Paraguay Missionary Sacrifices Dream to Follow God

The following article was originally published at: Nazarene.org.

Yoan and Astrid Camacaro recently accepted the call to be missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene in Paraguay after serving as pastors in Ecuador for more than five years.

Both Yohan and Astrid are humble and willing to follow God’s lead wherever it might take them; however, their call to missions didn’t happen overnight. 

Yoan grew up in Venezuela in the underprivileged community of Andres Bellos. He started attending the Church of the Nazarene in his early teens and became very involved in church activities.

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Ever since he was a child, Yoan’s dream was to be a professional baseball player and rescue his family from poverty. His grandmother gave him a baseball glove as a gift when he was young, and his family quickly realized he was very talented. 

As he got older, he got better and was noticed by professional scouts. One day, he received a telephone call from the Atlanta Braves, who offered him a contract to go to America to play baseball. That same day, he received a call from his local district superintendent who believed Yoan had a gift for ministry and suggested that Yoan attend the Nazarene Seminary in Quito, Ecuador. 

Lost, Yoan went to his Bible and found the verse in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

At that moment, Yoan knew what he had to do. He declined the offer to play professional baseball, and he went to the seminary. 

During his time at seminary, Yoan met his wife, Astrid, who was born into a Christian home in Ecuador and felt called to ministry at 15 years old. 

Growing up, Astrid served as a youth leader and Sunday School teacher. She has always a strong passion for discipling, mentoring and involving young people in ministry and missions.

After graduating from seminary, the two were married in 2011. They lived in Venezuela for a while where their son, Yared, was born. Yoan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in cross-cultural missions with Nazarene Seminary of the Americas in Costa Rica.

In 2013, the Camacaros planted a church in Ibarra, Ecuador, where they have pastored until their recent call to missions. 

“We are excited to start this new adventure and serve God with love and passion,” the Camacaros said. “We know that great things are coming for the country of Paraguay, and we are ready to develop strategies for growth.”

Now, Yoan hopes that God will use his son to carry out his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. 

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Ten Observations on the Church of the Nazarene’s 2018 Global Statistics

Scott Armstrong

General Secretary David P. Wilson and Nazarene Research Services recently released the annual Church of the Nazarene statistical reports for 2018. These detailed reports documenting the missional activities of the denomination on a global scale show growth for the Church of the Nazarene over the statistical year, as well as continued growth over the past decade.

There is much to be thankful for!  God is on the move around the world and in our denomination!

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In an upcoming article, I will offer some observations on Mesoamerica’s statistics specifically. However, for now, and as I have done in the past, I have read through the document and offer some of my initial observations:

  1. The denomination’s membership has steadily grown during the past 10 years, although last year’s growth was tepid. Total membership has risen from around 1.84 million in 2008 to nearly 2.58 million in 2018. Additionally, in no year did we see a decline in membership worldwide in the last decade. More than 40% growth in only 10 years is quite encouraging! Nevertheless, last year’s growth was a mere 1.13% (see #4 below for one reason why).
  2. For the first time in a decade, we have reported a decline (-0.53%) in the number of churches. In 2017, 30,875 churches were reported, and in 2018, 30,712 were reported.  It should be noted that the decrease could be viewed as positive in one sense: while the number of missions went down (taking the overall numbers with them), many of those “not yet organized churches” most assuredly became organized, which is reflected in that number increasing by 0.58%.  Still, last year we organized the fewest number of churches of any year in the last decade.  One thing is certain: we must continue to emphasize church planting!
  3. Of the six world regions, Africa and Eurasia are pacing the way. Africa grew 7.3% last year, and 29.3% of the world’s Nazarenes are now African.  In a few years it is likely that one of three Nazarenes globally will be found on that continent. As far as Eurasia is concerned, membership has more than doubled in the last decade (112% growth).
  4. Membership in South America and the USA/Canada regions has declined. The -11.52% decrease in South American membership at first appears alarming.  However, Nazarene Research informs us that one district had over-reported fellowship members in 2017, and the -52,550 fewer members reported there in 2018 can be attributed to a correction of the previous year.  Thus, it should be characterized as an “artificial loss” (just as the purported growth in that district in 2017 should be labeled an “artificial gain”).  The decline in membership in the USA/Canada region is another story. While the overall Church has grown 40% in the last ten years, Nazarene membership in those two countries has gone down -4.57% in the same decade.
  5. A greater number of new Nazarenes are being received by transfer from other denominations (11.46%), while fewer new Nazarenes are being received by profession of faith compared to a decade ago (-9.47%). It is exciting to see that fellow Christians are changing their membership perhaps because of doctrinal alignment or experiencing the love of Nazarene churches. At the same time, the majority of Great-Commission Christians would agree that our primary growth must come from reaching those who do not know Christ with the good news.
  6. The denominational emphasis on discipleship during the last 10 years seems to be producing numerical fruit. Sunday School and Discipleship attendance has grown 62% in the last decade, a number much greater than the overall membership statistic.  To put it another way, last year discipleship attendance represented 51% of overall membership totals, while in 2008, that percentage was only 44%. It appears more of our Nazarenes are a part of some sort of discipleship group weekly, and/or our pastors and leaders are learning how to more accurately report the varied forms of discipleship that are occurring.
  7. God is calling and the Church is ordaining more and more leaders. 21% more elders and 48% more deacons have been ordained since 2008.  The number of licensed ministers keeps increasing, too.  A rapidly growing Church will require more and more leaders to preach, serve, and administer the Sacraments.  We praise the Lord for the growing numbers of pastors and lay people answering God’s call to shepherd His people!
  8. Membership in Nazarene Youth International has increased only 3% in 10 years. Let’s state that again: while overall membership has grown 40% since 2008, NYI has increased by 3%.  The one-year total is 0.53%.  I am almost at a loss for words.  Last year I addressed this issue, and I worry that any pleas to adapt are falling on deaf ears.  Every church wants youth to be present, but how many are willing to change in order to reach them and how many would then be willing to even hand over leadership to them? If we do not intentionally decide to wholeheartedly invest our time, resources, and love into children and youth, we will have forfeited our chance to be change-agents of society within the next 50 years.
  9. Giving to Global Mission (World Evangelism Fund + Approved Specials + Other Global Interests) went up considerably. 6% growth is exciting!  It reflects depth of stewardship and commitment around the world. That said (see #10)…
  10. We have a long way to go with regards to World Evangelism Fund (WEF) giving. On the first page of the report, the evidence cannot be denied: exactly one-third of global Churches of the Nazarene gave the minimum expectation of 5.5% or more of their non-missions giving to WEF.  Admittedly, on a positive note, that number is much higher than the previous year’s: only 26.8% of global congregations gave the full amount in 2017.  Still, nearly 29% of our churches did not give anythingto WEF last year! And 96% of all WEF came from one region: USA/Canada.  Around the world we have to do better! We have been blessed by WEF for so long; now it is our turn to bless others.  As a pastor friend in Dominican Republic who is in the process of transferring his credentials to our denomination once told me, “How can a church call themselves Nazarene if they don’t give to the World Evangelism Fund?!” Great question, José Luis!

Whew! That was a lot, I know.  And even then, I have undoubtedly missed dozens of other significant take-aways. What would you highlight, after looking at the document? Which of my ten observations encourages or alarms you the most?

Vacation Bible Schools Amid Economic Crisis

Churches across Venezuela are continuing to reach out to their communities despite the current economic crisis. At least 60 Vacation Bible Schools representing 75 percent of the country’s organized churches have been planned through September.

Many residents have emigrated from the country in search of better work opportunities, resulting in a rapid decline in public school attendance and an estimated 20 percent membership decline in the Church of the Nazarene in Venezuela. 

Despite the economy, the work of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International has not stopped, and the regional, national, and district coordinators are working on ways to promote and support these VBS camps.

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The Church of the Nazarene in Calabozo has already held two camps, including one at a church plant in Ciudad de Dios for 200 children. The other was held the following week, hosting 179 children and youth. 

In the eastern part of the country, the Renacer church in Punta de Mata held a VBS where 70 children and youth participated. In the Llanos District, which has the largest number of Churches of the Nazarene in Venezuela, the Cambios and Los Pozones churches held their VBS camps, with 70 and 84 children, respectively. Most of the other churches will wait until after the National Youth Camp during the last week of August to host their own VBS camps.

“We thank the Lord for so many workers who have made their time, energy, and resources available to plant the seed of God’s Word in the generations to come,” said Leda DeGouveia, national SDMI coordinator. “We are counting on your support in prayer that our God would revive His work in the midst of times like these.”

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene South America