Church planting

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We can’t help but be thankful for the support of key partners like the Southern Missouri District. This month, we received a visit from our Superintendent Don Miller and his wife, Vicki. During their time with us, we had the chance to show them what God is doing through the lives of some of the participants of our church planting pilot program. Click on the link or the photo above to experience a bit of that visit to San Pedro Chacabal.

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Where you are, I imagine fall means cooler temperatures and the anticipation of seeing the leaves of the trees change their colors. It’s a great season to spend outdoors, especially after the heat and humidity of the summer.

Here in the Yucatán, however, where rainy season is in full swing, we’ve been seeking shelter from climate, never venturing outdoors without a trusty umbrella at our side. Still, our loss is your gain! Our time inside has afforded us the opportunity to produce our latest newsletter!

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get in on all of the details about:

  • The task of mobilizing for ministry within the District Evangelism Department.
  • Updates on our church planting pilot project and the graduating class of Instituto Biblico Bethel 2017,
  • And updates from our family as we move into the new school year.

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

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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The missionary task is two-fold. Primarily, it involves incarnating into the host culture, which includes partnering with the national church to spread the message of the gospel and discipling those who believe, but there is another part of the equation. Without the engagement of those who send, without inspiration to participate in the Great Commission in a practical way, it won’t be long before the missionary must return for lack of support.

Here in Mexico, the reduced costs of travel make it easier to bring these two worlds together, but this presents another difficulty—how to blend them. How do we utilize external support without harming the indigenous church? How can we insure a positive experience for those who come while producing a lasting effect for those who remain?

Such a balance requires a thorough understanding of the situation on the ground as well as flexibility on the part of those who come to minister. Fortunately, our partnership with church planters like Roberto Ortega, Josué Díaz, and Yónatan Segura provide that necessary insight into the local situation, while teams, such as our most recent from supporting church Chapel Springs of Bristow, VA, adapt to meet the immediate physical and spiritual needs our national partners express.

This past week, then, it was a joy to see this team of 19 youth and adults link arms with our Mexican brothers and sisters to make an impact in Kiní, Dzemul, and Motul, Yucatán. The trip began with a powerful welcome service, one in which a former spiritist couple committed their lives to Christ. This was followed by a week of construction on the church parsonage and bathrooms in Kiní in the mornings and Vacation Bible School ministry and sports in the evening in all three locations.

The week was not without its difficulties, heat and sickness among them, but, having worked together, a church building is nearer to completion in Kiní, a children’s ministry has begun in Dzemul, and a fledgling church plant has enjoyed increased public awareness in Motul. For this synergy in missions, we’re thankful.

Photo captions:

Rebekah gives explanation during VBS craft time in Dzemul (large).

David Bontrager gives shape to the parsonage in Kiní (top).

Mexican/American partnership in outreach to Motul (middle).

Bittersweet: The last missions team for our trio (bottom left).

Dave and Kevin minister in the midst of construction material (bottom right).

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Summer must be here, because things are certainly heating up for us in Mérida, and I’m not simply talking about the weather! Click on the image or here for all the details about:

  • An unprecedented opportunity to accelerate church planting!
  • A chance to extend our impact among our partners later this month.
  • A major milestone in the life of our oldest!
  • Remember, our newsletter is in PDF format, viewable in Adobe Reader. If you don’t have Adobe Reader installed, you can download it free here:
    http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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As I write this update, Mexico is celebrating its Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May), the anniversary of the unlikely defeat of the larger, better equipped, and expertly trained French force near the city of Puebla by General Ignacio Zaragoza and his smaller Mexican army in 1862.

The event is a source of national pride and a cause for celebrations of Mexican identity, especially in the United States. However, it’s also a reminder of what it means to win the battle but lose the war. The French went on to defeat the Mexican army and the Mexican people were subjugated to French rule for three years under Maximillian the I.

Over Easter Week, we had the chance to join together with fellow Assemblies of God missionaries serving all across the country to reflect on the work here in modern Mexico. We rejoiced to hear of:

  • Indigenous pastors being trained and launched into ministry.
  • Church planting movements rising up in unreached areas.
  • University students waking up to the message of the gospel.

It’s truly exciting to be a part of a group of men and women who are piercing the darkness that has shrouded Mexico, turning back the enemy in some of his key strongholds.

Nevertheless, we are facing some sobering facts:

  • 9 out of 10 Mexicans do not have a relationship with the Lord.
  • Quasi-christian cults like Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons are gaining influence.
  • Organized corruption is a continued threat to social transformation.

Battles are being won, but the war for the heart of Mexico is still being fought. So we appeal to you, our supporters, to intercede with us this month, praying for:

  • Anointed leaders: Winning the war calls for strong leadership. As district conventions are being held across the country, will you pray for the right people to be selected, people with a vision to reach Mexico?
  • Divine strategy: Here, in the Yucatán and throughout Mexico, initiatives are being considered to stimulate evangelism and church growth. Will you pray that the plans made and the structures put into place would be effective in reaching the lost and discipling believers?
  • Perseverance: The work of transformation requires consistency and patience. Would you pray that we will stay the course to see this change take place?

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The groundhog might have declared six more weeks of winter, but our spring newsletter is here early! Take a look at some of what’s been going on in this last ministry quarter.

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get in on all of the action with:

  • A report from our most recent XA team visit.
  • Updates on the status of church planting in the Yucatán,
  • And a bit about what’s going on with our family.

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

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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Although the temperatures don’t seem to recognize it, as we turn to the last page on the calendar, we welcome the winter months here in the Yucatán! With the change in season comes the opportunity to inform you on all that’s been going on in this last ministry quarter.

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get in on all of the action with:

  • A reflection on our last decade of Christmases.
  • A report of the fruit of our church planting program,
  • And updates from our family as we move into the new season.

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

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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Summer is fading into memory: lazy summer mornings are being exchanged for the rush of getting the kids off to school, trips to the pool are being traded for commutes to extracurricular activities, and the sweltering heat is being replaced by more moderate temperatures.

It’s the time to anticipate the changes of the season: crisp fall mornings and changing colors of the trees. It’s the time to root for your favorites as the baseball postseason begins to take shape and football occupies our Sunday afternoons. It’s also the time to look forward to our latest newsletter!

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get in on all of the action with:

  • An encouraging update on the our building project at Instituto Bíblico Bethel.
  • Plans for the extension of our church planting initiatives,
  • And updates from our family as we move into the new season.

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

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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Equipping the 90%

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When you think of a church planter, what comes to mind? A Bible School graduate? An associate pastor? A missionary? In May, I found out that, at least in Latin America, the church planter is probably none of these.

Attending the Assemblies of God Church Planting Roundtable in Quito, Ecuador, I was confronted with the staggering statistic that up to 90% of church planters are laity. That’s right. They don’t have advanced theological degrees or ministerial credentials. But they do have a call.

This past week, I met one of those church planters. His name is Miguel Avilés. Prior to his involvement in the ministry he worked as a police officer. Still, at the age of 58, when many are thinking of retirement, God was moving on his heart, and even though he was so nervous he couldn’t finish his first sermon, he remained faithful to the call he had received to preach.

That was 16 years ago. Since that time, he’s seen God direct him from church member to itinerant preacher to, four years later, pastor of Tierra Santa, a church that he began together with his wife, Alicia.

Ministering with them on Sunday, I got a chance to hear the church’s twelve year history—one of faith, perseverance, and a bit of trial and error. As church planters, they’d succeeded, but it’s easy to see how many like them fail—because of isolation. Although spiritually prepared for the battle, Miguel and Alicia have faced struggles that they hadn’t anticipated. They admitted that they didn’t have the toolset to face many of those challenges as they did, alone.

But what if they didn’t have to go alone? What if they had the support of a modular system of training readily applicable to the stage of their plant? What if they were grouped together in a cohort of church planters, each one pulling for and praying for the other? What if they were paired with someone who could assess their progress, make suggestions, and help them deal with the myriad of problems along the way? What could that mean for church planters like Miguel and Alicia? What could that mean for the Yucatán?

That is what we are asking ourselves as we move forward from our June workshop “Sembremos Iglesias Saludables“. A pilot project for church planters starts September 17, which is part of a permanent church planting program. It’s goal: to keep people like Miguel and Alicia from having to go it alone. Be in prayer with us as together we take this step of faith to equip the 90%!

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Have you ever had a great idea that came to you before others were able or willing to take it seriously? Maybe you had shared it with a few individuals without effect. Perhaps you even attempted to put it into practice, but you lacked the support to be able to see it through. Let me encourage you to not give up, because, if this past weekend was any indication, persistence pays off.

Since 2012, when I stumbled upon church planting material from Red de Multiplication (Multiplication Network) in preparation for a class, I had the feeling that they were on to something that could revolutionize the way we do evangelism and outreach. Their program emphasizes people over property and discipleship over building construction. It is a low cost, high impact plan that has since been adopted by evangelical denominations world-wide with tremendous success.

Since that class, I’d been looking for an opportunity to introduce these ideas on a wider scale. In the intervening years, there had been some meetings and a few false starts, but this past Friday, June 9, my opportunity finally arrived. That was when we held our first church planting workshop: “Sembremos Iglesias Saludables” (Let’s Plant Healthy Churches)

During two days, June 9 and 10, our District Superintendent, Magaly Balam, opened her church to us as we hosted fellow missionaries Jerry Brown and Peter Breit, representatives for the Commission of Evangelism and Church Planting (CEPI), for the first session of training. From my opening devotional, underlining our vision, through the step by step outline of the process, the participants listened with interest. As Jerry, Peter, and I went through the material, it was clear that it was striking a chord, identifying areas of weakness in our traditional models while providing solutions to overcome them. At the conclusion of our time together, there was a consensus among the attendees that they had been given a valuable tool, a tool that they wanted to put to use.

What was even more satisfying was what went on behind the scenes. Working together with my organizing team, District Secretary, Alfonso Vera, and Pastor, Felipe Sabido, we were able to create a tentative structure and invite key leaders to collaborate with us to guarantee that the church planting process would move forward. All of those who were asked heartily accepted their role.

Of course, the work has just begun. There is much to do to ensure that we move from this step of vision on to training and finally implementation, but the fact remains that, after 4 long years of waiting we have finally begun. Persistence pays off!

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