminded us of the hope we have in Christ even in the midst of grief.