Returning Home

Nazareno and Yamila grew up attending church in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but left the church in early adulthood. After a serious car accident, Nazareno struggled with feelings of depression. It wasn’t until a neighbor introduced them to the Church of the Nazarene that their hearts for the Lord were renewed.

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Watch the video below and see how God transformed this family: 

Testimony of Dr. Natalia Nikolova

Four months ago I received the news that a friend and colleague in ministry from years ago had passed away.  I have been thinking about her legacy a lot since that day.  The Nazarene Seminary in Costa Rica produced a wonderful tribute to her that can be found on their website.

Dr. Natalia Nikolova was born in Russia and indoctrinated in communism and atheism.  But God had a different plan for her life.  I had the privilege of meeting her first in Costa Rica, and then we traveled to Ukraine in April 2006 on a missions trip with Ardeo Global.  After getting to know her in those two weeks, I asked her to write her testimony. Here, in her own words written a few weeks after that trip, is the amazing tale of God’s faithfulness.

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I was born in Ukraine in 1973 in the city of Belgrad in the region of Odessa.  My father was a communist leader, and we lived very well-off economically.

Since kindergarten I was taught the communist doctrine.  It was instilled in us that the best child in the world was Lenin, and that all of the children of the Soviet Union should be like him. He was very obedient to his parents, he did not say bad words, and he was very well-educated.  Therefore, all of the Ukrainian children wanted to be like him.  The kindergarten teacher chose certain children who showed the capacity to remember the verses of the communist doctrine and recite them by memory.  Of course, the majority of the verses had to do with Lenin.  Many years after kindergarten those same verses still rang out in my memory, the same ones that the teacher had me recite in the kindergarten parent-teacher meetings.

In school we also spent much time reading about Lenin, his childhood, the historical context of his time, about his heroism, his revolutionary character, and that we should be indebted to him because our country was the best country in the world: free, where neither rich nor poor existed, where each person could become what he wanted to be.  That image of him was projected onto all children, and we knew he was a perfect person.  That was Lenin.  The obvious result is that he was not only the best child in the world, but also the best teen and the best man in the world.  I wanted to be like him.  Inside myself there was a sincere desire to be a good person.  And I was taught that the only way to become a very good person was to be like Lenin.  Therefore, I passed through the different stages of the communist discipleship: named in Russian octyabryata, pioneers, and komsolmolsyu.  I even became leader of a communist young people’s organization.

In my family, we viewed God as something based on superstition.  In my conscience I always wrestled with what Marx and Engels had said: that religion was the opiate of the masses, that it was designed to dominate people, and that it was for the weak.

In 1989, when I was 16 years old, I finished high school and enrolled in the State University of Medicine in Odessa.  In 1993 I married a medical student from Costa Rica. He was studying medicine in Ukraine on a scholarship from his country.  It was a bit strange; I was educated in the communist spirit and, as we were engaged, I told him that I loved my country so much and that I was not willing to abandon it.  He insisted that we get married, and after 9 months of persisting, I think out of compassion I gave in to the pressure.  Ever since I was very little, I had dreamed of having a beautiful home where my future husband and I could live in love and bring up our children in a loving environment.  And so, eventually in order to fulfill my dream I had to travel very far away, and I became willing to do so.

That same year my daughter Linda was born.  In 1995 I finished my degree at the School of Medicine and I traveled with my daughter to Costa Rica, where my husband had been waiting for me for a year.  He had to leave a year earlier because, upon finishing his degree, he had to leave the country immediately so that he would not lose his free airfare that Ukraine had given him.  And there was no option anyway because he was from a poor family.

Upon arriving to Costa Rica and spending one month there, I wanted to return to my country, because the person that I thought I had married, a loving and attentive man, had become very prideful and repugnant.  He was not prepared to manage large amounts of money nor was he prepared to be viewed as an important person in society, because he was before accustomed to being poor and insignificant.  I wanted him to change and be the man he was before, and I complained to him of his coldness and lack of affection, but he simple blamed me and my character and said that I did not pay attention to him.

My family in Ukraine was very opposed to my marriage and my move to another country.  They warned me of the risk of failure, but my husband (now ex-husband) had promised me heaven and earth and that he would always be faithful to me and love me as long as I lived.  I believed him and not my parents and I risked everything to travel so far away and create a happy home.

As a result, the idea of returning to my homeland appeared very embarrassing to me. So, I tried to fight for my home.  However, the situation got worse every day.  It got to such a point that while I was pregnant with my second child, Leonardo, I decided to run away from home.  I wrote my husband a letter telling him that I could not last in such a hell and that I was giving him a week to think things over.  After one week, he promised that he would change, and I returned home.  But due to the constant suffering that I lived with in my own home, in no way was I ever happy as I had imagined I would be after getting married in Ukraine; I began to have contractions and I was only seven months along in my pregnancy.  It was 1997.  Due to the increased risk of infant mortality in premature babies, I traveled from the city where we lived to the capital of Costa Rica and to one of the central hospitals. In order to avoid neonatal hypoxia, I had a Caesarean.

I remember very well when I went to see my son after the C-section.  It was a very moving image for me.  My little son, only weighing 3 lbs. 13 oz., was connected to the assisted breathing machine and he had various vein catheters with various solutions attached.  He was connected to the monitor and was in the critical care unit of the nursery.

I burst out in uncontrollable weeping.  I could not take the pain that had overwhelmed my entire being.  I felt powerless, unable to help him in any way.  My son was gravely ill and, although I am a doctor, I understood that I could do nothing for him.  Every mother wants her son to live.  I also wanted my son to live.  But upon realizing the gravity of the situation, I felt crushed by the pain and the personal sense of powerlessness.

Every day in the morning I arrived at the hospital and spent the entire day until 10pm with my son.  And every night I arrived at the house of some friends in San José, the capital of Costa Rica, and I cried all night until I could wake up in the morning and rush to the hospital again.  I always hurried frantically to my son’s incubator, and I feared I would find it empty and they would tell me that he had died in the night.

One morning I arrived at the hospital and the neonatologist told me that my son had breathed in 5 milliliters of blood into his lungs.  That was the worst night of my life; I knew that babies in similar condition often died of massive heart hemorrhages.  After arriving at my friends’ house, I told them that my son’s condition was very serious. My friend told me to prepare myself because my child was not going to survive.  But his wife, who was a Christian, simply told me, “Ask God to help.”

I had no idea how to ask God to help, and she did not explain to me any further, so my first prayer was very primitive, although sincere: “God, help my son.  Do not let him die.”  I did not understand what Christ had done for us.  To say that I had much faith in God is false.  Furthermore, in one moment I said to myself: “If God did not save his own son and he allowed him to die on a cross, how is he going to save my son?”

My son spent 22 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  There was a great risk that he would die or at the very least end up deaf, blind, or paralyzed.  But my son survived.  And I was with him through the entire process.  I was a witness of the power of God.  By the time he was 2 months old, he was a chubby, beautiful baby, and no one who saw him could have imagined how difficult it had been for him to survive.

After I saw that my son did not just survive, but that he was a perfectly healthy boy, it left me very surprised.  I understood that something extraordinary had taken place.  I did not know how it all had happened, I could only comprehend that I was seeing a miracle of God.  My atheist mind had suffered a 180° turn.  I remained so profoundly grateful with this God that had saved my son that I wanted to find him so that I could tell him: “Thank you for what you did.”

My life began to change.  I started to distance myself from certain sins: bad words, bad thoughts.

My relationship with my ex-husband changed.  Both of us felt guilty because our child, due to our arguing, was born too early and had to suffer.  But the change did not last long.  Very soon we were arguing as badly as before.

In September 1998 some of my friends gave me a Bible.  Seeing that my home situation was nearly unsalvageable, I began to look in the Bible for ways to save a marriage.  I told myself: “God saved my son once; perhaps he could do the same with my marriage.”  I was not familiar with the Bible, so I looked in the concordance at the back of the book for any verses that mentioned “husband,” “wife,” etc.  Through that process, I found a verse—Ephesians 5:23—and I read that God said that the husband should be the head of the wife.  Discontent and angry, IclosedtheBible.  “That cannotbe,” Itold myself.  “There is no one in this world that is going to tell me what to do.”  I could not believe this was the will of God, for communism had instilled in us the equality of the sexes.  I could not accept that I had to have a husband as head over me.

I did not touch my Bible for the next 3 months.  Although I felt very thankful to God and there remained in me a deep desire to search for him, I was not in agreement with that verse.  Many times during that period, I thought, “Why would God invent something like that?” But my home situation continued to worsen.  And what hurt me most was not the thought of losing my husband; even the idea of marrying again did not scare me.  But it hurt me that my kids were not going to live with their father.  I understood that some day I could choose another husband if need be, but my children could not choose another dad.

At the end of 3 months I sensed the desire to go back and look for the verse that had caused me such disagreement.  And I began to convince my own self: “¿What good is it if I order him around? When he does what I tell him to do, and it ends up well, he says that it was his idea.  And when it ends up badly, he blames me.”  So, I decided to obey God, and I told my husband that from that day forward, he would be the one who could order me around.  Of course, he was very impressed.  But for me it was the end of a difficult test.  If the test with my son was very hard, this test was not any less difficult for me.  My will was being broken in order that it could be submitted to God.  Many times I felt inside myself like a volcano that was in discord with God, but I remembered what he had done for my son, and at great cost I submitted to him.  For many years I was a very domineering person, and for that reason it was not easy allowing God to dominate me.

The test with my son dealt with my emotional side, while the test of submitting to my husband dealt with my will.

Every now and then God won and every now and then I won.  Finally, I grew tired of fighting with God, I grew tired of a life of sin, and I told God: “God, I want to do Your will.”  It was April 2000.  That was my conversion experience.  From that moment on my life began to change more rapidly.  I still did not understand God’s plan through his son.  But God had much mercy on me in spite of my great ignorance.

During that time, I started to understand that the communist leaders had tried to remove the true God and replace him with communist idols.  While before I wanted to make anyone who talked bad about communism disappear, now I comprehended that I was a victim of communism.  We were deceived!  I felt betrayed.  My heart became overwhelmed with so much pain for my people.  My poor people!  How could we endure so many lies and deceptions?!  In 1991 alone, there were 250 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union.  How many people went to hell during those 74 years of idolatry?!  I could not believe it—all that I had believed was a great farce.

Due to this disillusionment, I was very fearful that I would be deceived again by some sect.  I wanted to start going to church, but I wanted to know something about the Bible before choosing a congregation.  So, when I found out that the Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Quesada, where I lived, was offering a course called Old Testament I, it interested me a great deal and I enrolled.  It was September of 2002.  After that course, they invited me to the Old Testament II course that they were going to teach the following month.

When I arrived to take the class, they explained to me that this class was a part of a program made up of 30 courses spanning 3 years, 10 courses each year.  I liked the doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene.  I prayed to God and through this process I made the decision to join a congregation.  However, the first day my husband followed me to church without me knowing and when I returned home, he told me it was scandalous that I, being a medical doctor, could go where they were playing tambourines.  He also said that if I went back he was going to kill the pastor and place a bomb in the church.  His entire family was Catholic.  But he was more an atheist than a believer.

I spent several months very discouraged, thinking that I could not join a congregation until he became a convert.  I saw other brothers and sisters that could go easily to church, but did not, and I wanted so badly to go.  I decided that I could not do it because it would have created problems in my home, and I felt that it was not God’s timing.  I did not have much faith that I would be able to go to church any time soon, but God had a surprise in store for me.  He always surprises me.  I received a word from him that I was going to begin going to church very soon.  I felt that this word was truly from God.  An assurance came to my heart.  I began to pray that God would prepare my husband for the news that I was going to give to him.

And God backed up his word.  The day came when I told my husband, “I did not know it at first, but a while back I became a convert.  God is in first place in my life and you are in second place.  So, I am going to church.  You can kill the pastor, you can go and put a bomb in the church, but you are not going to kill the faith that I have.”  My husband was perplexed and stayed that way.  He ended up reacting against all of this, but only after 15 days had passed.  He disputed my going to church, but it was already too late.  I was already attending church each Sunday and I was not going to give up the position that God had delivered into my hands.  For me it was like seeing the impossible, because I never imagined myself going to church, especially with my ex-husband being radically against the evangelical church.  Even though he never went to church at all, if I would have gone to a Catholic church, it would not have been a problem for him.  But the evangelical church was the church that he most detested.  It was a miracle for me.  God made possible something that was previously impossible.

For many years I lived a clandestine Christian life: I read the Bible or listened to Christian songs or watched the Christian television station only when my husband was not around.  I suffered much verbal abuse; he told me my head was empty and I had turned into a religious fanatic.  I never imagined that it would be possible for me to serve God with my husband being an unbeliever.  Even though he saw and admitted that there had been a great change in me, he never ended up accepting my faith.  God had changed me, but my home life was a wreck.  My ex-husband always blamed me.  And for many years I accepted that guilt and blame.  I told God that I was willing to suffer through the hard treatment and pain that he inflicted on me if it meant that God would change me through it.  I did not want to be the same anymore.  And the truth is that God fulfilled that request.

Still, my ex-husband continued in his alcoholism and rebellion against God.  I could not take such suffering much more.  I told God that he needed to change my husband or take him away, but either way I was at the end of my rope.  However, God allowed me to endure one year more.  I was at a dead end.  I wanted a loving spouse, but I instead had an aggressor; he was violent toward both me and our children.  Furthermore, I understood that I could not take part in serious ministry for the Lord while my home was stealing all my strength and courage from me. I went through a very serious depression that I managed to conceal in my workplace so that I could survive and not close myself up in my home.  The Lord was my only refuge.  Finally, a year and a half ago he led me to a crossroads where I could make a decision. After much prayer, I said to my ex-husband, “I cannot take one drop more of your liquor.  I am giving you 15 days.  Think about it and choose between liquor and your family.  I am not pressuring you.  Take your time.”

After 8 days my ex-husband threw off his wedding ring in front of our children and said, “I’m getting out of this house.  I will keep drinking.  No one tells me what to do.”  I felt that God himself was liberating me from this monster of a person.  Later God revealed to me that my ex-husband wanted to possess me as if he were my owner, annulling every personal decision I might have made.  He wanted to make my decisions regarding everything.  The Lord truly became my Liberator with regards to this.

Five months after being separated from my husband, I realized why things never went well in my home.  All the years since I arrived in Costa Rica, and possibly before, my ex-husband had been unfaithful to me with many other women.  As a doctor, I have had to treat many patients that have lived lives of infidelity.  They testify that it is a life of hell, living a double life, and they end up coming to a point where even they have no idea whom they love.  It is an unhappy life.  That was what I went through with my ex-husband.

I believe that was the hardest test of my life. Before getting married, we had talked about that subject—even during our marriage as well.  I always held the position that if one day he wanted to look for another woman, that he should just let me know, and we could end our relationship completely in that moment.  I wasn’t going to make a big deal about it or get in his way.  Each one can choose what he wants.  The one thing I asked of him was that he be honest and never deceive me. He swore that he would always be faithful to me and that he loved me so much.  So many times I had my doubts, but usually I did not have any proof, so I continued believing his lies.

When I realized all of this, my heart truly broke. I spent a month in agony with unbearable pain.  I understood in those moments why some choose to end their lives by committing suicide because of betrayals like this one.  In my life I have suffered with 2 terrible betrayals: with communism for 27 years, and with the infidelity of my ex-husband during more than 10 years of my life.  But the Lord was faithful in raising me up from these difficult tests.  So once again I must testify to his power, and that he lifted up one whose heart had been crushed to pieces.  In Him I found genuine truth, holiness, and so much tender and eternal love.  He is my King.  He is my reason for living.  He is the one who gives my path direction and meaning.  Thanks to Him I can live a life of love and holiness.  May His name be praised!  Amen.

Let Me In

By Scott Armstrong

I have been reflecting recently on the way that we evaluate and train our Genesis missionaries.  As a team, we tinker with the content of our workshops and attempt to provide hands-on experience that will also prepare them for their two years in a different culture and in an explicitly urban context.  However, the thing that keeps coming to my head is: What good is training if the missionaries do not have a deep desire to love the downcast and brokenhearted around them? That is something we cannot teach or motivate into them.

The great news is that, in almost every case, our Genesis missionaries are passionate about serving others.  This is not a service that comes on their own terms or with their own demands; they all possess a profound love of God and neighbor.  I have recently heard stories of our missionaries arduously cleaning entire apartment complexes in nearly 100º heat, holding sick and malnourished children, and embracing and weeping with abandoned single mothers.  This type of ministry requires a compassionate willingness to walk with any needy person through every hellish thing they are going through.

I recently read this surprising story from G.K. Chesterton, the renowned Christian thinker and writer:

A man who was entirely careless of spiritual affairs died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends.  His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back.  But though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded.  His priest also went and argued: ‘He was not really a bad fellow, given time he would have matured.  Let him out, please!’ The gates remained stubbornly shut against all their voices.  Finally, his mother came; she did not beg for his release.  Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan: ‘Let me in.’  Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges.  For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.” (Quoted in Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality)

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Our missionaries have not signed up for an easy assignment, and they certainly know they will not be on a two-year vacation.  There is something else that calls them to the lost, the last, and the least.  Evaluation and training are essential, but when I receive reports like I have recently from their work in the urban landscapes of our region, I know something deeper than basic training has compelled them.  God’s love has taken them to the gates of hell, and they have asked to enter.  And because of it, God is transforming hell into heaven right in the heart of those cities.

*For more information on Genesis, or any of our missionaries, please visit us at: www.mesoamericagenesis.org. You can also download our mobile app for Android or iOS.

Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

Be Joyful

Many readers of this blog know that my family and I are in Russia right now for the World Cup. Yesterday we attended the France v. Denmark game, which was amazing. Interestingly enough, Dr. Eugénio Duarte, one of our General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, wrote about Denmark and their positivity.  I can confirm from my limited experience with fans of Denmark that they are a happy nation, indeed. I hope you enjoy this article on Denmark, but really more focused on the contentment that Christ gives every believer.

By Eugénio R. Duarte

Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. My only stay in the city was short, but I was able to spend a couple of hours on a tour that introduced me to its historical, cultural, economic, political, industrial, and social life. One of the things I heard, and needed to ponder, was this statement by one of the tour guides: “Denmark was recently rated the happiest nation in the world.”
 
The moment I made my first purchase and saw the bill, I decided that with such a high cost of living, people must require a sizeable income in order to stay happy. But a quick recall of what the same tour guide said about how highly they value community and mutual accountability — especially as it relates to family life — caused me to think again.

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When we learn to appreciate one another and the contribution each can make without constraint to the overall good, our human tendency to complain about any distress or hardship disappears.

Indeed, we are amazed at what some social doctrines can do by using the spirit of tolerance and responsibility. They can generate and even sustain contentment.
          
However, we need more than contentment. Our lives are meant to be full of joy, and joy is far more consistent, reliable, durable, stable, and fruitful. Joy is rooted in “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and “guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Contentment and joy both reside in our hearts and minds, but contentment is there in a relationship that relies on temporary things, conditions, promises, and results, while joy is established on eternal values. When the title to our hearts and minds is in the hands of Jesus, our part in maintaining joy is trust and faith.

The Bible says, “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). God empowers us to be joyful not on the basis of a temporary agreement or arrangement. His Holy Spirit faithfully fulfills the mission of pouring — not dropping — His love into our hearts; the love that generates, feeds, and grows real joy in us. 

“It is Jesus, the vine, that produces fruit; and we, the branches, bear the fruit, including the fruit of joy.” — Billy Graham 

 

Loss Felt by Global Family: BGS Statement on Cuba Tragedy

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The Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene, extends its heartfelt love, passionate prayers, and deepest condolences to the families of all affected by the Friday, May 18 plane crash in Havana, Cuba.

It was with heavy hearts we learned that 10 Nazarene pastoral couples were among the 100-plus people who lost their lives in this tragedy. They had just completed a national conference for the Cuba Nazarene Church.

“Sharon and I had the privilege of being at the Cuba East District Assembly in January,” said David W. Graves, jurisdictional general superintendent for the denomination’s Mesoamerica Region. “We were touched by their love and passion for Jesus and the Church of the Nazarene. Our hearts are heavy for the families, churches, and the district, and the loss is personally felt by our global family.”

We are comforted by the report from Rev. López, president of the Church of the Nazarene in Cuba, who said the couples were singing, praying, and testifying on their way to the airport. The promise of the resurrection assures us that we will be reunited in praising and worshiping God together.

We grieve with the families of those who lost their loved ones. We also grieve with Regional Director Rev. Carlos Sáenz, Rev. Leonel López, and East District Superintendent Rev. Luis Batista during this time. May the Lord carry the children of these mothers and fathers, surrounding them with His all-embracing peace and love that transcends our understanding.

To Nazarenes around the world, please continue to join us in prayer for all affected by this tragic loss. We embrace Christ’s mandate to console the grieving and care for the widows and orphans.

To Cuban Nazarenes, East District churches, and all hurting in that nation today, we love you. You are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mourn with you, hurt with you, pray for you, and will continue to lift you up in prayer in the days, months, and years ahead.

Our prayer is that God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). May you hold on to the reality that God, our “Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Our prayer is for the peace of Christ to be with the people of Cuba during this time of grief and pain.

We are grateful for and we remember their consecrated lives:

  • Mirza Rodríguez Rondón & Juan Luis Vega Velázquez
  • Luis Manuel Rojas Pérez & Maricela Peña
  • Norma Suárez Niles & Jesús Manuel García Oberto
  • María Virgen Filandez Rojas & Rafael Vega Velázquez
  • Ronni Alain Pupo Pupo & Yurisel Milagros Miranda Mulet (Nazarene Missions International district president)
  • Eloy Ortiz Abad & Elva María Mosqueda Legrá
  • Juan Carlos Nogueras Leyva & Noelbis Hernández Guerrero
  • Gelover Martín Pérez Avalo & Yoneisi Cordovez Rodríguez (pastor and district treasurer)
  • Manuel David Aguilar Saavedra & María Salomé Sánchez Arévalo (district secretary)
  • Grisell Filandes Clark & Lorenzo Boch Bring

This article was originally published at: nazarene.org

Absolutely Nothing

“I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38 NLT).

There may be something on your mind – a sin, a bad decision, someone’s rejection, or a particular trial – that makes you feel as if the Father does not or could not love you. However, once you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, NOTHING can separate you from His love. Not people. Not circumstances. Not angels, nor demons, nor the enemy’s entire army. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING my friends.

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Psalm 34:18 is clear, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” So when you feel at your most unworthy or defeated is when the Father is closest, tenderly bidding you to return to Him.

The most dangerous move you can make is to resist His love. So seek His face today. Confess your failings. Ask Him to teach you. Thank Him for inviting you back. Then praise His holy name and love Him in return with all your heart. In His presence enjoy His love always.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.