Mérida

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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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Team Members

If you’re a regular reader of disciplemexico.org you’ll have see my comments on the team play of missionaries. We’re blessed to be a part of an international group of ministers committed to seeing God’s purposes advance throughout the world. My recent trip to Florida to meet with ACLAME members was a reminder of how vital this network realizing this goal.

Still, regardless of how effective our missionary network is, if our team doesn’t extend to include national believers in the work, our goal of incarnational ministry, of making the work truly part of the fabric of the culture to which we are called, will fall short. That’s why I’m glad to be a part of the team of faculty members assembled to teach at the Bible Institute this fall.

Yesterday, we assembled at the church, “Cordero de Dios” to celebrate the opening of another year of ministerial formation in the Yucatan at Instituto Bíblico Bethel. In all, 28 different professors will collaborate across 3 separate programs. As you can see, it’s an undertaking that requires more that an individualistic effort.

So I’m blessed to link arms with fellow national believers to take part in providing an education that will raise up disciples will will strive to do all that Jesus commanded us to do.

What’s your take?
Is team ministry simply a missionary enterprise, or is it essential in your context as well?
Have you seen a good model of team ministry in action? Share about it.

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Coffee Chronicles

The coffee roaster at Federico's coffee shop where I buy my green coffee beans. Federico is a friend we met last term who's recently become a disciple of Jesus. (Photo is from http://merida40.wordpress.com/) One of the great things about having the opportunity to return to Merida has been the blessing pick up where we had left off–to catch up with old friends. Certainly there have been some sad occurrences: our pastor, Orlando Vazquez, a minister with over 50 years of experience and our good friend, went to be with the Lord in October. Still, there have been joyous ones as well. Take for example what has happened in the life of Federico.

A few years ago, I had posted about one of my favorite things, coffee. In that post, I talked about the significance of coffee in my life. Among other things, coffee is what had led me to strike up an ongoing conversation with Federico. Federico roasts and sells coffee in downtown Merida, and he’s my source for green coffee beans for my own home roasting enterprise. At that time, although interested in religious things, Federico lived on the outside looking in, close enough to comment on the goings on within religious circles, but too far away to experience the transformational power of life with Christ.

We talked about many subjects during those first years here in Merida, political, social, and religious alike. We talked about our personal problems as well. And while there was many a time where I had turned the conversation to present Christ’s solution to our social enigma, to talk about the difference that He had made in my life, and to show how his life could be different as a Christ follower, I never had the chance to welcome him personally into life in the kingdom.

Imagine my joy then, when I returned and saw the change in Federico. Since I last saw him, he’s talking about his relationship with Jesus, he’s been attending an Evangelical Christian Church, and he’s finding ways to invite others to experience the change that the Lord has made in his life. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not perfect, but he’s certainly tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and he’s committed his recourses, his business, and his life as tools in His hands to make a difference in the world around him.

Was it our conversations that made the difference in his life? At this point, it’s difficult to determine, but it’s wonderful to know that Federico is no longer on the outside looking in, he’s a changed man, and what a blessing it has been to celebrate it with him.

(Photo from http://merida40.wordpress.com/)

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As you may know, this year is very significant for Mexico as a nation. Not only is it the 200th anniversary of it’s independence from Spain, it is also the 100th anniversary of the Revolution, the event which liberated the country from the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and initiated its tumultuous journey to its current condition. The modern Mexico now finds itself at a crossroads. Plagued by the double threat of drugs and corruption, it fights an uphill battle toward progress and tranquility, words that are seldom heard in the headlines that daily remind us of its stark reality.

As a fellowship too, the Assemblies of God finds itself at a crossroads. As we stand at the threshold of our upcoming General Council, to be held here in Mérida, we are charged with the task of electing new leadership. Daniel de Los Reyes, our current General Superintendent has reached the end of his term and, because of term limits, he is unable to seek reelection. Also, up for election are the positions of General Secretary and General Treasurer. Realistically, this may mean a complete change in leadership as we enter this new century in the history of the nation which we are called to serve.

It is our desire, as we face this critical junction as a fellowship and as a nation, that you would join with us as a missionary body as we pray for God’s will to be done in the proceedings of this important meeting. Our Area Director, David Greco, said it well when quoting from the book of Proverbs, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Therefore, we ask you to join us as we pray that His hand would be evident and that His guidance would be tangible with every decision made and in every vote that is cast.

We believe that in the face of the current adversity our fellowship has a critical role to play. It is our desire therefore that at the end of this council we will be able to say that we are better prepared than ever to accept that role and fulfill the mission that God has called us to undertake.

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Checking In

The kids experienced spring, fall and summer in one week!

Our last few weeks have been loaded with activity. Saying goodbye, hello, goodbye, and hello again in the span of six short days. Yes, you heard right. We left Costa Rica on Sunday the 31st of October to land in Springfield, MO, where we stayed with friends for the remainder of the week, unpacking and repacking our bags and picking up our dog Kaixin for the journey to Mérida, Mexico. By 9:30 PM on Saturday the 6th, we were back in Mérida, greeting our good friends from our home church, Gólgota, as they picked us up at the airport, 18 bags, dog and all.

We are currently residing in temporary housing as we look for a place to call home for the next four years. The kids are enrolled in their former school, and we’re all getting our exercise as we walk and utilize public transportation until we can purchase our Speed-the-Light vehicle.

That brings us to some prayer points for this post Please pray:

  • That we’ll be able to acquire a versatile vehicle at a good price that will serve us well for the next two terms. (Suggestions anyone?)
  • That we’ll find affordable, safe, and comfortable housing that will facilitate our life and ministry here in Mérida and the Yucatán
  • That we’ll be able to re-enter wisely and gracefully into the lives of our Yucateco friends and ministry partners.
  • That our residence visa, basically the key to everyday life here in Mexico will be available soon

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mosquitoThank you for praying for the dengue outbreak that I mentioned in this post. We’ve received some good news in recent weeks. Here’s an update from a missionary on the field:

October 27th

I just got off the phone with Rolando Perez, one of the pastor’s here in town. His 13 year old son Iram, who was very ill last week and in the hospital (with dengue), is recovering and getting stronger every day. He turned the corner three days ago with his platelet count and for the first time in over a week his platelet count remained on the upward instead of dropping to dangerously low levels. Everybody is breathing a sigh of relief and grateful to God.

Nahum, the superintendent’s son, is no longer dealing with the high fevers and his platelet count has also stabilized.

As far as I know, there are no new cases at our church, but there are two new cases at a church on the east side of town (Jorge Mijangos’ church) and a teacher (at Iberoamericana, the missionary’s son’s school) has possible dengue as well.

The papers here finally came out with two long articles about the crisis and how this week they were going to really crack down and fumigate the areas with the highest numbers of confirmed cases. I had to speak at a church in one of these areas last Saturday evening, and the fumigation trucks went up and down the streets right smack during my talk. Despite the very loud noise of the fumigation process, I was really glad to see the government stepping up to deal with the crisis.

Thanks again for your prayers. Let’s stay united for the physical and spiritual well-being of the Yucatan!

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mosquitoDengue, also known as “bone break fever”, is a mosquito-borne illness that leads to fever, severe headaches, and joint pain. A more severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease, known as dengue hemorrhagic fever is on the rise in the city of Merida.

Being here in the States for itineration, we’ve received reports from fellow missionaries that the Yucatán, in addition to dealing with the ongoing problems of the swine flu, is now experiencing an outbreak of this serious disease. In their church, four cases have been reported. One case, a teenage boy, was so serious that he had to spend 5 days in the ICU with a temporary pacemaker before he responded to treatment. Our family doctor alone has reported having eight patients all with the serious hemorrhagic form of the disease in the hospital under his care.

Precautions are being taken by some, but the news media has remained strangely silent, perhaps preventing general measures from being taken to stem the spread of this dangerous disease.

In response to this report, we are asking you to pray.

  • Pray for protection for those who have not contracted the disease and for healing for those who are currently suffering.
  • Pray for an increased awareness among the public to help eradicate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.
  • Pray for an increased effectiveness among the churches in compassionate outreach and bold proclamation as people deal with this life threatening situation.

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Tree down in our neighborhood

Tree down in our neighborhood

Hurricane season started with a bang here in Mérida as a ferocious if short lived storm passed over the peninsula last week. Tropical force winds and a half inch of rain in the span of about 45 min brought down this tree and numerous others in the city, and brought damage as shown in this slide show of the “fotos del día” from the Diario Yucatán (Opens new window, captions in Spanish). The damage shown in the shopping mall is just about a mile away from our home.

We were safe and sound during the downpour, although without power for about six hours after the storm. A few flashlights, candles, and a bit of patience were all that were required for us to deal with the aftermath of this first installment of hurricane season ’09.

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New Equipment to Combat Crime

“Mérida is a tranquil place.” It’s a place where “no pasa nada (nothing happens),” the residents enjoy saying, but this headline from today’s edition of the Diario de Yucatán, one of the major newspapers of the city, seems to suggest that things may be changing.

No, we are not under military alert, nor have we hired armed guards to follow us around the city. And yes, children still do play in the park down the street, and many enjoy evening strolls along the avenues. But what many once thought was impossible here is now becoming somewhat routine.

Let me give you a run-down of the events.

  • January 13th: Police officers and suspects trade fire in the Gran Plaza, a popular shopping center. Officers would later confiscate an AK-47 rifle from those charged in the shootout.
  • January 14th: A homicide, thought at first to be an assassination attempt, puts the city on edge. Later investigation makes the husband the principal suspect.
  • February 1st: A bomb explodes near the home of the the Secretary’s of Police home in Monte Albán (one neighborhood north of the site of our previous house).
  • February 2nd: Citizens of Mérida take to the streets to denounce the escalating crime in a “March for Peace.”
  • February 3rd: Meridians receive a report of the assassination of one officer and the wounding of three others in the west of Mérida.
  • February 3rd: Ivonne Ortega, governor of the state of Yucatán declares that the the assassination was the result of new measures to “step on the toes” of criminals in Mérida and was an unrelated incident in the new wave of violence.
  • February 4th: In what some are saying was a violent reaction to the words of the governor, a resident of Progresso, apparently involved in the drug trade, is found decapitated in a house in Garcia Ginerés (our dentist has his office in this neighborhood.)

Again, I’m not writing this post to alarm you, only to show you the current state of events here in Mérida and ask you to pray. Sure, we’d like to see Mérida return to the sleepy city that it once was, but we would also like to see this wake up call to the police become a wake up call to non-believers and Christians alike.

This world that we live in is broken, and increased security can’t fix it. Only the message of forgiveness of Jesus and a restored relationship with God can, and only a unified, mobilized church, reaching out to it’s community can bring this message.

Pray for peace, but pray for the lasting peace that only salvation can bring.

Photos are from www.yucatan.com.mx. You may also read the special section detailing these events in Spanish.

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