As we face the crisis related to the coronavirus and the effects of the COVID-19 disease, we wanted to update you on our situation and offer you our support. Please, take a few moments to watch this video that we’ve prepared from our home in Springfield, MO where we are serving our 8th day of self-quarantine. You can do so by simply hitting the photo above. We hope that it’s an encouragement to you.

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On the back of the Latin America Caribbean Prayer Map is a quote from Loren Triplett, a former Executive Director of Assemblies of God World Missions. He said, “We dare not measure our success against anything but the unfinished task.” This is a sobering thought. While we can certainly rejoice in past accomplishments, we do not have the luxury to simply reminisce. We must move forward.

But what is the unfinished task, and how do we “level up” to finish it? In the short term, our unfinished task is obtaining the resources that we’ll need to sustain us for our upcoming term. We could boast of the thousands of miles we’ve traveled, or the dozens of services that we’ve celebrated, but if we fail to secure the intercessors who will pray on our behalf or the financial partners who will invest in the vision, we’ll have run our race in vain. This past quarter, we’re excited to have signed on 30 new intercessors and elated to have cut our financial need to just $291 a month. Nevertheless, the task remains unfinished. So, in February, we leveled up, traveling the Southern Missouri Sectional Council Tour. Those eight days of making connections helped us add another 10 services to our itinerary to ensure that the task is finished.

As we look beyond our itineration to our role as Area Directors, we’re aware that the task in front of us requires a greater commitment on our part. It’s a position taking us beyond our areas of expertise and stretching us to develop new skills. That’s why, as a couple, we’re leveling up. On April 21st, Kelly will be ordained by the Southern Missouri District, leveling up her credentials as we form a new partnership in ministry, aligned to provide the vision, leadership, member care, and administrative support that the position requires.

However, we’re aware that these efforts are only intermediary. The redemption of Mexico is the goal. The number of the lost stands at more than 113 million people. Now, more than ever, we need your help to reach them. We’re doing our part to prepare, will you join us in the effort? Will you level up with us to reach Mexico? Sign up to be one of the 130 intercessors we need to reach 500. Begin or increase your financial partnership with us so that we can meet our monthly support goal, or discover how you can take the next step on the journey to join our missionary team. And don’t forget to let us know how we can support you. We’re leveling up our prayers on your behalf as well!

Thanks for keeping up with us. 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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As we visit churches during our itineration (photo), we are casting a vision of a Mexico redeemed. It is a vision of unreached people groups reached, of cities saved, of rural zones healed, of university students discipled, and of children formed. But although we may be able to imagine such a future, we may wonder, how could we achieve it? The answer is found in the AGWM slogan: establishing the Church among all people, everywhere.

Let me explain. This fall, I was sitting with Gabriel Borbolla, the current Secretary of the National Missions Department in Mexico. He was also the coordinator of disaster relief after the devastating earthquakes that hit Oaxaca in 2018. As he described the effort to assess the damage and distribute aid to the most vulnerable, a common thread emerged: the local church. It was the local church that rose to the occasion to bring relief.

But the local church is so much more than an agent of compassion. It is strategically positioned to be an instrument of transformation. It is a body of people, changed through an encounter and an ever-deepening relationship with the living God. And, as these people continue to interact with their social networks, they are able to influence change within their community.  Just as the presence of the local church enabled physical relief for the victims of the Oaxaca earthquakes, so its increasing influence in the community can facilitate their salvation. 

Yet, there are entire people groups out of the reach of these compassionate, transformative bodies of believers. There, where the church has not been established, we must choose to go. The National Missions Department of Mexico has risen to the challenge to plant the church among the unreached, targeting 4 Mixteco groups among which to establish new congregations. As missionaries in Mexico, we stand with our national colleagues, fixing a goal of establishing 200 new churches within the next four years, and, as Area Directors, we are challenging each missionary unit to play their part through encouragement, investment, and direct involvement. The local church is the key. Only as it is established will the vision of Mexico redeemed become a reality.

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The Next Step

“God has been dealing with me about missions, but I’m not sure what to do next.” 

“My heart was broken for Latin America on a missions trip I took last summer. How can I make a difference?”

Those statements were just a sampling of the dozens of conversations that we had with college students who had gathered in Greenville, South Carolina at the Chi Alpha South East SALT Conference to ring in the New Year with renewed commitments to relationship with Christ and his mission to redeem the world. We traveled there, following our Christmas vacation in Pennsylvania, to engage with the 400+ in attendance from a variety of campuses, helping them connect the dots from their college days to a possible missions career.  While conversation was key, we also teamed up with fellow missionaries Josh Sears (Brazil) and Doug Sayers (LAC Advocacy) to show the almost 200 leaders in attendance the multiple ways that their groups could partner with missionaries in the region on a short-term or ongoing basis through trips and internships.

What’s even more exciting, however, is knowing that it has never been easier to take the next step into missions. During our time in Greenville, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the Latin America Caribbean website, lacworldmissions.org. Not only are there ways to commit to pray for the ministry that is taking place throughout our region or give in its support, there is also the option to begin the process of joining with us by responding to one of multiple ministry opportunities.

But don’t take our word for it.  Why not head there yourself and begin taking your own next step?

Our travels during the Christmas Season: From Springfield, MO* to Erie, PA to Greenville, SC and back!

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In the month of November, Kelly, Jonathan and I (Dave), had the privilege of attending the first-ever National Evangelism Conference in Veracruz, Mexico. It was a beautiful sight to see the more than 1,800 participants commit to spreading a message of love and hope in the location where, 500 years prior, the Spanish Conquista had unleashed a wave of oppression.

Still, even with the enthusiastic response in Veracruz, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with the unfinished task in Mexico: over 113 million who still don’t know Jesus, 3 million of them considered unreached, in a nation becoming more violent and less secure by the year. How can so few make a difference in the face of so great a need?

Then, I think of the Christmas story, and how God came to Earth in the form of the baby Jesus, so small and seemingly insignificant. His bed was a feeding trough. His first visitors, simple shepherds. Even at the height of his popularity, he could be described as a homeless, itinerant preacher. His best friends were among the most marginalized of Jewish society. Yet, it was through that one life that God culminated his plan of salvation and through those few followers that he literally changed the world. That is the hope of Christmas.

And that is the hope that we share, that God will bring peace on Earth, fullness of life, as well to Mexico. But who does he have to represent him in that country? Many are like Roberto (photo, bottom left), an illiterate pastor in Kini, certainly not wise by the world’s standards, but with God’s help, he’s planted 8 churches. Or there’s Lupita (photo, top right), not powerful or influential, not even in her local church, but, through her diligent visitation, she’s led dozens to Christ. Against the sheer numbers of those who still don’t know, the 1,800 who attended the evangelism conference may seem a weak witness, but God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength (1 Cor. 1:25).

So take heart wherever this word might find you this Christmas season. The outlook may be grim, and the future may seem dark indeed, but the light has shone in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5). Experience the hope of Christmas and be sure to pass it on.

(This article appears as well in our winter newsletter. Download a PDF copy to print or share electronically.)

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With Thanksgiving approaching, I’m sure you remember what it was like to sit at the “little table.” It was the one in the corner, or, worse yet, in a completely different room of the house. There, you’d groan, doomed to spend another meal dealing with the shenanigans of your little cousins, all the while wondering what kinds of mature conversations were happening at the “Big Table.”

But then, all of a sudden, you’d graduated. Maybe you went away to college and returned, or you’d gotten married and, without warning or preparation, you’d been given a seat at the big table. Are those your palms sweating, or is it just the condensation from the bowl of mashed potatoes? Is that a lump in your throat, or have you just forgotten to chew your food? Maybe, you think, you’d be more comfortable back at the little table. It’s funny, though, in the same way we’d always wanted to be at the Big Table, when the time came, we found that those who were there to receive us were truly glad to have us.

That holiday analogy was a bit of what our experience was like as we took part in first our Area Directors’ meeting in Colorado Springs, CO. In a room where over 400 years of combined missions service was present, we certainly felt the junior members. All the same, we were received during those sessions as part of the team, encouraged to take part and affirmed as we did. What a joy it was to hear and be able to weigh in on the strategic conversations taking place to ensure the increasing number as well as the security and effectiveness of our missionary colleagues throughout Latin America.

So, if you’re finding yourself on the threshold of increasing responsibility and wondering if you’re ready to take your service to the next level, be encouraged. Chances are, others have been looking forward to your contribution. Needing a bit more convincing? Check out this article.

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When Jay Dickerson, Area Director for Central America and Coordinator for Missionary Formation, asked me (Dave) if I’d be interested in teaching the "Bible as Narrative" competency for new missionary candidates during their orientation sessions this month, it didn’t take long for me to give him my enthusiastic affirmative response. As missionaries in the Yucatan, we were passionate about facilitating encounters with the Bible. We know that as individuals understand the Bible story and see themselves within the framework of its redemptive history, their way of perceiving reality or worldview is changed.   That change makes possible their increased participation with God in that same redemption. What an honor it was to walk through the Bible with these new missionaries, giving them the tools they need to see that change happen in themselves and lead others to experience it as well.  As Mexico Area Directors we look forward to additional opportunities to influence the next generation of missionaries.

But this month we also had the chance to influence the next generation of missions supporters as we were invited to speak to the children in Lebanon First Assembly (Lebanon, MO) and Northland Cathedral (Kansas City, MO) about how Boys and Girls’ Missionary Challenge (BGMC) helps missionaries reach people throughout the world.  After grabbing their attention with our snake (Don’t worry, it’s not real.), we talked to them about how missionaries use BGMC funds that they give each week to help men and women and boys and girls all over the world know Jesus.

Thank you for your prayers and support that are enabling us to extend our influence. We appreciate your involvement in our team!

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Raising Advocates

I love the picture attached to this article. It’s of my youth pastor, Jim Grove, praying for my brother and me during our itineration service with him this past July. It is a symbol of the significance of our relationship, one that has been influential in my salvation, my discipleship, and my current ministry. However, what he did on that day was particularly special. He became our advocate. As he publicly affirmed our vision before his congregation, he orchestrated a response on our behalf and on behalf of Mexico, the nation that we serve as Assemblies of God World Missions Area Directors.

Raising advocates is why we’re currently in the United States visiting churches and individuals. This job is too great for one family to accomplish on its own. Now, more than ever, we need others to advocate, to speak on behalf of Mexico as misconceptions abound.

Paul and Sandy Kazim, former Area Directors to Mexico, say this in a recent post to their website: “There are enormous needs in Mexico. Living there, what we see is often quite different from what visitors see. Many churches in the US often consider Mexico a ‘reached’ country. People think they know Mexico. They make regular missions trips to the border. They might vacation at Mexico’s beaches.” Others resonate with a different story, writing off Mexico as a dysfunctional nation to the south, pointing to its corruption, its war on drugs, or its immigration crisis and turn away, attempting to shut out what they might consider is its negative influence.

What we aim to do is to raise up those who would tell a more complete story of Mexico, one that would comprehend the great need and the tremendous potential. We look to recruit those that would choose to see Mexico, not as a travel brochure would see it, not as a politician would describe it, but as God would see it, not only as a place to get away or as a problem to be solved but also as a people, lost but deeply loved, a people that he longs to redeem.

In these upcoming months, will you join us to advocate for Mexico? While you may already be praying for us and for Mexico and giving in support of our ministry, would you speak to others on our behalf? Would you share one of our newsletters (PDF) or our contact information with them that the team advocating for Mexico might grow? Would you share one or two names with us to whom we might tell the more complete story of Mexico and our vision for its redemption?

We’re in the middle of a 3,175-mile family road trip (see inset). Our family of 6, (yes, we’ve brought our dog, Kaixin, along) has traveled from Missouri to Pennsylvania; now we find ourselves in Florida. It’s been a journey of reconnection as we’ve had the chance to visit with family and friends, many who have been so instrumental in sending us to Mexico and maintaining us as we minister there. However, this stop in Orlando, where we find ourselves currently, was made with a different purpose in mind. While we have made reconnections as we’ve met together with hundreds of missionaries from around the world for the unprecedented gathering called Together 2019, we’ve spent the last 4 days seeking renewal, acquiring refocus, and enacting recommitment to the “greatest evangelism the world has ever 
seen.1

All this week, as Assemblies of God World Missionaries have been meeting at Calvary Christian Center, we have paused our ministry pursuits to pray for one another, to hear from the Holy Spirit and to respond to His direction. For our entire family, it has been a significant experience, especially as we take on our new responsibilities as Directors of the Mexico Area (members pictured above). It has been a time to give thanks to God and to worship Him for what He has done among us, to encourage ourselves in the Lord and in His power, and to minister and receive the ministration of others.

The culmination of the event was the signing of a document of recommissioning. It was a recommitment to the Lord and to His Great Commission to make disciples of the nations. It was a reaffirmation of our commitment to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of the Church, and to collaboration with our fellow missionaries. As we face the enormous task of reaching the tens of millions without Christ in Mexico we know that it is only as we live out that commitment that we will be able to finish the work.

So as we turn now to the labor at hand, pray for us as we seek to walk daily in the spirit of our gathering. Pray for us to cultivate a freshness in our relationship with our Lord, to maintain our focus on the work of establishing the church, and to endure in our commitment to the Lord and to one another.

1. Statement made during the 2nd General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1914.

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What a difference a month makes! Since our last newsletter, we’ve: traveled 3050 miles, took part in Missionary Training, were officially installed as Mexico Area Directors, began life again as a family of five, moved twice, and began our itineration year. Needless to say, we’ve been busy! Still, we would not have been able to accomplish even half of that list if it hadn’t been for the many who helped us make our many transitions. So allow us to use this space to express our gratitude.

Beginning at the beginning, we’re thankful for our friends who helped us sort, sell, pack and move our belongings from our home and make it to the airport. We’re also thankful to United Airlines, for a smooth ride, on-time departures, and expert luggage handling. No muss. No fuss. Just a great ride.

During the trip, we were blessed by a “chance” meeting with Catherine Figueroa, fellow missionary to Oaxaca, and grabbed a bite at the Houston Airport Chick-Fil-A. We were also treated to a violin concert in Terminal D. Bonus!

Arriving in Springfield, MO, we were met by our friends, Dan and Lori Van Veen who fit all of our earthly belongings into their minivan for the trip to our temporary apartment where Andrew, from TLC properties, had stayed late for us to be able to check-in. You guys are the best!

Later, we were received by our LAC family who let us crash their Missionary Associate Dinners as we integrated into Missionary Training already in session. We’re appreciative of the warm welcome that our Regional Director, Dave Ellis, gave us and the grace with which Paul and Sandy Kazim, our outgoing Mexico Area Directors, handled the transition. We’ve got some classy leadership in LAC.

We’re also thankful for our candidate missionary families, the Cogdills and the Sislos, who are in the midst of their itineration. They are exhibits A and B of the quality players that are a part of Team Mexico. We’re pulling for your speedy return!

And we can’t fail to mention, Righteous Rides, who afforded us a sweet deal on an itineration vehicle, New Life Church and Central Assembly for their warm welcome, Steve and Melissa Pulis for their refrigerator, and Eric and Amy Spencer for the truck to transport it. Without friends like you, our transition would have been a lot harder. And here’s a shout out to our family who’s received us for our first iteration stint in PA!

Finally, we’d like to thank you, our supporters. Thanks for keeping up with us, praying for us, and pulling for us. We love you!

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