Thanks

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Last month, we said goodbye to Mexico City (CDMX), our home and base of operations since September of 2021. As we planned and packed, said our farewells, and boarded the plane for Springfield, MO, we felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunities we’d been given and the contributions we’d made. Nevertheless, we depart with a sober understanding of the unfinished business we leave behind.

As we ministered in our last service at Casa de Dios, the storefront congregation pastored by Enoc Galván, we recognized our affection for our home church. This was where we regularly led worship, shared God’s Word, and prayed fervently for God’s move in Santa Úrsula, the neighborhood where the church is located. This was also a people from whom we’d received such tremendous hospitality and among whom we’d witnessed miracles.    

Similarly, as the ministers of Section 6 extended their hands to pray for us during our last meeting together, we reflected on the opportunities we’ve had to partner with them, preach in their churches, and encourage their congregations. These men and women have labored for the Lord and persevered in extreme circumstances. We’re honored to be considered their colleagues and receive their blessing.

Still, we can’t help but recognize how few are working to reach this city. Section 6 consists of only 6 churches in the Tlahuac and Itztapalapa municipalities with 2.2 million people. That’s over 366,000 people for each church to reach! City-wide, the Assemblies of God has only 52 churches among 9.2 million inhabitants*. Clearly, there is work to be done to increase the influence of the gospel message and the power of Pentecost in this megalopolis.

That’s why, as Dave prayed during the Spiritual Retreat, he asked the Lord to unite the congregations of CDMX in their work to reach the city.  We ask as well that He speed our return so we can rejoin our friends and resolve our unfinished business in Mexico City!

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. Saying goodbye to the congregation of Casa de Dios, our home church in Mexico City 
  2. Fellow ministers of Section 6 pray for us during our last meeting together.
  3. Dave was invited to pray for the ministers of Distrito Sur during the Spiritual Retreat.

*As a comparison, New Jersey has a population of 9.3 million and 228 Assemblies of God churches.

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The signs of damage were impossible to miss as we arrived in Acapulco—trees broken and bare, windows shattered, and, in some places, the complete facades of buildings still missing months after Hurricane Otis carved its devastating path eastward through the city into the surrounding hills. Yes, the sad story of disaster that began on October 25, 2023, when this category 5 storm made landfall is easy to tell. Nevertheless, the story we heard as we greeted the area congregations was one of resilience.

Fellow missionary Peter Breit accompanied me (Dave) as we made the 4 1/2 hour drive from Mexico City to Acapulco, located on the Pacific coast of Guerrero. We were met by the district superintendent, Victor Olivares, and his team, visiting 25 churches in the five-day trip, from May 1st to the 6th.

What we saw was breathtaking. At one church, the entire third floor—roof, block walls and all—had been completely swept away. At another, the metal roof structure of a neighboring building had literally been thrown into its second-story balcony. Miraculously, there was no loss of life among A/G church members. However, these structures remain scarred because reconstruction has been slowed by a lack of available materials and laborers despite the generous response to calls for support.

Even in the face of so much adversity, we were met by people with hearts full of gratitude, determined to persevere. Celso and Guadalupe, the pastors of Rey de Reyes in the Las Cruces neighborhood, exemplified this determination. Even before the storm, as they sought to establish a vibrant congregation in this needy area, they had to overcome both violent persecution and an avalanche while constructing their building. Seemingly unfazed by the setback Otis dealt them, they received us with thankfulness for the support we’d given and faith for their complete recovery.

Let’s remember these brave believers in prayer as they continue the labor of reconstruction.

Photo Captions:

  1. Pastor Alfredo Castañeda shows Victor Olivares storm damage to his church and how high winds carried a neighbor’s roof through its balcony door.
  2. While reconstruction efforts are slow, we rejoiced to see materials on-site at “Amistad,” a church that had lost its roof in the storm.
  3. Pastors Celso and Guadalupe, together with the leadership of District “Sur Pacífico”

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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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As 2022 winds down, we look back with gratitude on what, through your prayers and support, we were able to accomplish. We’re truly grateful for the gains made in:

Training: we began the year with a focus on scripture, utilizing virtual sessions to teach believers of all levels how to read and understand the Bible. As pandemic restrictions lessened, those virtual sessions gave way to in-person meetings and the opportunity to participate in the formation of dozens of missionaries preparing for global service.

Encouraging: knowing that our activity for God is fueled by our relationship with God, we led the Mexico Missionary Fellowship (MMF) through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course, resetting our focus on being with Jesus first so that our doing for Jesus is rightly motivated and sustainable.

Accompanying: we’ve gained an appreciation of the excellent ministry happening through the efforts of the MMF as we joined its members in their work: teaching a Bible study among seekers in Aguascalientes, distributing food and the hope of the gospel among the homeless in Guadalajara, and witnessing to university students on the campus of UNAM in Mexico City, to name a few.

We know that, as you’ve responded in 2022, you’ll be with us as we rise to the challenge of 2023 in:

Advocacy: telling the story of Mexico–a people steeped in religion but still longing for redemption.

Agency: reversing the contraction of our missionary force to expand our footprint and influence.

Advancement: gaining ground in the establishment of the church despite the resistance of both traditional religion and secularism.

Would you reaffirm your support through prayer, interceding for Mexico and for the MMF, giving, especially considering us in your year-end generosity, and maybe even going, joining our team?

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. Candidate Orientation in October was our third opportunity this year to help train new missionaries.
  2. Dave leads a Bible study at Iglesia Vida in Aguascalientes. Accompanying the missionaries we have the privilege to lead is one of our favorite things to do.
  3. In May, we celebrated Nicky and Janie Rider’s retirement. Will you be a part of the new generation of missionaries to Mexico?

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

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

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

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

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

Note: this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox! 

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While there are a number of reasons that I’m sure we’d all just like to forget 2020, as we’ve had some time to reflect on the past year, we can certainly say up to this point the Lord has helped us. So, we felt that it was important, with this final newsletter of the year, to raise our “Ebenezer.”

2020 brought with it completion. This summer marked the end of our itineration cycle, which began in June of 2019. Although our agenda was altered by the virus, we met our financial goals on time thanks to the response of so many wonderful friends both old and new. With the conclusion of our itineration, we also complete our 13-year span of ministry on the Yucatan Peninsula. Come 2021, our return to Mexico as Area Directors will expand our previously regional vision to a national one and move our base of operations from Merida to Mexico City.

2020 brought with it a new sense of community. True, the coronavirus has kept us physically apart, but as need caused us to increase our communication with our Mexico Missionary Fellowship, a sense of community naturally followed. Our monthly Zoom meetings now bring opportunities for encouragement, fellowship, and prayer, and our social media groups provide instant contact with our colleagues in times when intercession or celebration is in order.

2020 brought with it acts of compassion. There is no question that the current year has been one of Mexico’s most difficult in recent memory. Not only has it had to deal with the pandemic, but it also faced the devastation of five named tropical storms. Thankfully, the missionary body and our ministry partners were willing to rise to the challenge. In April, our missionary fellowship was able to sponsor 200 pastors to help Mexico “flatten the curve.” Later, we were able to give generously to help those hospitalized due to COVID-19 and those who, unfortunately, lost loved ones because of the virus. When the storms came, we were able to partner with Convoy of Hope to bring relief to those affected and with the AGWM Recovery Fund to help repair damage in 13 churches throughout Mexico’s southeast.

2020 brought with it renewed confidence. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 2020 has taught us that our hope lies not in human effort, but in the Lord’s ability. Never have we been so aware of our dependence on Him and our gratefulness for your continued prayers. Thank you for your faithfulness in 2020!

By the way, this post is just a portion of what we share in our quarterly newsletter. If you’d like more information from the Godzwas or would like to print this update, take a look at the full PDF version of our quarterly newsletter or, better still, sign up to receive our newsletters direct to your inbox!

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When Jay Dickerson, Area Director for Central America and Coordinator for Missionary Formation, asked me (Dave) if I’d be interested in teaching the "Bible as Narrative" competency for new missionary candidates during their orientation sessions this month, it didn’t take long for me to give him my enthusiastic affirmative response. As missionaries in the Yucatan, we were passionate about facilitating encounters with the Bible. We know that as individuals understand the Bible story and see themselves within the framework of its redemptive history, their way of perceiving reality or worldview is changed.   That change makes possible their increased participation with God in that same redemption. What an honor it was to walk through the Bible with these new missionaries, giving them the tools they need to see that change happen in themselves and lead others to experience it as well.  As Mexico Area Directors we look forward to additional opportunities to influence the next generation of missionaries.

But this month we also had the chance to influence the next generation of missions supporters as we were invited to speak to the children in Lebanon First Assembly (Lebanon, MO) and Northland Cathedral (Kansas City, MO) about how Boys and Girls’ Missionary Challenge (BGMC) helps missionaries reach people throughout the world.  After grabbing their attention with our snake (Don’t worry, it’s not real.), we talked to them about how missionaries use BGMC funds that they give each week to help men and women and boys and girls all over the world know Jesus.

Thank you for your prayers and support that are enabling us to extend our influence. We appreciate your involvement in our team!

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What a difference a month makes! Since our last newsletter, we’ve: traveled 3050 miles, took part in Missionary Training, were officially installed as Mexico Area Directors, began life again as a family of five, moved twice, and began our itineration year. Needless to say, we’ve been busy! Still, we would not have been able to accomplish even half of that list if it hadn’t been for the many who helped us make our many transitions. So allow us to use this space to express our gratitude.

Beginning at the beginning, we’re thankful for our friends who helped us sort, sell, pack and move our belongings from our home and make it to the airport. We’re also thankful to United Airlines, for a smooth ride, on-time departures, and expert luggage handling. No muss. No fuss. Just a great ride.

During the trip, we were blessed by a “chance” meeting with Catherine Figueroa, fellow missionary to Oaxaca, and grabbed a bite at the Houston Airport Chick-Fil-A. We were also treated to a violin concert in Terminal D. Bonus!

Arriving in Springfield, MO, we were met by our friends, Dan and Lori Van Veen who fit all of our earthly belongings into their minivan for the trip to our temporary apartment where Andrew, from TLC properties, had stayed late for us to be able to check-in. You guys are the best!

Later, we were received by our LAC family who let us crash their Missionary Associate Dinners as we integrated into Missionary Training already in session. We’re appreciative of the warm welcome that our Regional Director, Dave Ellis, gave us and the grace with which Paul and Sandy Kazim, our outgoing Mexico Area Directors, handled the transition. We’ve got some classy leadership in LAC.

We’re also thankful for our candidate missionary families, the Cogdills and the Sislos, who are in the midst of their itineration. They are exhibits A and B of the quality players that are a part of Team Mexico. We’re pulling for your speedy return!

And we can’t fail to mention, Righteous Rides, who afforded us a sweet deal on an itineration vehicle, New Life Church and Central Assembly for their warm welcome, Steve and Melissa Pulis for their refrigerator, and Eric and Amy Spencer for the truck to transport it. Without friends like you, our transition would have been a lot harder. And here’s a shout out to our family who’s received us for our first iteration stint in PA!

Finally, we’d like to thank you, our supporters. Thanks for keeping up with us, praying for us, and pulling for us. We love you!

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We’ve just come out of a great season of activity with teams here on the Yucatán peninsula throughout the month of March. In the first week, we were blessed by Chi Alpha (XA) groups from Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, DC as they renovated Monte Horeb, a church revitalization project in Sotuta, Yucatán. Afterward, we headed south to the town of Tekax to continue the construction of the new church, Senda de Vida, accompanied by members of Rolla First Assembly and fellow missionaries, Nicky Rider and Loyd Cogdill.

The physical impact of their trip was apparent, as the XA team raised a new roof over the church building in Sotuta, and in Tekax, block walls rose from the ground, forming a new sanctuary through the efforts of the team from Rolla First. But, there was more to these trips than the construction itself.

There was a work of encouragement. I think that this quote from Mike, my twin brother and XA team leader, says it best. “I felt like our team was able to make a significant impact in Sotuta. With 16 students and staff pitching in, we moved the construction project forward, but, even more importantly, we were able to encourage a young pastor and his family. The last night affirming and praying over Pastor Erik and his ministry there was powerful (photo top left)! I believe great things are in store.”

There was a work of restoration. In Tekax, not only were former members encouraged to rededicate their lives to the Lord through the visit of the Rolla team, but also one of the ladies in the church testified of physical healing after several team members had prayed for her!

There was also a work of unification. The teams came together despite the difference in language and culture, despite the heat and the pressure of the jobs they faced. As Sam, one of the XA team members said, they left their comfort zone to give of themselves. Whether that was in the sharing of a testimony, in Sam’s case (photo top middle), or singing “10,000 Reasons” in English during the welcome service, in the case of the Spanish speaking church members in Tekax (photo top right), each group made an effort to come nearer, to bridge the gaps, to know and be known as the body of Christ. The result was truly something beautiful, and the impact, for both team members and nationals alike, profound.

As we close this update, we express our gratitude, not only to the teams and the churches that received them, but also to you, our supporters, who make it possible for us to facilitate these connections, working to fulfill the vision of the Yucatán full of churches. For our updated prayer list and links to our secure giving site, head over to our support page.

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the third and final of that series–the story of José Luís Vera Poot, planter of the new church, Río Jordán in the southern village of Maní, Yucatan.

In his youth, José wouldn’t have been picked out as the most likely candidate to plant a church. Having been schooled in and later teaching Marxist anthropological theories for 31 years, José had rejected God as simply a clever invention used for exploitation and manipulation. He declared himself an atheist and was proud of, what was in his estimation, his enlightened worldview. But a string of poor choices led José to infidelity, which threatened to destroy his family.

It was then, desperate to save his marriage, that José literally opened the door to the truth of the gospel. A series of visits by the pastor and several members of the local Assemblies of God church opened José’s eyes to the message of the Bible while their times of prayer softened his heart to consider the reality of God’s existence. It was a dream, however, in which José states the Lord stood before him saying simply, “I am,” that finally convinced him to believe. He was later baptized, and having reconciled with his wife, Gloria, became a member of the church. Now, José promotes the faith that he once ridiculed, serving alongside his wife as the leaders of the mission, Río Jordan, which they are planting in the western half of the village of Maní a section from which the evangelical church had been noticeably absent.

With a population of about 5,000, Maní is known for the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in its fields and for its handicrafts, especially the richly embroidered dresses called huipiles which are woven by the women of the community. More recently, however, the lack of economic opportunity has caused many to abandon the village, seeking their fortunes elsewhere, often turning to illegal immigration to the US as a solution to their financial problems. Those who remain increasingly turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to pass the time as they wait for their luck to change.

José and Gloria, on the other hand, have taken an active approach, dedicating themselves to sharing with others the Good News that had produced their own transformation. José was already enrolled in the local Bible institute extension when we met him at our regional church planting seminars last fall, and when we made the call for those who would volunteer to start a new work, he was among the first to respond. In the months that have followed, he’s been utilizing the tools he’s received in the church planting program to help guide both those who are discovering faith for the first time and those like Chico, who had lost their way.

Chico was a Maní success story. He had made a comfortable living for himself, saving much of what he had earned in his years as a house painter in the US. Upon his return to Maní, however, his expendable income and his ample free time gave him the opportunity to first sample and later become addicted to the alcohol and drugs readily available to those with the means to buy them. It wasn’t long before the addiction took its toll, robbing him of his money and estranging him from his wife and family.

José and Gloria reached out to Chico, who had by this time recognized that he’d hit rock bottom. They stayed with him, caring for him as he struggled for sobriety, and they prayed with him, leading him to repentance and renewed faith in Jesus. He now stands a changed man, taking steps toward restoration and testifying to the power of God to save. I had the pleasure of hearing his testimony only weeks ago at services in Río Jordán.

Yes, looking over his history, José would be considered an unlikely candidate to plant a church, but it’s just that sort of person that God has the tendency to use to facilitate a breakthrough. Thanks for your prayers and support that make it possible for us to walk alongside them, working together with them to maximize their impact.

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