Missions

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…is a saying attributed to Horace Greely who in 1865 encouraged youth to seek opportunity on America’s frontier. It is also a song sung by Michael W Smith who in 1990 encouraged youth to flee evil, often represented in the Bible as lying to or coming from the east. But for us, “Go West” is what we did to experience some of what’s happening in el Distrito Occidente (the Western District).

This was our first time visiting the district, which is comprised of the states of Jalisco, Colima, and parts of Michoacán. The drive there was certainly a beautiful one, but what put a smile on our faces was seeing the work being carried out by veteran missionaries Rich and Jenni DeMartino and Ernie and Sandra Peacock and their partners.

Restoration on the coast: our first stop was at the coastal community of Melaque. There, Ernie and Dave toured the Bible School Nuevas de Gran Gozo and were on hand for their graduation ceremonies. Ernie and Sandra hope to renovate the Bible school facilities and reinvigorate the program that seeks to catalyze ministry in this needy area.  

Reconciliation in the north: our next visit was with national workers, Alberto and Ruth (second photo), who are working among the Huicholes of northern Jalisco. We had the opportunity to hear how they are using business as mission (BAM) ideas to draw near to a people who, in 2016 expelled all Christians, and how the Peacocks hope to further resource their efforts. 

Rescue in the city center: we finalized our trip in Guadalajara where the DeMartinos’ ministry of compassion has been feeding hundreds since the start of the pandemic. There, we joined a team from Pittsfield, MA, to help distribute food, pray for the sick, and speak words of hope (third photo). Rich and Jenni look to purchase a permanent home for this ministry while they are also planting a church in Chapala.

Thanks for enabling us to “Go West” to encourage and support these efforts!

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. Dave and Ernie Peacock praying for the graduates of “Nuevas de Gran Gozo” in Melaque, Jalisco
  2. Alberto and Ruth, workers among the Huicholes, in front of their ministry center, built with an innovative technique they’re teaching to locals as a BAM initiative
  3. Dave and Pastor Dave, from the Pittsfield team, speaking in downtown Guadalajara

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Actually, a lot! First-term missionaries, Noah and Melanie Lane are training indigenous pastors. Mexicans are preparing for international missions service, and brand new opportunities to pray, give, and go are opening up!

We’ve just returned from our second visit to Oaxaca. This time, we road-tripped from Mexico City to be on hand for the graduation of 11 students from the missions training center, CAMAD (Centro de Adiestramiento de Misiones de las Asambleas de Dios). The event marked the culmination of the training of a new group of global workers, prepared to face the challenges of making disciples in this post-pandemic world. Dave spoke during the graduation, reminding them that their call was first to be with Jesus, the one who was sending them to make disciples.

The ceremonies also included the inauguration of CAMAD’s new facilities as incoming students prepare to take classes and reside for the first time on grounds exclusively dedicated for training in cross-cultural service. A special treat was seeing one of our former students from the Bible School in Mérida, Iliana, among them.

Simultaneously, Noah Lane was participating with other faculty of the Bible Institute for the training of indigenous ministers, IBEM (Instituto Bíblico para las Etnias Mexicanas) in special classes to prepare them for their 2022-2023 school year. This school is opening up ministerial training to many who were unable to attend traditional Bible Institutes due to barriers of language or distance. In April of this year, Noah and Melanie opened a new extension of IBEM in Teponaxtla where 10 students are studying.

Yes, there are some pretty exciting things happening in Oaxaca and you can be a part!

  • First, you can pray! Pray for the students and faculty of CAMAD and IBEM.
  • Second, you can give. CAMAD is in construction! Their academic and administrative building is taking shape. Use the link, http://s1.ag.org/137r, to navigate to our giving page and select “40” under “Advanced Giving Options” to help advance the work.
  • Finally, you can go! While in Oaxaca we met with the directors of the grade school, Centro Educativo Vida Nueva. They are looking for college graduates to help direct their students through their Bible-based, English curriculum. It’s an impactful way to give a year and pray about a lifetime of service in missions. Follow this link, http://s1.ag.org/oaxaca, to find out more!

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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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Since July of 2019, we have been looking forward to saying that phrase. Although we took on our role as Area Directors at that time, there was an anticipation of the day when our leadership would not be remote, when we would actually be living in the country of Mexico. That anticipation took us through our year of itineration until June of 2020 and sustained us during the pandemic that seemed to swallow up the months that followed. Finally, however, we can say, “We’ve arrived in Mexico City!”

Yes, on September 28th, at 6:00 AM, we were met by members of our small group from Central Assembly of God to help us check in our five action packers, our dog, and ourselves to American Airlines flight 3822. Then, after some tough good-byes to our kids, we were on our way by 8:22 AM and on the ground in Mexico City by 1:00 PM. A trip of 1,435 miles in half a day!

Now, if you’ve followed our ministry for the past few years, you may have noticed a change of venue for us in Mexico. For 13 years, our base of operations was the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula. Now, however, because of our role as area directors, we’ve relocated to Mexico City, home to a population of 9.2 million in the city proper and 21.8 million in the greater metropolitan area. It’s also strategic for us as it is the location of the national offices of the Assemblies of God of Mexico, a direct flight to any of our missionaries throughout the country, and an international travel hub.

We’re living in Coyoacan (translated from the Nahuatl language as “place of the coyotes”), a neighborhood south of the city center that was the original capital of Hernan Cortez’s governorship of New Spain and the home of creatives such as Octavio Paz, the author of the Labyrinth of Solitude, and artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. From our location, we’re roughly a 4-mile walk from the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco to the east and a 10k away from the nation’s largest university, UNAM, where over 350,000 students attend classes.

We’re excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives and ministry, but our arrival is not without its share of challenges, like our adaptation to life in the big city now as empty nesters or our kids’ abrupt entrance into adulthood. Still, we know that with your prayers and continued support, we’ll not only survive but thrive in this new role and new setting.

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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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While February is known as a month for relationships and romance, we’ve been excited to lead missionaries from the Latin America Caribbean region into a different love affair, one with the Word of God. That’s happening in two ways: through missionary formation Zoom classes and through our evaluation of the Bible Engagement Project.

Zoom calls to interact over content from BibleProject.com are just one of the ways we’re encouraging missionaries to engage with the Word of God in fresh ways.

Missionary Formation Zoom Classes: Since the start of the New Year, we’ve been facilitating the missionary formation Bible in Mission Competency. This two-month course is utilizing the Bible Project’s How to Read the Bible video series to help new missionaries gain a better understanding of the literary styles utilized in scripture.

Our role involves developing reflection questions for each video so that the participants can interact with the concepts being introduced. Afterward, we’re gathering virtually to recap the big ideas and guide the discussion groups.  It’s been rewarding to witness the increased appreciation of the Bible this program is fostering!

The Bible Engagement Project (BEP) is an Assemblies of God initiative based on the power of four—the life of someone who engages with the Bible four or more times a week looks radically different from the life of someone who does not. With the goal of inviting the entire missionary family, adults, teens, and kids, into a transformative experience with God’s Word, we’ve begun a program in Mexico to evaluate the product. This includes utilizing the software in a small group setting and interacting with the team behind it to gain a better understanding of the BEP process.  We’re excited as we envision families and colleagues throughout Latin America and the Caribbean gathering together to read the Bible and participate in the power of four!


Would you like to deepen your relationship with the Word?

Reach out and we’ll send you a copy of our curriculum: disciplemexico.org/contact-us


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Mexico City stretches on as far as the eye can see. To reach it, we’ll need the Spirit’s strategy.

As we shared in our previous prayer update, there has been a growing hunger in our lives to see God’s kingdom break through in power in Mexico and beyond. Still, in the face of the pandemic and the tremendous need (see photo) there is an acute awareness of our inability to satisfy this hunger through human means. It’s for that reason that we are excited to join with missionaries around the world, from a variety of organizations, for the united goal of taking “40 Days to Listen” for the strategy of the Spirit. We recognize that Missions is God’s heart. Therefore, we take this time to intentionally focus on Him, allowing Him to direct us to accomplish his purposes.

During these 40 days, starting August 24th and extending through October 2nd, we’ll be working to align ourselves with the Holy Spirit. We’re laying aside the regular routine and rhythm of life and ministry so that we can pick up the practices or disciplines that will give Him a dedicated space to speak to us individually and corporately.

The cornerstone of our practice is the dedication of extravagant amounts of time. Our missionary fellowship leadership team has committed to tithe our waking hours, giving God 1 hour and 36 minutes, even though He owns it all, to pray and listen, read and memorize His Word, and intercede for the salvation of 10% of the yet unreached people of Mexico. We will be focused on the gospel of John, reading it through twice with a challenge to memorize Chapter 17, Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. For devotional reading, we’re using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship.

To allow for this shift, we’re drastically reducing our use of media, limiting our time on social networks and eliminating entirely other forms of entertainment. When it comes to food, we have decided to forego sugar and everything processed for the 40 days and go without for a 24 hour period each week, finding our satisfaction increasingly in Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Do you long to see God’s kingdom come? Do you long to hear the Spirit’s voice? We invite you to join us in any or all of these practices. We’ve created a calendar to guide your reading and prayer emphasis. Download a copy and be a part of these “40 Days to Listen.”

Thanks for joining us during this special time. 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.

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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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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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