compassion

You are currently browsing articles tagged compassion.

Normally, we reserve this space for ministry updates and information about Mexico but because of Mothers’ Day, we’ve decided to share a different type of content. We hope you enjoy it.

This year’s Southern Missouri District Council was a special event. Not only was it the first district council held since the pandemic began, but it also marked a very significant moment for our family. During the ordination service, Kelly received the traditional ordination charge and was prayed for by the presbytery while our daughter, Rebekah, received her ministerial license.

Celebrating Kelly’s ordination and Rebekah’s licensing
Photo Credit: Jim Tygrett

As the events unfolded several emotions bubbled up to the surface. During the night, we experienced excitement and happiness, as well as a certain amount of pride. Both Kelly and Rebekah had worked hard to prepare for this recognition. Kelly’s ordination was our leadership’s affirmation of her 15+ years of missionary service, while Rebekah had added additional courses to her degree and passed an exam to receive her license. This night marked the achievement of a significant goal for both of them.

However, the emotion that seemed most appropriate was that of gratitude. Neither Kelly’s nor Rebekah’s formation had happened in isolation. They had been influenced by significant people who helped cultivate in them the qualities of compassionate leadership required of a minister. And, while those have been evident in the teaching that we’ve received and the care we have been shown by our pastors, those qualities are most often seen in persons holding a less public role; we see those qualities in our mothers.

In my own life, I (Dave) can testify to my mom’s self-sacrifice and perseverance that not only freed me to pursue my missionary calling but has also served as a model for my ministry. Kelly’s love for the Word of God and aptitude for service can be traced back to the example that her mom lived out on a daily basis. And while dads too play an important role, her mom has served as Rebekah’s most constant influence and steady support. “Thanks” seems too light a word to express our appreciation for our mothers’ contribution.

How about you? Have you been blessed by the love and example of a godly mother? It’s our sincere desire that you’ll have the opportunity to show her the gratefulness that she’s due. Gifts and a nice meal are always appropriate, but we’re sure her greatest joy would be to see the contribution that she has made reaping dividends in the lives of others.

Tags: , ,

As we visit churches during our itineration (photo), we are casting a vision of a Mexico redeemed. It is a vision of unreached people groups reached, of cities saved, of rural zones healed, of university students discipled, and of children formed. But although we may be able to imagine such a future, we may wonder, how could we achieve it? The answer is found in the AGWM slogan: establishing the Church among all people, everywhere.

Let me explain. This fall, I was sitting with Gabriel Borbolla, the current Secretary of the National Missions Department in Mexico. He was also the coordinator of disaster relief after the devastating earthquakes that hit Oaxaca in 2018. As he described the effort to assess the damage and distribute aid to the most vulnerable, a common thread emerged: the local church. It was the local church that rose to the occasion to bring relief.

But the local church is so much more than an agent of compassion. It is strategically positioned to be an instrument of transformation. It is a body of people, changed through an encounter and an ever-deepening relationship with the living God. And, as these people continue to interact with their social networks, they are able to influence change within their community.  Just as the presence of the local church enabled physical relief for the victims of the Oaxaca earthquakes, so its increasing influence in the community can facilitate their salvation. 

Yet, there are entire people groups out of the reach of these compassionate, transformative bodies of believers. There, where the church has not been established, we must choose to go. The National Missions Department of Mexico has risen to the challenge to plant the church among the unreached, targeting 4 Mixteco groups among which to establish new congregations. As missionaries in Mexico, we stand with our national colleagues, fixing a goal of establishing 200 new churches within the next four years, and, as Area Directors, we are challenging each missionary unit to play their part through encouragement, investment, and direct involvement. The local church is the key. Only as it is established will the vision of Mexico redeemed become a reality.

Tags: , , ,

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.

Tags: , , ,

image

There’s been a theme recurring in my mind for the past few weeks; it’s the idea of a God who keeps his promises,  a God who doesn’t forget.

Last week, I had the chance to preach on Mephibosheth, an obscure name in the story of David, but an important example of the God who remembers. David had made a promise to his closest friend, Jonathan,  who just happened to be the son of his fiercest enemy, Saul.  He promised to be kind to Jonathan’s family when came to power.

Now, there would have been a pretty remote chance to see his promise come to pass had David reflected the kings of his day. They were known to conspire against their enemies and wipe out any trace of their descendants, lest one of them think of the possibility of rebellion and a shot at regaining the throne. But David was not like the kings of his day; he was a man after God’s own heart, And how does God act? He keeps His promises.

The story resumes years after the promise was made, years after Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, had been killed.  David finally establishes his reign, and when that work was done, he looks for a opportunity to keep his promise.  He seeks out Ziba, an old servant of Saul, and inquires of him the location of Jonathan’s son, the crippled Mephibosheth. He sends for him, and then, in all of his magnanimity, restores to him all of what had belonged to his grandfather.

He didn’t need to do it. There was no one alive to hold him to his promise. It was, to say the least, a unexpected act for a Middle Eastern monarch. But David was more than that, he was a king whose temporal rule was to point toward the eternal Kingdom of the Heavens and the God whose kingdom it is, and that God is a God who doesn’t forget.

Flash forward to 2002, when a town called “Tigre Grande” was flooded by Hurricane Isidore. During the storm, water from rivers of the state of Campeche surged in, filling lowland farms to the tops of telephone poles. At the time, a small church was taking shape, but, because of the floodwaters, the town was displaced, and its residents are disbursed throughout the county. The town was later reestablished and rebuilt, but, unfortunately, the little church did not survive.

Anyone else could have easily forgotten the little town of Tigre Grande, lying 50 kilometers away from the nearest good road, anyone that is, but God.

It was 12 years in the formation, but God’s promise to build his church was fulfilled. Early this year, God stirred the heart of a young missionary couple, Rangel and Claudia Vázquez, for Tigre Grande. They took a trip to investigate. What they found was astonishing. They had asked about the possibility of starting a Bible study in the village. When word had spread and the day of the first event arrived, a group of townspeople, 22 in number, were there to be a part. They had been waiting for them and the message they brought that day. Rangel and Claudia were able to say that just as the townspeople had not forgotten the the church that had begun years before, neither had God.

Kelly, the kids, and I had a chance to meet the group and share in a small service in garage of one of the houses that had been rebuilt by the government after the storm. The kids and adults found seats or stood in the little space, a dog stretched out in front of the table that served as a pulpit. As we sang, and prayed, and studied the scriptures together, we saw the signs of a church reforming, and we heard the testimonies of lives being transformed in that small village, down but not out, lost to some but not forgotten by God.

But that’s who He is, the God who keeps His promises, the God who doesn’t forget–not then, three thousand years ago with Mephiboseth, not now in the case of the Town of Tigre Grande, not ever.

Tags: , ,

Joy Unspeakable?

SustainHopeSmile

Holy Week has come and gone. If you’re like us, you’re probably still basking in the joy that comes with the comprehension of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross and the hope of eternal life that His resurrection brings. More than that, the afterglow of Easter Sunday Morning encourages us to share with others the reason for this hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), but the increased urge to share comes the with the urgent need to know how. So many times it can seem like we have a joy unspeakable, to borrow the words of the the old hymn, a hope that we feel we’re unable to share.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul states: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” It is a call to enter in, to identify and empathize with a community as a means to reach them. It’s easy enough to agree with this concept, but difficult to put into practice. However, our time with the ministry of Sustain Hope has made the emulation of Paul’s message a bit easier.

From March 28th to April 6th, Andy Rogers and Frank Mayes from Sustain Hope held services and workshops designed to teach pastors and other leaders how to use simple methods to solve big problems, from water purification to food preparation all the while building bridges to help present the gospel.

fly trap

One such example was a simple fly trap, made from a common plastic bottle and a piece of fruit or a dollop of honey. During the rainy season, from June to November here in the Yucatán, flies can be a big problem, especially in the open air kitchens that many still use throughout the state. The trap provides a simple solution to a common nuisance, but it also serves to illustrate the danger of sin. In the same way that the flies are attracted to the bait of fruit or honey, so sin can be very attractive, but just as the fly is unable to escape from the trap, so sin can have grave even lethal consequences for those who fall under its influence. Imagine the lasting impact such an illustration can have as flies accumulate within the trap!

In this and many other ways, Frank and Andy shared throughout the week. It was a joy to host them and translate for them as they brought new ways for our ministers to get involved with their communities meeting physical needs while conveying spiritual truths.

Interested in seeing more? Take a look at our photo gallery from the week. If you like, you can also download our latest newsletter in PDF format, featuring Sustain Hope.

Tags: , , ,

20130325-121415.jpg

It was Tuesday afternoon. I was sitting in the hospital trying to take it all in. We had planned the most ambitious Chi Alpha Spring Break Missions Trip we had ever undertaken: two teams from American University and the University of Virginia, construction, community outreach, and evangelism, Mexicans and Americans working together. But at that moment, everything seemed to be unraveling. Six of the 20 team members were sick, 5 had received antibiotics and one was hospitalized. Instead of working to meet our goals, I seemed to be scrambling to avert disaster.

But God, who makes all things work together for our good, never stopped working, not even on that Tuesday afternoon. The work never stopped. The Chi Alpha teams, working together with students from the Bible Institute, raised six columns of the second story structure of the Institute’s new multipurpose building and painted the entire first floor. They also collaborated to beautify the communities of Sierra Papacal and San Bernardo, painting the walls that lined the main streets of the villages. It was beautiful to watch how those who might not otherwise had asserted themselves rose to the occasion to keep things on track. We were deeply moved as even local pastors who had heard of our situation arrived to help us to achieve our goals.

20130325-121354.jpg

Not only was the work done, but our planned outreaches took place as well. By Thursday, our teams, including those who had been sidelined by sickness were up and active, coordinating a social outreach that saw dozens of kids deloused and taught dental hygiene while moms were able to select from new articles of clothing for their families. Following the social outreach, evangelistic services took place, where children and adults alike were able to hear and respond to the message of salvation.

Reflecting upon the trip, it became clear that it was through the adversities that we faced that the work became a group effort. Those of us who had arrived looking to put forth our best efforts found, through our weakness, a new found interdependence within the international Body of Christ and a renewed reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain, to heal, and to accomplish His will. Spiritual gifts were utilized that would have otherwise remained dormant. Friendships were formed which otherwise would never have been possible, and our celebration of the work was correctly shifted from what we had accomplished to what God had done in our midst.

20130325-121405.jpg

On the Saturday before the teams arrived, the song, “He makes Beautiful Things” had been playing in my head. The chorus of the song repeats, “He makes beautiful things out of the dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.” Although it was difficult to see on that Tuesday afternoon, God indeed worked our adversities together for our greater good. He created something beautiful even out of us.

Have you enjoyed this Spring Break Report? Be sure to check out our photos as well!

Tags: , , , , , ,

As our thoughts turn to the birth of our Savior, we are reminded that God sent His Son into the world to seek and save that which was lost. What a privilege we have to be used by Him as He carries out His work in Mexico. Take a look at our online newsletter to see just a glimpse of what He is doing among us. Click here or on the picture to read our latest update!

Our online newsletter is viewable as a PDF document. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed, you may download it here.


Tags: , , , , ,

I’m a fixer. I’ll admit it. It seems as though even before I see a problem, I’m already at work on how I can make it better. I appreciate being able to make something more useful or more efficient. Perhaps that’s why I had gotten such a kick out of my helpdesk days as a geek in the Evangel University Technical Services office.

Still, what I have found out since then is that what works with machines and operating systems rarely applies directly to work with people. Some events that have happened this week have brought this reality into better focus for me.

AGTS Day of Renewal: Each year, the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary has a Day of Renewal, a time when they set aside the day to day practice to focus in on their pursuit of God as a corporate body. This year, being in the US, I had the opportunity to attend the morning service. In it, Dr. Sheri Benvenuti spoke of her impatience with others and what she thought were their petty problems until her eyes were opened through her own suffering. She said that that suffering, combined with the pentecostal experience enables us to comprehend the situation of those around us in a whole new way that facilitates true ministry.

Ezra Chapter 9: My Bible reading has me currently in the book of Ezra. In chapter 9, he is alerted to a grave problem. The Jews who had returned from Babylon were falling into their old ways. They had married wives from among the pagan nations who had led them astray before the they had been taken away to captivity.

Something had to be done. One would expect the scribe Ezra to sit down at his desk and begin dialing the offenders one by one in order to schedule their discipline meetings, but instead he tears his clothes, sits down in the dust and weeps over the situation.

A conversation with my dad: My dad spoke to me today asking for advice: How do you get a person to see the error of their ways and accept the logical solution, be it spiritual or social? So often, he related, he was met with the rejection, “You just don’t understand what I’m going through.”

Each one of these situations seems against us fixers and our desire to rush in with the solution. Of course it’s not that the people don’t need a solution, but rather we fixers forget that true comprehension of the situation is the first step to solving the problem.

Now, I’m not just talking about hearing all sides of the story. I’m talking about feeling the pain of the situation along with those who are suffering. Dr. Benvenuti admitted that she was quick with the solution before her personal pain, but now she more effectively ministers because she’s “been there” with those who suffer. Ezra hadn’t sinned, and certainly he had the right and the responsibility to meat out justice for the wrongdoers, but it was his public display of sorrow, not his administrative prowess that bought about a spontaneous renewal of the population. Furthermore, the offenders were the ones who carried out the solution to the problem, not Ezra.

So it would seem that people need to see more than the error of their ways. They need more than some set of logical steps to a better life. They need someone to weep with them over their present situation. They need to see that there is someone who truly cares enough to comprehend–to treat them as fellow human being and not just as a problem to be fixed.

A challenge for us “fixers?” To be sure. Still, when it comes to people, God has called us to do more than fix; He’s called us to love.

Tags: ,

Police Officers don masks for protection.

Police Officers don masks for protection.

The early afternoon is usually a usually a time of hustle and bustle here in Mérida. Students are heading home for “comida” the normal big meal of the day. Families are planning for the rest of the day–sports activities, a trip to the mall, an evening downtown, or school meetings to attend. But everything is strangely quiet. There is noticeably less traffic on the avenue near our home. There is no sound from the loudspeaker that normally broadcasts the names of the students whose parents have arrived to drive them home. That’s because there hasn’t been school since Monday. All public events have been canceled and activities that would gather people together, from churches to team practices have been prohibited, all to prevent the spread of what is now the scourge of Mexico, the Swine Flu.

Our understanding that something was awry began when our friends, Josh and April Amiot notified us that they were returning to Mexico City to attend the funeral of one of their good friends and ministry co-workers. An otherwise healthy mother of three, Nelly didn’t fit the profile of those who die of the flu. Normally the very old or the very young, under six, are those who succumb. Of course, this was just the trickle before the flood. By last Friday the 24th, we had heard of hundreds sick and dozens dead as the Swine Flu spread rapidly across central Mexico. At the end of the weekend, there were reports of sicknesses in 19 of the 32 Mexican States and drastic measures taken to stem the spread of this highly contagious, and surprisingly deadly, conglomeration of three different flu viruses.

Here in Mérida, and across Mexico, all schools have been closed until the 6th of May and all public gatherings have been prohibited until further notice. Labor Day, May 1st here in Mexico, will be observed without the customary parades. Sporting events have been held without fans, and our district convention, set to have begun yesterday has been suspended until a later date. Even church services are against the law. Those that need to work in the public sector have taken to donning masks to protect them against the airborne virus.

But we are not writing to scare you. Our family is well, and to date, no officially recognized case of Swine Flu has been recorded here in Mérida. Still, there is a definite tension in the air as anxiety and fear have taken hold. There is a sense of helplessness apparent as society waits for word of progress against this disease.

But we are not helpless, we can cry out to God and know that He will hear and respond to our requests. So we ask you to join with us as we intercede for this nation. Ilona Hadinger, a fellow Mexico Missionary and the coordinator of our prayer devotions on MexicoAG.org offers these points to guide us in our intercession:

  • Pray for the sick; for an end to the suffering.
  • Pray for families who have lost a loved one to the virus.
  • Intercede for believers as they boldly pray for the sick and proclaim the Good News of eternal life.
  • Ask for the peace of God to be felt across the land, and for many to commit their lives to the Prince of Peace.
  • Pray for pastors, Christian leaders, and missionaries to remain healthy with a steadfast trust in the Lord
  • .

Please join with us during this crucial time.

Photo provided by sarihuella on flickr.com

Tags: , , ,

I just finished up another evangelism conference, this marking my sixth opportunity to hold such an event here in the Yucatán. With more experience comes more confidence in sharing the material, but that experience also brings a certain familiarity with the topic–an anticipation you could say of the inquiries and the reaction of the audience, but during class this last Thursday, a question was asked that I hadn’t anticipated.

We had been studying Mark 6:30-44, the account of the feeding of the 5,000, and contrasting the disciples’ reaction to the crowd’s needs with that of Jesus. Analyzing the context, we concluded that the disciples’ inaction and Jesus action was related to a key element, compassion. Jesus saw the plight of the crowd and the compassion that he felt moved him to action even though he was in the midst of extreme personal sorrow. The disciples, coming off of a successful preaching tour, failed to react because their lack of compassion.

Usually, the anticipated question is “How do we learn to react in the way Jesus did?” a question that I anticipate and answer within the lesson follow-up, but this time an unanticipated question was raised; a student asked: “Should we act compassionately first and then preach, or should we preach first and then display acts of compassion?” Caught off guard, I had to think a bit about the question. I wanted to know what it was that this student was trying to clear up in his mind. His clarification clued me in. Some organizations emphasize compassionate acts, feeding programs, rehabilitation centers, and medical clinics while others emphasize teaching and preaching engagements. This student was trying to understand what stance we should take in the debate between presenting evangelism as a moment of decision or what what some call the “social gospel.”

The question illustrates the danger of thinking in predefined categories. It can cause us to limit our outreaches to traditional activities like preaching, teaching, and passing out tracts while avoiding food distribution or medical clinics in an attempt to show our emphasis on “telling the good news,” or it can cause us to add mandatory evangelistic events to our “social outreach” in order to justify the undertaking, a practice that can lead others to criticize us as evangelicals for opportunistic proselytizing, or can lead to the phenomenon of “Rice Christians,” those who confess Christianity as long as the hand outs keep coming.

Separating compassion and preaching/teaching into separate categories should make us ask the questions: “Is our preaching without compassion?” and “Is social outreach condemned or considered second-class by scripture?” Obviously the answer to both questions is no. The real question, therefore, should not be, “How should our evangelism look?” but rather, “How should our evangelism be motivated?”

Returning to the passage in question, we see that Jesus taught and fed the needy crowd. There was no separation of his actions into evangelistic and social. Rather compassion motivated him to meet the need before him. Jesus wasn’t checking off items on his list; he was instead showing us that the compassionate response considers its recipient as a whole person.

Interchanging the word compassion for love can perhaps clarify the point. Paul, in trying to settle church division in Corinth, culminates his argument for unity with the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, which he introduces as “the most excellent way.” In his opening words, he lists both “spiritual” (prophesy and tongues and the practice of faith) and “compassionate” (giving to the poor) acts as worthless without love. It’s little wonder then that 1 John 4:12 says that we would be known to be true, not for our excellent Bible teaching or for our hospital building, but rather for our love, and this is fitting because love when perfectly applied led to eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

Reaching out to a lost world in love then enables us to push past the categories and throw away our checklists. Ultimately it allows us to utilize the appropriate means to communicate God’s love, be it through a cup of cold water or an offer to pray the sinner’s prayer.

Learning and encouraging the most excellent way here in the Yucatán,

Dave

Tags: , ,

« Older entries