Thanks

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It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since we spent our first ‘winter’ in Mérida. Although we headed into the Christmas season without the typical blustery winds or early snows of home, we could still hear the carols and melodies both in the stores and on the streets as choruses would sing the message of Christ’s birth for all to hear. There was also the smell of pine, as families purchased live trees to decorate to transform their homes for family gatherings and Christmas celebrations.(Here’s a video clip from our own Christmas tree adventure!) We learned that piñatas were popular with both kids and adults alike during this season, not just for birthdays. Reenacting the Christmas story was also a tradition. One year, our daughter even got to perform as Mary (see picture above).
 
Our first Christmas here, we were invited to share in the festivities of our pastor’s family. There, we discovered that gift giving happens at midnight after the Christmas Eve service and a late family meal. Christmas Day, then, becomes a continuation of family time and eating those all important dinner leftovers.
 
Throughout the past 10 years, we’ve seen that, although the expression may be different, the hope and expectation of the Savior is what unites us regardless of our differences. Thank you for joining with us that we may continue to proclaim this message so that this universal Body of Christ might continue to expand. 

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We believe in the power of the Word of God to bring about transformation. This excerpt is taken from our vision statement[PDF]: “As individuals have a true encounter with the Word of God, applied to their context, their lives will change. We seek to provide this encounter for all those who live in or visit the Yucatan.” This past month we’ve seen opportunities to lead people into just this type of encounter.

Things began with a report from Ricardo Rodriguez, who had received the blessing of literature that we were able to coordinate in January of this year. He shouted an enthusiastic “Glory to God,” as he related the results of the campaigns that took place throughout the state of Yucatan. It was a pleasure for us to see the Bibles that they were able to purchase being grasped firmly by new believers now preparing themselves to confirm their new life by following the Lord in baptism.

The blessings continued internationally as, from April 18-21, Dave had the chance to travel to Panama, where several hundred educators had gathered for fellowship, spiritual enrichment, and continuing education. For two sessions, he teamed up with fellow missionary Paul Kazim to teach the course “The Teacher and Biblical Interpretation.” It was a joy to be able to lead the participative groups into the discovery of tools that will not only facilitate a personal encounter with God’s Word, but also help them to correctly guide others into the same experience.

As we wrapped up the month, we were excited to see how the Bible studies, which were reinvigorated by the Chi Alpha Team visit in March, are having an impact on the students attending the University of Yucatan. During one session, a new student chose to listen in on the conversation even though he admitted to being an atheist. In another meeting, Fernanda* was clearly moved as we talked about how God gives us comfort in our need so that we might offer that comfort to others. Following up with her, we found out that word had given her the courage to reconcile her strained relationship with her mother. Clearly, God’s Word has power!

Thank you then for your support as we continue to offer opportunities for others to experience God’s Word. And, as you thank God for His work, won’t you pray for these new believers, educators, and university students, that these encounters with God’s Word will continue to produce fruit in their lives?

*Name has been changed.

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As we begin the New Year, we normally do it with good intentions. We see the possibility of a fresh start and shoot for the moon when it comes to making our resolutions. Then, reality hits and we find that it takes much more than good intentions to accomplish our plans. If we’re to reach our goals in 2016, it’s going to take perseverance.

That’s exactly what I’d like to share with you today: the story of one teen’s perseverance that has enabled him to reach a milestone in his young life and be a blessing at the same time.

Meet Dominic Juarez. He emailed me in late September of 2015:

I’m a member of the Royal Rangers at BVCC in Chula Vista California. We are currently working to complete our GLOBAL MISSIONS merit. One of the merit requirements is to send a CARE PACKAGE to a foreign missionary supported by our church – Bonita Valley Community Church in Bonita California. I picked you. Therefore, I’m sending this email in the hope that there are some things from here in the United States that you would enjoy receiving (FedEx or DHL) there in Mexico?

Now, while we live in a modern city and have access to many products from the US because of free trade agreements, there are certain items that we have difficulty buying here in Mérida. And, while we could certainly live without them, it is a blessing when we have opportunity to get them. For our kids, these amount to candy corn and jelly beans, to Kelly and myself, Bengal Spice Tea by Celestial Seasonings.

These products made up the list of items that we had sent off to Dominic. Of course, understanding that shipping to Mexico is a complicated procedure, we sent him the list with the resignation that the items might, in fact, never reach us. So, it was without surprise that we received this email from him a month later:

I wanted to give you an update on the care package we promised. We have purchased the goodies, but it has been a challenge getting it out to you. We were not aware of the regulations of international shipping. Since we live near the border, we drove into Tijuana to ship from DHL there. That seemed like the easiest and least expensive route. Not quite, so we brought the goodies back to San Diego. Then we did ship from San Diego using UPS. Well they neglected to inform us of Mexico’s consumable goods restrictions. UPS emailed today that the package is being Returned to Sender. Apparently we need some kind of authorization notice from Mexican Customs to ship candy, WOW. Just to let you know that we have not given up. We’ll try again and keep you updated.

We’d appreciated his intention, but when 2015 came to a close, we had assumed that the obstacles were, in fact, too great, and that he’d had to give up on his desire to bless us, perhaps even on receiving his Global Missions Merit. Imagine our surprise then, when an unexpected delivery reached our door just yesterday. As I signed for the delivery, I asked myself, “Could it be Dominic’s package?” As Kelly, Rebekah, and I opened it and found the items that we had listed, we were sure that it was.

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We sent a thank you email right away including the photos that you’ve seen above. To that, Manny’s father wrote the following:

…thank you for being part of Dominic’s path to his Gold Medal Award with Royal Rangers.
He kept reminding me of this to keep his word to you and to the Lord. You have made a difference in this young man.

He included the following picture of Dominic receiving his Silver Medal Award, a milestone on his path toward the Gold.

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Dominic’s determination and perseverance in the face of difficulty enabled him to find solutions to the problems that arose and helped him to keep his promise, reach his goal, and be a blessing.

How are you determining to be a Dominic in 2016? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

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Merry Christmas!

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On this day when we celebrate our Savior’s birth, we take a moment to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

David and Kelly
Rebekah, Joseph, and Jonathan

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In this season of gratitude, we want you to know what an honor it is for us to serve as your representatives in ministry to Mexico. Thank you for your support in the fulfillment of the vision of the Yucatan Peninsula full of churches, diverse in class, status, education, and language but united in their love for the Lord and each other.

imageWe know that it’s not always possible for every missionary to return to the same place for three consecutive terms. There are many factors that cause them to change fields or even entire regions. Neveretheless, we can’t overstate the blessing that it is for us to be able to return to the Yucatan and reconnect with the work we’d begun and the people with whom we’d collaborated.

In August, we were blessed to see the reestablished church in Tigre Grande, planted by Rangel and Claudia Vázquez, recieve their new pastor, Yani May, a former student of mine and graduate of the Bible Institute. Kelly and I had the privilege of praying for her during her commissioning service.

In September, I (David) was able to return to the work in the Bible Institute, having been invited to help in the formation of the next generation of Assemblies of God ministers. It’s been a joy to take up the class of Evangelism again, sharing my desire to reach the lost with both new and continuing students, and walking with them to facilitate their projects that have been designed to fulfill that goal.

Here in October, the reunions continued as we had the opportunity to preach for and then share a meal with Guadalupe Campos and her husband José, pastors of the church plant in Sierra Papacal. It was wonderful to encourage their congregation, retrace the events of the past year, as well as gain a deeper appreciation for their passion for the ministry as they continue their work in spite of some tremendous obstacles.

Thank you then for your prayers and support. They’ve helped us to return to Mexico. They’ve made possible these reunions and have given opportunity for new connections, connections that will enable us to fulfill the vision of the Yucatan Peninsula full of churches diverse in class, status, education, and language, but united in their love for the Lord and each other.

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We Made It!

WeMadeItEarly Tuesday morning we loaded eight action packers (a missionary’s equivalent of a suitcase), a guitar, a violin, a dog and a family of five onto a plane bound for Chicago. Three connection flights later, we landed in Merida, Yucatan, the city we will be calling home for the next four years. Thanks to you we can finally say “We made it!”.

Gabriel Gongora, a local pastor, and his wife, Leticia, met us at the gate with Yucatecan hospitality. Julio Montejo, another friend, was there with his truck to load up our bags.

After a few delays (of those 8 action packers only 7 made it) we arrived at a house Silverio Blanco, the district missions director, has loaned us until we can find one of our own. We were met by his son, Eliú, and his wife, Doris, and son, Moisés. The rest of the day and Wednesday we spent getting new phone numbers and looking for houses. The search was on!

Thursday, we were able to enroll Joseph and Jonathan into Centro Educativo Calvary (Calvary Christian School) and see some old school friends. We also looked at three or four different houses. Thankfully, the last action packer arrived as well.

Friday we visited ‘el Centro’ for the first time since we got back, where we were reacquainted with the hustle and bustle of Merida’s downtown. We ate delicious typical foods like, Pollo Pibil ( chicken cooked in banana leaves), Panuchos (fried tortillas filled with refried beans and toped with turkey and vegetables), and Sopa de Lima (lime soup with chicken).

Later on we looked at more houses and might continue to do so for the next week. We aren’t despairing yet though. Searching for a house that meets all our needs is time consuming and requires lots of thinking and input from family members. We are confident that God will show us the right one. Thank you again for all your prayers and support. It means a lot to us.

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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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Happy Thanksgiving!

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As we gather around the table on this day of gratitude, know that we count you and your family among our greatest blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

David, Kelly, Rebekah, Joseph, and Jonathan

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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