Prayer

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Commencement. It’s a word that takes us back to our college days; it makes us think of those graduation ceremonies that, for many of us marked the end of our formal education. The word commencement, however, also speaks of a beginning. This month, we’re experiencing the dual significance of that word. January 12th marks the commencement (ending) of our church planting pilot project while January 19th is the commencement (beginning) of our new program, now no longer a pilot project but a district-wide undertaking.

ln 2016, we introduced Red de Multiplicación here in the Yucatan, and the six pictures that you see above are of the graduates of that program. Their commencement, however, marks much more than the end of a course of study. It is the celebration of the new churches and the changed lives that their perseverance and practice have facilitated. While we say goodbye to several of them as active participants in the program, we launch them with the confidence that they’ve acquired the mindset and practices that will ensure that the works that they lead will continue to flourish.

In 2017, we began the cycle again, casting vision, setting goals, and encouraging participation. The preparation now ceases and the work begins, distributed across 5 sites and employing 15 coordinators and teachers to facilitate the work of dozens of planters (represented above behind our graduates) as they look to fulfill the shared vision of the Yucatan full of churches.

We covet your prayers as we celebrate these commencements. Please add both our graduates, Sara, Moises, Reina, Fausto, Alex and Luis to your prayer list as well as those new workers that are now following the path that they have blazed.

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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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TixpehualOn October 16 at 4:00 pm, we will be traveling with several students to Tixpehual (pronounced Tish-pay-wall) to host an evangelistic event charged with the difficult task of spurring on a flagging work in that city.

Tixpehual is a city that desperately needs a turn-around. A site of evangelistic outreach since the 1980’s, several denominations have tried to gain a foothold among that population. Sadly, failed projects, manipulative leaders, and backslidden believers have caused the work to stall and hopes to fade. In addition, spiritism and cultic practices exercise influence over several that live in the city.

Gaby Campos, the current leader of the Assemblies of God congregation in Tixpehual (lower left photo, middle) , told us of an encounter that typifies the attitude of its inhabitants:

An old woman, having observed her activities with skepticism, approached her one day. She said, “You can do what you want here, others have in the past, but it won’t make any difference.” Gaby replied, “I won’t be the one to make a difference, God will!”

Hers is the attitude that we share as we go. We will be inviting friends and neighbors of a family that is currently attending the church to a practical workshop and a meal in the home pictured above with the goal of sharing the gospel message with them. We are busy preparing the details, organizing the supplies, and planning the schedule, but we haven’t forgotten who it is that will make the difference in that city.

Pray for us, won’t you? Pray that our efforts will pull together a memorable event for the residents of Tixpehual. Pray for the enthusiastic participation of the believers in that community. Pray for redemptive relationships to be formed among those who attend the event, and pray that this outreach will bear fruit, fruit that lasts, fruit that once and for all cuts through that skepticism that hangs over the city of Tixpehual.

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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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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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Honda2015Web
We’ve driven over 33,000 miles during our itineration year. We’ve driven through early morning sunrises and lazy Sunday afternoons. We’ve navigated through the night and on into the next day as well. We’ve hit rain storms and snow storms, even hail, but never have we been made more aware of our need for prayers as we travel than last Tuesday night.

It all happened in an instant. We were driving a stretch of I-44 that we had been on perhaps a hundred times before. In fact, we weren’t even on a ministry trip. Then, there was a flash of brown in the headlights and a thud. We had hit a deer.

At first there was the irony of it all. All of those miles, many of them on secondary roads through the Mark Twain National Forest, and we hit a deer in the suburbs of Springfield! The next morning, however, we began to reflect on how fortunate we were. A few seconds earlier, or a few inches to the left would have been enough to cause significant damage or cause us to lose control of the car altogether. Let’s just say that morning devotionals had a much more thankful tone to them than perhaps the day before.

We communicate all of this to let you know that we covet your prayers! We take precautions and drive defensively, but we can never assume that we have full control over any situation. So thank you for lifting us up over the next 6,000 miles that we have yet to cover for this itineration and beyond. As our incident with the deer proves, we depend on them!

Speaking of prayers, thanks for praying on our behalf through the month of April. Since our last update, we’ve seen our monthly commitment total reach 99%! We are nearing the finish line. Please join with us in prayer for those who have committed to our support, that God would bless them with the resources to not only honor their commitment but prosper because of their heart to reach the lost!

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Incoming 2013-2015 Yucatán District Leadership

Incoming 2013-2015 Yucatán District Leadership

We just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all who prayed for the Yucatan District Council, which took place last week. Your intercession was appreciated! Not only was it felt during a particularly tense voting session, but we’re sure it was instrumental as well in generating more contracts as we continue with our Jesus Film Church planting efforts.

On a side note, I noticed a recurring theme of Pentecost throughout the District Council. There is a growing concern among our leaders about the lack of believers reporting to have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was glad to see the call for a renewed emphasis on this essential experience for ministry in these Last Days.

Below, I’ve listed our incoming District Leadership Team. Please continue to lift them up in prayer. Pray for a renewed vision and commitment to accomplishing God’s will among them. Pray as well that the godly example of outreach and compassion that they set will be caught throughout the district.

New District Leadership Team:

Superintendent: Tomas Vera Moreno
Secretary: Raúl Sánchez y Molina
Treasurer: Samuel Vázquez Salazar

Regional Presbyters:
North Region: Manuel Díaz Sanchez
West Region: Juan Hau Pech
Central Region: Fernando Moctezuma Dorantes
South Region: Rosendo Cabrera
East Region: Cristino May Rejón

Department of Christian Education Leadership:
President: Alfonso Vera Moreno
Secretary/Treasurer: Fernando Díaz Cab
Local Church Studies: Manuel Pech
Theological Studies: Natanael Ku
Secular Studies: Juan Baeza

Missions Department Leadership:
Director: Felipe Sabido Escalante
Secretary/Treasurer: Abel Can
Coordinator of Ministry to Ethnic Groups: Miriam Pech

Evangelism Leadership:
Director: Moisés Charmin Díaz
Vice President: Julian Magaña
Secretary: Carlos Maas

Spiritual Retreat Leadership:
President: Magaly Balam
Secretary: Andrés Vera
Treasurer: Franscico Can

Sectional President, Mérida Northeast: Natanael Ku

Thanks again for your continued support!

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Leadership elected in the 2011 District Council

Leadership elected in the 2011 District Council

I know that I’ve already asked for prayer this month, but at the risk of over-asking, I’m coming back to you with a special request for prayer for our District Council and especially for the elections that will take place during that council.

By the time that you read this we’ll be in full swing in this year’s Yucatán District Council. We’re thrilled to have our National Superintendent, Abel Flores, as our featured speaker. It will be a privilege to hear more of his vision for the future of the Assemblies of God in Mexico, but the main reason for this update is to ask prayer for the elections that will take place during this year’s council.

Up for election will be the entire leadership team, Superintendent, Secretary, and Treasurer, as well as well as the entire slate of Regional and Sectional Presbyters and Presidents. Also up for election are the various department heads, including the position of the Director of the Missions Department, a person with whom we’ve worked closely for the past two years.

Pray with us generally for the entire Council. We desperately long for a sovereign move of the Spirit that will stimulate evangelism, church planting, and missions here in the Yucatán and beyond.

Pray with us specifically for a desire to have God’s will accomplished the council elections. Pray that any thought of politicking would be laid aside in order to see the right people placed or retained in each office. Pray as well for a spirit of transparency throughout the election process, and pray for me as I participate as a part of the “Mesa de escrutadores,” the committee charged with counting the votes and reporting the election results.

Thanks!

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Spring Break is a well known concept here on the Yucatán Peninsula. Many residents have personal experience working in the Riviera Maya, where students descend to spend their week-long vacation. They speak of the droves of sunburned gringos on the beach or of the wild all-night parties in the clubs throughout that region. So imagine the surprise on their faces when we tell them that Spring Break can mean something radically different!

Starting this Saturday, March 9th, we will be hosting two Chi Alpha Campus Fellowship missions teams from the University of Virginia and American University. These students and their leaders have repurposed their Spring Break to make an impact here in the Yucatán!

This Spring Impact has a three-part mission:

1. Advance the construction of Instituto Bíblico Bethel.

Bible school facade

Advancing Construction

Thanks to several key donations at the close of 2012 and the fundraising efforts of these students, we’ve been able to dedicate over $7,000 to this ongoing project. With these funds and the their hard work, the second floor of the school’s multi-purpose building will begin to take shape.


2. Stimulate ministerial formation among Bible School students.

Student Sergio Ek and Pastor Rudy Cano together with Dave in San Bernardo

Ministerial Formation

We’re teaming up these American students with their Mexican counter-parts. They’ll be working side by side thoughout the week, putting their education into practice both in ministry and in plain, honest, hard work.


3. Encourage evangelism efforts.

Antonio Armando Balam sharing in Sierra Papacal

Encouraging Evangelism

More than 40 individuals will be divided between the villages of San Bernardo in the south and Sierra Papacal in the north in support of two, newly-planted churches. The groups will spend their afternoons in community service, door to door evangelism, and the invitation of residents to a special community day, where they will have the opportunity to respond to the message of salvation.

Would you pray especially for this time of construction and outreach? Pray for the health and safety of all involved. Pray for an ability to communicate both within the teams and among those who would hear the message of salvation. Pray that the churches would grow as a result of these efforts, and pray that both the Americans and the Mexicans would finish this trip with the sense that they have been used by God.

Thanks for standing with us!

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Traditionally, missions has been the realm of those of White, Anglo-Saxon descent. The ranks of missionary heroes are full of names like Hudson Taylor or Jim Elliot. However, Latino, Chinese, or African names remain remarkably absent from such lists, even after decades of work within such nations.

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We understand these tendencies. Those mentioned were ones who opened up new territories to the Gospel. But, now that those areas have been opened, what of those who have been reached? Do they have a responsibility to share in the burden of World Evangelism?

Jesus seemed to think so. His missions strategy was the original Pay it Forward plan. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mat. 10:8). He expected his fledgling disciples to pass on what they had learned from Him, and he commissioned them to engage in that worldwide effort from the get-go (Acts1:8).

Still, while some have answered the call, actually reaching the country of their calling is a tremendous challenge. The reality here in Mexico is that, although missionaries are responding, the church as a whole remains largely non-committal in regards to missionary responsibility. This is dangerous, especially as unreached areas close to those fitting the traditional missionary profile.

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This month, were working toward a solution. I had the chance to preach in our sectional pastor’s meeting, and I challenged our leaders to take steps to increase missions consciousness among their churches. Also, this week, we are in the middle of our District Missions Convention, “The Awakening of the Mayas to Missions.”

What is the goal of these efforts? It’s to encourage our churches to feel the responsibility of missions and to sense the empowerment that Christ has given to all his disciples regardless of nationality.

We believe that the Yucatán can be a force in missions. Pray with us to that end, and, maybe someday, we’ll read of a Norma Uitzil, or a Lidia Pompeyo among those lists of missions heroes.

Blessings on you as you stand with us in prayer!

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