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imageIt was a scene from a past generation. Huipiles (a traditional Mayan dress) and guayaberas (AKA Mexican wedding shirts) were on display everywhere you looked. Traditional music, played by guitars, drums, and a an accompanying conch filled the air. The language of choice? Maya. It was Mayan Night at the district missions convention and a time of celebration of the heritage of the residents of the Yucatan peninsula.

The church has come far to be able to put on such a display at a major event like this one. Although events like the 2012 prophecies have done much much to help revive an interest in all things Mayan, one does not have to move too far into the past to find negative attitudes toward the Mayan way of life, thinking of it as anachronistic, and those who felt that speaking the language as a sign of ignorance or a lack of education. This embrace of the Mayan culture, therefore, is a sign of just how much these old attitudes have changed.

Nevertheless, even though our dress and the principle language spoken called us to remember the past, the subject of the conversation: the unfinished task of the Great Commission, encouraged us to look toward the future and partner with God who is in mission, beyond the borders of the peninsula, even around the world. I was privileged to be a part of this latter effort as I gave a conference entitled, “Crossing Cultural Barriers.” In it, I encouraged the Yucatecan church to move past the divisions that separate us from making a worldwide impact through compassionate, incarnational ministry as we unashamedly point our listeners toward Christ. We do this I said, because of God’s universality, the mandate we have been given, the blessing that comes from obedience to that calling, and because of the fact that God is already there working among the various cultures, calling them to repentance and faith in Him.


The conferences, therefore, as well as the cross-cultural missionaries present and the calls for involvement in mission on a local, national, and international level were an encouraging sign of this traditionally Mayan culture’s desire to be involved in God’s redemptive plan. The second evening showed just how strong it was. Two songs into the service, the power went out to the whole block. The service continued without missing a beat, and the people, without even fans to keep them cool, stayed to witness a missionary parade illuminated by cellphones and a sermon encouraging short term missions involvement amplified by a gas powered generator.

In all, it was a wonderful event. Upon reflection, I see it as a blend of gratitude for a culture that God has redeemed and an affirmation of the increasing role that this culture must play in God’s worldwide mission in the years to come.

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Expanding Horizons


Just last week, as I was sending birthday greetings to Noemi Uitzil, a pastor who has been working with our Jesus Film effort, I was told of new movement beyond the borders of the state of Yucatan in Punta Laguna, Quintana Roo.

Punta Laguna is a small, Maya village, known for its nature reserve, where the spider monkey and the racoon-like coati roam free. Here you’ll find the villagers spending life much like their ancestors had when the town was established in 1930. Chickens and pigs are common sights on the village streets, so too are the women of the town, routinely seated before an open flame, preparing tortillas for the afternoon meal. Towns like these have been difficult to reach, particularly because of the traditional way of life that many of the villagers lead, which includes the practice of a syncretistic faith blending indigenous Maya beliefs with Roman Catholicism.

Nevertheless, it would appear that a new wind is blowing in Punta Laguna. Noemi and her husband, Pedro Pablo projected the Jesus Film in Maya there this month, and their effort is paying off! Two families have committed to the discipleship process, welcoming Noemi, Pedro Pablo and fellow church members to teach them more about the God of the Bible and his Son, Jesus, who died for their sins.

We’re encouraged to know that this effort, started in the District of Yucatan in 2011, continues to advance, pushing even into new territory with this event in Punta Laguna.

Won’t you pray for this fledgling group, that they will receive the support and encouragement to not only remain firm, but also to grow?

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Often, the call of God leads us to distant shores and far off lands, but Rangel Vasquez’s story proves that sometimes it can lead us right back home.

His story begins in Tzucacab, a municipality in the south of Yucatan where he was born. He wasn’t there for long, though, as the need in his family and the economic opportunity that offered life in the capital city caused his parents to pull up roots and relocate to Merida. Nevertheless, it was there, hours away from his ancestral home, that God was preparing his heart for the return journey.


The preparation began at “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” both academically and spiritually. It was there, in my evangelism class as a first year student, that he expressed a stirring in his heart for missions among the indigenous of Mexico. As we would begin the day in prayer, he would often ask us to intercede for him that he might receive direction as he explored what the Lord was doing in his heart and life.

Still, even with a desire to minister to indigenous people like the Maya among whom he was born, the path to his current place of ministry was not direct. In fact, it would take him some 1,700 miles in the other direction to serve with his wife Claudia in the Sierras of the state of Chihuahua as house parents for a children’s home and church planters among the Tarahumara Indians of that region.


Life among them was difficult. They lived from day to day, praying for God’s provision so that they would have food enough to provide for the children and something left over for themselves. Water for drinking was scarce, for bathing even more so, and the weather was extreme, but God was faithful to keep them and give them success. In their time there, they had worked to forge a growing community of disciples, eager to know their Lord more fully, and serve those around them.

Their time in service gave way to three months of formal training in CEMAD, the Center for Missiological Studies of the Assemblies of God, where they learned the theological underpinnings for their calling as well as a practical methodology for cross cultural ministry. Still, as their training came to a close, they needed to make a decision to stay in the Sierras or return to the Yucatan.

We talked during this time, as we too needed to make a decision. The time was drawing near for us to depart for itineration, and we needed someone to serve as a liaison for our ministry in our absence, coordinating both information and resources. That, coupled with an endorsement to serve as district missionaries in the state of Yucatan cemented their decision to return. Even so, they were unprepared for what would happen next.


As they returned in late 2013, God began to deal with Rangel about a place called Tigre Grande. It’s a small obscure village, a town you only pass through on purpose. It’s located in the south of Yucatan near the border with Campeche, and it just so happens to be the the municipality of Tzucacab.

Unable to shake his premonition to visit the town, he took an exploratory trip. As he arrived he greeted the villagers, going house to house and probing their interest in the gospel message that he hoped to share among them. What he found out was even beyond his wildest expectations.

The town had once had a budding congregation. A church in a neighboring village had built a small meeting place, and several villagers had begun to attend, but floodwaters that had come in 2002, washed away most of the town. The villagers scattered to find refuge after the devastation, and the small congregation had to be disbanded. Later, the town was relocated to higher ground, but the church remained just a memory, that is until Rangel’s arrival.


The people greeted his investigation with interest. Not only were they eager to find out when he would begin, they were ready to participate. It was as though they had been waiting for him for eleven years, but it was much more than a homecoming for this wandering native of Tzucacab, it was the closing of the circle and the confirmation of the Lord’s direction in his life.

Rangel and Claudia continue the work in Tigre Grande, ministering holistically to the needs of the community as they communicate the Good News on a weekly basis with encouraging results, but they’re not content to limit themselves to that community. They’re convinced that the seeds that they are planting are meant to grow, and have set their sights on the entire region, taking steps now to plant churches in neighboring communities.

Were honored to partner with missionaries and church planters like Rangel Vazquez. They play a critical role in the fulfillment of the vision of the Yucatan peninsula full of churches, diverse class, status, education, and language but united in their love for the Lord and one another. As we tour the United States sharing about the Yucatan, we long to return to continue our labor with them.

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It’s been four months since the delivery of the first Proclaimer, an audio Bible programmed with the New Testament in the Mayan language. Since that time, we’ve distributed seven devices throughout the Yucatan, with encouraging results.  Here are some of the comments we’ve been receiving:

From Chemax: “It’s so uplifting to be able to understand the Word of God in our own language.”

From Santa Maria: “Our group members enjoy listening to the audio Bible because they are able to understand it without any explanation.”

Not only are they understanding the Bible, they are being touched by its message. Again, from our participants:

“One of our members was moved when he heard about the need to pardon his neighbor.”

Moments like these lead those who experience them to live out the implications of the message, a message that is able to reach them now that the barriers to its understanding have been removed.

Thanks for helping remove obstacles to the gospel and build bridges to its understanding and application here in the Yucatan.

As you may know, I’ve been taking classes in the Mayan language. I’m currently in the second term. This past weekend, as we closed out our classes in 2013, we had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas, Yucatan style. Part of that celebration was a rendition of Silent Night in Maya. I was able to record a portion of it here:

What do you think? Were you able to sing along?

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In this entry, cross-posted from her blog, Every Day is New, Kelly shares about our family’s visit to the towns of Ochil and Pixya to help celebrate the anniversary of one of the missions planted as a result of the efforts of the Jesus Film Project.

Living among the people of Yucatan is a blessing.  So is being able to “do ministry” as a family.  Dave will get invitations to participate in a service or special event, and he is often asked to bring his family. We try say “yes” to as many of those requests as we can.  This past Sunday we had the opportunity to spend time with a great family from Pixyah, Yucatan.  They pastor a church there, but also have a “mission” in a nearby town called Ochil.  There, they were celebrating one as a congregation, since the start of their mission.  So, after teaching Sunday School in our own “home” church in Mérida, we headed out to the “pueblos” to catch part of their service and join them for lunch afterwards.  So we were able to hear the encouraging words of the pastor who also invited Dave to share with the group, and then we had the rare treat of eating venison tacos with homemade corn tortillas – “hechas a mano.”  A few of us had seconds…. After everyone had their fill, and there were still leftovers, they packed things up – chairs, sound system, etc. – and headed back to Pixyah where there would be service in evening.

Cow Crossing

Well, that is easier said than done. In order to get between the 2 towns, you take the “ruta fea” – basically the backroads, very scenic (and very bumpy!).  We’ve taken this way a few times which makes it sort of a novelty, but they do this several times a week to minister to the people in the nearby town.  Once we had arrived back at the church, we were invited to visit a local cenote called Nomozón with the pastor and his family. And, you guessed it, more backroads – this particular route boasted 4 gates that you have to open to pass through and close again before continuing on your way, with cattle and horses and dogs to boot.


We’ve enjoyed cenotes in the region in the past, but it never gets old since each is unique, beautiful in its own way.  The adults decided not to swim this particular day, but the kids enjoyed the refreshing coolness of the huge underground water hole.  I don’t know which was more fun for them, though – riding on top of the pastor’s pick up truck or swimming and racing each other in the crystal clear water on this hot, humid day.  After making our way back to the church, we shared a typical Yucateco snack – charritos with cheese, ham, half and half cream, salsa and jalapeño all mixed together in a bowl for sharing along with some Pepsi to wash it all down.  Yum.

It was a good day.  And the Lord was blessing us even more with His beautiful creation on the ride back to the city…amazing colors and clouds as the sun set in front of us as we drove, reflecting on how great it is to be alive and experience life with others.

Pitching In

Want more? See these and other pictures of the event in our photo gallery!

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We had the opportunity to deliver our first Proclaimer to San Isidro Ochil. What a blessing to hear the group interact with the Word in Maya! Hit the link here or click on the picture to experience the event with us. While you’re there, don’t miss the rest of our latest quarterly update from the field!

Our online newsletter is viewable as a PDF document. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed, you may download it here.

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This past Wednesday we had the opportunity to hand out our first Proclaimer Audio Bible. The following is a description of the experience in San Isidro Ochil:

The environment was a familiar one–the congregants were standing together to read the Bible aloud in Spanish. This time, however, there was something different. Many did not have their own Bible and were left looking on to the copies of others or left out completely. Some who did have a Bible read with such difficulty that the public reading was out of sync to the point of being almost indecipherable.

You see, Ochil is a town where the Maya language is spoken predominantly. Many inhabitants understand Spanish, but with difficulty. What is more, many do not read in either Spanish or Maya. Therefore, the traditional ways of doing service, especially congregational reading, is less than effective.

That’s where the Proclaimer has such potential. Reproducing the Bible in audio in Maya, the Proclaimer gave many in the congregation their first opportunity to hear the Word of God in their own language, and their interaction following the reading of Matthew chapter 1 showed their enthusiasm. Several people who had been disconnected during the previous elements of the service were engaged and asking questions. I was particularly taken aback when an elderly woman, who seemed withdrawn before, made a comment about Jesus’ birth. The people were having an experience with the Bible!

This congregation and several like it will be making a commitment to meet together for one hour each week to listen to and discuss the Bible. We look forward to seeing more experiences like this first one in San Isidro Ochil, and we anticipate the inevitable growth that will come when a people has access to the power of the Word of God on a consistent basis.

Would you pray for us?

  • Pray for us as we continue to expand this program to other villages.
  • Pray for each village that they would make the commitment to listen and to study the Word of God together each week for an hour.
  • Pray that God’s promise that his Word would not return void would be fulfilled in each separate context where it is introduced.

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We believe in the power of the Word of God, that’s why a large part of our ministry is dedicated to preaching and teaching the Bible. Still preaching and teaching, at best, serve only as a gateway for personal exploration and application of the biblical text. It is a jumping off point for believers, encouraging them to dig deeper into what God would want to speak into their lives on any given subject. That is why personal study of the scripture is so important, and why access to the biblical text is such a fundamental necessity for any culture.

Here in the Yucatán, where almost 60% of the population speaks the Maya language, we’re glad to know that the New Testament has been in print for several years and is widely available. However, when the majority of those who speak Maya cannot read the language, the benefit of this printed biblical text is severely limited, and a large portion of the population remains cut off from access to the Word of God in their native language.

That is why we’re happy to be forming a partnership with Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH), distributors of the Proclaimer Audio Bible. The Proclaimer is a device, approximately the size of a large radio, that is able to reproduce the biblical text for a group as large as 300 people. That means that even the illiterate will be able to hear and understand the message of the Bible in their native language. Furthermore, the fact that the device a single unit, and that it is solar or manually powered, opens up opportunities to transport the Word of God to places that lack even basic services.

But this partnership is about much more than just the distribution of devices. Just this week, I was able to speak with Gil Moreno, one of the FCBH ministry staff, who took me through their philosophy of setting up listening groups in order to facilitate Bible literacy and discipleship. Through a commitment of as little as 30 minutes a week, a group of believers can listen to the entire New Testament in less than a year. But they’re not only listening; in these groups, they’re interacting with the Word of God, recalling the stories, expressing their feelings, and applying the truths. That’s where the change occurs!

It’s our goal to implement these listening groups in conjunction with the churches that we are forming through our Jesus Film outreach. This way, even if a pastor is unable to visit a village for an extended period of time, discipleship is still taking place as new believers gather to hear and discuss the Bible. We hope to have our first batch of seven Proclaimers in use by the end of summer, with another two shipments to arrive soon after. It’s our prayer that this device and this new partnership will yield much fruit in our effort to disciple indigenous believers here in the Yucatán and beyond.

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Traditionally, missions has been the realm of those of White, Anglo-Saxon descent. The ranks of missionary heroes are full of names like Hudson Taylor or Jim Elliot. However, Latino, Chinese, or African names remain remarkably absent from such lists, even after decades of work within such nations.


We understand these tendencies. Those mentioned were ones who opened up new territories to the Gospel. But, now that those areas have been opened, what of those who have been reached? Do they have a responsibility to share in the burden of World Evangelism?

Jesus seemed to think so. His missions strategy was the original Pay it Forward plan. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mat. 10:8). He expected his fledgling disciples to pass on what they had learned from Him, and he commissioned them to engage in that worldwide effort from the get-go (Acts1:8).

Still, while some have answered the call, actually reaching the country of their calling is a tremendous challenge. The reality here in Mexico is that, although missionaries are responding, the church as a whole remains largely non-committal in regards to missionary responsibility. This is dangerous, especially as unreached areas close to those fitting the traditional missionary profile.


This month, were working toward a solution. I had the chance to preach in our sectional pastor’s meeting, and I challenged our leaders to take steps to increase missions consciousness among their churches. Also, this week, we are in the middle of our District Missions Convention, “The Awakening of the Mayas to Missions.”

What is the goal of these efforts? It’s to encourage our churches to feel the responsibility of missions and to sense the empowerment that Christ has given to all his disciples regardless of nationality.

We believe that the Yucatán can be a force in missions. Pray with us to that end, and, maybe someday, we’ll read of a Norma Uitzil, or a Lidia Pompeyo among those lists of missions heroes.

Blessings on you as you stand with us in prayer!

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