Discipleship

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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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I know that a picture of me working on a laptop may not seem like a big deal. What would you say, however, if that time behind the screen is being utilized to help see 1 million people come to Christ!

Just last month, Network211, the Internet ministry with which we’ve partnered since August of last year, reached its one millionth evangelism response. That means that 1,000,000 people have viewed an online gospel presentation via sites like JourneyAnswers.com (RespuestasdelaVida.com in Spanish) and have responded to it with either a question, a prayer request, a salvation decision, or a rededication. You can read the article on PE News.

Closer to home, our team has had the privilege of interacting with over 1,000 evangelism responses since our partnership began. Those are people, throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America, but principally in Mexico, who have been touched by the message that they’ve experienced online.

Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg. While Network211 has set a goal of making 100 million unique gospel presentations, we have set our sights on physically connecting into faith communities those who are responding in the virtual space.

We’re confident that, as we’re able to train more partners to promote these evangelism presentations, we’ll see increasing response in our region. This will enable us to either direct seekers to existing churches or start new works where none currently exist, helping to turn decisions into disciples. This is just one more way that we’re working to see our vision of the Yucatan full of churches, diverse in class, status, education, and language but united in their love for the Lord and one another become a reality!

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How do you inspire someone to see the need? It requires exposure; it demands engagement, and that’s exactly what we’ve been fostering as we continue pressing ahead to see our vision of the Yucatan full of churches become a reality.

It began with a conversation, a suggestion that pastor Felipe Sabido utilize the Alpha course to encourage outreach in his congregation “La Mies” in northern Merida. You can imagine my pleasure, then, when last month, I was invited to preach the kickoff of “Start”, their 12 week course based on Alpha. Their plan: to host groups throughout the city, inviting friends and neighbors to explore the truths of Christianity in a non-threatening environment. We’re looking forward to track with them as they open their homes to those seeking after Christ.

At the same time “La Mies” was planning their outreach, 27 students from “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” were hitting the streets. My evangelism classes took to the public spaces of Merida to discover the impact that Christianity was having on the everyday lives of those they encountered there.

While they found some encouraging signs, they also encountered areas of concern. For example, although 21% of those surveyed identified with an evangelical church, even they had difficulty explaining what it meant to be born again, and although a whopping 84% agreed that the Bible was the word of God, only 9% reported reading it on a regular basis. Clearly, there is work to be done.

What encouraged me, however, was to hear of the opportunities that the students were having, not only to discover the needs, but to meet them as well. 66% of those surveyed reported an openness to receiving follow up studies, while dozens received prayer and words of encouragement in the city streets and parks. One of my students summed up the sentiment the best. “We wouldn’t have known had we not gone.”

Pray with us that these experiences continue to bear much fruit!

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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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Expanding Horizons

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Just last week, as I was sending birthday greetings to Noemi Uitzil, a pastor who has been working with our Jesus Film effort, I was told of new movement beyond the borders of the state of Yucatan in Punta Laguna, Quintana Roo.

Punta Laguna is a small, Maya village, known for its nature reserve, where the spider monkey and the racoon-like coati roam free. Here you’ll find the villagers spending life much like their ancestors had when the town was established in 1930. Chickens and pigs are common sights on the village streets, so too are the women of the town, routinely seated before an open flame, preparing tortillas for the afternoon meal. Towns like these have been difficult to reach, particularly because of the traditional way of life that many of the villagers lead, which includes the practice of a syncretistic faith blending indigenous Maya beliefs with Roman Catholicism.

Nevertheless, it would appear that a new wind is blowing in Punta Laguna. Noemi and her husband, Pedro Pablo projected the Jesus Film in Maya there this month, and their effort is paying off! Two families have committed to the discipleship process, welcoming Noemi, Pedro Pablo and fellow church members to teach them more about the God of the Bible and his Son, Jesus, who died for their sins.

We’re encouraged to know that this effort, started in the District of Yucatan in 2011, continues to advance, pushing even into new territory with this event in Punta Laguna.

Won’t you pray for this fledgling group, that they will receive the support and encouragement to not only remain firm, but also to grow?

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This past Wednesday we had the opportunity to hand out our first Proclaimer Audio Bible. The following is a description of the experience in San Isidro Ochil:

The environment was a familiar one–the congregants were standing together to read the Bible aloud in Spanish. This time, however, there was something different. Many did not have their own Bible and were left looking on to the copies of others or left out completely. Some who did have a Bible read with such difficulty that the public reading was out of sync to the point of being almost indecipherable.

You see, Ochil is a town where the Maya language is spoken predominantly. Many inhabitants understand Spanish, but with difficulty. What is more, many do not read in either Spanish or Maya. Therefore, the traditional ways of doing service, especially congregational reading, is less than effective.

That’s where the Proclaimer has such potential. Reproducing the Bible in audio in Maya, the Proclaimer gave many in the congregation their first opportunity to hear the Word of God in their own language, and their interaction following the reading of Matthew chapter 1 showed their enthusiasm. Several people who had been disconnected during the previous elements of the service were engaged and asking questions. I was particularly taken aback when an elderly woman, who seemed withdrawn before, made a comment about Jesus’ birth. The people were having an experience with the Bible!

This congregation and several like it will be making a commitment to meet together for one hour each week to listen to and discuss the Bible. We look forward to seeing more experiences like this first one in San Isidro Ochil, and we anticipate the inevitable growth that will come when a people has access to the power of the Word of God on a consistent basis.

Would you pray for us?

  • Pray for us as we continue to expand this program to other villages.
  • Pray for each village that they would make the commitment to listen and to study the Word of God together each week for an hour.
  • Pray that God’s promise that his Word would not return void would be fulfilled in each separate context where it is introduced.

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Illiteracy is a huge hindrance to the study of the Bible, but it’s one that we believe can be overcome. Hit the link here or click on the picture to find out how a new partnership is providing us with a tool to do just that. While you’re there, don’t miss the rest of our latest quarterly update from the field!

Our online newsletter is viewable as a PDF document. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed, you may download it here.


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We believe in the power of the Word of God, that’s why a large part of our ministry is dedicated to preaching and teaching the Bible. Still preaching and teaching, at best, serve only as a gateway for personal exploration and application of the biblical text. It is a jumping off point for believers, encouraging them to dig deeper into what God would want to speak into their lives on any given subject. That is why personal study of the scripture is so important, and why access to the biblical text is such a fundamental necessity for any culture.

Here in the Yucatán, where almost 60% of the population speaks the Maya language, we’re glad to know that the New Testament has been in print for several years and is widely available. However, when the majority of those who speak Maya cannot read the language, the benefit of this printed biblical text is severely limited, and a large portion of the population remains cut off from access to the Word of God in their native language.

That is why we’re happy to be forming a partnership with Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH), distributors of the Proclaimer Audio Bible. The Proclaimer is a device, approximately the size of a large radio, that is able to reproduce the biblical text for a group as large as 300 people. That means that even the illiterate will be able to hear and understand the message of the Bible in their native language. Furthermore, the fact that the device a single unit, and that it is solar or manually powered, opens up opportunities to transport the Word of God to places that lack even basic services.

But this partnership is about much more than just the distribution of devices. Just this week, I was able to speak with Gil Moreno, one of the FCBH ministry staff, who took me through their philosophy of setting up listening groups in order to facilitate Bible literacy and discipleship. Through a commitment of as little as 30 minutes a week, a group of believers can listen to the entire New Testament in less than a year. But they’re not only listening; in these groups, they’re interacting with the Word of God, recalling the stories, expressing their feelings, and applying the truths. That’s where the change occurs!

It’s our goal to implement these listening groups in conjunction with the churches that we are forming through our Jesus Film outreach. This way, even if a pastor is unable to visit a village for an extended period of time, discipleship is still taking place as new believers gather to hear and discuss the Bible. We hope to have our first batch of seven Proclaimers in use by the end of summer, with another two shipments to arrive soon after. It’s our prayer that this device and this new partnership will yield much fruit in our effort to disciple indigenous believers here in the Yucatán and beyond.

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Summit 2013

Not this group! (Proverbs 27:17)

If there was any doubt that we belonged to a vanguard mission organization, that was dispelled last week during our Association of Caribbean and Latin American Missionary Educators’ (ACLAME) Summit.  As part of the ACLAME Leadership team, I was called upon to help organize this biennial event which brought together 52 individuals from 7 different countries.

PKazim Summit 2013

During our time together, we received a word from our Executive Director, Greg Mundis, who cast vision for what he sees as a bright future for world evangelism, a task in which he sees educators playing a key role.  Still, that was only one of several sessions that have left an indelible mark on those who attended. Paul Kazim, Mexico Area Director (photo left) spoke from Leviticus 19, reminding us that holiness is essentially taking on the characteristics of God. Assemblies of God Theological Seminary Professor, DeLonn Rance, challenged us to “live at the edge,” responding to God’s call to reach all nations.

DGodzwa Summit 2013

These and several others blended their voices to encourage us and to strengthen the calling that each of us carries to pass on what we have received. (2 Timothy 2:2) What happened during those critical days is the essence of Proverbs 27:17–men and women, joining together so that each one might be improved or “perfected” into a more useful tool in the Master’s hands. This same blessing we desire to pass on to our Mexican colleagues. 

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In the month of August, we will be holding the first ever Mexican Education Summit (bottom graphic), an international effort that seeks to raise the bar in ministerial formation. Plans are coming into shape to host over 400 Bible School directors and professors from across the country. We’re praying that the event serves to motivate all who attend to dedicate themselves to the task of raising up leaders for this crucial time.

Also, this month, we are looking forward to graduation ceremonies at Instituto Biblico Bethel. In all, eleven students will be participating in the commencement activities, looking forward to launch out into the ministries for which they have been trained.

Can you pray with us for these events?

  1. For the Mexican Education Summit, that it would be well attended, and that those who attend would be challenged to dedicate themselves even more fully to the task of discipleship and ministerial formation.
  2. For our recent graduates, that they would launch out into service around the state, reaching the lost, discipling those who believe and encouraging others to do the same

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When it comes to accomplishing our goals on the mission field, we realize more and more that partnerships are crucial. Hit the link here or click on the picture to find out how those partnerships came into play during our Spring Impact construction and outreach project! While you’re there, don’t miss the rest of our latest quarterly update from the field, and be sure to follow the links for more content!

Our online newsletter is viewable as a PDF document. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed, you may download it here.


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