Prayer

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Recently, a study was done here to determine the biggest problems facing the Yucatecan society. What were they?  Drug and alcohol abuse and violent gang activity, two dangers that go hand in hand. According to those interviewed, almost 7 out of 10 felt threatened by the consumption of drugs and alcohol in the streets. Furthermore, the presence of violent gangs was felt 13% more acutely here in the Yucatan than it was nationally. Clearly, Yucatan’s problems with controlled substances have given many cause for alarm.

Still, Yucatan’s substance abuse problem presents us with an opportunity to provide a solution, and to provide that solution through the local church. Think of it, raising up centers all across the state where those looking to find a way out could find real help. Certainly, there are risks involved, but the benefits are compelling: not only would those using drugs and alcohol be helped, but society as a whole would be able to breathe a sigh of relief, and esteem for the church and its life-changing message would grow.
This is the precise reason that we’re moving to the next level in order to help our churches to begin an outreach to those with life controlling habits. We’ve already been working to resource and train the directors of two Assemblies of God rehabilitation centers. Now we’re looking to network and coach our ministers to be first responders as we battle with this all too present evil.

On November 22nd, Gregg Fischer, from Global Teen Challenge, will be with us to kick off a series of seminars based on Living Free materials designed to help pastors and leaders set up small groups where those trapped in the cycle of substance abuse can find help. Our desire, then, is to connect these leaders with our rehab directors and staff who can insure that they receive the follow-up, encouragement, and direction that they need to maximize the potential of these groups and lend a hand when necessary.  Interest has been high and the response has been encouraging, but we need your help for these seminars to reach their full potential. We need your prayers!

Would you pray for us?

  • Pray that we reach our goal of training at least 50 pastors and leaders.
  • Pray for the timely and inexpensive printing of the materials that we need in order to teach.
  • Pray for our travel throughout the district as we participate in the teaching of these seminars.
  • Pray for my ability to accurately and fluently translate the material being presented.
  • Pray for a desire on the part of our pastors to implement this ministry in their church and a clear vision for how they might go about making it a reality.

Thanks again for standing with us!

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Last Friday, I was able to lead my Evangelism Class to Oxcum to host an outreach to the residents of that village. For those of you who hadn’t read my previous post, I had asked for prayer on the following points:


  1. That the authorities would grant us the public space for the event.
  2. For all of the details that go into the organization of such an event, from the supplies, personal, and equipment, to the message that would be delivered in word and in deed.
  3. For favorable weather so that all might be able to hear the message that we would be sharing and,
  4. For an enthusiastic coordination between the local mission members and the students of “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” as they work for the common goal of sharing God’s love with the people of Oxcum.

I’d like to give you an update on those requests, and believe me, it’s good news!

  1. The response of the authorities

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    From the city officials to the local pastor, the response was rapid and enthusiastic. We were given full access to the town park and the basketball court for the duration of the event along with chairs and a stage, delivered on time! The lighting and electrical hookups that were included were reliable and also free of charge. There was even a police force present to ensure that the event went off without incident.

  2. The details

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    There was an endless list of supplies, personnel, and equipment necessary to make the this event happen. From face paint for the kids to non-perishable food items to be handed out to families in need. All came in, and in abundance! We had hoped to provide help to 25 families. In the end, there was enough for 45!


  3. Favorable weather

    When I sent our original list of requests last week, I checked the forecast. At that time, there was a 70% chance of rain predicted for our event. With everything that we had planned, we needed the weather to cooperate. Well I’m happy to report, it did! Blue skies and sun greeted us as we entered Oxcum, and the full moon lighted our evening service. It would have been hard to ask for better weather.

  4. Enthusiastic coordination between students and mission members

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    Without cooperation, events can happen, but they’re a whole lot more difficult! Thankfully, last Friday, we had cooperation to spare. In our time of debriefing this Tuesday afternoon, the comment that I heard the most was that the event was so well organized and all of the participants were so willing to help. From the kids of the mission who passed out invitations to the students of the Bible Institute who shampooed dozens of heads to ensure that they were free of “visitors,” everyone served with a smile.

  5. But wait, there’s more!

    We can certainly be thankful for the ability to hold events like these, but we understand that the real results come afterwards as those touched by our outreach have new opportunities to connect with the church and grow in Christ. The difficulty lies in gathering the data necessary to ensure proper follow-up.

    I’m happy to report that we were able to provide the church with the data that they need to make these connections possible in the form of 41 contact cards. These came, not only from the 11 who came forward at the end of the night for salvation, but also from the dozens who sat and spoke with the counselors who were available throughout the event.

We were blessed this past Friday and so was the town of Oxcum! Nevertheless, we know that none of this could have taken place without your involvement. Thank you!

Want to see more? Take a look at the pictures in our growing album of the event.

Evangelistic Campaign in Oxcum, 2011

Evangelistic Campaign in Oxcum, 2011

I love a great adventure. As a youth, I remember traveling off to distant lands with the aid of the latest edition of National Geographic. As a missionary, I’ve been blessed to visit some of those places that I had once only read about. I’ve marveled at the volcanoes of Costa Rica, and navigated through the waters of the “Cañon del Sumidero” in the Mexican State of Chiapas. I’ve entered the ruins of the ancient Maya civilization and slept in the thatched homes of their descendants. Still, to tell the truth, although travel remains a highlight of what we do, I gain much more satisfaction from being able to identify with a group of people, establish credibility with them, and enable them to reach their God-given vision.

We have been privileged to have these types of relationships in the town of Muna, where we worked for three years in our previous term, in the town of Ochil, where we have been able to track with the people from the very beginning of their fellowship, and, next week, we get an opportunity to continue another long-standing relationship in the town of Oxcum.

Pastor Ruben (right) prays along with Dr. Andrés Perez

Pastor Ruben (right) prays along with Dr. Andrés Perez

Oxcum, a forgotten little town just a half hour outside of Merida, is a place that was supposedly established as a haven for the unsavory types that transported smuggled goods over the back-roads of Yucatan. Even today, the signs of its difficult beginnings show through: low levels of education, elevated unemployment, the prevalence of single parent families, wide-spread alcoholism and rising levels of drug abuse. It’s a place so down on its luck that it has prompted some to ask the question reminiscent of Nathanael’s in John 1:46, “Oxcum! Can anything good come from there?”

Still in the middle of this hopelessness, a light is beginning to shine. Since 2010, Pastor Ruben Sanguino has been ministering from his mission in Oxcum. We’ve worked with him, first coordinating an outreach in 2011, and later giving a conference on the Holy Spirit. We’ve tracked with him as his congregation has grown, carving out a place and an identity in that town. And while he has seen his share of difficult times, his perseverance is bearing fruit.

Ministry in Oxcum, 2012

Ministry in Oxcum, 2012

This October 18th, we have the opportunity to work with him again, this time in coordination with the students from my evangelism class at “Instituto Bíblico Bethel.” On that Friday afternoon, we will coordinate with his mission to speak of the God who sees their situation. We’ll be coming near through social outreach to children and adults alike, providing spiritual counseling throughout the event and a message from God’s Word in the closing rally. Our desire for this event is to raise awareness within the village of who the God of the Bible really is, and highlight the mission in Oxcum as a resource for establishing a relationship with Him.

Would you pray for us as the event draws near?

  • Pray for a favorable response from the authorities who would grant us the public space for the event.
  • Pray for all of the details that go into the organization of such an event, from the supplies, personal, and equipment, to the message that will be delivered in word and in deed.
  • Pray for favorable weather so that all may be able to hear the message that we are sharing.
  • Pray for an enthusiastic coordination between the local mission members and the students of “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” as they work for the common goal of sharing God’s love with the people of Oxcum.

Blessings on you as you continue to stand with us in the work here in the Yucatan, and beyond!

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This past Wednesday we had the opportunity to hand out our first Proclaimer Audio Bible. The following is a description of the experience in San Isidro Ochil:

The environment was a familiar one–the congregants were standing together to read the Bible aloud in Spanish. This time, however, there was something different. Many did not have their own Bible and were left looking on to the copies of others or left out completely. Some who did have a Bible read with such difficulty that the public reading was out of sync to the point of being almost indecipherable.

You see, Ochil is a town where the Maya language is spoken predominantly. Many inhabitants understand Spanish, but with difficulty. What is more, many do not read in either Spanish or Maya. Therefore, the traditional ways of doing service, especially congregational reading, is less than effective.

That’s where the Proclaimer has such potential. Reproducing the Bible in audio in Maya, the Proclaimer gave many in the congregation their first opportunity to hear the Word of God in their own language, and their interaction following the reading of Matthew chapter 1 showed their enthusiasm. Several people who had been disconnected during the previous elements of the service were engaged and asking questions. I was particularly taken aback when an elderly woman, who seemed withdrawn before, made a comment about Jesus’ birth. The people were having an experience with the Bible!

This congregation and several like it will be making a commitment to meet together for one hour each week to listen to and discuss the Bible. We look forward to seeing more experiences like this first one in San Isidro Ochil, and we anticipate the inevitable growth that will come when a people has access to the power of the Word of God on a consistent basis.

Would you pray for us?

  • Pray for us as we continue to expand this program to other villages.
  • Pray for each village that they would make the commitment to listen and to study the Word of God together each week for an hour.
  • Pray that God’s promise that his Word would not return void would be fulfilled in each separate context where it is introduced.

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Incoming 2013-2015 Yucatán District Leadership

Incoming 2013-2015 Yucatán District Leadership

We just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all who prayed for the Yucatan District Council, which took place last week. Your intercession was appreciated! Not only was it felt during a particularly tense voting session, but we’re sure it was instrumental as well in generating more contracts as we continue with our Jesus Film Church planting efforts.

On a side note, I noticed a recurring theme of Pentecost throughout the District Council. There is a growing concern among our leaders about the lack of believers reporting to have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was glad to see the call for a renewed emphasis on this essential experience for ministry in these Last Days.

Below, I’ve listed our incoming District Leadership Team. Please continue to lift them up in prayer. Pray for a renewed vision and commitment to accomplishing God’s will among them. Pray as well that the godly example of outreach and compassion that they set will be caught throughout the district.

New District Leadership Team:

Superintendent: Tomas Vera Moreno
Secretary: Raúl Sánchez y Molina
Treasurer: Samuel Vázquez Salazar

Regional Presbyters:
North Region: Manuel Díaz Sanchez
West Region: Juan Hau Pech
Central Region: Fernando Moctezuma Dorantes
South Region: Rosendo Cabrera
East Region: Cristino May Rejón

Department of Christian Education Leadership:
President: Alfonso Vera Moreno
Secretary/Treasurer: Fernando Díaz Cab
Local Church Studies: Manuel Pech
Theological Studies: Natanael Ku
Secular Studies: Juan Baeza

Missions Department Leadership:
Director: Felipe Sabido Escalante
Secretary/Treasurer: Abel Can
Coordinator of Ministry to Ethnic Groups: Miriam Pech

Evangelism Leadership:
Director: Moisés Charmin Díaz
Vice President: Julian Magaña
Secretary: Carlos Maas

Spiritual Retreat Leadership:
President: Magaly Balam
Secretary: Andrés Vera
Treasurer: Franscico Can

Sectional President, Mérida Northeast: Natanael Ku

Thanks again for your continued support!

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Leadership elected in the 2011 District Council

Leadership elected in the 2011 District Council

I know that I’ve already asked for prayer this month, but at the risk of over-asking, I’m coming back to you with a special request for prayer for our District Council and especially for the elections that will take place during that council.

By the time that you read this we’ll be in full swing in this year’s Yucatán District Council. We’re thrilled to have our National Superintendent, Abel Flores, as our featured speaker. It will be a privilege to hear more of his vision for the future of the Assemblies of God in Mexico, but the main reason for this update is to ask prayer for the elections that will take place during this year’s council.

Up for election will be the entire leadership team, Superintendent, Secretary, and Treasurer, as well as well as the entire slate of Regional and Sectional Presbyters and Presidents. Also up for election are the various department heads, including the position of the Director of the Missions Department, a person with whom we’ve worked closely for the past two years.

Pray with us generally for the entire Council. We desperately long for a sovereign move of the Spirit that will stimulate evangelism, church planting, and missions here in the Yucatán and beyond.

Pray with us specifically for a desire to have God’s will accomplished the council elections. Pray that any thought of politicking would be laid aside in order to see the right people placed or retained in each office. Pray as well for a spirit of transparency throughout the election process, and pray for me as I participate as a part of the “Mesa de escrutadores,” the committee charged with counting the votes and reporting the election results.

Thanks!

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Summit 2013

Not this group! (Proverbs 27:17)

If there was any doubt that we belonged to a vanguard mission organization, that was dispelled last week during our Association of Caribbean and Latin American Missionary Educators’ (ACLAME) Summit.  As part of the ACLAME Leadership team, I was called upon to help organize this biennial event which brought together 52 individuals from 7 different countries.

PKazim Summit 2013

During our time together, we received a word from our Executive Director, Greg Mundis, who cast vision for what he sees as a bright future for world evangelism, a task in which he sees educators playing a key role.  Still, that was only one of several sessions that have left an indelible mark on those who attended. Paul Kazim, Mexico Area Director (photo left) spoke from Leviticus 19, reminding us that holiness is essentially taking on the characteristics of God. Assemblies of God Theological Seminary Professor, DeLonn Rance, challenged us to “live at the edge,” responding to God’s call to reach all nations.

DGodzwa Summit 2013

These and several others blended their voices to encourage us and to strengthen the calling that each of us carries to pass on what we have received. (2 Timothy 2:2) What happened during those critical days is the essence of Proverbs 27:17–men and women, joining together so that each one might be improved or “perfected” into a more useful tool in the Master’s hands. This same blessing we desire to pass on to our Mexican colleagues. 

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In the month of August, we will be holding the first ever Mexican Education Summit (bottom graphic), an international effort that seeks to raise the bar in ministerial formation. Plans are coming into shape to host over 400 Bible School directors and professors from across the country. We’re praying that the event serves to motivate all who attend to dedicate themselves to the task of raising up leaders for this crucial time.

Also, this month, we are looking forward to graduation ceremonies at Instituto Biblico Bethel. In all, eleven students will be participating in the commencement activities, looking forward to launch out into the ministries for which they have been trained.

Can you pray with us for these events?

  1. For the Mexican Education Summit, that it would be well attended, and that those who attend would be challenged to dedicate themselves even more fully to the task of discipleship and ministerial formation.
  2. For our recent graduates, that they would launch out into service around the state, reaching the lost, discipling those who believe and encouraging others to do the same

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Spring Break is a well known concept here on the Yucatán Peninsula. Many residents have personal experience working in the Riviera Maya, where students descend to spend their week-long vacation. They speak of the droves of sunburned gringos on the beach or of the wild all-night parties in the clubs throughout that region. So imagine the surprise on their faces when we tell them that Spring Break can mean something radically different!

Starting this Saturday, March 9th, we will be hosting two Chi Alpha Campus Fellowship missions teams from the University of Virginia and American University. These students and their leaders have repurposed their Spring Break to make an impact here in the Yucatán!

This Spring Impact has a three-part mission:

1. Advance the construction of Instituto Bíblico Bethel.

Bible school facade

Advancing Construction

Thanks to several key donations at the close of 2012 and the fundraising efforts of these students, we’ve been able to dedicate over $7,000 to this ongoing project. With these funds and the their hard work, the second floor of the school’s multi-purpose building will begin to take shape.


2. Stimulate ministerial formation among Bible School students.

Student Sergio Ek and Pastor Rudy Cano together with Dave in San Bernardo

Ministerial Formation

We’re teaming up these American students with their Mexican counter-parts. They’ll be working side by side thoughout the week, putting their education into practice both in ministry and in plain, honest, hard work.


3. Encourage evangelism efforts.

Antonio Armando Balam sharing in Sierra Papacal

Encouraging Evangelism

More than 40 individuals will be divided between the villages of San Bernardo in the south and Sierra Papacal in the north in support of two, newly-planted churches. The groups will spend their afternoons in community service, door to door evangelism, and the invitation of residents to a special community day, where they will have the opportunity to respond to the message of salvation.

Would you pray especially for this time of construction and outreach? Pray for the health and safety of all involved. Pray for an ability to communicate both within the teams and among those who would hear the message of salvation. Pray that the churches would grow as a result of these efforts, and pray that both the Americans and the Mexicans would finish this trip with the sense that they have been used by God.

Thanks for standing with us!

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As we move into the second half of our term, we’ve seen God moving us to undertake a three-fold mission. In this prayer update, we present this vision to you so that you might agree with us for it’s completion.

Reach the lost

Since our missionary career began in 2004, our desire has been to reach others with the gospel. We’ve engaged that mission through social outreach, campaigns, and one-on-one evangelistic efforts. This term, we’ve had the opportunity to reach out to the indigenous Maya people in their own language. With your help, we can equip and send more teams to plant churches among them.

Remove obstacles to the gospel

I’ll never forget the sadness I felt as I watched one man walk away from the church. He was an addict, and that particular church had nothing to offer him to meet his needs. I prayed in that moment that I’d never have to witness an event like that again.

This term, we’ve seen God answering that prayer. We’ve been able to come alongside two drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers to introduce them to Teen Challenge resources. We are working to help them to shape and expand their programs. Our desire is to see these ministries become regional resources for people struggling with addictions.

Raise up others to do the same

At “Instituto Bíblico Bethel” we’re training up the next generation of pastors and missionaries. Regularly, we’re teaching such subjects as evangelism, apologetics, church planting, and missions, sharing our God-given vision. Right now, we’re halfway through a project to expand their facilities to better serve these ministers in formation. We believe that with your help we can reach our goal to finish this building in this term.

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We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

The photo is of goats not sheep, but I couldn’t help but think on these words from Isaiah and Matthew when I compared their wanderings to the state of the people of the village of Tibolón.

Just over a decade ago, there had been a vibrant mission in that town. It had been raised up through the trials of persecution. Over time, it grew to about 30 members, but then, the pastor of it’s mother church stopped looking in on the congregation. The vision and direction began to fail, and the mission actually closed its doors–its members disbursed and disillusioned, wandering like sheep without a shepherd.

We went from door to door with Pastor Angelino Ek, the new pastor of the mother church. He’s taken a interest in the people of Tibolón and is undertaking the hard task of rebuilding the work.

As we visited the former church-goers I heard a similar tale. When I asked them what they had been doing in the mission’s absence, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “Nada.” Left on their own, they had foundered.

Thankfully, services are beginning again. Pastor Angelino and his team are visiting the abandoned and moving them through the discipleship process. The lost are finding their way again, and new members are being added to the fold.

There is a satisfaction in seeing the steps of restoration, but there is an urgency too. As we finished our visits we saw cult members walking those same streets, ready to claim those who still wander.

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