Ministry

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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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It was five years ago when we last ministered in Tigre Grande, a small village in the south of Yucatán near the border of Quintana Roo. We had been invited by Rangel Vázquez and his wife Claudia, missionaries who were in the midst of restarting a church, which, 13 years prior, had literally been flooded out of existence. While the redemption story was encouraging, the situation was tenuous. They had yet to establish a permanent meeting place (photo, top left) and had found it difficult to gain traction in their attempts to reach the men of the village (top right).

However, on this past April 28th, the anniversary of the reformed congregation, those struggles were a thing of the past. Not only was the service held in their own building (top middle), but its very construction proved to be the encouragement necessary for several men to join the congregation—first to donate materials and labor to build the building and later to worship among the faithful who gather there weekly.

The Sunday service was a celebration of all that God had done among them. The current pastor, Yani May, a Bible school graduate and former student of ours (pictured in orange in photo bottom right), has not only been able to consolidate the believers who had been disbanded but has also successfully evangelized new ones. These received their certificates of baptism during the service.

Furthermore, the work happening in Tigre Grande is reproducing. Yani’s church has already served to stimulate the planting of another in Blanca Flor, but their vision is much larger. Fernando Diaz, the lead pastor of Príncipe de Paz in Mérida (pictured in blue in photo bottom right), who serves as a mentor to Yani, envisions Tigre Grande as a training center to reach the surrounding villages there in the extreme south of the state of Yucatán.

It was a joy, then, for our family to travel the three hours from Mérida to be with Fernando, Yani, and so many others who have been instrumental in the success of the work in Tigre Grande. Even Rangel and Claudia, now serving in the state of Chihuahua among the indigenous Tarahumara, sent greetings via video to recognize the efforts of the pastors and congratulate the perseverance of the congregation. I shared from John 15, encouraging them to maintain their connection to the true vine, placing priority on their relationship with Jesus Christ as they continue their journey into year six and beyond (bottom left).

Thanks for allowing us to have been a part of their history through your support! For our updated prayer list and links to our secure giving site, head over to our support page.

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We’ve just come out of a great season of activity with teams here on the Yucatán peninsula throughout the month of March. In the first week, we were blessed by Chi Alpha (XA) groups from Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, DC as they renovated Monte Horeb, a church revitalization project in Sotuta, Yucatán. Afterward, we headed south to the town of Tekax to continue the construction of the new church, Senda de Vida, accompanied by members of Rolla First Assembly and fellow missionaries, Nicky Rider and Loyd Cogdill.

The physical impact of their trip was apparent, as the XA team raised a new roof over the church building in Sotuta, and in Tekax, block walls rose from the ground, forming a new sanctuary through the efforts of the team from Rolla First. But, there was more to these trips than the construction itself.

There was a work of encouragement. I think that this quote from Mike, my twin brother and XA team leader, says it best. “I felt like our team was able to make a significant impact in Sotuta. With 16 students and staff pitching in, we moved the construction project forward, but, even more importantly, we were able to encourage a young pastor and his family. The last night affirming and praying over Pastor Erik and his ministry there was powerful (photo top left)! I believe great things are in store.”

There was a work of restoration. In Tekax, not only were former members encouraged to rededicate their lives to the Lord through the visit of the Rolla team, but also one of the ladies in the church testified of physical healing after several team members had prayed for her!

There was also a work of unification. The teams came together despite the difference in language and culture, despite the heat and the pressure of the jobs they faced. As Sam, one of the XA team members said, they left their comfort zone to give of themselves. Whether that was in the sharing of a testimony, in Sam’s case (photo top middle), or singing “10,000 Reasons” in English during the welcome service, in the case of the Spanish speaking church members in Tekax (photo top right), each group made an effort to come nearer, to bridge the gaps, to know and be known as the body of Christ. The result was truly something beautiful, and the impact, for both team members and nationals alike, profound.

As we close this update, we express our gratitude, not only to the teams and the churches that received them, but also to you, our supporters, who make it possible for us to facilitate these connections, working to fulfill the vision of the Yucatán full of churches. For our updated prayer list and links to our secure giving site, head over to our support page.

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the third and final of that series—the story of José Luís Vera Poot, planter of the new church, Río Jordán in the southern village of Maní, Yucatan.

In his youth, José wouldn’t have been picked out as the most likely candidate to plant a church. Having been schooled in and later teaching Marxist anthropological theories for 31 years, José had rejected God as simply a clever invention used for exploitation and manipulation. He declared himself an atheist and was proud of, what was in his estimation, his enlightened worldview. But a string of poor choices led José to infidelity, which threatened to destroy his family.

It was then, desperate to save his marriage, that José literally opened the door to the truth of the gospel. A series of visits by the pastor and several members of the local Assemblies of God church opened José’s eyes to the message of the Bible while their times of prayer softened his heart to consider the reality of God’s existence. It was a dream, however, in which José states the Lord stood before him saying simply, “I am,” that finally convinced him to believe. He was later baptized, and having reconciled with his wife, Gloria, became a member of the church. Now, José promotes the faith that he once ridiculed, serving alongside his wife as the leaders of the mission, Río Jordan, which they are planting in the western half of the village of Maní a section from which the evangelical church had been noticeably absent.

With a population of about 5,000, Maní is known for the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in its fields and for its handicrafts, especially the richly embroidered dresses called huipiles which are woven by the women of the community. More recently, however, the lack of economic opportunity has caused many to abandon the village, seeking their fortunes elsewhere, often turning to illegal immigration to the US as a solution to their financial problems. Those who remain increasingly turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to pass the time as they wait for their luck to change.

José and Gloria, on the other hand, have taken an active approach, dedicating themselves to sharing with others the Good News that had produced their own transformation. José was already enrolled in the local Bible institute extension when we met him at our regional church planting seminars last fall, and when we made the call for those who would volunteer to start a new work, he was among the first to respond. In the months that have followed, he’s been utilizing the tools he’s received in the church planting program to help guide both those who are discovering faith for the first time and those like Chico, who had lost their way.

Chico was a Maní success story. He had made a comfortable living for himself, saving much of what he had earned in his years as a house painter in the US. Upon his return to Maní, however, his expendable income and his ample free time gave him the opportunity to first sample and later become addicted to the alcohol and drugs readily available to those with the means to buy them. It wasn’t long before the addiction took its toll, robbing him of his money and estranging him from his wife and family.

José and Gloria reached out to Chico, who had by this time recognized that he’d hit rock bottom. They stayed with him, caring for him as he struggled for sobriety, and they prayed with him, leading him to repentance and renewed faith in Jesus. He now stands a changed man, taking steps toward restoration and testifying to the power of God to save. I had the pleasure of hearing his testimony only weeks ago at services in Río Jordán.

Yes, looking over his history, José would be considered an unlikely candidate to plant a church, but it’s just that sort of person that God has the tendency to use to facilitate a breakthrough. Thanks for your prayers and support that make it possible for us to walk alongside them, working together with them to maximize their impact.

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the second in that series—the story of Isaí González and his wife Tifany, pastors of the new church, Casa del Rey, in Mérida, Yucatán in the developing neighborhood of Los Héroes.

Los Héroes is a young suburb on the eastern periphery of the city of Mérida, but the colorful facades of its new houses and the bustling activity of its thriving businesses do little to alleviate the loneliness and anxiety that plague its residents. Many of its current occupants have upended their lives elsewhere in the country to look for new opportunities that the relative safety of the capital city of Yucatan affords. It was to meet the needs of these young families that Isaí and Tifany decided to plant Casa del Rey in 2016.

We first met Isaí in Instituto Biblico Bethel, where he was a member of Dave’s first church planting class in 2012. Recalling that formative time, Isaí stated that he’d learned from Dave that the success of the implementation of a project is in its planning: visiting the area, collecting information, and asking for the Lord’s direction. This is the same methodology he’s now applying to the benefit of the residents of Los Heroes.

Emphasizing a vision of multiplication, they’ve fostered steady numerical growth and have facilitated significant personal transformation in the lives of the residents of Los Héroes. The Ruiz family* is one example of the change that has occurred. Attempting to start over after economic disaster nearly destroyed their marriage, Lalo* and Luisa* arrived in Los Héroes broken and hurting, but, through the invitation of a church member, they attended service at Casa del Rey and were touched by the presence of God. Since that first service, they’ve given their lives to the Lord, experienced restoration, and are actively participating in the church’s ministry.

Whereas the rapid growth has brought with it its share of complications, such as the need to undertake an eight-month building project to expand their facilities, Isaí and Tifany continue to strive to fulfill their vision, turning now to cell groups to increase their impact and meet needs in Los Heroes.

We’re grateful for the privilege to work with people like Isaí and Tiffany, people achieving breakthroughs in their area of ministry. And, as we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we want to take this time to thank you for your prayers and support, which grant us this opportunity.

*Name changed

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