Network211

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Growing up in catholic schools, we frequently sang, “Channel of Your Peace,” a hymn taken from the poem, “The Prayer of Saint Francis.” One of the verses reads:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy

Of course, I had no idea how that prayer would become a reality some 32 years later, but I am humbled to see how the Lord is using me and my family to bring hope in despair, shine as a light in the darkness, and serve as a source of joy in sadness.

And in Mexico, there has been much sadness. Because of the slowness of the response and the impossibility for many to shelter in place, the country struggles to contain the virus. Add to this Tropical Storm Cristobal, which has left much of southeastern Mexico, including the state of Yucatan, underwater.

It is in times like these that we are thankful to be a part of the strong networks that exist within the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) organization. Even as the crisis in Mexico deepened, our missionary fellowship partnered with the national church to sponsor over 1000 of the neediest pastors within the fellowship and joined fellow missionaries, Paul and Sandy Kazim, in their effort to provide personal protective equipment for some of those on the front lines of Mexico’s COVID-19 response.

Since that initial effort, we’ve sent emergency aid to district officials who were gathering relief supplies for flood victims. We’ve continued our conversations with those who are responding to Network 211’s online gospel presentations throughout Mexico. And we’ve coordinated the prayer response within our missionary fellowship, ensuring that our co-laborers have the support they need to sustain the effort.

Still, we are aware, now more than ever, of the need to do more to reach the lost of Mexico. That is why we’re excited to serve as facilitators in this year’s Missionary Training where two additional missionary units will be joining us to prepare for their service in Mexico and to add their effort to the work.

A channel of peace—the fourteen-year-old boy who sang those words had no idea what they truly meant. Now, this 46-year-old man is beginning to comprehend. It’s hope in the midst of despair, light in the midst of darkness, and joy in the midst of sadness. Thanks for your prayers and support that helps us to be just that in Mexico.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas this month or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter.

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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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Quiet No Longer

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Henry David Thoreau wrote in his book, Walden, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.1” His was the idea that people (men and women included) live their lives in a silent mourning of opportunities missed, unfulfilled expectations, and dead dreams.

While I’m not one to argue with Thoreau about the ubiquity of desperation, I wonder if that desperation remains a silent one. I’d suggest that the Internet has made the life of quiet desperation a thing of the past. What once was repressed or distracted or drown out now seems to be spewing forth in a torrent of comments, posts, tweets. The ready access to communication, as close as our pocket or even our wrist and the seeming anonymity of it all makes voicing our desperation a tempting prospect that is as easy to do as it has ever been.

On one hand, it’s concerning. Never has so much information, sometimes about our deepest and darkest secrets been so easy to access. It’s enough to make any responsible parent think long and hard about what their children might be reading and viewing. Still, what if there was a productive outlet for people to express this desperation, and what could it mean for the church if we listened to what was being said?

Well, there does exist just such a place. It’s called journeyanswers.com (respuestasdelavida.com in Spanish), and it’s provided by Network211, a ministry focused on using creative means to share the gospel with the whole world. There, on those sites and others like them in 10 different languages, people can express their frustrations and receive hope for their situation. They can express their desperation and get an answer in return.

That’s right, those who are reaching out are finding help through the Internet. Each decision made, question asked, or prayer request submitted is queued to connectors, providing biblical responses, suggesting resources, and connecting virtual pilgrims to real faith communities. I know, because I’m one of them.

Since August of this year, I’ve entered into partnership with Network211 in order to organize the response to those reaching out for spiritual answers in Mexico. Our goal is to provide rapid, caring support for those in need, directing them as many of them take their first, faltering steps toward God. Since that time, our growing team has responded to over 250 inquiries, speaking into dozens of desperate situations, welcoming many into relationship with Christ and connecting all to resources designed to help them grow.

Now some of you may remark, “That’s all well and good, but how does this fit into your vision for filling the Yucatán with churches? Good question. This partnership is a long term evangelistic emphasis. As we promote the Respuestas de la Vida website throughout the Yucatán, more of our site visitors will come from this area. We, in turn, can respond to those inquiries and, when able, our team can offer home group Bible studies to those who are interested. Already, we’ve been able to refer two Mexicans to spiritual communities. Just think of the possibilities when Yucatecos begin to utilize this rich resource.

The world, as Thoreau has said, is full of desperate people, but these desperate people are silent no longer. Still, through Network211 and the ministry of Journey Answers and Respuestas de la Vida, the church is listening, and we’re not just listening, we’re helping.

1Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1893. The Walden Woods Project. https://www.walden.org/documents/file/Library/Thoreau/writings/Writings1906/02Walden/Walden01Economy.pdf. Accessed 11/13/2015.

Photo credit: Despair by Lloyd Morgan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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CelebrateClearance
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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