Nine Observations on the Mesoamerica Region’s 2018 Statistics

Scott Armstrong

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A few days ago, I shared ten observations I had after analyzing the 2018 statistics for the Church of the Nazarene. Admittedly, I focused on the world, and now would like to be more Caribbean and Central America-centric. What is the state of our Mesoamerica Region? Here are several things I have noted:

  1. Although we’ve seen encouraging growth in the last decade (38.27%), last year was paltry (0.76%). You read that correctly: in 2018 our Mesoamerican churches reported less than 1% growth.  Stated another way, for every 100 people who call themselves Nazarene in this region, we have discipled fewer than 1 person into membership. That’s a bit puzzling because (see #2 below)…
  2. We reported 31,640 conversions and 14,273 baptisms last year. In fact, 19,222 new members became a part of our churches in Mesoamerica last year by profession of faith or by transfer from other denominations. Praise the Lord! Those numbers would have signified a much more impressive growth than the 0.76% that we mentioned earlier, if it weren’t for all of the membership losses we suffered, whether by death, removal, or transfer.  Those are the combined reasons the overall growth rate was not higher.
  3. Although we have well over 420,000 members in Mesoamerica, slightly more than half that total weekly attend the largest worship service offered (53.7%) as well as discipleship groups (53.2%). Does that mean, in other words, that half our members are attending weekly worship and/or discipleship groups? Not exactly. We know, for example, that non-members are a part of worship every week, as well as Sunday School and discipleship groups.
  4. Total Global Missional Disbursements grew this past year by 46%. It is hard to express how exciting this is for our region! Missional stewardship and faithfulness have been emphasized greatly by NMI and all ministries in the last 4-5 years.  This rapid increase can only encourage us as we continue to expand our commitment to fund the mission around the world.
  5. Giving to the World Evangelism Fund (WEF) is at 1.54% of all non-missions giving. Remember, the denominational goal for every church and district is 5.5%. A total of five districts out of 80 in our entire region gave 5.5% or more: shout out to Guyana Demerara-Essequibo in the Caribbean, Upper Artibonite, South Central of Jacmel, and Lower Northwest in Haiti, and Gulf District of Mexico.  For the rest of us, what happened? The Church of the Nazarene in most of our countries was started by missionaries that were supported by WEF.  Now it is our turn to repay the favor.
  6. While the district-wide World Evangelism Fund totals are discouraging, 782 of 3,166 congregations (25%) paid their allocations in full last year. When the Church of the Nazarene speaks of allocations, we are referring to support of our district offices and ministries, educational institutions, as well as WEF.  Even though we still have a lot of work to do, this is a much more encouraging stat if only because it shows that, on a local level, many of our congregations are learning to be outward-focused and faithful to the denomination.
  7. NYI Membership in Mesoamerica declined -2.7%. It is one thing to experience hardly any growth from year to year, but in 2018 we have actually seen no growth, that is to say, fewer  In Mexico alone, we saw a -8.9% drop.  This should be a wake-up call to all of us as Nazarene leaders in the Caribbean and Central America.  If we do not prioritize children and youth, our church will become a relic before we know it.
  8. More than one out of every three Mesoamerican Nazarenes lives in Haiti. The exact statistic is 36.6%.  It is not the most populous country, and its land mass is quite small compared to many others’.  Innumerable political, social, and economic challenges exist. Nevertheless, Haiti has become a fertile soil for the gospel to take root – and the holiness message, in particular.
  9. As we noted in the global summaryDiscipleship attendance has grown more than overall membership numbers: 4.7% in our region, to be exact. The field that experienced the biggest increase in Sunday School and Discipleship attendance? The Caribbean with 8.2% last year.

I hope that these last two articles have been useful to you.  I’d love to hear from some Mesoamerican Nazarenes, specifically.  What do you notice when you look at the most recent stats? What is your reaction to my nine observations?

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The Harvest is Still Plenty

By Daniela Santiago

A few weeks ago I had the chance to be part of Third Wave 2019 in India. I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to be a part of this experience.

It’s natural for people to limit their vision of life to what is around them.  We know there is a bigger world out there, but it’s difficult to understand it. Beyond our borders there are different ways of living and different ways of understanding what it means to be a follower of Christ. Many times it means losing your life, and sometimes it means losing your freedom.  Still, none of these risks compare to the love we have and the commitment we have to extend the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.

It was incredible to be able to get to know and experience what the Church of the Nazarene does around the world.  What a blessing to know the gospel of Jesus extends to the furthest reaches of the earth, and that our Nazarene family is willing to go.

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One of the moments during Third Wave that most affected me was hearing the testimonies of people who live and serve in Creative Access Areas.  They are places where sharing the Good News of Jesus requires great commitment, patience, wisdom and perseverance.  They shared in India that they felt free to yell and praise God in that moment, but that in their countries, they must do it in silence, hidden away. The realization that the harvest is still plentiful, and that God still needs people to respond by saying, “Send me,” brought tears to my eyes and a burning desire to my heart.

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I am used to getting quick results, so it was challenging for me to hear how they work in those countries.  At the same time my heart kept filling with joy to know that the fire the Holy Spirit has placed in the hearts of our brothers and sisters to serve in those places is the same fire that burns inside of me.  I learned that God is a God of order and processes. My response to his call is valid, and despite my feelings of limitation to serve at this moment, I’m exactly where He wants me to be. The gifts of God are irrevocable, as is his call.

Having a chance to spend time and exchange ideas with people from more than 60 different countries truly changed my perspective of the world.  We exchanged ideas and talked about strategies, points of view and creative evangelism resources. I learned about culture and how much influence it has when the time comes to create and plan strategies to share the gospel.

I learned so many things on this trip. I learned patience is a reward from the Lord and that everything begins with prayer. But I also realized the profound importance of going to those who we do not know in order to share the love we have for Jesus and his gospel.

*Daniela Santiago is a youth leader in the Northwest Oaxaca District of Mexico.

An All-Terrain God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kingdom Workers – 4×4 All-Terrain

Written by Ariadna Romero

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

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

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

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

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

Missionaries: Queretaro Genesis Site

Just four months ago, a team of four Genesis missionaries from three different countries was sent to Querétaro, Mexico, a city with more than 1 million in population, but only one organized Nazarene church.  Praise the Lord for what is happening in this city! It is exciting to see what God has begun to do through the different activities and ministries that the missionaries and the local church leaders have been developing: 

We invite you to be a part of this initiative by praying for and giving to the ministry in Querétaro (links below).  Thanks always for bringing a Genesis to our region!

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Links for online giving: 

Jhoselyn Barrios: give.nazarene.org/fund/jhoselyn

María Romero: give.nazarene.org/fund/maria

Marlene Valadez: give.nazarene.org/fund/marlene

Maritza Mendoza: give.nazarene.org/fund/mmmendoza

For more information about Genesis contact us at genesis@mesoamericaregion.org, or visit our website. Also find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Not Obligation, but Love

By Freya Galindo

Mexico’s big cities contain a multitude of social problems and unfavorable conditions for many people who live in vulnerable situations. Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is not the exception, even more so because it is a city bordering the United States.

Eleven years ago, aware of this reality, the 1stChurch of the Nazarene in this city decided to set up a civil association dedicated to the formation, development and strengthening of families: “Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.” (Word of Life Ministries).

In 2014, with a desire to meet a more specific need in the area and the goal of serving their community, they decided to use their church’s facilities to open a community soup kitchen through an alliance with the Mexican federal government’s Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL).

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On August 4 of this year, the soup kitchen will celebrate four years of serving its community. Monday through Saturday, from 7-9 am and from 12-2 pm, food is provided for an average of 100 people, most of whom are senior citizens. In addition to the donations that this soup kitchen receives from SEDESOL, it is also supported by other churches, non-profit organizations and individuals. Pastor Conrado, his wife Petry, and their two children, along with some other volunteers, are the ones who regularly cook and serve in the soup kitchen.

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Recently, as a civil association, they presented a project to the federal government soliciting support to open 5 guitar schools in different parts of the city to provide a teaching space to train children and young people in music. This program is already developed in CERSAI # 3 (Center for Social Reintegration for Adolescent Offenders) in Ciudad Juárez, with 20 adolescents.

Another of the church’s dreams for the future is to open a shelter for immigrants (another social issue prevalent in Ciudad Juárez).

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Pastor Conrado’s words are inspiring as he describes the work they do as a church through the civil association and the community soup kitchen: “We do it with pleasure, not because of obligation, but with love.”

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Thank God for churches in the city that are making a difference through serving their communities!

To learn more about this ministry, visit their Facebook page: Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.

Genesis Re-entry Retreat – 2018

At the start of May of this year, volunteer missionaries that were sent to Genesis sites in Guadalajara, Mexico and Santiago, Dominican Republic: Laritza del Carmen, Natali Novelo, Nhasyeli Rodríguez, Sugey Barrón and Wendy Rivera, completed their 2-year assignment. To wrap up their time of service, they were part of a retreat in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where they remembered and shared their experiences from the mission field. It was a time of reflection for each missionary, as well as a time of giving thanks for having completed their mission.

The five missionaries expressed joy for having shared their lives with people that became friends and family to them, and for those that they were able to teach, disciple and guide in the Christian life; the missionaries also expressed their thankfulness for having been part of this initiative of the Church of the Nazarene.

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Laritza, Sugey, Natali, Nhasyeli and Wendy.

The churches of San Martín and Las Pintas, in Guadalajara, Mexico, have seen a transformation and know that the mission will continue in the communities where they are located. Also, the neighborhoods of Cecara and Banegas in Santiago, Dominican Republic, were blessed and impacted with the message of holiness.

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The missionaries with Naomi and Gary Faucett, Genesis Missionary Care facilitators.

We praise God that the leaders of both sites have captured the vision of the Genesis initiative. Likewise, it is a blessing to see the host districts with such a great ambition to continue supporting further missions work and encouraging the new churches that have been planted.

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The returning missionaries with Scott, Emily and Freya.

We know that God will continue using the lives of Laritza, Natali, Nhas, Sugey and Wendy wherever the Lord leads them. For now, they have returned to their local churches and districts in order to share everything that God has done through their lives and to inspire others to respond to God’s call and continue being a part of His mission. Thanks to all those who have supported the work of Genesis through giving and prayer so that Guadalajara and Santiago could be changed by the ministry of these missionaries!

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58