Missions

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As we have travelled now over 34,000 miles sharing our vision of the Yucatán full of churches, we’re thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been given. Still, we know that many of you have not had the opportunity to hear our message. This new video has you in mind. Its goal: to outline the vision and step you through our mission while inviting you to take an active role in support. Have a look and let us know what you think.

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Spring has sprung! Although the first day of spring was yesterday, I am able to really experience it today. We are enjoying temperatures in the 60s. Rebekah and I had an encounter with a baby goat – new life!- at a local Farmer’s market. And, I walked outdoors in our neighborhood. Many neighbors are also taking advantage of the nice weather and the fact that it is Saturday – mowing lawns, washing cars, organizing the garage, riding bikes, running, and the list goes on.

Culturally and/or regionally, we talk about the idea of spring cleaning which involves everything from opening the windows in the house to air it out and giving the house a good deep-cleaning to packing away our winter clothing and cleaning out our garages. There is an idea of ”out with the old – in with the new” that can motivate us to advance not only in physical ways, but spiritual ways as well. Maybe it can bring that extra inspiration to drop a bad habit, shed some pounds, get more involved with the community, or incorporate a spiritual discipline into our daily routine.

This is the first time in 5 years that our family is experiencing this rejuvenating feeling that comes when spring hits! You see, the last time we were in Missouri to itinerate (traveling to new and supporting churches and raising the funds we need to return to the mission field) was in 2010. So, as you can imagine, this is a special occasion for me. As I write this, I am outdoors hearing the birds chirp and sing. It seems like they’re pretty thrilled, too! The fact that it is spring also means that we are about 3/4 the way through what many missionaries call their “itineration year” – this is part of our own “cycle of life” that usually involves 4 years on the field and 1 year off. That leaves us about 4 months to finish raising support, whittle down our belongings, secure all our proper documentation for living in another country, sell our vehicles, and again, the list goes on. How’s that for motivation?!

Over the “winter months”, actually since last summer, we have taken time to develop relationships within the church body in the U.S. and communicate the vision we believe God has given us to see the Yucatan full of churches, diverse in class, status, education, and language – united in their love for God and one another. This is now our “spring”…we are motivated to return to Yucatan, and see this vision come to fruition as we continue to plant seeds, water seedlings, and watch as God provides the increase.

What has God been stirring in your heart over this past winter?

  • Teach a Sunday School class?
  • Watch less television?
  • Incorporate more movement into your daily routine?
  • Increase your missions giving?

There’s no time like the present! Let’s “spring into action” together and see what God does in and through us!

RealizeVisionWeb In our December newsletter, I spoke of the vision that compels us to return to Mexico–the vision of the Yucatan peninsula full of churches diverse in class, status, education, and language, but united in their love for the Lord and one another. Still, seeing the goal is one thing and realizing it is something else entirely.

That is why we’ve taken the time to chart the steps that will keep us on task and propel us toward realizing the vision. The steps are concise but by no means simple: inspire, equip, partner, and implement.

Inspiration is the essential first step. It is the activity of helping others see the need and encouraging them to see how they can be a part of its fulfillment. As we preach, teach, and interact on a day-to-day basis, this will be our aim.

Equipping consists of facilitating the skills and resources essential to fulfilling the vision. This includes ministerial formation both in formal and informal settings.

Partnership follows as an essential task. While the vision is general, its application in each context must take into consideration the specific challenges of the community where each church is to be planted. We seek to come alongside those who not only share our vision but also have insight into their particular community so that the vision might be fleshed out in its proper form.
Implementation, the final step, comes as we assess the challenges and leverage the resources, both spiritual and practical, to carry out a plan of action for each community.

We can’t predict the future, but we are confident that a clearly defined, God-given vision, combined with a solid Spirit-led plan of action, will enable us to make the difference on the Yucatan peninsula.

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Often, the call of God leads us to distant shores and far off lands, but Rangel Vasquez’s story proves that sometimes it can lead us right back home.

His story begins in Tzucacab, a municipality in the south of Yucatan where he was born. He wasn’t there for long, though, as the need in his family and the economic opportunity that offered life in the capital city caused his parents to pull up roots and relocate to Merida. Nevertheless, it was there, hours away from his ancestral home, that God was preparing his heart for the return journey.

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The preparation began at “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” both academically and spiritually. It was there, in my evangelism class as a first year student, that he expressed a stirring in his heart for missions among the indigenous of Mexico. As we would begin the day in prayer, he would often ask us to intercede for him that he might receive direction as he explored what the Lord was doing in his heart and life.

Still, even with a desire to minister to indigenous people like the Maya among whom he was born, the path to his current place of ministry was not direct. In fact, it would take him some 1,700 miles in the other direction to serve with his wife Claudia in the Sierras of the state of Chihuahua as house parents for a children’s home and church planters among the Tarahumara Indians of that region.

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Life among them was difficult. They lived from day to day, praying for God’s provision so that they would have food enough to provide for the children and something left over for themselves. Water for drinking was scarce, for bathing even more so, and the weather was extreme, but God was faithful to keep them and give them success. In their time there, they had worked to forge a growing community of disciples, eager to know their Lord more fully, and serve those around them.

Their time in service gave way to three months of formal training in CEMAD, the Center for Missiological Studies of the Assemblies of God, where they learned the theological underpinnings for their calling as well as a practical methodology for cross cultural ministry. Still, as their training came to a close, they needed to make a decision to stay in the Sierras or return to the Yucatan.

We talked during this time, as we too needed to make a decision. The time was drawing near for us to depart for itineration, and we needed someone to serve as a liaison for our ministry in our absence, coordinating both information and resources. That, coupled with an endorsement to serve as district missionaries in the state of Yucatan cemented their decision to return. Even so, they were unprepared for what would happen next.

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As they returned in late 2013, God began to deal with Rangel about a place called Tigre Grande. It’s a small obscure village, a town you only pass through on purpose. It’s located in the south of Yucatan near the border with Campeche, and it just so happens to be the the municipality of Tzucacab.

Unable to shake his premonition to visit the town, he took an exploratory trip. As he arrived he greeted the villagers, going house to house and probing their interest in the gospel message that he hoped to share among them. What he found out was even beyond his wildest expectations.

The town had once had a budding congregation. A church in a neighboring village had built a small meeting place, and several villagers had begun to attend, but floodwaters that had come in 2002, washed away most of the town. The villagers scattered to find refuge after the devastation, and the small congregation had to be disbanded. Later, the town was relocated to higher ground, but the church remained just a memory, that is until Rangel’s arrival.

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The people greeted his investigation with interest. Not only were they eager to find out when he would begin, they were ready to participate. It was as though they had been waiting for him for eleven years, but it was much more than a homecoming for this wandering native of Tzucacab, it was the closing of the circle and the confirmation of the Lord’s direction in his life.

Rangel and Claudia continue the work in Tigre Grande, ministering holistically to the needs of the community as they communicate the Good News on a weekly basis with encouraging results, but they’re not content to limit themselves to that community. They’re convinced that the seeds that they are planting are meant to grow, and have set their sights on the entire region, taking steps now to plant churches in neighboring communities.

Were honored to partner with missionaries and church planters like Rangel Vazquez. They play a critical role in the fulfillment of the vision of the Yucatan peninsula full of churches, diverse class, status, education, and language but united in their love for the Lord and one another. As we tour the United States sharing about the Yucatan, we long to return to continue our labor with them.

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We feel that we are on the edge of a breakthrough in the Yucatan!

Standing with our partners (from right to left) Leo May and Felipe Sabido.

Standing with our partners (from left to right) Felipe Sabido and Leo May.

In our past term we’ve seen great strides made in ministry among the Maya:

  • Their dignity as a people group has been raised.
  • Their access to faith-building resources in their own language has increased.
  • Leadership has been named to conserve and extend these advances.

We’re thankful for what has been accomplished, but we’re even more excited about the future, especially now that we see some key pieces falling into place regarding our vision of filling the Yucatan with churches.

Partnering with then missions director, Felipe Sabido, we understood that carrying this vision to its fulfillment would require the establishment of training centers that would effectively mentor church planters through the process. To that end, we put in place a curriculum and outlined its basic structure prior to our departure from the field. What had escaped us, however, was a means by which our students could be awarded Bible school credit toward their credentialing process and diploma. We felt that this piece was essential. That enigma was solved last month as Felipe was named Bible school director for the next four years, streamlining our approval process greatly. We now see the potential to accelerate our start-up phase for training and more easily recruit workers to impact their communities.

Still, this positive development has not come without consequences. Felipe’s movement into this new role leaves behind a missions department, the department charged with the carrying out of church planting, with a lack of experienced leadership. Leonardo May, the present director is a capable minister, but this appointment has thrust him into leadership of a department in which he has served less than a year, first as a regional representative, then as secretary-treasurer, and now as director.

We hope that you can appreciate, then, the sense of excitement as we prime ourselves to take advantage of these opportunities, but, at the same time, urgency to return to serve as a support for those who are at the vanguard of bringing this vision to fruition. We desperately need to return on time and fully funded as soon as possible in order to stand with our ministry partners on the field.

That’s where we need you.

  • We need you to pray for us in this time of itineration that we would successfully increase our prayer support and meet our financial goals.
  • We also ask that you would explore the ways that you could partner with us in the fulfillment of this year-long mission:
    • If you’re not regularly praying for us, could you set aside a time in your week to lift up our lives and ministry?
    • If you’re not a current financial partner, could you join our team?
    • If you’re financially supporting us, could you share our vision with others that share your passion for reaching the lost?

The clock is ticking. The deadline of July 2015 has been set. We know we must meet it. We know we cannot do it without you. Will you choose to strongly support us today?

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Mexico to Missouri

It’s been quite a ride for us since our last update. We’ve moved five times and only just this week have begun to settle into what will be our home for our year of itineration. Our first move came as we vacated our field housing in preparation for departure. Our second was our flight to Springfield where Kelly was greeted with her driver’s exam. (Her license had expired while we were away, so she needed to pass both the written and the road tests.) Then we were off to Erie, PA for a month of reconnecting with family and supporting churches. The fifth move was our trip back to Missouri just in time for the A/G Centennial celebration. Finally, we vacated our temporary housing and came to rest on the west side of Springfield, in the Willard school district.

As we prayed with the kids on the night before their first day in American public schools, I reflected on all of the movements and couldn’t help but be thankful both to God and to those He used to make our relocations possible. There were so many crucial moments, so many opportunities for things to go wrong, but with His help, and the help of those so moved to respond to our need, we passed from moment to moment without fail.

Of course, you could ask the question, “What would cause a middle-aged man to uproot his family and move away from his field of calling?” To which I would respond, “To go back.”

We’ve come to the US and traveled the miles so that we might connect with you and share with you the burden that we carry for Mexico, but also the joy that we experience as we walk in obedience to Christ and His calling. We do so to raise support: prayer and financial, so that we might minister more effectively. We do so also to call others into obedience to Christ as He stirs the hearts and lives of those who would follow, some to Latin America, others to other regions in the world, for we know that the task is great, but the workers few.

But such a return trip is not without risks. We risk the possibility of the doors of opportunity being closed to our stateside ministry. We risk the inability to raise our necessary support in order to return. We understand these risks and face them, with honesty but also with determination, knowing that the same God who enabled us to return, will be faithful in sending us back as He works his miracles on our behalf, many of those through the hands of those He has assembled in partnership around us.

Thanks, then, to those who have received us and to those who will soon extend this favor. Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to connect with you and to enter, if for just a moment, into relationship, to be an instrument through which God might move you to fulfill the unfinished task.

‘Til all know,

Dave and Kelly

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“Imagine” is a song written by John Lennon. In it, he encourages us to dream about a world without absolutes, divisions or possessions. The hope, it seems, is that this idea might somehow motivate us to make this world a better place. It’s a nice thought, and a pretty catchy song as well, evidenced by the fact its popularity has bridged at least three generations. Nevertheless, the reality that the three generations who have known the song have experienced proves that the song’s premise is flawed. To make the world a better place, we must move beyond our imagination and the self righteous criticism of that which we deem to be the problem. True, vision is required, but we must have a firm grip on reality while we work to put thought to action. Ironically, we find the the ones who are doing just that are the ones that “Imagine” criticizes the most.

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This past week, in the town of Sucua, Ecuador, I had a chance to meet with fellow missionaries, representatives of true religion, all of whom are committed to not simply making the world a better place, but to its very transformation. There, we took part in the first ever A/G Latin American/Caribbean Consultation on Unreached People Groups (UPGs)

The UPG Consultation was an opportunity to hear about what was taking place, assess what has yet to be done, and to pray and strategize to accomplish the Unfinished Task.  There was a sense of celebration as we saw what was being gained through missionaries Joil and Leah Marbut, who have spearheaded an effort to reach the Shuars of southern Ecuador. There was a sense of urgency as we heard of the over 400 different people groups comprised of over 16 million individuals without an adequate witness of hope, and there was a sense of determination as we committed ourselves in prayer and purpose to reaching those groups.

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There was no avoiding the historical significance of the event either. Taking place on the centennial anniversary of the General Council of the Assemblies of God that would establish that organization as the proponent of “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen,” it was fitting that we were reevaluating our mission to accomplish that goal. In the heart of the country where, almost 60 years prior, five missionaries gave their lives to reach the isolated and violent Huaoroni, known as the Auca (savage) people, it was appropriate that we would dedicate anew our lives to continuing that work.

Still, as we left that place, we knew that what was accomplished there would not be enough. As we said our goodbyes and made our way by car, bus, or plane to our adoptive homes, we turned ourselves to work– to reach, to plant, to touch, and to equip lives in order to fulfill our role in the extension of the Kingdom of God. We had met to gain perspective, but we go to wholeheartedly engage with the One who is able to do more than we could ask or imagine through our coordinated effort.

Interested in seeing more? Take a look at our gallery of photos from the event.

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OnTheRoof

Although up north the freeze is still in effect, here in Mexico, we’re preparing for spring. Spring Break, that is.

This Saturday, 10 members of the Chi Alpha Student Fellowship of American University will be descending on the city of Mérida, Yucatán to do a bit of construction and outreach while they thaw from this year’s deep freeze. In the mornings, we’ll be working at Instituto Bíblico Bethel, to put into place the beams and slabs that will serve as the structure for the roof of the second floor of the multipurpose building. In the afternoons, we’ll be returning to Sierra Papacal to assist the efforts of my former student, Guadalupe Campos, in the church, Casa de Oración. My favorite part of the trip, however, is the opportunity for our Bible school students to work hand in hand with our visiting Chi Alpha workers.

We’re preparing a warm welcome for our guests, but we certainly don’t want to leave you out in the cold. We’d like to extend an invitation for you to get involved, too. Here’s how:

  1. Pray for the trip’s success:
    • Pray for safety in our work and travels.
    • Pray for the health of all involved. (Pray against sickness!)
    • Pray for the effective integration of the different groups.
    • Pray for an enthusiastic response among the people of Sierra Papacal.

  2. Send a special gift

    The Chi Alpha students have a goal to bless the ministry that is taking part here in the Yucatán. You can be a part of helping them realize that goal.

    Navigate to our giving page and send a special gift. Put AUXA in the comment section, and we’ll be sure to designate that gift to the projects in which they’re taking part.

While you might not be able to bask in the Yucatecan sun with us, we’re sure that your participation, in one or both of these areas, will bring some warmth to your weary winter days, and, just maybe, you too might be thinking that spring is in the air!

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As missionaries, we need to communicate. We’re away from many of our supporters for up to four years.  Without newsletters, project updates, and prayer bulletins, the majority of our sponsors would be in the dark about the advances being made and the challenges that we face.

Still our need to communicate about what we are doing can leave the wrong impression. If we’re not careful about what we do, we can paint a misleading picture of how we are desperately needed and how the work couldn’t possibly go on without us.

While it’s certain that we serve to fill a need, the truth of the matter is that God has been working in the Yucatan far before the Godzwas came, and we believe He’ll still be at work long after we’re nothing more than a memory. What’s more, in the time that he has been at work, He’s raised up some amazing individuals with whom we not only have the chance to work but also from whom we have the privilege to learn.

A case in point was this week during our continuing education workshop for Bible school professors. During our sessions, I was constantly remind of the competence, concern, and spirituality of those who taught and those who participated. I was glad to be among them.

Over the past few days I’ve been working through the book, The Meeting of the Waters, by Fritz Kling. It speaks about the trends that  shape the future of the church on a global scale. One of the 7 that he investigates is the trend of mutuality. Mutuality is basically empowering those traditionally marginalized because of ethnic or economic biases. It gives everyone a seat at the table and both voice and vote in the moment of decision. Certainly, it can be threatening to those of us in the Western World who have become accustomed to having the final say, but mutuality offers us a multicultural richness from which to borrow as we seek to guide the church, and it offers us creative solutions to difficult problems that we encounter along the way.

I’d hate to portray myself as having a handle on this concept. Even as I write these words I am reminded of the times that I have failed to offer my partners their due share in our decision making processes and times when I have been absent when I have had the ability to affirm the value and validity of their efforts. Still, this week, I feel as though I’m making progress.

My prayer then is that, as we operate more and more on the basis of mutuality, God will be able to more fully declare his manifold wisdom, the joining of many cultures into one functioning body, the church, through the church in Yucatan.

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Why Am I Here?

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The sky is a slate gray, and the rain is falling sideways. At one point the winds were blowing hard enough to knock us down. In the middle of all of this weather, I asked myself, “Why would anyone want to be in Cancun at a time like this?”

Although it might have all of the earmarks of a relief trip, my stay here was in fact about something far more powerful. I was in Cancun last week, braving the bad weather, to support the 3rd World Missions Congress. The purpose of this congress was to increase missions awareness throughout Latin America and to increase Latino involvement in missions from a comparative drizzle to a downpour.

Although the weather had been less than desirable, was beautiful to see the lessons that we are teaching in the Bible School and preaching in churches about missions reinforced in each service. Dick Brogden, A/G missionary and leader of the Live Dead movement in Cairo, Egypt, gave a call for volunteers, saying, “We need you.” Our Executive Director of Assemblies of God World Missions, Greg Mundis, spoke passionately of our obligation to evangelize the world.

What a joy it was to see, at the close of Greg’s message, the dozens of Latinos, many attendees from Mexico, respond to the call to fulfill that obligation. Even more fulfilling was seeing the excitement in the eyes of those with whom I was speaking, some of them my former students, as they talked about what God is doing throughout the world and about how they wanted to be a part.

This event was all about coming full circle in the missions world. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Jesus’ plan for world evangelism is for those who had been blessed by the gospel to be a blessing to others. Throughout this congress, Latinos, traditional receivers of the blessings of missions, have been hearing and responding to this challenge to fulfill their obligation to be a blessing as well.

Let’s pray for an increase in Latino involvement in missions!

  1. For an infilling of the Spirit throughout Latin America and especially in Mexico. The Holy Spirit is The Spirit of Missions. As we are increasingly filled with the Spirit we will be empowered to do the work of missions around the world.
  2. For an increased intercession. In Luke 10:2, Jesus tells his disciples to pray for workers, but directly afterwards, he sends out those very same disciples. Increased intercession yields increased sensitivity to the voice of God and the call to missions.
  3. For the defeat of the poverty mentality. Mexicans give only 7 dollars per church per month to missions. It’s that low not because we don’t have; it’s that low because we’ve believed the lie that says we don’t.

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