Ministry

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…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Gal 6:9

As we traveled to Mérida, Yucatán, in late January, the place where we had lived and ministered for 13 years, we couldn’t help but remember how we had worked to cast a vision for church planting throughout the district. There were hours spent with leadership to formulate a plan and create a team, miles traveled cross-crossing the state to introduce the concepts, and months spent training the prospective workers, walking alongside them as they founded new communities of faith. The work was arduous, and we faced our share of resistance along the way, but we labored on, believing that we would someday reap a harvest.

The harvest came in 30 churches planted or revitalized at the end of our time in Yucatán, but as we stepped away from the district to take on our current role as Area Directors, we were disappointed to know that church planting had been placed on the back burner.

You can imagine our surprise when Pastor Castillo, a colleague with whom we worked in Tixpehual, called to invite us to inaugurate the newly formed district-wide church planting school in Yucatán. “We called to invite you,” he said, “because you were the ones who cast the vision. We wanted you to witness what the Lord has done.”

It was truly a sight to behold. Not only had 23 students enrolled to plant new works throughout the state but many from the district were on hand to mark the occasion, even some who had shown resistance to our efforts in the past!

Dave preached that opening service and taught the first course module. We also celebrated the 38th anniversary of Pastor Castillo’s church, “Camino a Emaus,” where Isabel and her family from Tixpeuhal now attend. Our weekend in Mérida proved the veracity of Galatians 6:9—the seeds of vision sown and the labor of cultivation brought forth a harvest, both then and now for another generation.

Thank you for your prayers and support that helped make this all possible!

Photo Captions:

  1. Dave praying over students during the inauguration of the new Yucatán church planting school. This group of 23 students is preparing to plant works statewide.
  2. Memories: the first church planting module was held at Bethel where Dave first taught in 2006!
  3. Celebrating 38 years at “Camino a Emaus” with Pastor Castillo and his wife Olga.

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If you follow the news, you know that reports from Mexico are routinely related to complicated issues most would rather avoid. However, despite the headlines, God is moving in Mexico! And just last month, we witnessed more proof of that statement.

In December, we traveled to Pozuelos, Hidalgo to witness what can only be described as a modern-day version of the story of Cornelius. Only months prior, fellow missionaries, Peter and Delia Breit, received a call asking them to share Jesus with a family that was waiting to hear the gospel. When they arrived that day, they were met by more than 20 people in a brand-new church building eager to listen t what they had to say.

They found out that a brother had immigrated to the United States where he joined an evangelical church. With the desire that his entire family share in his experience of salvation, he began sending money back to Mexico, instructing his siblings to build a church where they could gather to learn about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. And there, in that very church, as Peter and Delia spoke, many in his family decided to follow Him!

Since then, Peter and Delia as well as missionaries, Larry and Melodee Gruetzmacher, have been visiting the village weekly to teach these new believers how to incorporate their new-found faith into their everyday lives individually and corporately. During our time there with Larry and Melodee, we had the opportunity to encourage the adults from the Scriptures and interact with the children, showing them how Jesus is present amid difficult circumstances. We also evidenced the transformation that He was accomplishing in these precious people, giving them hope and a heart to help others.

Yes, in Mexico, and around the world, bad news is easy to encounter. Still, God is moving. Thank you for your prayers and support that allow us to be a part of what He is doing!

Photo captions:

  1. The congregation in Pozuelos following the Christmas service. Kelly found out that this was the first time several of the children heard the Christmas story. 
  2. Encountering encouragement in the Scripture.

  3. Opening hearts in simple worship.

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While we continue to provide logistical support to the recovery and rebuilding process in Acapulco, we’re also taking advantage of open doors to facilitate ministry throughout Mexico. This past month, we traveled to Monterrey, strategizing with our national partners to reach the more than 30 million children of Mexico and see more churches planted.

A National Children’s Ministries Consultation was held on November 28th and 29th. Children’s ministries representatives from each of the 24 districts of the A/G of Mexico met with national church leadership to pray, train, and plan for a greater impact among the next generation. We coordinated the visit of featured speaker, Steve Sobey, President of the International Association of King’s Castle Ministry.

King’s Castle is a vibrant and growing outreach and discipleship ministry, activating youth to communicate the love of Jesus to children. In Mexico, however, it has faced a series of setbacks. One of the principal aims of the Consultation, then, was to see this ministry revitalized.

In their presentation, Steve and his associates, Heber Pérez and Wendy Landaverde, spoke on child evangelism and cast vision for the future of King’s Castle in Mexico. A highlight was the time of prayer as King’s Castle leaders gathered around the flag to intercede for the children of Mexico. While there is much work yet to be done, it was clear that the revitalization had begun.

Following the Consultation, we stayed in Monterrey but switched gears to talk about church planting. Dave preached at the national superintendent’s church, Palabra de Vida. In his sermon, he shared from the Good Samaritan, leading the congregation through an analysis of attitudes helpful for the extension of their influence in society. We concluded our time together detailing profiles for potential church planters among Mexico’s growing professional class.

We believe that our time in Monterrey has served to motivate ministry throughout Mexico. Thank you for your prayers and support that allow us to walk through these open doors!

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. Steve Sobey (bottom center), praying with leaders of King’s Castle Ministries in Mexico  
  2. Dave, sharing from the Good Samaritan at Palabra de Vida, Monterrey
  3. Conversing about church planter profiles with National Superintendent, Enrique González (center), and his family

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Paradigm noun: a typical example or pattern of something; a model.

There are familiar patterns to our lives, ways that we are accustomed to thinking, speaking, and acting that help us to relate to others, accomplish tasks, and meet the challenges that we face on a daily basis. These are our paradigms; although usually unconscious, they govern our behaviors in significant ways. Generally, we only become aware of those paradigms when they fail us, often painfully.

As we serve on the Global Resource Training Team (GRTT), training Global Workers for AGWM, we recognize that we can’t prevent all of those painful moments, but we can prepare them by helping them recognize their paradigms and allow for the shifts in those paradigms that will inevitably come throughout their career. That process begins during the Pre-Field/Candidate Orientation (PFO/CO) sessions.

In October’s session, the GRTT welcomed 83 new Global Workers who are beginning the formation that will make them effective ministers in a cross-cultural context with AGWM. Dealing with the Bible in Ministry (BiM), Dave participated in the presentation of a revamped curriculum to help these new Global Workers see the limitations of traditional paradigms for understanding the Bible and connect them to its overarching story which more readily engages the people they aim to reach.

In the afternoons, we joined our Latin America Caribbean (LAC) Regional Team to receive the 7 new missionaries joining the LAC family and to facilitate conversations around the core missionary competencies of Spiritual Formation, Missionary Life and Work, Theology of Mission, Understanding Language and Culture, Ministry in Context, as well as Bible in Ministry.

What a privilege it is to serve in this capacity, preparing our colleagues to fulfill the Great Commission! We appreciate your prayers and support that make our ministry possible.

Photo Captions:

  1. Dealing with BiM, Dave shared during two sessions, presenting a revamped curriculum to help new AGWM Global Workers grasp the biblical narrative.
  2. In this PFO/CO session, we celebrate answers to prayer: seven new Global Workers for the harvest in the LAC Region.
  3. A highlight of our week was the Global Prayer Service. Our newly elected executive director, John Easter, led us as we interceded for the nations.

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The mission of Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) is to establish the Church among all peoples everywhere, by reaching, planting, training, and serving. We are privileged as Area Directors to provide leadership to our 44 missionary colleagues who labor in partnership with the national church throughout the country to evangelize the lost, disciple new believers, and catalyze vibrant, gospel ministry. All of this activity, though, must be in service of our mission—the establishment of the Church.

Therefore, nothing gives us cause for celebration like being able to share that, Centro de Adoración a Jesús, a church planted by missionaries Rich and Jenni DeMartino as the first Assemblies of God church in downtown Guadalajara finally has a permanent home!

This congregation, originally planted in an upper-class neighborhood, responded to the needs of the homeless in the park, Jardín Villa de Cigales, during the COVID pandemic. There, they labored in the open air, reaching dozens each week with a free meal and the message of hope in Jesus. We had the opportunity to witness this mission of mercy, joining Rich and Jenni and pastors, Alfredo Trejo and Shulamita Esparza, in August of 2022, helping to distribute food and translate a gospel message alongside a team from Pittsfield, MA.

While happy to see lives being touched, Rich and Jenni longed to establish a permanent presence in the neighborhood, a place where the disadvantaged could have their needs met holistically, growing in relationship with a discipling community. But, even during our second visit this April, the price and availability of a suitable building threatened to dash their hopes.

However, God blessed their determination as they scoured the area in search of property and inspired the Latin America Caribbean Region, the Mexico Missionary Fellowship, and individual donors to provide the necessary resources to make Rich and Jenni’s dream a reality. This August 4th, Rich and Jenni, Alfredo and Shulamita, and the Superintendent of Distrito Occidente, Elizabeth Lopez, signed the purchase papers and received the keys to the new permanent home of Centro de Adoración a Jesús. We praise God for His provision and anticipate stories of changed lives as this new facility is put to use.

However, even as we celebrate this milestone, the words of Loren Triplett, former Executive Director of AGWM, ring in our ears, “We dare not measure our successes against anything but the unfinished task.” Although Centro de Adoración a Jesús has a home, there are still whole cities in Mexico that lack a similar witness. As the DeMartinos move into active retirement, the question increasingly becomes who will be that witness?

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. Church planters, Jenni and Rich Demartino
  2. Pastor David McIntosh from The Christian Assembly in Pittsfield, MA preaches while Dave translates during an outreach in the park, Jardín Villa de Cigales, in downtown Guadalajara in August of 2022.
  3. Alfredo and Shulamita, pastors of Centro de Adoración a Jesús, receive the keys to their new permanent facility in downtown Guadalajara.  

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We’re back in Mexico City! We’ve recently returned from our trip to Springfield, MO, the second part of which was dedicated to Missionary Training and Renewal.

As we reported in our last newsletter, Dave was asked to join the Global Resource Training Team (GRTT) to help teach the Bible in Ministry Competency (BiM) to all candidate missionaries and missionary associates across the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) organization. During his participation, Dave led the group through an exercise to facilitate an appreciation of the Bible as an ancient book and the need to understand the context of its original audience to hear and correctly apply its timeless message today. BiM is a work in progress and Dave will be meeting with the team in August to further develop the competency for future training sessions.

This installment of Missionary Training saw 155 missionaries and associates trained and commissioned to serve throughout the world. Among them were new global workers destined for Mexico. Joey and Gabi Ross are appointed missionaries headed to Aguascalientes, and Fausto and Debbie Martinez are missionary associates headed to Tijuana. They are an answer to prayer as we continue to ask the Lord to send more workers (Luke 10:2)!

The last week of June was dedicated to Missionary Renewal. This is a special time when veteran missionaries from all over the world join with the candidates to seek the Lord in worship and prayer. It was marked by powerful services with challenging messages as well as wonderful moments of fellowship. During the week, we welcomed Cory and Angela Hogan, veteran missionaries to university students in Guanajuato.

As we reflect on our time in the States, we can’t help but be grateful for your prayers and support that enable us to serve in this leadership capacity. Thank you for standing with us!

Photo captions:

  1. Dave had his first participation as a member of the GRTT, teaching a portion of the BiM competency to all new AGWM global workers.
  2. Joey and Gabi Ross (center) are new workers headed to Aguascalientes. Cory and Angela Hogan (left) are veterans who were on hand for Missionary Renewal.
  3. Debbie and Fausto Martinez are new associates destined for Tijuana.

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Our daughter, Rebekah, was married on May 27th. It was a beautiful celebration of her union with her new husband, Luke Balch, and the beginning of a new chapter for the Godzwa family. But it was also an opportunity to reflect on the role that we play in all of our relationships.

Luke and Rebekah were wed on May 27th. Their lives are a beautiful example of those who respond to the love of God.

In my comments during the reception, after extolling the qualities of the happy couple, I asked the question, “How have they (Rebekah and Luke) arrived at this place of mutual appreciation and love, at this point of union and expectation for their future together?”

Answering that question, I continued, “As their parents, family, and friends, we’d like to take the credit, for our encouragement, our example, our investment, or our wise and constant counsel, and, yes, we’ve all played a part, contributed as they say our granito de arena. But I, for one, would say that, as a dad, my gaffs probably far outweigh my grace and my failings far outstrip my successes.

However, what I do believe we’ve done successfully in their lives is to serve as signposts, pointing to a higher love, a more perfect example, a richer investment, and a wiser counsel, things each of them has found in the person of Jesus. I believe the reason that Luke and Rebekah have arrived here ready to give themselves one to another is that they first gave themselves to Him.”

Granito de arena is a Spanish phrase that means grain of sand. And in essence, whether our relationships are personal or professional, that is the weight of our influence. Paul says it this way, “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”* Although we make our best effort, even living in foreign lands, our work is only important inasmuch as it serves as a signpost. As we draw near to the people we love and serve, the best we can do is point them, through that love and service, to the only One who can truly save.

The Bible refers to the role as “image bearer,” an angled mirror, reflecting God’s heart to his creation.** It is only as others see the light of that love, shining through us, yes, but originating from God, that they are able to experience their own transformation.

We’re glad to say that Rebekah and Luke have experienced such a transformation, and we give God credit for the work He’s done. We’re also grateful for your support as we draw near to the people of Mexico, serving as signposts of God’s saving love.

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!

*1 Cor. 3:7 **NT Wright, “Being an Image Bearer“, Biologos.com, 2013.

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“One of these days you’ll need to travel so that you can get to know Mexico.” We had been in Mexico for the better part of a decade, still, those were the words our former area director spoke to us. While we were a bit taken aback then, now, nearly four years into the role, we’re beginning to understand what he meant.

Of our nearly two decades as missionaries, we spent 13 years on the Yucatan Peninsula. Since our arrival in Mexico City in 2021, we’ve had the chance to travel broadly, navigating to many of our destinations in our Speed the Light vehicle. It’s been a season of firsts for us as we’ve seen new sights, tasted new foods, and met new friends.

This past month was a microcosm of this journey of discovery. On a return trip to Guadalajara, we walked the downtown streets with Rich and Jenni DeMartino, looking for property for the first A/G church in that part of the city. We also had our first experience of Chris and Julie Abiuso’s ministry in el Colli, participating in their Children’s Day celebration in that marginalized community (photo 1).

The month wrapped up in Distrito Oriente, where we had been invited to minister in the first-ever Regional Indigenous Festival held in Hidalgo (photo 2). Hosted by Alejandro Sandoval and his wife, Alma (photo 3), we sampled the pastes of Real del Monte and experienced the natural beauty of Tenango de las Flores even while speaking on four separate occasions. Still, the most gratifying discovery of the trip was the vision to reach the indigenous communities that they share with District Secretary, Noé Solis, his son, Abner, and his wife, Nora (photo 4), working among the Nahuatl. It’s a vision we want to help them realize.

So thanks for supporting our discovery of Mexico. As our knowledge grows, so does our love of its people and our desire for their redemption.

Photo Captions:

  1. Kelly holds the mic while Julie Abiuso works the puppet during children’s services in el Colli.
  2. Dave preaches at the 1st Regional Indigenous Festival in Tenango de las Flores.
  3. Alejandro Sandoval, coordinator of indigenous ministries (Distrito Oriente), and his wife, Alma.
  4. (Left) Abner Solis with his wife, Nora, workers among the Nahuatl in Northern Puebla. Noé Solis and his wife, Ruth (Right) are Abner’s parents and sponsoring pastors.

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It was a bit surreal for us to walk the streets of Los Yoses, San José, Costa Rica, equipped with backpacks and umbrellas, on our way to CINCEL, where, almost 18 years prior, we began our study of the language and culture of Latin America. As we crossed the familiar streets, I caught myself looking for the hand of one of our children, a habit of mine in those days, as our MKs, then 6 and under, would accompany us as we walked most everywhere we went. But this time was different. This time we weren’t the students. This time we were the facilitators.

Sharing during chapel was only one of the several meaningful interactions that we had during our time at CINCEL.

Even so, we couldn’t help but be a bit nostalgic amidst the sights, sounds, and smells of the place that had been our family home for nearly a year in 2005 and 2006. The halls had been freshly painted and the furniture was rearranged, but the place felt the same: we could feel the same anticipation of a missionary career taking shape, the same excitement of new experiences and discoveries, and the same uncertainty in the face of the challenge of cultural adaptation.

Language school is a challenging time. For these ministry professionals, it can feel like a big step backward. They’ve been called, commissioned, and then affirmed by dozens of churches and individuals who have agreed to their support, only to find, after a flight of a few hours, they’re unable to express themselves in the language of the people to whom they hope to minister. The pressure to perform is high, frustrations abound, and tears are not uncommon as these new missionaries struggle to acquire the ability to function as foreigners in this foreign context.

We had been officially invited to CINCEL, the LAC Language and Cultural Training Center, to fulfill our responsibilities as board members and teach a session in missiology to the 18 missionary units studying there, but we were also there to offer our encouragement. During our week of interaction, we prayed with them and for them during their devotionals. We met with them over meals and coffee and heard their stories. We answered their questions and mitigated some of their concerns. But, more than anything, I think we served as a testimony of what God can do when we diligently submit ourselves to the process of transformation.

As we spoke to the students during Spanish chapel, we shared about Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush and encouraged them to believe that the same God who gave human beings their mouths (Exodus 4:11) was able to shape them into his witnesses in the countries where they hope to serve. How could we be so confident? He had already done that work in us, despite myriad difficulties along the way. We’re glad for your support which allowed us this opportunity to retrace our steps so that others could benefit from our experience.

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The Area Director is a unique position from which to observe behavior, both our own and that of the missionaries that we serve. From this vantage point, I’ve come to realize two things: we’re incredibly resourceful and remarkably independent, often to a fault.

Let me explain: we take it upon ourselves to hustle. I’ve heard it repeatedly said: “pray as though it all depends on God, and work as though it all depends on you.” We take this mentality into every stage of ministry. And, although it often leads to tremendous productivity, it can also lead to tremendous amounts of stress. We take it upon ourselves to see that the job is finished, inevitably ending in self-judgment when we fail to measure up to our own expectations.

We’re signaling our availability to lend a hand. Kaixin? She just wants a place to nap!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this to complain about a lack of support in our organization. On the contrary, Assemblies of God World Missionaries are among the best supported in the world. But it’s often our own pioneering mentality that keeps us from taking advantage of the resources at our disposal.

A recent conversation brought this tendency into full view. As we met with a colleague about another issue, we came to find out that this particular missionary was injured, but, despite the risk of further injury, was single-handedly attempting to accomplish a labor-intensive task. We stopped the conversation then and there and offered our help, help unlooked for, but gladly received. 

Of course, as we point the finger at another, we find that there are three pointing back at us. We ourselves aren’t immune to this determination to try to “tough it out.” I remember one occasion, attending a national event, having received news that Kelly had broken her foot, it took the strong encouragement of my mentor missionaries for me to make plans to return early and not leave my wife alone, on one leg, struggling to manage three children on the mission field.

Understanding this tendency, we’ve made it a priority to make ourselves available. By publishing our calendar and distributing it to the missionaries that we serve, they know when we are free to give them our full attention. By scheduling a weekly time of prayer, we’ve let them know that when they are weak they have an open invitation to receive moral and spiritual support, and when they are strong they have an opportunity to give it to someone else.

We know, these are but small moves in the grand scheme of supporting these highly-motivated and highly-capable global workers, but we feel that these are just the open doors that those who never thought to knock just might find themselves walking through. Thanks for your support which enables us to be there for them when they choose to do so.

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