AGCHE

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Temperatures in the lower sixties on the Yucatán mean that winter is at hand! With the change in season comes the opportunity to inform you about what’s been going on since our arrival in Mérida in August.

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get up-to-date on:

  • Our latest progress with Community Health Evangelism.
  • Methods for getting the most out of your holiday interactions,
  • And updates from our gang as they navigate life again in Mexico.

Remember, our newsletter in PDF format viewable in Adobe Reader. If you don’t have Adobe Reader installed, you can download it free here:

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I’m sitting here writing beginning to write these thoughts on Giving Tuesday, the day that we are reminded that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Still, as I look at my inbox, I see only four messages related to Giving Tuesday, while Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers are there by the dozen, and those are the ones left over after my first attempt to clear them away.

The first question I ask is, “How did I get signed up for so much junk mail?” but then I get a bit more philosophical about the situation. What is it that these companies know about us that causes them to bombard us with dozens of ways to accumulate more? Why does Thanksgiving seem more like the perfunctory calm before the storm of capitalist activity that is Black Friday instead of a day to truly celebrate all of the blessings that money can’t buy?

In the last session of our CHE vision seminar, we uncovered a few clues. As we talked about worldview, or the grid through which all of us interpret reality, we uncovered the fact that there are lies, or false building blocks, that can weaken a community and hinder its growth.

As we talked within the group, we began to see the effects of the idea of individualism, or the celebration of individual freedom over and above the well-being of the group. As we teased out the thought that personal happiness had become for many the ultimate goal, we found it to be quite a weighty anchor that slows the progress that we try to make in any community no matter how small.

The effects of prioritizing personal happiness could be seen in all sorts of evils from petty theft to marital infidelity. Besides, what couldn’t be justified if we have convinced ourselves that we’re only taking what we deserve?

The problem is that, over time, these cracks of justification weaken the foundation of trust established in the group. These fissures, then, if left unchecked, lead to the group’s ultimate demise. The testimony to this fact can be seen in any number of broken homes, ruined churches, or fractured communities.

So why is it that we find so many offers choking our inboxes at the start of this Christmas season? Perhaps it’s because we’ve failed to recognize the fact that we’ve been building with some false building blocks in our own lives. Perhaps we’ve fallen prey to the lie that inflates the importance of our personal happiness, telling us that each purchase we make, and each desire we satisfy, will move us closer to that goal. Or perhaps, as my wife says, we’ve simply not taken the time to unsubscribe ourselves from junk email lists.

Whatever the case, during this season of giving, let’s try to set aside some of those false building blocks we’re tempted to reach for. Let’s strengthen our communities with quality materials that carry an eternal guarantee. Let’s build one another up with the faith, hope, and love that Christ embodied on this earth and offers to all who would follow Him today.

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Last night, Friday the 13th, brought it’s share of unlucky circumstances as we began the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) journey in Tixpehual, Yucatan. It began with a rainstorm, innundating roads and complicating our arrival at the community. It continued as we arrived at our meeting place to find that the power was out in the entire village. (We were meeting at a church in Kilinché, a neighboring community to Tixpehual.) Needless to say, things were not necessarily working out as any of us had expected.

But far from being “bad omens,” we took them as an initial test of our resolve to see CHE concepts work from the very beginning. The photo above shows how we were able to work together to solve our electrical problem. We took out our cellphones and used plastic cups to create crude table lamps so that we could lead our groups members through the discovery of the CHE concepts. 

As we progressed, it seemed fitting. It was a baby step, so to speak, that we were able to take. Certainly the situations that we will face as we progress with CHE will be larger and more complex, but it was gratifying to see, in the face of this first challenge, that we did not fail; we did not cancel. We worked together, we pooled our resources, and we accomplished our objective. 

So, on this first night, in the midst of some trying circumstances, we took the time to get to know one another. We discovered what health and community truly mean, and we began to tease out the concepts that serve as the foundation of the CHE program, but it was the soft glow of our makeshift cellphone lamps that became the memorable moment. They were the impromptu object lesson that the ideas that we were sharing can and will work.  They were a small “win” in anticipation of many more in this CHE journey that we’ve begun in Tixpehual.

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I sat there in the audience as I heard the report. It was Missions Sunday and we were hearing from a recently returned missions intern. Like many other missions interns she had been sent to a remote, indigenous village. However, in this particular case, the work in that village had been going on there for 20+ years. She also reported that village was nearly 50% Christian. This information made me scratch my head. Why would she be sent there? She was sent there because the church had been without a pastor for two years. There was no one who had wanted to “go” to that poor, remote village.

I wondered if I was the only one hearing her talk. I wanted to ask, after twenty years, weren’t there those among the village qualified to take up leadership of the congregation, especially if half of the population professed Christ? Had the discipleship process been so slow that, even after all that time, there was no one who could serve as the pastor? By calling on a missionary to fulfill that role, were they dooming the work to remain a foreign one, one that would continue to need outside resources to even survive?

Still, as I reflect on some of the works that we’ve observed, even had a hand in planning, I have to admit, there are several that are dependent on foreign resources and personnel just to stay afloat. And while, in many of those cases, we can marvel at the testimony of change in individual lives, the organization fails to fulfill its potential, because it’s been held back by its “overprotective parents” or its unsustainable model.

“There’s got to be a better way,” we’ve told ourselves, and we believe we’ve found that way. In our summer 2015 newsletter, I spoke about a training seminar that Kelly had taken called “CHE.” Since that time, both of us have had the opportunity to receive training, and we’re now at the point of putting our training into practice.

CHE or Community Health Evangelism is a system that enables a community to take responsibility for their own holistic well-being (physical, emotional, and spiritual). Limiting outside resources, CHE empowers participants to discover biblical personal wellness and strive to make their community a better place to live. It’s decidedly low-tech with a view to invite grassroots participation from the very beginning and to train up leaders to take over the program soon after it begins.

Since our time in Tixpehual, seeing the slow progress that the A/G has made in that town, we’ve asked ourselves if that community of roughly 3400 people would be a good place to begin a CHE community. We’ve investigated and determined that the interest was there to move forward. This coming Friday, November 13, we begin a vision seminar designed to explain CHE’s potential.

Can we guarantee that CHE will be the answer to the slow, halting progress in Tixpehual? In a word, no, but we can begin well through CHE. Through it we can help its leaders and participants to understand that the gospel can and will grow. It will grow when we realize that it is an integrated message that brings wellness to the whole person and when we personally engage in applying that message to our situation.

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Team Tixpehual 2015

Team Tixpehual 2015

The book of Ezra, chapter 3, recounts the rebuilding of the temple when the Israelite had returned from exile. As Zerubbabel directed the final stones into place to finish the foundations of the temple, there was an interesting occurrence. The people lifted up a shout of rejoicing, thanking God for his help, but, at the same time, the elder priests and levites wept aloud, having remembered the old temple’s former magnificence. Zechariah speaks to these leaders, those who had been disappointed with the progress achieved. He says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 7:10).

Tixpehual is a work in revitalization. Although the Assemblies of God has an almost 30 year history in that city, the work has failed to take root. This past Friday, however, eight of my students from Instituto Bíblico Bethel began preparing the foundations for a new effort.

It all began under threatening skies. We had been praying for all aspects of the event, from the participants to the invitees, to the weather. Still, by the time we had left Merida, the heavens had opened, producing a steady downpour. We arrived to a town square literally under water! The conditions were certainly not in our favor.

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The first order of business was to prepare a relatively dry meeting place. Thankfully, Pastor Castillo, husband of the new leader of the work had come prepared. Two old event banners he had brought with him from Mérida were fashioned into an improvised roof while my students Abisai and Eric did their best impersonation of Spider Man, climbing the walls to set them in place.

The next step was to remind the neighbors that, in spite of the rain, the event was still on. We passed through the neighborhood, door to door, speaking with those who had received the printed announcements the Wednesday before. Still, 5:00, the scheduled time of the event, came and went without so much as a single attendee. Things were beginning to get tense.

A new group was sent out, reminders were given, but people did not seem to be moving toward the house where we were meeting. Then we were told: “When you announce a time, it means that the event will start an hour later.” Sure enough, the people came.

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By the time the event was underway the rain had passed, and five families, moms with their kids had arrived at the house. Women were learning about making “pastel de galleta” a cake out of crackers, at the same time that they were hearing testimonies of God’s work in students’, (Maribel and Geydi) lives. Next door, their children were jumping, singing, working on crafts, and listen to a message about the God who loves them told by Abner and Abisai.

The culmination of the evening came just before dinner. The ladies sat at a table prepared for them, while Jorge shared scripture and asked if we could pray with them. All of them accepted, and not only did they allow us to take down their names and addresses, they opened up to us, letting us know their struggles and concerns. That prayer time was a special moment.

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As we began to reflect on our experiences, many of the students shared that there was a reluctance expressed by many of the ladies as they deliberated attending the event. Some of them had prior experiences gathering at such activities and knew the abandonment that comes when, for one reason or another, the church, or the support group, or the workshop closes its doors. The conclusion: the work must go on.

We’re so thankful, then, that we were able to install Pastor and his wife Olga as the new leaders of the cell group that is being restarted in Tixpehual. Starting this weekend, they will be available Saturdays and Sundays, visiting, holding Bible studies and encouraging the unsaved to trust in Jesus and Christians to deepen their walk with him.

Following the event, there were those who had been disappointed that more hadn’t arrived, but Isabel, the owner of the house was very encouraged. She expressed her gratefulness for the opportunity to use her home to be able to serve and speak into the lives of her neighbors. She was thankful for this small beginning in Tixpehual and hopeful for a brighter future.

Did you enjoy the story? Be sure to look at our photo gallery of these shots and others, taken by Rebekah Godzwa.

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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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