Vision/Mission

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the second in that series—the story of Isaí González and his wife Tifany, pastors of the new church, Casa del Rey, in Mérida, Yucatán in the developing neighborhood of Los Héroes.

Los Héroes is a young suburb on the eastern periphery of the city of Mérida, but the colorful facades of its new houses and the bustling activity of its thriving businesses do little to alleviate the loneliness and anxiety that plague its residents. Many of its current occupants have upended their lives elsewhere in the country to look for new opportunities that the relative safety of the capital city of Yucatan affords. It was to meet the needs of these young families that Isaí and Tifany decided to plant Casa del Rey in 2016.

We first met Isaí in Instituto Biblico Bethel, where he was a member of Dave’s first church planting class in 2012. Recalling that formative time, Isaí stated that he’d learned from Dave that the success of the implementation of a project is in its planning: visiting the area, collecting information, and asking for the Lord’s direction. This is the same methodology he’s now applying to the benefit of the residents of Los Heroes.

Emphasizing a vision of multiplication, they’ve fostered steady numerical growth and have facilitated significant personal transformation in the lives of the residents of Los Héroes. The Ruiz family* is one example of the change that has occurred. Attempting to start over after economic disaster nearly destroyed their marriage, Lalo* and Luisa* arrived in Los Héroes broken and hurting, but, through the invitation of a church member, they attended service at Casa del Rey and were touched by the presence of God. Since that first service, they’ve given their lives to the Lord, experienced restoration, and are actively participating in the church’s ministry.

Whereas the rapid growth has brought with it its share of complications, such as the need to undertake an eight-month building project to expand their facilities, Isaí and Tifany continue to strive to fulfill their vision, turning now to cell groups to increase their impact and meet needs in Los Heroes.

We’re grateful for the privilege to work with people like Isaí and Tiffany, people achieving breakthroughs in their area of ministry. And, as we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we want to take this time to thank you for your prayers and support, which grant us this opportunity.

*Name changed

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We believe in the power of the Word of God to bring about transformation. This excerpt is taken from our vision statement[PDF]: “As individuals have a true encounter with the Word of God, applied to their context, their lives will change. We seek to provide this encounter for all those who live in or visit the Yucatan.” This past month we’ve seen opportunities to lead people into just this type of encounter.

Things began with a report from Ricardo Rodriguez, who had received the blessing of literature that we were able to coordinate in January of this year. He shouted an enthusiastic “Glory to God,” as he related the results of the campaigns that took place throughout the state of Yucatan. It was a pleasure for us to see the Bibles that they were able to purchase being grasped firmly by new believers now preparing themselves to confirm their new life by following the Lord in baptism.

The blessings continued internationally as, from April 18-21, Dave had the chance to travel to Panama, where several hundred educators had gathered for fellowship, spiritual enrichment, and continuing education. For two sessions, he teamed up with fellow missionary Paul Kazim to teach the course “The Teacher and Biblical Interpretation.” It was a joy to be able to lead the participative groups into the discovery of tools that will not only facilitate a personal encounter with God’s Word, but also help them to correctly guide others into the same experience.

As we wrapped up the month, we were excited to see how the Bible studies, which were reinvigorated by the Chi Alpha Team visit in March, are having an impact on the students attending the University of Yucatan. During one session, a new student chose to listen in on the conversation even though he admitted to being an atheist. In another meeting, Fernanda* was clearly moved as we talked about how God gives us comfort in our need so that we might offer that comfort to others. Following up with her, we found out that word had given her the courage to reconcile her strained relationship with her mother. Clearly, God’s Word has power!

Thank you then for your support as we continue to offer opportunities for others to experience God’s Word. And, as you thank God for His work, won’t you pray for these new believers, educators, and university students, that these encounters with God’s Word will continue to produce fruit in their lives?

*Name has been changed.

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imagePerhaps you remember this post from January that described the blessing that we received from Light for the Lost: funds that helped defray the cost of the District of Yucatan’s literature needs as they seek to spread the gospel in outreaches throughout the state. Well, that blessing has proved to be a gift that keeps on giving, because the monies that it has freed up have been put to use in the purchase of land to build churches in pivotal communities, especially those that lack an evangelical presence. It just so happens that one of those communities that is benefiting from these funds is Sierra Papacal.

Now, if you’ve been following our reports, both in our newsletters and on this site, you’ll know that Sierra Papacal has had a church there since 2013, a church begun by my former student, Guadalupe Campos. Nevertheless, up until the end of 2015, they had been meeting in rented facilities, facilities that they were no longer able to lease. On December 31st, they were facing the decision of moving to a house church format, a blow to the sense of permanence that they had been trying to establish in the community. What a joy it was to them to receive the news that the district evangelism department, the same that had received those Light for the Lost funds, had chosen to collaborate with them to purchase a permanent home for the church right on the town’s main road!

This investment in the future of the church, “Casa de Oración” has created a ripple effect throughout the congregation. Not only have they been able to secure property large enough for the initial construction and future expansion, they’ve seen various church members motivated to give toward the building that will serve as the home of their community of faith. Guadalupe has received an abundance of materials: cement sand and gravel for the foundation, blocks for the walls, and beams for the roof. In fact, they’ve received so much from this outpouring of support that they are ready to begin construction immediately!

But there is even more reason to rejoice as we see how this international collaboration is bringing hope and positive change to local communities. In Sierra Papcal and in other locations there is new access to the saving message of the gospel. This is just one of the ways that we are seeing the vision of the Yucatan full of churches becoming 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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imageWe know that it’s not always possible for every missionary to return to the same place for three consecutive terms. There are many factors that cause them to change fields or even entire regions. Neveretheless, we can’t overstate the blessing that it is for us to be able to return to the Yucatan and reconnect with the work we’d begun and the people with whom we’d collaborated.

In August, we were blessed to see the reestablished church in Tigre Grande, planted by Rangel and Claudia Vázquez, recieve their new pastor, Yani May, a former student of mine and graduate of the Bible Institute. Kelly and I had the privilege of praying for her during her commissioning service.

In September, I (David) was able to return to the work in the Bible Institute, having been invited to help in the formation of the next generation of Assemblies of God ministers. It’s been a joy to take up the class of Evangelism again, sharing my desire to reach the lost with both new and continuing students, and walking with them to facilitate their projects that have been designed to fulfill that goal.

Here in October, the reunions continued as we had the opportunity to preach for and then share a meal with Guadalupe Campos and her husband José, pastors of the church plant in Sierra Papacal. It was wonderful to encourage their congregation, retrace the events of the past year, as well as gain a deeper appreciation for their passion for the ministry as they continue their work in spite of some tremendous obstacles.

Thank you then for your prayers and support. They’ve helped us to return to Mexico. They’ve made possible these reunions and have given opportunity for new connections, connections that will enable us to fulfill the vision of the Yucatan Peninsula full of churches diverse in class, status, education, and language, but united in their love for the Lord and each other.

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Summer is Here!

School’s out! The temperatures are finally beginning to rise, and grills are firing up all around the country. Summer must be upon us, and with the change of the season comes news from the Godzwa family!

Before you head out to catch some rays, why not take a moment to read about:

  • The tools we’re acquiring to ensure success in our upcoming term?
  • Our itineration progress and how you can help speed us to back to Mexico?
  • The latest from 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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As we have travelled now over 34,000 miles sharing our vision of the Yucatán full of churches, we’re thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been given. Still, we know that many of you have not had the opportunity to hear our message. This new video has you in mind. Its goal: to outline the vision and step you through our mission while inviting you to take an active role in support. Have a look and let us know what you think.

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Inspire
In a series of articles starting with our winter newsletter, we’ve been communicating our vision and stepping through how we see it being realized. In this update, we are covering the essential element of inspiration.

On Easter Sunday, I heard Jeff Peterson, pastor of Central Assembly, speak on the resurrection. In his sermon, he quoted the fictional character, Anne Shirley: “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” As he mentioned it, I couldn’t help but think of the situation in which Mexico finds itself.

In the year 2000, Mexico was striding boldly into the future. It was emerging from economic crisis and, for the first time in 72 years, had elected a president from an opposition party, a sign that the corruption of the past was giving way to a modern democracy. However, with the war on drugs claiming an estimated 120,000 lives, and recent allegations linking the government to cooperation with the cartels, Mexico is seeing its hopes and dreams buried again.

Still, though the picture may look bleak, it is not beyond redemption. On the first Easter morning, Jesus and the cause He stood for had been dead for three days, His disciples were scattered and in hiding, but, when He arose, everything changed!

In his message, Pastor Jeff brought this home with Job 19:25-26, encouraging us to remember that, even in the darkest of times, our Savior lives to redeem, resurrect, and restore us.

As we return to Mexico one of our key tasks will be to inspire the non-believer to trust this resurrected Christ for their salvation and the believer to follow Him into a life of purpose. This will be our aim on a daily basis, whether we’re meeting with ministry leaders or our our next-door neighbors.

Speaking of inspiring, if you haven’t seen it already, check out the story of Joseph’s first half marathon. I guarantee it’ll be an encouragement.

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As I write this in the middle of a winter weather advisory, it seems impossible, but daylight savings time tells us that spring is just around the corner. Sounds like a good time for an update!

Before you lose that hour, why don’t you take a moment to read about:

  • How partnerships are helping us to realize our vision.
  • Our itineration progress and how you can help speed us to back to Mexico.
  • The latest from 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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RealizeVisionWeb In our December newsletter, I spoke of the vision that compels us to return to Mexico–the vision of the Yucatan peninsula full of churches diverse in class, status, education, and language, but united in their love for the Lord and one another. Still, seeing the goal is one thing and realizing it is something else entirely.

That is why we’ve taken the time to chart the steps that will keep us on task and propel us toward realizing the vision. The steps are concise but by no means simple: inspire, equip, partner, and implement.

Inspiration is the essential first step. It is the activity of helping others see the need and encouraging them to see how they can be a part of its fulfillment. As we preach, teach, and interact on a day-to-day basis, this will be our aim.

Equipping consists of facilitating the skills and resources essential to fulfilling the vision. This includes ministerial formation both in formal and informal settings.

Partnership follows as an essential task. While the vision is general, its application in each context must take into consideration the specific challenges of the community where each church is to be planted. We seek to come alongside those who not only share our vision but also have insight into their particular community so that the vision might be fleshed out in its proper form.
Implementation, the final step, comes as we assess the challenges and leverage the resources, both spiritual and practical, to carry out a plan of action for each community.

We can’t predict the future, but we are confident that a clearly defined, God-given vision, combined with a solid Spirit-led plan of action, will enable us to make the difference on the Yucatan peninsula.

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