…is a saying attributed to Horace Greely who in 1865 encouraged youth to seek opportunity on America’s frontier. It is also a song sung by Michael W Smith who in 1990 encouraged youth to flee evil, often represented in the Bible as lying to or coming from the east. But for us, “Go West” is what we did to experience some of what’s happening in el Distrito Occidente (the Western District).

This was our first time visiting the district, which is comprised of the states of Jalisco, Colima, and parts of Michoacán. The drive there was certainly a beautiful one, but what put a smile on our faces was seeing the work being carried out by veteran missionaries Rich and Jenni DeMartino and Ernie and Sandra Peacock and their partners.

Restoration on the coast: our first stop was at the coastal community of Melaque. There, Ernie and Dave toured the Bible School Nuevas de Gran Gozo and were on hand for their graduation ceremonies. Ernie and Sandra hope to renovate the Bible school facilities and reinvigorate the program that seeks to catalyze ministry in this needy area.  

Reconciliation in the north: our next visit was with national workers, Alberto and Ruth (second photo), who are working among the Huicholes of northern Jalisco. We had the opportunity to hear how they are using business as mission (BAM) ideas to draw near to a people who, in 2016 expelled all Christians, and how the Peacocks hope to further resource their efforts. 

Rescue in the city center: we finalized our trip in Guadalajara where the DeMartinos’ ministry of compassion has been feeding hundreds since the start of the pandemic. There, we joined a team from Pittsfield, MA, to help distribute food, pray for the sick, and speak words of hope (third photo). Rich and Jenni look to purchase a permanent home for this ministry while they are also planting a church in Chapala.

Thanks for enabling us to “Go West” to encourage and support these efforts!

Note: this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox!

Photo Captions:

  1. Dave and Ernie Peacock praying for the graduates of “Nuevas de Gran Gozo” in Melaque, Jalisco
  2. Alberto and Ruth, workers among the Huicholes, in front of their ministry center, built with an innovative technique they’re teaching to locals as a BAM initiative
  3. Dave and Pastor Dave, from the Pittsfield team, speaking in downtown Guadalajara

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Actually, a lot! First-term missionaries, Noah and Melanie Lane are training indigenous pastors. Mexicans are preparing for international missions service, and brand new opportunities to pray, give, and go are opening up!

We’ve just returned from our second visit to Oaxaca. This time, we road-tripped from Mexico City to be on hand for the graduation of 11 students from the missions training center, CAMAD (Centro de Adiestramiento de Misiones de las Asambleas de Dios). The event marked the culmination of the training of a new group of global workers, prepared to face the challenges of making disciples in this post-pandemic world. Dave spoke during the graduation, reminding them that their call was first to be with Jesus, the one who was sending them to make disciples.

The ceremonies also included the inauguration of CAMAD’s new facilities as incoming students prepare to take classes and reside for the first time on grounds exclusively dedicated for training in cross-cultural service. A special treat was seeing one of our former students from the Bible School in Mérida, Iliana, among them.

Simultaneously, Noah Lane was participating with other faculty of the Bible Institute for the training of indigenous ministers, IBEM (Instituto Bíblico para las Etnias Mexicanas) in special classes to prepare them for their 2022-2023 school year. This school is opening up ministerial training to many who were unable to attend traditional Bible Institutes due to barriers of language or distance. In April of this year, Noah and Melanie opened a new extension of IBEM in Teponaxtla where 10 students are studying.

Yes, there are some pretty exciting things happening in Oaxaca and you can be a part!

  • First, you can pray! Pray for the students and faculty of CAMAD and IBEM.
  • Second, you can give. CAMAD is in construction! Their academic and administrative building is taking shape. Use the link, http://s1.ag.org/137r, to navigate to our giving page and select “40” under “Advanced Giving Options” to help advance the work.
  • Finally, you can go! While in Oaxaca we met with the directors of the grade school, Centro Educativo Vida Nueva. They are looking for college graduates to help direct their students through their Bible-based, English curriculum. It’s an impactful way to give a year and pray about a lifetime of service in missions. Follow this link, http://s1.ag.org/oaxaca, to find out more!

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These days, when it comes to service, simple competency can be a big ask and excellence a pipe dream. That’s why our interactions with the Bienes Raices San Lazaro group have been so refreshing. 

Dave and members of BRSL, encouraging the pastor of the church that meets on the property that it manages.

As part of our Area Director responsibilities, we sit on the board of Bienes Races San Lazaro (BSRL), the association charged with the management of a large property in Mexico City (CDMX) owned by the Assemblies of God of Mexico. This property is home to the offices of the Distrito Sur, the ministerial network that consists of Mexico City and the State of Mexico, Ana Sanders Theological Seminary, as well as the church, Jesucristo Luz a las Naciones, among other ministries. There are also a number of warehouses for lease and parking spaces for rent both to businesses and individuals, which serve to subsidize the mentioned ministries.

In our bi-monthly meetings, we review the finances of the association and discuss any issues pertaining to the property. These regular meetings have reinforced our appreciation of the people that we work with on a regular basis. Carlos, the administrator, manages accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with both a keen business sense and complete transparency, and the district officials and missionaries that make up the board of BRSL are unswerving in their commitment to meet their financial obligations while showing abundant generosity to the ministries that operate within the property.

In one such case, it was noted that a church meeting on the property had not reconvened since services had been suspended at the height of the pandemic. Instead of seeking another church to rent the space, the board members reached out to the pastor of the church, offering him the space rent-free in exchange for the promise that the congregation would return and put it to use for ministry. They subordinated their financial need in the genuine interest of blessing the congregation. 

Thank you, then, for your prayers and support that have offered us, not only the opportunity to witness this excellence in service but also to be participants in it. Kelly and I count it a privilege to be your representatives locally here in CDMX and nationally as we support the 25 missionary units serving throughout Mexico.

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…begins with a single step.

Long trips are daunting. Not only is the distance a concern, but there’s the element of the unknown as well. How much time will it take? What route will we follow? What will we encounter along the way? Trying to answer all of these questions at once is overwhelming, but as we take one step at a time, planning, packing, and traveling the distance, we eventually reach our destination.

This was our road trip experience, May 25th-26th from Mexico City to Springfield, MO. We traveled those 1,557 miles over 29 hours to be on hand for the first in-person Missionary Training event since 2019. Although we hadn’t driven the road before, we found that preparation, planning, and diligence carried the three of us (Dave, Kelly, and our dog, Kaixin) safely to our journey’s end.

As we enter into these next weeks of training, we find that it is helpful to think of a missionary’s career in these terms. The thought of sharing the gospel and discipling a person from another culture and language group can seem like an impossibility, but as we embrace the process—planning, preparing, and diligently applying ourselves to the lifelong task of entering into the people group that we seek to influence, we find that we make significant progress.

Our task in the coming weeks is to guide a new group of missionaries just beginning their journey of approaching the people groups that they have been called to serve. During that time, we’ll work as facilitators, encouraging them to reflect on the concepts many of them will be considering for the very first time.  We’ll also help them understand how those ideas work in the Latin American Caribbean context where they will labor.

Thanks for your participation in positioning us in support of these global workers at this critical time of formation. Pray for them as they embark on this journey and for us as we continue on ours.

Note: this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox!

Photo Captions:

  1. We enjoyed some incredible views on our trip from Mexico City to Springfield, MO. Unfortunately, photos just don’t do justice to the beauty of Mexico. 
  2. Continuing our journey of formation, we took the Gospel for Secular Peoples course led by our friends Shawn and Deb. Dave’s brother, Mike, joined us for dinner.
  3. The LAC Leadership Team met in Branson in preparation for Missionary Training.

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There were two women standing at the garage door, waiting for the church to be opened. In a church as small as Casa de Dios, it’s easy to recognize new faces, and these were women that we’d never seen before. As the doors were opened and we filed in to take our seats, we introduced ourselves. Bere and Yuri were their names and we greeted them warmly as the service began.

Before long, we’d finished the song service and I (Dave) was asked to preach the message. While I wasn’t sure that I’d be speaking that day, I routinely prepare something as it’s common in Mexico to invite the missionary to speak when he or she attends.

I shared from Luke 24 and highlighted the words of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “¡Oh insensatos! (Oh senseless ones!)” I explained how the short-sighted expectations of Jesus’s followers had not only blinded them to his appearance there on the road, but also to the point of his ministry. I encouraged the group gathered that day to not get carried away by their own hopes and dreams that blind them to the revelation that is often standing in front them. I encouraged them to look to Jesus, the one whose victory came as an apparent victim.

The service was soon coming to a close when Bere raised her hand. She had a word that she wanted to speak to the congregation. In it, she spoke of the loss of her father-in-law, her pastor and spiritual mentor, to COVID-19. She also spoke of her battle with sickness and later depression as the pandemic wore on. But having come this particular morning, she felt that she’d been encouraged to lay aside her senselessness, to give up her expectations about how God should work on her behalf and to trust in His plan despite the difficulties.

Later, we prayed for Bere who said that she had felt compelled to attend Casa de Dios that day and that, despite the closed doors and the humble appearances that greeted her arrival, she knew that she was in the right place to hear from God. She also told us that she was awaiting news of a critical exam that may reveal cancer in her body, a possible cause of the symptoms that she had been experiencing.

Kelly exchanged numbers with Bere. We promised to continue praying for her and asked her to let us know the doctor’s report. To our joy, just last week she shared the news: “God still works miracles. The scans showed that I’m completely healthy.”

As we’ve mentioned before, ministry has been difficult in Mexico as many remain reluctant to venture out despite the decline in infection that we’ve experienced over the past few months. Still, Bere’s story encourages us to believe that with God there are no coincidences. We’re in Mexico to be used as He wills and in the way He chooses. Thanks for your prayers and support that keep us here.

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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.

Would you like to know more about Mexico City from a missionary’s perspective? Take a look at this issue of Worldview magazine.

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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, among unreached 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).

Note: this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox! 

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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.

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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 emphasis on 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!

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“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.

Israel’s church is reaping the benefits of patient sowing. This season, let’s encourage others in Mexico who are working toward the harvest!

“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!

Note: this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox! 

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