Ministry

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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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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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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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Since our appointment as missionaries in 2004, we’ve depended on the generosity and prayers of our partners to help sustain and catalyze ministry in Mexico. In the past month, we’ve felt that support keenly as we have been venturing routinely into uncharted waters.

We’ve felt encouraged as we’ve entered into this first term as empty-nesters, overwhelmed by the care and concern that has been shown, not only to us but also to our kids as we now live and work in separate countries. We’ve felt supported as we forge new relationships with ministry partners and navigate the ins and outs of the megalopolis that is Mexico City. And we’ve felt uplifted even in adverse situations as we’ve reached out to missionary families facing unexpected tragedy.  Your support is so appreciated!

It’s for that reason that we reach out to you to pray specifically for the national gathering of the Assemblies of God of Mexico, the Asamblea Conciliar that is being held in Leon, Guanajuato from Monday, November 8th until Thursday, November 11th.

To begin, this is the first national gathering of our partner organization since November of 2018. Since that time, they have lost over 300 ministers to the ravages of the pandemic, while weathering the related economic downturn that has left nearly half the national population below the poverty level.  In this meeting, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God in Mexico, there is a desperate need for a move of the Spirit to console as well as inspire the ministers and church members in their work to reach the millions who have yet to respond to the gospel message.

At the same time, even though this gathering is going forward, there are forces at work that seem to be bent on limiting its positive impact. Health officials have limited attendance at the event to those over twelve, making it difficult for the many families who would otherwise travel together to be a part of this important gathering. Also, delicate issues must be addressed, issues that require wisdom and a fair measure of grace.  As you have in the past, then, please pray for special favor over the events of this week!

*PabloBWV, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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August was a month of drawing near. We drew near to God and one another in our first missionary retreat in Mexico since 2017. We drew near to the national church in our introduction to the Executive Presbytery, and we drew near to hard-hit communities through compassionate responses to hurricanes Grace and Nora.

After months of remote connections, the 2021 Mexico Missionary Fellowship Retreat in southeastern Mexico from August 8th-12th was a refreshing and reenergizing time for our missionary team.  Encouraging messages from our US and Mexican leadership, extended times of worship and prayer, and ample opportunity for fellowship with our colleagues made our time together both memorable and motivating. 

Traveling to Mexico City on the 23rd, Dave took part in interviews with new and returning missionaries (below) and was introduced to the Executive Presbytery of the National Council of the Assemblies of God of Mexico. He had the opportunity to greet this governing body of 70 executive leaders, district officials, and ministry department directors and to express the desire of the entire missionary fellowship to serve alongside them in the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Mexico and beyond. 

Just a week after our missionary meetings, Hurricane Grace made landfall twice, striking the Yucatan peninsula and the Gulf coast of northern Veracruz, bringing high winds, heavy rains, and significant damage. Soon after, Hurricane Nora moved up the western coast, inundating the state of Jalisco.

Although the need is great, our missionary fellowship is rising to the challenge. Bolstered by funds from Assemblies of God World Missions and Convoy of Hope,  we’re resourcing our national church partners to help feed displaced families and rebuild damaged church buildings and pastors’ homes. 

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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Just a few paces from the flashing lights and bustle of activity of the General Council exhibit hall, in a space created to illustrate the syncretism, idolatry, and animism common to the region of Latin America where we serve (see photo), Danny* was speaking to me with tears in his eyes. He was attracted to “the shack,” the location of this display of indigenous religious expression, by the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe which was positioned prominently in the center of the structure. Being of Mexican descent, he was keenly aware of its significance. Although he described himself as non-religious before his conversion, he knew how central this image was to Mexican religious expression and how distracting it can be to the nurture of true faith in Christ.

This “shack,” which housed examples of indigenous religious expression, was just one piece of the LAC missions display at General Council 2021.

Still, as the conversation continued, it was clear that Danny had entered that space with a need that casual exchange could not meet. A young pastor of a fledgling church plant, he was struggling with the opportunities and challenges of serving his Hispanic congregation. He questioned his ability to guide a community so needy during a time so tremendous. He lamented his lack of a mentor as he struggled to motivate a congregation comprised of several who surpassed his age by decades.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this,” he said apologizing, but it was plain to see what was transpiring: surrounded by symbols of false religion, Danny was looking for a sign of hope. And, as I spoke the words, “can I pray for you?”, that shack designed to display the pervasiveness of syncretism became a sacred space, a point of encouragement for a beleaguered pastor. As Jesus, the way the truth, and the life met with us, Danny discovered that he had come with a burden but left with a blessing.

Danny’s story is special, but it is in no way singular. As I exited the shack, I saw another group, with hands raised, praying in the middle of our regional missions display. Clearly, in the four days of General Council 2021, hundreds of visitors were engaged and informed. Dozens signed up to explore opportunities in short-term or career missions and many were encouraged as missionaries shared their time, stories, and prayers.

What a blessing it was to advocate for missions during General Council 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Thank you for your prayers and support that make such trips a possibility. Please continue to pray that we would see fruit from our efforts—new workers to continue the unfinished task of disciple-making in Mexico and throughout the LAC.

*name changed

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It’s been a full and rewarding month of ministry. We started things off by participating in the virtual Missionary Training program, where two new missionary units destined for Mexico joined the dozens readying themselves for global ministry. Later, we took part in our LAC Leadership Meetings, where we discussed initiatives to encourage resilience in our missionaries during these difficult times. We also had the chance to encourage some itinerating missionaries headed to Mexico City (see photo) and finished off the month advocating for Mexico and missions at Northland Cathedral in Kansas City, MO. However, one of our more surprising activities was a guest question and response session with students from Instituto Bíblico Bethel in Merida.

Encouraging and having fun with missionaries, Crag and Natalia Baumtrog and their kiddos!

When I (Dave) received the message from Fernando Diaz, pastor and Bible School administrator, I had feared the worst. The coronavirus pandemic has entered a third wave in the state of Yucatan, and I was concerned that he was reaching out with bad news. Instead, I was pleased to learn that it was an invitation to share with his church planting class.

I logged on, not knowing what to expect. Bethel had been meeting virtually for over a year. I had wondered what the dynamic might be after so much time online. Would Zoom fatigue have taken its toll?

The class was a lively one. Following a brief introduction and recap of our experiences stimulating church planting with the district evangelism department, we launched into our time of questions. There were many, and they were varied, and extremely practical—”When should I move from Bible studies to weekly services? Which workers from my home church should I invite to accompany me in the church plant, how should we divide the responsibilities?” In our conversation, I found that the students were actively involved in starting new works, deftly navigating restrictions placed on them because of the pandemic, while reaching out to share the gospel message to friends, relatives, and neighbors. Needless to say, I left our session extremely encouraged. Despite the pandemic, the church is growing in Yucatan!

Still, the price to be paid to the pandemic has been costly. Nationwide, the church in Mexico has lost 270 pastors to COVID-19. In addition, Tomás Vera, the minister who succeeded me as the leader of the evangelism department has been diagnosed with cancer and is very ill. Won’t you join us in praying for their health and strength even as they work to extend the reach of the gospel?

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Follow Me!

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” … Then he said to him, “Follow me!” —John 21:18-19

Prior to our quarantine, our regional leadership team met in-person for the first time in over a year. It was a much-needed gathering of prayer and planning. 

I’m writing this update from our second quarantine cycle, this time because of a positive test for the coronavirus within our household. Jonathan, our youngest, was complaining of some symptoms on Monday morning. We had thought then that it was just a 24-hour bug, but, when the results came back, he was positive for COVID-19. Because of the result, we’ll be housebound until the 16th.

This return to confinement is frustrating. Kelly and I hadn’t been infected last month at our first in-person leadership meetings in a year (photo). We hadn’t become ill as a result of any of our missions services. It was our high schooler, attending classes only two days a week, sitting at a six-foot distance and masked that was sickened and, for that reason, we’re back where we were in March, watching our plans being altered against our will.

After such a frustration it’s easy to call “foul,” to look at others’ situations and complain that it’s not fair. That’s precisely where this month’s scripture comes in. Here, in John 21, Jesus reveals to Peter the fact that he will suffer and die as Jesus did. Peter’s immediate response to Jesus was to compare. He looked to John and asked, “What about him?”, but Jesus dismissed the question. His command was not to seek out the best circumstances—it was, rather, “Follow me!”

As this pandemic began we reassured ourselves that we were in this together, but as this crisis has persisted, we’ve seen how divided we are. We’ve observed how some have had their fortunes increase while others, like our friends in Mexico’s southeast, have dealt not only with disease but also disaster as four named storms have struck the Yucatan Peninsula. Is it frustrating? Yes. Could we say it’s unfair? Yes. Nevertheless, the command to all of us, rich or poor, US or Mexican, remains the same, “Follow me.”

And so we follow, loving God and others, although we’re housebound. We respond with compassion, coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts, although we must do it remotely. At the same time, we thank you for your participation and we encourage you, despite your situation, to hear and respond to Jesus’s command, “Follow me!”

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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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