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Instead of a response, silence. Instead of answers, questions. These are disappointing and often frustrating outcomes, but can they also be a means of growth? In our study of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS) and in our interactions at the World Assemblies of God Fellowship (WAGF) Missions Congress in Medellin, Colombia, we’ve discovered that, often, they can be.

As Pentecostals, we’re accustomed to expression, but a word spoken to God is not the only method to meet with God. In fact, there are times when God chooses silence to express his presence (1 Kings 19:11-13). In EHS, in addition to working through the content and engaging in discussion, the men of the Mexico Missionary Fellowship (MMF) are leaning into the silence, making it a daily discipline to turn off the noise and so facilitating growth through an alternative experience with God. 

At the WAGF Missions Congress, we joined with hundreds of delegates from around the world who gathered to mobilize to see the worldwide Assemblies of God movement surpass the 1 million church mark by 2033, the two-thousandth anniversary of the Church. It was an exciting time. However, during the workshop led by missionary, Ed Nye, that Dave translated, we were also confronted by a sobering reality: our normal ways of planting the church are largely ineffective among the 3.2 billion unreached, who are increasingly put off or put at risk by traditional forms of evangelism. 

The temptation is to look for easy answers to our problem, ready-made methods that can generate quick results. Often, though, the answers that we provide are answers to questions that no one is asking. Ed Nye suggested that sometimes the unreached remain so not because we are lacking answers but because we are not asking the right questions.

Silence. Questions. Perhaps they’re not what we want but exactly what we need to see both personal and corporate growth. Thanks for your support, which gives us the opportunity to lead others into these frustrating but often productive experiences.

  1. Dave is facilitating the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality program for the men of the MMF.
  2. We were on hand to participate in the 6th WAGF Missions Congress in Medellin, Colombia.
  3. At the congress, Dave translated for Ed Nye in his workshop about reaching the unreached. 

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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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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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Normally, we reserve this space for ministry updates and information about Mexico but because of Mothers’ Day, we’ve decided to share a different type of content. We hope you enjoy it.

This year’s Southern Missouri District Council was a special event. Not only was it the first district council held since the pandemic began, but it also marked a very significant moment for our family. During the ordination service, Kelly received the traditional ordination charge and was prayed for by the presbytery while our daughter, Rebekah, received her ministerial license.

Celebrating Kelly’s ordination and Rebekah’s licensing
Photo Credit: Jim Tygrett

As the events unfolded several emotions bubbled up to the surface. During the night, we experienced excitement and happiness, as well as a certain amount of pride. Both Kelly and Rebekah had worked hard to prepare for this recognition. Kelly’s ordination was our leadership’s affirmation of her 15+ years of missionary service, while Rebekah had added additional courses to her degree and passed an exam to receive her license. This night marked the achievement of a significant goal for both of them.

However, the emotion that seemed most appropriate was that of gratitude. Neither Kelly’s nor Rebekah’s formation had happened in isolation. They had been influenced by significant people who helped cultivate in them the qualities of compassionate leadership required of a minister. And, while those have been evident in the teaching that we’ve received and the care we have been shown by our pastors, those qualities are most often seen in persons holding a less public role; we see those qualities in our mothers.

In my own life, I (Dave) can testify to my mom’s self-sacrifice and perseverance that not only freed me to pursue my missionary calling but has also served as a model for my ministry. Kelly’s love for the Word of God and aptitude for service can be traced back to the example that her mom lived out on a daily basis. And while dads too play an important role, her mom has served as Rebekah’s most constant influence and steady support. “Thanks” seems too light a word to express our appreciation for our mothers’ contribution.

How about you? Have you been blessed by the love and example of a godly mother? It’s our sincere desire that you’ll have the opportunity to show her the gratefulness that she’s due. Gifts and a nice meal are always appropriate, but we’re sure her greatest joy would be to see the contribution that she has made reaping dividends in the lives of others.

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March marks one year since the coronavirus swept through the United States and changed our lives forever. In times of crises like the last 12 months, it seems as though all we can do is worry. But then we read the words of Philippians 4:6:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

We have not been unaffected by this tragedy, but as we have increasingly turned to prayer, we have found that God is the one providing for and protecting his people.

As we watched the virus spread through Latin America and into Mexico, our thoughts went immediately to our friends in the Yucatan. The churches planted during our last term, especially in the extreme south of the state, were extremely fragile and isolated. Their people are poor, largely dependent on what they can produce with their hands or grow in their fields. As the pandemic took hold and the economy came to a standstill, we wondered how they would survive. Then, when five named tropical storms passed over the peninsula, we feared the worst. 

In Blanca Flor, the floodwaters destroyed crops but they also brought fish!

The damage was considerable. In Blanca Flor, where our students Lily Dzul and Kary Yam began their work, floodwaters had not only cut off their access to the village, they had totally washed away their crop. Still, even though they faced the worst they prayed for the best, and God answered! 

While the floodwaters had destroyed the corn in the fields, they brought fish with them. So, instead of harvesting a crop, they fished for their food! Meanwhile, Lily and Kary were able to overcome their lack of access to the congregation by recording their messages and sending them via social media. Those with cell phones gathered with others to share their messages of hope and encouragement. Despite the storms and the isolation, God had provided! Despite the threats to the church, God had protected his people! 

Yes, the past year has been disastrous in many aspects, and we continue to ask God for mercy on those who struggle with COVID-19 and its after-effects. Still, although we may be tempted to wring our hands in worry, we are reminded time and again that it is far more productive to fold our hands in prayer. He is the one who is providing and he is the one who is protecting his people.

 

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Seasons

As we gear up for this new season of ministry in 2021, we thought you might enjoy this encouraging article that Kelly wrote.

Is it a new season? Have you pulled out the clearly marked totes, tasted a spiced-up cappuccino at the local coffee shop, perused a clearance rack or two due to the new inventory coming into the stores?

Is it a new season? Have you welcomed a baby into your home, or said goodbye to one as she left for college? Have you recently separated from a spouse, or perhaps just tied the knot? Has someone dear to you left this world?

Is it a new season? Have you just changed jobs, on purpose or unexpectedly? Maybe you’re currently “exploring your options.” Have you been recently diagnosed with a chronic disease or heard the news of cancer in your own body or that of a loved one? Did you just “ring the bell”?

Is it a new season?

Seasons change. Sometimes it’s exciting, fresh, new. Then again, it may feel like Narnia under the rule of the White Witch—always Winter and never Christmas.

You are probably familiar with the song by The Byrds with the line “to everything there is a season.” Those lyrics and several that follow are found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. God has set in motion this concept of seasons from the beginning of time (Genesis 1:14). Knowing that truth gives me hope in the difficult seasons and challenges me to grow as I enjoy the exciting ones, understanding that one season gives way to the next. So, relish the exhilarating flavors of that pumpkin spice chai latte, pour your heart out to God during that long winter night, let hope arise in your heart as the first crocus appears or when you see the robin, and take in that vitamin D from the rays of the sun until it gets too hot and you need a refreshing dip in the lake! Whatever the season, let God be your Evergreen—never changing, always faithful—through it all.

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That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. —John 17:21


We met this week with Jay Dickerson, LAC missionary training coordinator,
and newly approved missionary to Mexico, Elizabeth Dyvig, for candidate orientation.

“Calgon, take me away!” was the catch-phrase of a memorable TV commercial of our youth. It’s the cry of a mom confronted with an impossible domestic situation just before she’s transported to a secluded bubble bath of peace and quiet. For us, it would become shorthand for “I’m having a rough day, or week, or month and I’m ready for it to just be over.”

As we head into this, our seventh month of the pandemic, I’m certain we’ve all at some point wanted it to just be over. We’ve looked for the escape hatch or maybe even strained to hear the trumpet sound heralding Jesus’s return. Still, as we recently concluded our “40 Days to Listen” prayer and fasting emphasis, we’ve been reminded that God has not rescued us from the world, that is to say, taken us physically from it. On the contrary, he’s commissioned us to go into the world as his ambassadors of light in the midst of darkness, bearers of truth in the midst of popular opinion, and agents of life even in the midst of so much death.

Our Mexico Missionary Leadership Team, which Kelly and I lead as Area Directors, took up the challenge of memorizing John 17 during these past 40 days. We did so because we felt that this “high priestly prayer” would reveal his deep desire for us. As we rehearsed the words of that chapter, the nature of our mission revealed in that text became apparent. Jesus prays for us, “I do not ask that you take them from the world.” Furthermore, he says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” As the words of the Keith Green song say, “Jesus commands us to go.”

But he does not send us alone. He has called in the reinforcements, each one an answer to prayer. He sends Shawn and Carolina Sislo, who just last month entered Mexico after 6 months of waiting. They’ll be planting churches in Mexico’s “Last Frontier,” Aguascalientes, a state less than 2% evangelical. He also sends  Elizabeth Dyvig, a pastor from North Texas who just this week was approved by the World Missions Board to work in Central Mexico. And, as John 17:21 says, he goes with us as well into, yes, a divided world, yes, a sick world, yes, a suffering world, but a world that just might begin to understand its need for a Savior.

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Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 

—Hebrews 4:1

As the sun sets on our short-term expectations,
let’s fix our hope on the future being worked out in and through us.

In recent days I’ve been questioning my future hopes. As the pandemic took hold, I experienced an intense longing to get back to the life that I had known. Quarantine living brought with it an endless list of things that I’d given up to flatten the curve that someday soon I’d be able to enjoy again. I looked to the “new normal” as a finish line that, in just a little while, I’d be able to reach.

But as this crisis worsened, exacerbated by many of the conditions that had existed pre-COVID-19, I began to realize that the life that we knew was no paradise; it was at best a life “in-between” and there was yet a work to be done, not only in the world but also in me.

Such was the situation of the original recipients of the letter to the Hebrews. Facing increasing persecution, they were tempted to abandon their commitment to Christ. Therefore, the author takes them on a journey through their history and ritual, encouraging them to persevere in the faith that was not only transforming them but also the world around them. 

He encourages them not to wax nostalgic for the “good old days” of Moses or Joshua but to look toward the kingdom that cannot be shaken and the cessation of their striving that is God’s promised Sabbath-rest. He exhorts them to do so by remaining sensitive and obedient to the word of God, alive and active.

That same word is alive and active in our day. As a real crisis tested the Israelites in the desert, so this pandemic has revealed our American situation. It has highlighted our connectedness even when we’d hoped to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. It has emphasized our vulnerability even as we’d once considered ourselves impervious, and it has displayed our inability even as we imagined ourselves the most capable. 

But our response, as the Hebrews’, must not be to shrink back but to lean in to the uncomfortable, exposing work of the word of God. We accept its findings as it reveals our faults, acknowledging them and repenting of them. We hold firm as well as it strips away our false hopes, placing our sights not on the “new normal” but on the new creation that awaits those who persevere. And, in the meantime, wherever we find ourselves, we do God’s will, praying that in all things he might be glorified.

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Our 2020 Missionary Training Table Group

During the past few months of stay-at-home orders, I’ve taken to walking the perimeter of our backyard to spend my “alone time” with God. Given the fact that we had rented out our home over the past 9 years, I was not surprised to discover shards of glass, perhaps from a broken bottle or plate, left from a previous tenant. Day after day, though, the sun’s light would shift to reveal new pieces, even though I had removed the previously discovered ones. It’s also been a bit rainy lately, maybe some of the pieces were just under the surface.  But, you would think after a while, the path would be cleared of debris – it’s fairly well-worn, after all.

This made me think of the spiritual path we walk.  As we carve out a trail, walking with God, we notice some glass shards in our life: a sin or a habit or a stronghold that threatens us with harm.  We remove them from our path and dispose of them, content to know we won’t get cut on our next “go-round.”  But now that we’ve removed some shards, the light shifts and we notice a few more the next day or the next week. Will this process never end?

But the understanding that we are all at varying points of this process produces just the humility Dave and I needed to take part in facilitating online “round table” conversations during the 3-week missionary training session for new candidates. The topics that we reviewed last month: spiritual formation, culture, and theology of missions, among others, became open doors into our hearts through which the Lord could do His work, reminding us of the journey still ahead. But they also served as signposts, signaling to Dave and me of how far we have come, through both grace and perseverance, helping us to encourage these who now begin their missionary journey. Our prayer is that, through our interactions, these new missionaries will have less “shards” in their experience on account of this preparation time we spent together in community.

Lord, help us not to just stare and wonder at the glass shards on our path of life.  We want to pause, bend down, and carefully collect them in order to dispose of them.  Teach us to treat each item with care, removing it from The Way as we continue to walk with You. And, may we look forward to the day when all the shards have been forever removed.

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Growing up in catholic schools, we frequently sang, “Channel of Your Peace,” a hymn taken from the poem, “The Prayer of Saint Francis.” One of the verses reads:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy

Of course, I had no idea how that prayer would become a reality some 32 years later, but I am humbled to see how the Lord is using me and my family to bring hope in despair, shine as a light in the darkness, and serve as a source of joy in sadness.

And in Mexico, there has been much sadness. Because of the slowness of the response and the impossibility for many to shelter in place, the country struggles to contain the virus. Add to this Tropical Storm Cristobal, which has left much of southeastern Mexico, including the state of Yucatan, underwater.

It is in times like these that we are thankful to be a part of the strong networks that exist within the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) organization. Even as the crisis in Mexico deepened, our missionary fellowship partnered with the national church to sponsor over 1000 of the neediest pastors within the fellowship and joined fellow missionaries, Paul and Sandy Kazim, in their effort to provide personal protective equipment for some of those on the front lines of Mexico’s COVID-19 response.

Since that initial effort, we’ve sent emergency aid to district officials who were gathering relief supplies for flood victims. We’ve continued our conversations with those who are responding to Network 211’s online gospel presentations throughout Mexico. And we’ve coordinated the prayer response within our missionary fellowship, ensuring that our co-laborers have the support they need to sustain the effort.

Still, we are aware, now more than ever, of the need to do more to reach the lost of Mexico. That is why we’re excited to serve as facilitators in this year’s Missionary Training where two additional missionary units will be joining us to prepare for their service in Mexico and to add their effort to the work.

A channel of peace—the fourteen-year-old boy who sang those words had no idea what they truly meant. Now, this 46-year-old man is beginning to comprehend. It’s hope in the midst of despair, light in the midst of darkness, and joy in the midst of sadness. Thanks for your prayers and support that helps us to be just that in Mexico.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. 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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