Thanks

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When Jay Dickerson, Area Director for Central America and Coordinator for Missionary Formation, asked me (Dave) if I’d be interested in teaching the "Bible as Narrative" competency for new missionary candidates during their orientation sessions this month, it didn’t take long for me to give him my enthusiastic affirmative response. As missionaries in the Yucatan, we were passionate about facilitating encounters with the Bible. We know that as individuals understand the Bible story and see themselves within the framework of its redemptive history, their way of perceiving reality or worldview is changed.   That change makes possible their increased participation with God in that same redemption. What an honor it was to walk through the Bible with these new missionaries, giving them the tools they need to see that change happen in themselves and lead others to experience it as well.  As Mexico Area Directors we look forward to additional opportunities to influence the next generation of missionaries.

But this month we also had the chance to influence the next generation of missions supporters as we were invited to speak to the children in Lebanon First Assembly (Lebanon, MO) and Northland Cathedral (Kansas City, MO) about how Boys and Girls’ Missionary Challenge (BGMC) helps missionaries reach people throughout the world.  After grabbing their attention with our snake (Don’t worry, it’s not real.), we talked to them about how missionaries use BGMC funds that they give each week to help men and women and boys and girls all over the world know Jesus.

Thank you for your prayers and support that are enabling us to extend our influence. We appreciate your involvement in our team!

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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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We’ve just come out of a great season of activity with teams here on the Yucatán peninsula throughout the month of March. In the first week, we were blessed by Chi Alpha (XA) groups from Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, DC as they renovated Monte Horeb, a church revitalization project in Sotuta, Yucatán. Afterward, we headed south to the town of Tekax to continue the construction of the new church, Senda de Vida, accompanied by members of Rolla First Assembly and fellow missionaries, Nicky Rider and Loyd Cogdill.

The physical impact of their trip was apparent, as the XA team raised a new roof over the church building in Sotuta, and in Tekax, block walls rose from the ground, forming a new sanctuary through the efforts of the team from Rolla First. But, there was more to these trips than the construction itself.

There was a work of encouragement. I think that this quote from Mike, my twin brother and XA team leader, says it best. “I felt like our team was able to make a significant impact in Sotuta. With 16 students and staff pitching in, we moved the construction project forward, but, even more importantly, we were able to encourage a young pastor and his family. The last night affirming and praying over Pastor Erik and his ministry there was powerful (photo top left)! I believe great things are in store.”

There was a work of restoration. In Tekax, not only were former members encouraged to rededicate their lives to the Lord through the visit of the Rolla team, but also one of the ladies in the church testified of physical healing after several team members had prayed for her!

There was also a work of unification. The teams came together despite the difference in language and culture, despite the heat and the pressure of the jobs they faced. As Sam, one of the XA team members said, they left their comfort zone to give of themselves. Whether that was in the sharing of a testimony, in Sam’s case (photo top middle), or singing “10,000 Reasons” in English during the welcome service, in the case of the Spanish speaking church members in Tekax (photo top right), each group made an effort to come nearer, to bridge the gaps, to know and be known as the body of Christ. The result was truly something beautiful, and the impact, for both team members and nationals alike, profound.

As we close this update, we express our gratitude, not only to the teams and the churches that received them, but also to you, our supporters, who make it possible for us to facilitate these connections, working to fulfill the vision of the Yucatán full of churches. For our updated prayer list and links to our secure giving site, head over to our support page.

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the third and final of that series—the story of José Luís Vera Poot, planter of the new church, Río Jordán in the southern village of Maní, Yucatan.

In his youth, José wouldn’t have been picked out as the most likely candidate to plant a church. Having been schooled in and later teaching Marxist anthropological theories for 31 years, José had rejected God as simply a clever invention used for exploitation and manipulation. He declared himself an atheist and was proud of, what was in his estimation, his enlightened worldview. But a string of poor choices led José to infidelity, which threatened to destroy his family.

It was then, desperate to save his marriage, that José literally opened the door to the truth of the gospel. A series of visits by the pastor and several members of the local Assemblies of God church opened José’s eyes to the message of the Bible while their times of prayer softened his heart to consider the reality of God’s existence. It was a dream, however, in which José states the Lord stood before him saying simply, “I am,” that finally convinced him to believe. He was later baptized, and having reconciled with his wife, Gloria, became a member of the church. Now, José promotes the faith that he once ridiculed, serving alongside his wife as the leaders of the mission, Río Jordan, which they are planting in the western half of the village of Maní a section from which the evangelical church had been noticeably absent.

With a population of about 5,000, Maní is known for the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in its fields and for its handicrafts, especially the richly embroidered dresses called huipiles which are woven by the women of the community. More recently, however, the lack of economic opportunity has caused many to abandon the village, seeking their fortunes elsewhere, often turning to illegal immigration to the US as a solution to their financial problems. Those who remain increasingly turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to pass the time as they wait for their luck to change.

José and Gloria, on the other hand, have taken an active approach, dedicating themselves to sharing with others the Good News that had produced their own transformation. José was already enrolled in the local Bible institute extension when we met him at our regional church planting seminars last fall, and when we made the call for those who would volunteer to start a new work, he was among the first to respond. In the months that have followed, he’s been utilizing the tools he’s received in the church planting program to help guide both those who are discovering faith for the first time and those like Chico, who had lost their way.

Chico was a Maní success story. He had made a comfortable living for himself, saving much of what he had earned in his years as a house painter in the US. Upon his return to Maní, however, his expendable income and his ample free time gave him the opportunity to first sample and later become addicted to the alcohol and drugs readily available to those with the means to buy them. It wasn’t long before the addiction took its toll, robbing him of his money and estranging him from his wife and family.

José and Gloria reached out to Chico, who had by this time recognized that he’d hit rock bottom. They stayed with him, caring for him as he struggled for sobriety, and they prayed with him, leading him to repentance and renewed faith in Jesus. He now stands a changed man, taking steps toward restoration and testifying to the power of God to save. I had the pleasure of hearing his testimony only weeks ago at services in Río Jordán.

Yes, looking over his history, José would be considered an unlikely candidate to plant a church, but it’s just that sort of person that God has the tendency to use to facilitate a breakthrough. Thanks for your prayers and support that make it possible for us to walk alongside them, working together with them to maximize their impact.

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As president of the Department of Evangelism of the District of Yucatan, we’ve been given a tremendous platform from which to launch a church planting program. But as our planters enter into this their third month of the process, which emphasizes evangelism and small group formation, the question arises: “How can they do the work without the proper tools?”

Take a look at the above video message for insight into how Light for the Lost is helping us to answer this question.

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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.

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