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The Godzwa kids: Ready to go back!

The Godzwa kids: Ready to go back!

The day has finally arrived! After two weeks of being homebound, Mexico has reopened its elementary and middle schools. Rebekah, Joseph, and Jonathan were all smiles, ready to see their friends after the long suspension of classes.

Nevertheless, although our kids are happy to return, the reopening of the schools here in Mérida is being handled very seriously. Last week around the city, school buildings were being sanitized while teachers were taking classes on how to prevent the spread of the virus. As the children enter classes, they’re being checked for symptoms. If one student is found to be ill, he or she will be sent home for a minimum of 7 days. If the school finds a group to be symptomatic, the entire building will be closed for 2 weeks and the community will place itself under surveillance.

So, another step is taken back to normal life here in the Yucatán and in all of Mexico. We have appreciated your prayers and your concern through this time, and we look forward to seeing you as we plan our return to the States in June.

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The A/H1N1 Virus

The A/H1N1 Virus

The swine flu has left its mark on Mexico. With 1204 confirmed cases and 44 deaths, the statistics are slightly less alarming than once predicted, but the disruption that it has caused, in the form of canceled activities and the accompanying economic hit (to the tune of millions of dollars), the images of mask wearing citizens, and the general preoccupation will not long be forgotten.

Here in Yucatán, where we were once thought to be swine flu free, the government has reported 18 cases, most coming from previously discarded cases that have since been confirmed. Still, even though the virus has yet to be eradicated, life begins its slow progress back to normalcy. Businesses, which had been closed completely except for basic necessities like food and gasoline, reopened on the 6th. Classes, canceled since the 28th of April, will resume on Monday, and, with the ban on public gatherings lifted, we’re resuming our ministry in churches starting this Sunday with another evangelism conference.

So even though we’re statistically worse off, it seems as though this round with the swine flu is drawing to a close. Still, we ask that you would keep praying for recovery for those who are now sick, for comfort and a sense of God’s presence among those who have lost a loved one, and for a realization here in Mexico of the fragility of life and the need of Savior.

Also, we ask that you would pray for us. We need to remain healthy as we transition back to the States. There is a lot of ministry to finish in addition to all of the reducing and packing we need to do before we say goodbye on June 20th.

Photo by LA100RRA 3logs

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Police Officers don masks for protection.

Police Officers don masks for protection.

The early afternoon is usually a usually a time of hustle and bustle here in Mérida. Students are heading home for “comida” the normal big meal of the day. Families are planning for the rest of the day–sports activities, a trip to the mall, an evening downtown, or school meetings to attend. But everything is strangely quiet. There is noticeably less traffic on the avenue near our home. There is no sound from the loudspeaker that normally broadcasts the names of the students whose parents have arrived to drive them home. That’s because there hasn’t been school since Monday. All public events have been canceled and activities that would gather people together, from churches to team practices have been prohibited, all to prevent the spread of what is now the scourge of Mexico, the Swine Flu.

Our understanding that something was awry began when our friends, Josh and April Amiot notified us that they were returning to Mexico City to attend the funeral of one of their good friends and ministry co-workers. An otherwise healthy mother of three, Nelly didn’t fit the profile of those who die of the flu. Normally the very old or the very young, under six, are those who succumb. Of course, this was just the trickle before the flood. By last Friday the 24th, we had heard of hundreds sick and dozens dead as the Swine Flu spread rapidly across central Mexico. At the end of the weekend, there were reports of sicknesses in 19 of the 32 Mexican States and drastic measures taken to stem the spread of this highly contagious, and surprisingly deadly, conglomeration of three different flu viruses.

Here in Mérida, and across Mexico, all schools have been closed until the 6th of May and all public gatherings have been prohibited until further notice. Labor Day, May 1st here in Mexico, will be observed without the customary parades. Sporting events have been held without fans, and our district convention, set to have begun yesterday has been suspended until a later date. Even church services are against the law. Those that need to work in the public sector have taken to donning masks to protect them against the airborne virus.

But we are not writing to scare you. Our family is well, and to date, no officially recognized case of Swine Flu has been recorded here in Mérida. Still, there is a definite tension in the air as anxiety and fear have taken hold. There is a sense of helplessness apparent as society waits for word of progress against this disease.

But we are not helpless, we can cry out to God and know that He will hear and respond to our requests. So we ask you to join with us as we intercede for this nation. Ilona Hadinger, a fellow Mexico Missionary and the coordinator of our prayer devotions on offers these points to guide us in our intercession:

  • Pray for the sick; for an end to the suffering.
  • Pray for families who have lost a loved one to the virus.
  • Intercede for believers as they boldly pray for the sick and proclaim the Good News of eternal life.
  • Ask for the peace of God to be felt across the land, and for many to commit their lives to the Prince of Peace.
  • Pray for pastors, Christian leaders, and missionaries to remain healthy with a steadfast trust in the Lord
  • .

Please join with us during this crucial time.

Photo provided by sarihuella on

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New Life We needed to replace the grass in our front yard about two weeks ago. A busy schedule and low water pressure had taken it’s toll on our previous lawn, and all that was left after the dry season that we’ve had was a lot of dust. So, after a change to our water system was completed, what was left of the old lawn was removed, and new grass was brought in.

As the Agustín, the gardener, was removing the remnant weeds, he looked over what used to be a flower border. “You want me to take these out too?” he asked. The border was a disaster; it looked like a mess of limp grass. Still, I said, “Let’s keep it. Maybe it’ll grow back.” So the limp-grass-once-upon-a-time-flower-boarder remained. Perhaps just to suck up water that would be better spent on the new lawn, I thought, but I had hope.

And that hope wasn’t disappointed. After about one week of watering, one sunny morning I was greeted by the picture above–dozens of tiny white flowers where once only limp grass stood. It was amazing to see the power of life in what seemed to be a hopeless situation.

Nevertheless, a dying flowerbed pales in comparison with the hopeless situations that many of us face. While we’ve been on the field, we’ve watched sadly as many of our friends were hit with what seem to be knock-out punches–unemployment, sickness, and divorce just to name a few. They are situations that are devastating for the parties involved and that leave those of us who must watch confused and questioning. “What is going on?” we ask, “Where is God in all of this?”

Of course, we have just celebrated the triumphant outcome of another seemingly hopeless situation–the resurrection of Jesus after a his death on the cross. The disciples had fled for their lives. Peter had gone as far as denying that he had ever known his former teacher. Jesus Himself, while dying cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The situation was irrevocable, or so it seemed. Nevertheless, just when it had seemed that God’s plan had been checkmated, the table was turned and the outcome was forever changed. That is the reality of Resurrection Sunday, the reality that still reverberates even two thousand years after the event.

I was reading Amy Maxwell’s blog the other day, when I happened upon some free music downloads. One of the songs, Rescue, by Ten Shekel Shirt, caught my attention when I was in the middle of thinking about one of my friends’ seemingly hopeless situation. The chorus of the song reads, speaking of God’s power:

You rescue, you redeem
You save, you intervene
You rescue, you redeem
Our lives, the stories of our lives.

It’s true. As the flowers reappeared from the dust of our yard, so God is able to redeem us even in the most difficult of situations. Like the prodigal son who’d cast away the riches he’d demanded, if we turn to Him, God is ready to receive us and restore us as His sons and daughters, even if we have squandered the chances we’ve been given.

So, if you have a chance to download the song, I highly recommend it, and if you happen to be in one of those seemingly hopeless situations, or know someone is going through one, renew your hope in the fact that God redeems. His empty tomb stands as a testimony to the fact that a restored life is possible.

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IMG 1612Those of you who have read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and recognize the style of the title of this post are possibly anticipating a story of magic and mystery or an epic struggle between good and evil. In that you may be a bit disappointed. This story is instead about the reality of missionary life. How, try like we may, we are unable to set aside one role for the sake of another. We are missionaries, but we are husbands and fathers first.

It all started on Saturday, November 9th, following a long night and an early morning of family activities. (Jonathan had just celebrated his 6th birthday, and had a basketball game the next day to boot.) I was set to embark on a 18 hour bus trip to the Mexican Assemblies of God General Council, a once every two years meeting of ministers, in Puebla. I boarded the bus at 10:00 and began an adventure that would span four days and about $30 in cell phone credit.

The first two days were fairly uneventful, a stop for seafood in Champotón, Campeche, a late night taco feast in Cardenas, Tabasco and then the push to reach Mexico City for a bit of a tour of Chapultapec Park and the Plaza Garibaldi, all expected preliminaries as we prepared to participate in what was shaping up to be a fairly important council. However, the excitement that was generating as we were arriving at Puebla was not related to the council issues at all.

“Hi. Hurt my foot. Icing it now,” read the message from Kelly at 11:00 AM Monday morning. The rhythm of the council had been broken, at least for me. I had tried to dedicate myself to the role of council participant, but the role of husband and father had turned my attention back to a different reality. Kelly had fallen bringing groceries in from the car. A false step on entering the house had left her with pain and a rapidly swelling foot.

Kelly was putting the best face on the situation, grabbing info from the Internet about how to treat the injury at home. I advised that she head to the hospital for an x-ray, but she was still hopeful that it was only a sprain. A few hours later, I sent another message asking how she was: “peor (worse),” read the reply. So, 18 hours apart, I sat praying and wondering, while Kelly picked up the kids and headed to the hospital for x-rays.

The x-rays were taken, and the diagnosis was a slight fracture of the left foot. A splint and complete rest for the foot was the prescription. Bravely, Kelly told me to stay in Puebla. I recommended that she call on a few friends to help with the chores around the house, something that was already in process. Still, the next 8 hours would change Kelly’s situation from difficult to near impossible.

A call at 5:00 am on Tuesday woke me up from my uneasy sleep. Jonathan had thrown up 2 times. Now, Kelly not only had to maintain a functioning family, she had to attend to a sick child. I was no longer a council participant, I was a husband and father trying to get back as fast as he could.

Phone calls to friends were made, flights and buses checked, and I was on my way. In the taxi at 6:30, on the bus for the two-hour trip to Mexico City at 7:00, at the airport at 9:00 and on the plane by 10:00. In 6 hours, I was back in Mérida, amazed and thankful for a return trip that took only a third of the trip there.

So here I am again in Mérida doing minstry, ministering to my family and injured wife. Instead of voting on measures I’m measuring servings of cereal for breakfast, instead of trips to the convention center, I’m taking trips to school, but I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Reflecting on the events of the week, I was reminded that God doesn’t just call individuals to the field. He calls families, and those that He calls he doesn’t leave to fend for themselves, nor does He give any member the ability to specialize (i.e. “My ministry is preach and teach, yours is to the family.”) He has sent us all so that when one is weak another can be strong. It just turned out in this case that the one who was called to be strong had to travel 750 miles in order to get home.

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“¿Qué opinas del nuevo presidente? (What do you think about the new president?)” is a question that Kelly and I, being Americans living in Mexico, are hearing quite a bit lately, and it’s one that I’ve had difficulty answering. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, but serving as form of spiritual ambassador, we’ve found that it’s not wise to involve ourselves in political matters. So often politics tend to divide, while, as members of the Body of Christ, we are called to be united. Philippians 2:1-4 mentions being like-minded, one in spirit and purpose.

Fortunately, we belong to a community of believers who, I feel, are in touch with the mind of Christ on this matter. They’ve risen above the wrangling of partisanship and focused us on the true task at hand, the proclamation of the Kingdom which transcends the cult of opinion.

The first example of this kingdom wisdom was posted by our General Superintendent, George O. Wood. In this video, he gives us a clear call to return to kingdom living along with a biblical guide on living under elected authority. It’s fully worthy of the ten minutes you’ll spend watching it.

The second example I’m submitting is a post that I encountered on Facebook. Steve Smallwood, posted there a dream that I feel should be in the minds and hearts of all followers of Christ. You can read his dream below:

I Have a Dream

It’s based not just on the American dream,
And it goes beyond justice related to skin color,
Though who could not be moved at the tears
Streaming down the cheeks of black men and women.

I have a dream that transcends ethnic differences,
One that moves beyond the divisive issues of yesterday’s battles,
And calls on citizens red and blue to beat their tired rhetoric
Into plans for action to address issues of significance.

My dream envisions Christians who would embrace the Kingdom,
Above and beyond any denominational or national loyalties.
It challenges the close-minded simplicity that requires large blocks of Truth
To be defined by and contained within small cranial cavities.

I have a dream that is based in the example of Jesus,
Who endured ridicule and refused to throw stones
At those who were beset with the legacies of sinful lifestyles
In order to deliver refreshing living water to their parched spirits.

My dream yearns for true believers to set aside,
Partisan politics and theologies of left versus right,
To not just oppose abortion but to truly cherish and nurture life
And to love God and others just as we ourselves want to be loved.

It’s a dream that refuses to divorce the gifts of the Spirit,
From the fruits of the Spirit—especially goodness and gentleness,
Toward those we disagree with—even our enemies,
Who we are called by Jesus to love—because they need it most.

There are days when I fear my dream is merely a vapor,
When I find myself at odds with the din of the crowd,
Then I remember that Jesus said we’re not to travel the well-worn path,
But instead to listen with discernment to his small voice and follow his costly example.

I proud to be linked with such men and women and glad to benefit from their wisdom. What’s more, I’m proud to be a part of a community that awaits, not a political solution, but an eternal redemption.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

–Ephesians 1:9-10

This verse just happened to be the verse of the day on

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A Typical Pemex Gas Station

A Typical Pemex Gas Station

I had left early for my Maya language class because I had to get gas on the way. Before leaving, I had asked Kelly if I should use cash or our handy-dandy debit card for the purchase. Liking the way that the bank informs us about the debit purchases, Kelly asked me to use the card. So, leaving the cash, I went out the door to the station.

There at the gas station, before the attendant, Robert, started pumping, I verified that they took credit cards. After assuring me that they did, he proceeded to fill the tank and top off my oil, a process that took all of about 10 minutes. Gassed and ready to go, I handed over the credit card for him to swipe it. That’s when the fun began.

After about a minute of waiting, the receipt spit out of the reader. “Try again later.” So we did, with the same results. Then we tried another card, again receiving the unwelcome advice. At this point, it was getting late. The manager was called over; another reader was tried, all with the same results. I was stuck with an $80 gas bill and no way to pay it.

I thought about the 15 minutes I had driven from my house just to reach the station, “How about one of you comes along to the ATM so that I can make a withdrawal and give you cash?” After a quick conference, Robert jumped in and off we went. We arrived at the cash machine in about 5 minutes where I jumped out and attempted to get the amount I needed. “We are unable to complete your transaction at this time. Try again later,” read the screen. What had started as strange had quickly evolved into the ridiculous. Now, we were to plan C.

Plan C consisted of a 30 minute road trip to my house in order to get the money that I had left behind. Getting approval at the station, Robert and I, fast becoming friends, headed off to get the cash. On the way there, we talked.

I asked him how long how long that he had been at the station, and that opened up the door to allow him to ask me about myself. Having long since dismissed the idea of making my Maya class, I told him what we did, and he began to open up about his family situation: separated parents and a constantly drunk father. Before we knew it, we were at my house where Kelly met us with the money and a healthy tip for Robert’s lost time.

On the trip back, I got a chance to speak to Robert about my history. A former Catholic with 4 separate beliefs represented in his 8 member family, he seemed to have assigned religion to something like personal taste in music, but I challenged this idea, speaking of how Christ had changed me and of how the Bible is the only set of sacred scriptures that deals with reality and offers a solution to the human condition. As I was relating to Robert’s situation and answering his questions, I realized that after nearly an hour getting gas, I wished I had more time.

We arrived at the gas station and shook hands after we had finally made the transaction. He returned to his pump and I drove away praying that the words that I shared would hit home. At the same time, I was determining to return to that gas station hoping to continue the conversation.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to my Maya class. In middle of an an inconvenient and awkward experience God presented an opportunity for real-life ministry. Perhaps I should pray for more credit card machine failures?

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The start of September marked the anniversary of our second year in the Yucatán. Here is a look back at some of our favorite posts that you might have missed:

  1. Rethinking the task of teaching
  2. This post was written as a reflection on a major part of our work here in Mérida, that of teaching. It serves to remind us that if we seek to impart the tools necessary, and convey an attitude that promotes learning, we can create an investigator who seeks to find the answer and apply truth in such a way as to create change.

  3. Leave if You Can!
  4. This article was inspired by our trip to the flood stricken region of Tabasco, where we found that in a town where even the name encourages people to stay away, God had decided to take up residence.

  5. Living In-Between
  6. A reflection on the human condition, this post reminds us that, although we struggle in our “in-betweeness” of imperfection and disappointment, the promise of Easter is that the redemption of our soul that we currently enjoy will one day be universally applied.

  7. The Most Excellent Way
  8. This post reminds us that, when it comes to evangelism, the real question should not be, “How should our evangelism look?” but rather, “How should our evangelism be motivated?”

  9. Learning to Fly
  10. This last selection is a light look at sharing responsibilities in a missionary home.

We’re thankful for the two years of ministry that we have had here the Yucatán. It’s our prayer that, with your continued partnership, we will be able to celebrate many more.


Here on the mission field, we’ve come to recognize that it is important to take advantage opportunities. Take the grocery store for example. Certain staples that we depended on in the US, like applesauce, make appearances for a limited time only. So, when we saw the display of “puré de manzana” at the local Wal-Mart, we bought 5 jars.

Of course, taking advantage of opportunities requires a certain amount of preparation. First, you have to be looking for them. If we had decided that we would never see applesauce again, it’s possible that we would have passed by the display without even noticing. Second, you have to be able to make the investment. A hand-to-mouth style of living doesn’t allow wiggle room for large purchases, so without the needed cash we would have had to pass up the sweet appley goodness.

Ministry can be the same way. Opportunities arise at time when we least expect it. Take this week: a casual dinner conversation turned to a daughter in need; a meeting the next day touched on the subject of a marriage in trouble; and a greeting after service brought with it a story of sickness and family strife. How would we view each situation? Would we see them as opportunities to apply the gospel we preach and teach or would they be taken as distractions in our otherwise busy day?

I’m happy to say that each situation that I mentioned we took the opportunity to minister. A daughter was counseled, a marriage encouraged, and a fellow believer prayed for. Still, I wonder, did we see all of the opportunities? Was God working in other ways that we weren’t prepared for? Or perhaps we simply weren’t willing to invest?

Paul asks the Ephesians for prayer in chapter 6 verses 18-20 that he might boldly speak the gospel. I believe that this petition not only has to do with attitude but also with availability. Paul wrote his letter in chains. He did not have the freedom to travel and to teach. It would have been easy to say that others now need to take up the work, that now was his time to rest. He could have closed himself off from the world, and yet he asked for prayer so that he would “open his mouth” to share.

We too ask for that prayer, that we who have been called as ambassadors of Christ will take advantage of every opportunity available to us. That we will be able to recognize how God is working in each situation and align ourselves to cooperate with Him as He carries out his mission here in Mexico and around the world.

Oh, and if you’ve got the scoop on where to find some Twizzlers here in Mérida we’re ready to buy.


Is this a slip of the English language or a new theology?

The English language is much in demand here in the Yucatán, especially with the tourism that places like Chichén Itzá attract, so we often run into students who want to practice what they’ve learned with us as we go about the city. Businesses as well like to get into the act, capitalizing on the popularity that English enjoys, and billboard and signs in English are common. Unfortunately, some businesses such as the one above use English but don’t quite understand it.

This sign in the picture says: “Super 32 Thanks God is Monday” I’m trying to decide if it’s a Monday morning encouragement or a new theology. So far we’ve not had the chance to ask the owner about it. In the meantime, what do you think? Do you have any ideas as to what they might be trying to say? Leave us a comment if you’d like to take a stab at the interpretation.


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