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Raising Advocates

I love the picture attached to this article. It’s of my youth pastor, Jim Grove, praying for my brother and me during our itineration service with him this past July. It is a symbol of the significance of our relationship, one that has been influential in my salvation, my discipleship, and my current ministry. However, what he did on that day was particularly special. He became our advocate. As he publicly affirmed our vision before his congregation, he orchestrated a response on our behalf and on behalf of Mexico, the nation that we serve as Assemblies of God World Missions Area Directors.

Raising advocates is why we’re currently in the United States visiting churches and individuals. This job is too great for one family to accomplish on its own. Now, more than ever, we need others to advocate, to speak on behalf of Mexico as misconceptions abound.

Paul and Sandy Kazim, former Area Directors to Mexico, say this in a recent post to their website: “There are enormous needs in Mexico. Living there, what we see is often quite different from what visitors see. Many churches in the US often consider Mexico a ‘reached’ country. People think they know Mexico. They make regular missions trips to the border. They might vacation at Mexico’s beaches.” Others resonate with a different story, writing off Mexico as a dysfunctional nation to the south, pointing to its corruption, its war on drugs, or its immigration crisis and turn away, attempting to shut out what they might consider is its negative influence.

What we aim to do is to raise up those who would tell a more complete story of Mexico, one that would comprehend the great need and the tremendous potential. We look to recruit those that would choose to see Mexico, not as a travel brochure would see it, not as a politician would describe it, but as God would see it, not only as a place to get away or as a problem to be solved but also as a people, lost but deeply loved, a people that he longs to redeem.

In these upcoming months, will you join us to advocate for Mexico? While you may already be praying for us and for Mexico and giving in support of our ministry, would you speak to others on our behalf? Would you share one of our newsletters (PDF) or our contact information with them that the team advocating for Mexico might grow? Would you share one or two names with us to whom we might tell the more complete story of Mexico and our vision for its redemption?

What a difference a month makes! Since our last newsletter, we’ve: traveled 3050 miles, took part in Missionary Training, were officially installed as Mexico Area Directors, began life again as a family of five, moved twice, and began our itineration year. Needless to say, we’ve been busy! Still, we would not have been able to accomplish even half of that list if it hadn’t been for the many who helped us make our many transitions. So allow us to use this space to express our gratitude.

Beginning at the beginning, we’re thankful for our friends who helped us sort, sell, pack and move our belongings from our home and make it to the airport. We’re also thankful to United Airlines, for a smooth ride, on-time departures, and expert luggage handling. No muss. No fuss. Just a great ride.

During the trip, we were blessed by a “chance” meeting with Catherine Figueroa, fellow missionary to Oaxaca, and grabbed a bite at the Houston Airport Chick-Fil-A. We were also treated to a violin concert in Terminal D. Bonus!

Arriving in Springfield, MO, we were met by our friends, Dan and Lori Van Veen who fit all of our earthly belongings into their minivan for the trip to our temporary apartment where Andrew, from TLC properties, had stayed late for us to be able to check-in. You guys are the best!

Later, we were received by our LAC family who let us crash their Missionary Associate Dinners as we integrated into Missionary Training already in session. We’re appreciative of the warm welcome that our Regional Director, Dave Ellis, gave us and the grace with which Paul and Sandy Kazim, our outgoing Mexico Area Directors, handled the transition. We’ve got some classy leadership in LAC.

We’re also thankful for our candidate missionary families, the Cogdills and the Sislos, who are in the midst of their itineration. They are exhibits A and B of the quality players that are a part of Team Mexico. We’re pulling for your speedy return!

And we can’t fail to mention, Righteous Rides, who afforded us a sweet deal on an itineration vehicle, New Life Church and Central Assembly for their warm welcome, Steve and Melissa Pulis for their refrigerator, and Eric and Amy Spencer for the truck to transport it. Without friends like you, our transition would have been a lot harder. And here’s a shout out to our family who’s received us for our first iteration stint in PA!

Finally, we’d like to thank you, our supporters. Thanks for keeping up with us, praying for us, and pulling for us. We love you!

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My youth was marked, as many kids of my generation, by the programs that played on prime time television. I remember pleading with my mom to let me stay up to watch the “Dukes of Hazard,” and being completely amazed by the genius of “MacGyver.”

One of the more notable shows was the A-Team. Explosions abounded and the bad guys were sure to get their due when they were on the job. When it was all said and done, you could be sure to hear their leader, “Hannibal” Smith say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

That phrase was said so many times during that series’ five-year run, it’s no wonder that it came back to me this past week as an improbable series of events came together to bring about a blessing for the work here in the Yucatán. Let me set up the situation:

Committed to stimulate church planting, Kelly and I held meetings with district superintendent, Magaly Balam, soon after our arrival. She received us enthusiastically and recommended further meetings with a committee charged with the very task that we were promoting.

Nevertheless, our arrival appeared to have been a bit late in coming. As event planning for the district had already taken place, those meetings had been suspended. Until they could resume, we could and did state our intentions informally, but no action could be taken.

In the meantime, the fall progressed with the various mentions from our leadership in the States of evangelistic resources available for those who had a need. We knew that we could utilize them, but without direction from the district, we felt that we needed to allow others with more pressing needs to speak first.

Fast forward to this December when we had our first meetings with the department of Evangelism. They shared with me their ambitious project to plant 26 churches, and they stated their needs; among them was evangelistic literature totaling 200,000 tracts and some 1,500 Bibles. I left that meeting pledging to do all that I could to help, but at the same time wishing that they had talked to me sooner, when funds were available.

Imagine my delight, then, when an email from my area director, Paul Kazim, hit my inbox. “Happy New Year,” it was titled. He continued:

Hope the fireworks did not keep you awake. Mexico City was silent. Not sure why. Anyway, just a reminder, the field still has LFTL and BGMC funds available.

While Mexico City was silent, the explosion of gratitude that overtook me was stronger than any blast the A-Team could have concocted.

LFTL, or Light for the Lost, is a ministry dedicated to providing literature for outreach purposes. That was the exact resource that our district needed to be able to fast track its upcoming efforts, the same resources that I thought had already been distributed.

Needless to say, I replied immediately, and funds meeting nearly the entire need will be made available with plenty of time to order and receive delivery of the tracts and Bibles before the evangelistic push which is set to begin mid February!

While I admit that my life as a missionary might not always be exciting enough to fill a slot during prime time, as I sent out my thank you note to those who helped, I found myself repeating the phrase, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Don’t you?

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The fireworks on the Fourth were in celebration of our nation’s independence, but the smiles on our faces and the general frivolity that you can see in the photos above are in response to a different stimulus—we’ve received final clearance to return to Mexico!

That’s right, on July 7th, we received word of reaching our monthly commitment goal, and on July 8th, one year and one day from our arrival in the States, we received our email from Assemblies of God World Missions stating: “We are very pleased to notify you of your final clearance… You are to be commended for your faithful diligence and persistence. Praise God for His provision!”

Indeed, we praise God for His provision, and we thank all of you who have helped to make this moment possible. Each of you is appreciated, because we know that without you, none of what we do would be possible.

We now set our sights on Mexico and our upcoming four-year term. We’re excited to collaborate with the Lord and the Mexican Assemblies of God to realize the vision of the Yucatán peninsula full of churches, diverse in class, status, education, and language, but united in their love for the Lord and one another. We’re committed to a mission of inspiring pastors and christian workers to see the need all around them, equipping them with the spiritual and practical tools that they need to reach their communities, and partnering with these individuals throughout the process, implementing with intentionality the plan that the Lord gives us for each community that we reach, town by town, municipality by municipality and state by state, until the vision becomes a reality.

We’re especially excited about the partnerships that we’ve cultivated with Teen Challenge, Sustain Hope, Network 211, and now AGCHE, ministries that are helping us implement holistic methods to preach and model the whole Gospel, methods we’re sure to utilize.

For now, though, the transition begins in earnest. We’re already out of the house that we had called our home for the past year as we prepare our bags for the flight to Mérida on August 4th. Another task on the list is selling our vehicles.

As we close, we’d like to ask for your continued prayers and support, both in this transitional time and in the term that awaits us. Your perseverance in this area is crucial to keeping us on the field and effective for the next four years and beyond!

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As we have travelled now over 34,000 miles sharing our vision of the Yucatán full of churches, we’re thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been given. Still, we know that many of you have not had the opportunity to hear our message. This new video has you in mind. Its goal: to outline the vision and step you through our mission while inviting you to take an active role in support. Have a look and let us know what you think.

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Had enough of that Thanksgiving turkey? Finished with all of the binge shopping that Black Friday and Cyber Monday promote? If you’d like to put aside consumption for at least one day this holiday season, perhaps Giving Tuesday is just what you’ve been waiting for.

Since 2012, Giving Tuesday has been promoted as a way to make generosity a part of our holiday tradition. It was created to help steer the good cheer of the season toward nonprofits and charitable organizations worldwide. This year looks to be bigger than ever as the Giving Tuesday campaign has been embraced by more than 10,000 institutions.

This year, we’re getting in the act as well. I’ll be rolling up my sleeve to donate at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, while our whole family will be serving belatedly at a Convoy of Hope, “Hands of Hope” event.

How about you? Do you have a plan to celebrate Giving Tuesday? If you don’t, I’m sure there are plenty of efforts, both local and international,that could use a boost this Christmas season that would welcome your contribution be it your time, talents, or treasure.

We, too, would welcome your help as we close out 2015 with the hope of returning to the field in the New Year. We believe in our vision, and feel that we have the partners in place to make it a reality, but we are unable to leave until our funding is secured. You can be a part of making that happen either on a monthly basis or with a one time gift by following this link.

So celebrate Giving Tuesday with us. Let’s make giving part of our family’s holiday tradition!

The photo “Give sign on TOMS South Congress Austin” was taken by Nan Palmero and used in accordance with the Creative Commons 2.0 license

Running with Perseverance

“We’re committed to return to Mexico, body, soul, and spirit!” Those are the words we share as we promote our ministry in preparation for our third term as missionaries. On November 2nd, it was time to put our money where our mouth was. That was when I (Dave) would run the Bass Pro Conservation Marathon as a fundraiser to accelerate our physical return.

The distance of the marathon is 26.2 miles. It’s enough to push the limits of physical endurance and bring determination to the breaking point, a fitting analogy for the uphill struggle that can be the task of raising the support required to return to the field. Still, at 4 AM, analogies were all but forgotten. The harsh reality of the immediate goal of running the distance had made it impossible for me to remain in bed. It was time to get going.

The morning routine was familiar. I had done it all before, but I was as nervous as if it had been my first race. There were physical concerns: could my body handle the distance? Then there was the fear of letting down our supporters: would I be able to make good on my promise of finishing the marathon?

The sight of my team, the Godzwa Family (accompanied by my mother-in law, Kim), brought relief. I wasn’t running alone. Their encouragement all through the race helped me see that they weren’t holding my commitment against me. They, along with our supporters, were pulling for me to finish.

The race then became 26.2 miles of affirmation, my body remembering its training, and my mind soaking in the support it received at every critical point until I finally reached my goal, in record time.

In the wake of our marathon effort and in this month of Thanksgiving, we take this time to recognize your role in helping us run the race, realize the vision, and make the difference in Mexico.

‘Til He comes,

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PS. While we’re tabulating the results of our fundraising tied to the marathon effort, there is still a window of opportunity to be counted among the members of our support team! Follow the link for details on how you can be a part.

PPS. Photos from the race are available here!

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Running the Race

Help send us to Mexico by supporting our marathon effort!

Here’s the scoop:

  • Dave will be running the Bass Pro Marathon, a 26.2 mile race on November 2, 2014.
  • You can participate by sending in a special gift in support!.
  • All of the funds collected will go towards our relocation expenses of $7500.

Here’s how to participate:

  • Giving through our secure donation link: www.agmd.org/u/disciplemexico, or
  • Sending in a check to AGWM @ 1445 N Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO 65802.
    (Be sure to add “Acct #2696136” to the memo line so that your funds reach our account.)

Give us a shout!

  • When you’re finished, let us know about your participation by sending us an email!

Thanks for your support!

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ReadySetWe’ve made the contacts. The schedule is beginning to take shape. This Sunday, we hit the road in Missouri! Remember us as we share our report and vision for the Yucatán with Promesa Church in Monett, MO in the morning and the Assembly of God church in Owensville, MO in the evening. Better yet, if you’re nearby, stop in and join us!

If you can’t make it this time, no sweat, just look to our events calendar or our Facebook Page for an upcoming event in your area, or head to our scheduling page and set up a date for anything from a cup of coffee, to a small group activity, or even a church-wide event!

Halfway there…

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If you’ve been following our 100×100 campaign, I’m happy to say that we’re halfway there! Well, at least from a training standpoint:

As you’ve seen from past posts, I’ll be running a marathon, 26.2 miles, for the third time in my missionary career with the goal of speeding the return of the Godzwa family to the field. Along the way, we’re seeking the help of one hundred churches and individuals who will sponsor this endeavor and help the goal become a reality.

This past Saturday, I simulated the conditions for 13.1 of those miles,  covering half the distance of the marathon in under two hours! While there is still work to be done, like a 19 miler this weekend, I’m pleased with my progress. Nevertheless, even if I’m in the best shape of my life, this effort will fail without your support!

There are two ways to help:

  1. Head to our support link now to donate online. Be sure to add “100×100” to the comments section so we know you’re supporting our marathon effort.
  2. Print our pamphlet to share with your church or small group. All the information that you need is there.

The opportunities are knocking, and our ministry partners are urging us to return with all speed. Will you respond along with us?

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