When we had spoken with friends in Yucatan about our upcoming move to Mexico City (CDMX) because of our role change to area directors, most of them raised their eyebrows at the news. Their looks seemed to say that we might want to reconsider the decision.
“Don’t wear a watch or jewelry!” They warned us. “It will likely be stolen, and there are so many people, with the pushing and shoving, you may not even notice.”
A conversation with one leader revealed another opinion, “Mexico City is an atheistic city,” he said. “The people there don’t seem to have time for God.”
While driving, or perhaps better described crawling, in our Speed the Light vehicle through traffic has introduced us to some of the congestion that our friends and acquaintances referred to, we’ve encountered a different Mexico City in many ways than the one that they had described.
To begin with, Mexico City is filled with parks and green spaces that serve as an escape from the population density. A 30 minute walk from our home is all it takes to reach the Xochimilco Ecological Park and scenes like the one above. It’s such a contrast from the hustle and bustle described that, when we’re there, it’s easy to forget that we’re in Mexico City.
Also, observations of our surroundings and the increasing conversations that we’ve had in the neighborhood and in local businesses have shown a surprising level of spiritual interest. From eastern mysticism to more traditional expressions of faith, there seems to be a genuine hunger to connect with the divine. Unfortunately, still too few in Mexico City have had an encounter with Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We’re glad, then, to have had these opportunities to share our faith and pray that our neighbors will soon be our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Yes, Mexico City is a megalopolis, a center of tremendous population and a place of frenetic activity, but that’s simply one of its stories. We’re thankful to be able discover its other stories of beauty and spiritual hunger. We invite you to pray with us that this hunger will be satisfied.
With the relaxing of pandemic protocols, we’ve been able to increase our travel and engagement with both the national church and the missionaries that we serve. Following our prayer retreat with the Latin America Caribbean (LAC) Leadership Team, we hit the road in our Speed the Light vehicle to Leon, Guanajuato, the setting of last year’s General Council, to attend the National Women’s Conference. There, Kelly joined the group of 6,000 ladies from across Mexico that was inspired and equipped during the three-day event (first photo). We were also able to appreciate the creativity of fellow missionary, Angela Hogan, who designed and coordinated the creation of the traditional cross-stitch scenery pieces for the event.
Closer to home, in Mexico City, we’ve found how our proximity to the national offices has given us the opportunity to cultivate key relationships. During the Executive Presbytery meetings in early February, Dave was able to meet with the newly elected national missions director, Abiud Montoya, and secretary, Honorio Andrade (last photo), to discuss ways in which we can help them to develop their department and increase their impact both nationally, amongunreached people groups, and internationally.
Among the missionary body, we’ve begun a focus on soul care, and Kelly has been leading several of the ladies of the Mexico Missionary Fellowship (MMF) through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course (EHS). EHS is designed to promote holistic transformation in areas that are sometimes neglected in traditional discipleship programs, and the women of the MMF are enjoying the meaningful ministry in their own lives and the access to the tools they’ll be able to share with others. Dave also joined the LAC training team to teach the Bible in Ministry competency during candidate orientation in Springfield, MO, March 5th-11th (middle photo).
This isn’t what we wanted. In February of 2022, we had expected to be viewing the pandemic in the rearview mirror. However, here in Mexico at least, we find ourselves in the middle of a fourth wave of infection, with cases higher than they’ve ever been. Our faces are rubbed raw from the constant use of masks, our hands are irritated from the constant use of sanitizer, and our patience has seemingly worn thin with everyone and everything as we deal with yet another canceled event, another notice of exposure, or another positive test result.
Still, I think what most affects us is the uncertainty of it all. We follow the guidelines, uncertain if they will protect us. We take the treatments, uncertain if they will make us better, and we make plans, uncertain if we’ll be able to keep them. We are in effect off-balance, stumbling into an uncertain future. Nothing works the way it used to, and the solutions we’ve gone to in the past don’t seem to fix the problems we’re facing today.
Here, though, we’re faced with a choice. The situation, it seems, will not change, or at least will not change in the way that we had hoped it would. Therefore, we must ask ourselves are we willing to change in the face of the situation? Will we continue to fight against the pandemic trying to overcome it as an impediment to our progress, or will we adapt and allow this moment to teach us about ourselves and how we can transform and grow in spite of the restrictions? Can we learn through this pandemic that sometimes, the obstacle is the way?
You may be wondering, where is it that you’re coming up with this crazy idea? Would you believe from our time teaching the Bible? As we’ve been teaching in the local church, we’ve encountered moms and children’s workers who are frustrated by the Bible’s complex and deeply flawed characters. Where do they turn to find the role models that their children and students need? As we’ve been teaching in our formation classes, we’ve encountered missionary candidates, ministers who desire to disciple new believers, who are upset by the Bible’s seemingly random and at times contradictory statements. How do they do their work when their manual of faith and practice so rarely reads like a manual? What we’re discovering together, though, is that it is precisely by dealing with the barrier in front of us we achieve our greatest breakthroughs in understanding and appreciating the Bible.
Perhaps an example is in order. Many of you are familiar with the movie the Karate Kid, either the Ralph Macchio/Pat Morita film or the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan remake. In both films, the protagonist wants to learn martial arts to be able to defend himself. As he agrees to learn from the master that is willing to teach him, he expects to be trained to kick and punch from the get-go. However, contrary to his expectations, he is given menial tasks: Daniel has to wash and wax cars, “wax on, wax off” while Dre must pick up his coat and “put it on” again and again. Frustrated because they feel that they are wasting their time, they’re ready to quit. It’s only when the master shows them that it was actually through the menial tasks that they were learning to defend themselves that they come to appreciate their methods.
So how does this relate to the Bible? First, we need to allow our frustrations with the text to teach us as Dan Kimball, the author of How Not to Read the Bible says, “the Bible was written for us but not to us.” That is to say that, although we can have confidence that every word in the original documents of the Bible is exactly what God wanted it to say, the Bible wasn’t written with our contemporary culture and its assumptions and values in mind. Once we realize that we are, in essence, looking over the shoulder of another civilization as we read the Bible, we’re able to take the position of the learner. We begin to observe the text, not only what is being said but also how it is being said to discover the message that was being conveyed to its original audience. It’s only then, when we agree to read the Bible on its own terms, that we begin to ask the right questions that lead us down the path of understanding. The process is slow and difficult at times, but the work is worth it as through it we begin to see the true wisdom and power of the Word of God, first for the ancients and then for our modern society.
Coming full circle, then, to our present situation, we need to ask ourselves what we will do with this time of uncertainty. Will we chafe at it as the surgical masks on our faces or will we allow it to humble us to understand our complete dependence on God? Will we spend our days placing blame on others either for the restrictions that have been imposed or their failure to follow them or will we begin to understand how connected we are to our neighbors and how our actions have real consequences, both positive and negative, for those around us? Growth and transformation are possible, even in the most difficult seasons, if we’re willing to discover that sometimes the obstacle is the way.
As we close the book on 2021, we look to the New Year as an opportunity to reprioritize our lives, to realign our daily habits with our beliefs and values. As Christians, what better way to accomplish that realignment than to devote ourselves to God’s Word and prayer? That’s why we’re excited to start off 2022 with Scripture and supplication.
We’ll begin with a season of prayer as we join with the Southern Missouri District Ministry Network in their 21 days of prayer, January 2nd through the 22nd. During those three weeks, we’ll be praying along with the Assemblies of God USA during their exploration of the nature and names of Jesus from the 2nd to the 8th. We’ll also be meeting with Mexico missionaries routinely to pray one for another, for ministries, and for the Mexican national church. However, the highlight of our time of prayer will be our regional gathering on January 20th at 5 PM CST as missionaries throughout Latin America/Caribbean (LAC) will join together to ask for God’s will to be done among our host countries as it is in heaven, and we want you to be a part! Join us via Zoom for this special event.
Our emphasison the Word kicks off on January 4th, where we meet with leaders of the church Monte de Olivos here in Mexico City. We’ll be taking them through the Bible Project: How to Read the Bible series of videos in Spanish with the goal to help them engage with the Scriptures in a fresh and meaningful way. As we meet together each Tuesday until March 22, we’ll be showing them how the Bible from Genesis to Revelation tells a unified story that leads to Jesus. Then, on Monday, January 10th, we’ll begin taking new LAC missionaries through the same study.
Of course, we don’t want to keep this resource to ourselves. If you’d like to offer this class to your family, small group, or church, just ask!We’ll be happy to send along the presentations and discussion questions that we’ll be using.
Join us as we start 2022 off right. As we work to fulfill the Great Commission, let’s make time to seek the One who’s given us our commission. Let’s make Scripture and supplication our priority in this New Year!
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; —Amos 9:13
“Buenos días,” came the greeting. “I’m Israel Cauich…do you remember me?” I did. Israel was one of the church planting candidates who was laboring in Tipikal, Yucatan during my time as the District Evangelism President. During those years, his attempts to establish the church were a difficult struggle with inconsistent results. As the pandemic took hold and churches were forced to close their doors, I was concerned that fledgling works like his would find it difficult or impossible to reopen. Israel’s message early this month was a pleasant surprise.
“Right now we have a small establishment to hold services,” Israel said, “and we’re making plans to build a church. God has been good and faithful!” I couldn’t agree more. Israel’s church, Puerta del Cielo, had overcome so much adversity, not only surviving but also thriving in the midst of it. The Lord had blessed his patient and persistent sowing with growth, and now he and the church are reaping the benefits.
The motto of Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) is “establishing the church among all people everywhere.” Often this is a slow and painstaking process. Still, through the effort of trained, patient laborers like Israel, the work is being accomplished. According to the most recent edition of AGWM Vital Statistics, every 1.3 hours somewhere around the world a new church is planted.
As we release this year-end edition of our quarterly newsletter, we’d like to highlight the efforts of some of the missionaries we serve as Area Directors who are directly involved in this work of establishing the church in Mexico: Rich and Jenni DeMartino, Ernie and Sandra Peacock, and Shawn and Carolina Sislo. They are sowing the seed of the gospel in Guadalajara and Aguascalientes, where the population of evangelical Christians is only 5%. They are reaching out with compassion to those who are suffering the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this pandemic while navigating the restrictions of this public health crisis. The process has been difficult, often mixed with tears, but they, like Israel, anticipate a harvest.
This Christmas season, we’d like to help facilitate that harvest. As you plan your year-end giving, would you consider blessing one of our missionary church planters? You can help Mexico missionaries establish the church by heading to our giving page and entering the amount you wish to give. Under “Advanced Giving Options”, select option 40. Your gift may be just the encouragement they need to stay the course!
Since our appointment as missionaries in 2004, we’ve depended on the generosity and prayers of our partners to help sustain and catalyze ministry in Mexico. In the past month, we’ve felt that support keenly as we have been venturing routinely into uncharted waters.
We’ve felt encouraged as we’ve entered into this first term as empty-nesters, overwhelmed by the care and concern that has been shown, not only to us but also to our kids as we now live and work in separate countries. We’ve felt supported as we forge new relationships with ministry partners and navigate the ins and outs of the megalopolis that is Mexico City. And we’ve felt uplifted even in adverse situations as we’ve reached out to missionary families facing unexpected tragedy. Your support is so appreciated!
It’s for that reason that we reach out to you to pray specifically for the national gathering of the Assemblies of God of Mexico, the Asamblea Conciliar that is being held in Leon, Guanajuato from Monday, November 8th until Thursday, November 11th.
To begin, this is the first national gathering of our partner organization since November of 2018. Since that time, they have lost over 300 ministers to the ravages of the pandemic, while weathering the related economic downturn that has left nearly half the national population below the poverty level. In this meeting, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God in Mexico, there is a desperate need for a move of the Spirit to console as well as inspire the ministers and church members in their work to reach the millions who have yet to respond to the gospel message.
At the same time, even though this gathering is going forward, there are forces at work that seem to be bent on limiting its positive impact. Health officials have limited attendance at the event to those over twelve, making it difficult for the many families who would otherwise travel together to be a part of this important gathering. Also, delicate issues must be addressed, issues that require wisdom and a fair measure of grace. As you have in the past, then, please pray for special favor over the events of this week!
*PabloBWV, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Since July of 2019, we have been looking forward to saying that phrase. Although we took on our role as Area Directors at that time, there was an anticipation of the day when our leadership would not be remote, when we would actually be living in the country of Mexico. That anticipation took us through our year of itineration until June of 2020 and sustained us during the pandemic that seemed to swallow up the months that followed. Finally, however, we can say, “We’ve arrived in Mexico City!”
Yes, on September 28th, at 6:00 AM, we were met by members of our small group from Central Assembly of God to help us check in our five action packers, our dog, and ourselves to American Airlines flight 3822. Then, after some tough good-byes to our kids, we were on our way by 8:22 AM and on the ground in Mexico City by 1:00 PM. A trip of 1,435 miles in half a day!
Now, if you’ve followed our ministry for the past few years, you may have noticed a change of venue for us in Mexico. For 13 years, our base of operations was the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula. Now, however, because of our role as area directors, we’ve relocated to Mexico City, home to a population of 9.2 million in the city proper and 21.8 million in the greater metropolitan area. It’s also strategic for us as it is the location of the national offices of the Assemblies of God of Mexico, a direct flight to any of our missionaries throughout the country, and an international travel hub.
We’re living in Coyoacan (translated from the Nahuatl language as “place of the coyotes”), a neighborhood south of the city center that was the original capital of Hernan Cortez’s governorship of New Spain and the home of creatives such as Octavio Paz, the author of the Labyrinth of Solitude, and artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. From our location, we’re roughly a 4-mile walk from the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco to the east and a 10k away from the nation’s largest university, UNAM, where over 350,000 students attend classes.
We’re excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives and ministry, but our arrival is not without its share of challenges, like our adaptation to life in the big city now as empty nesters or our kids’ abrupt entrance into adulthood. Still, we know that with your prayers and continued support, we’ll not only survive but thrive in this new role and new setting.
August was a month of drawing near. We drew near to God and one another in our first missionary retreat in Mexico since 2017. We drew near to the national church in our introduction to the Executive Presbytery, and we drew near to hard-hit communities through compassionate responses to hurricanes Grace and Nora.
After months of remote connections, the 2021 Mexico Missionary Fellowship Retreat in southeastern Mexico from August 8th-12th was a refreshing and reenergizing time for our missionary team.Encouraging messages from our US and Mexican leadership, extended times of worship and prayer, and ample opportunity for fellowship with our colleagues made our time together both memorable and motivating.
Traveling to Mexico City on the 23rd, Dave took part in interviews with new and returning missionaries (below) and was introduced to the Executive Presbytery of the National Council of the Assemblies of God of Mexico. He had the opportunity to greet this governing body of 70 executive leaders, district officials, and ministry department directors and to express the desire of the entire missionary fellowship to serve alongside them in the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Mexico and beyond.
Just a week after our missionary meetings, Hurricane Grace made landfall twice, striking the Yucatan peninsula and the Gulf coast of northern Veracruz, bringing high winds, heavy rains, and significant damage. Soon after, Hurricane Nora moved up the western coast, inundating the state of Jalisco.
Although the need is great, our missionary fellowship is rising to the challenge. Bolstered by funds from Assemblies of God World Missions and Convoy of Hope, we’re resourcing our national church partners to help feed displaced families and rebuild damaged church buildings and pastors’ homes.
Just a few paces from the flashing lights and bustle of activity of the General Council exhibit hall, in a space created to illustrate the syncretism, idolatry, and animism common to the region of Latin America where we serve (see photo), Danny* was speaking to me with tears in his eyes. He was attracted to “the shack,” the location of this display of indigenous religious expression, by the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe which was positioned prominently in the center of the structure. Being of Mexican descent, he was keenly aware of its significance. Although he described himself as non-religious before his conversion, he knew how central this image was to Mexican religious expression and how distracting it can be to the nurture of true faith in Christ.
Still, as the conversation continued, it was clear that Danny had entered that space with a need that casual exchange could not meet. A young pastor of a fledgling church plant, he was struggling with the opportunities and challenges of serving his Hispanic congregation. He questioned his ability to guide a community so needy during a time so tremendous. He lamented his lack of a mentor as he struggled to motivate a congregation comprised of several who surpassed his age by decades.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this,” he said apologizing, but it was plain to see what was transpiring: surrounded by symbols of false religion, Danny was looking for a sign of hope. And, as I spoke the words, “can I pray for you?”, that shack designed to display the pervasiveness of syncretism became a sacred space, a point of encouragement for a beleaguered pastor. As Jesus, the way the truth, and the life met with us, Danny discovered that he had come with a burden but left with a blessing.
Danny’s story is special, but it is in no way singular. As I exited the shack, I saw another group, with hands raised, praying in the middle of our regional missions display. Clearly, in the four days of General Council 2021, hundreds of visitors were engaged and informed. Dozens signed up to explore opportunities in short-term or career missions and many were encouraged as missionaries shared their time, stories, and prayers.
What a blessing it was to advocate for missions during General Council 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Thank you for your prayers and support that make such trips a possibility. Please continue to pray that we would see fruit from our efforts—new workers to continue the unfinished task of disciple-making in Mexico and throughout the LAC.
It’s been a full and rewarding month of ministry. We started things off by participating in the virtual Missionary Training program, where two new missionary units destined for Mexico joined the dozens readying themselves for global ministry. Later, we took part in our LAC Leadership Meetings, where we discussed initiatives to encourage resilience in our missionaries during these difficult times. We also had the chance to encourage some itinerating missionaries headed to Mexico City (see photo) and finished off the month advocating for Mexico and missions at Northland Cathedral in Kansas City, MO. However, one of our more surprising activities was a guest question and response session with students from Instituto Bíblico Bethel in Merida.
When I (Dave) received the message from Fernando Diaz, pastor and Bible School administrator, I had feared the worst. The coronavirus pandemic has entered a third wave in the state of Yucatan, and I was concerned that he was reaching out with bad news. Instead, I was pleased to learn that it was an invitation to share with his church planting class.
I logged on, not knowing what to expect. Bethel had been meeting virtually for over a year. I had wondered what the dynamic might be after so much time online. Would Zoom fatigue have taken its toll?
The class was a lively one. Following a brief introduction and recap of our experiences stimulating church planting with the district evangelism department, we launched into our time of questions. There were many, and they were varied, and extremely practical—”When should I move from Bible studies to weekly services? Which workers from my home church should I invite to accompany me in the church plant, how should we divide the responsibilities?” In our conversation, I found that the students were actively involved in starting new works, deftly navigating restrictions placed on them because of the pandemic, while reaching out to share the gospel message to friends, relatives, and neighbors. Needless to say, I left our session extremely encouraged. Despite the pandemic, the church is growing in Yucatan!
Still, the price to be paid to the pandemic has been costly. Nationwide, the church in Mexico has lost 270 pastors to COVID-19. In addition, Tomás Vera, the minister who succeeded me as the leader of the evangelism department has been diagnosed with cancer and is very ill. Won’t you join us in praying for their health and strength even as they work to extend the reach of the gospel?
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.