Discipleship

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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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Traditionally, missions has been the realm of those of White, Anglo-Saxon descent. The ranks of missionary heroes are full of names like Hudson Taylor or Jim Elliot. However, Latino, Chinese, or African names remain remarkably absent from such lists, even after decades of work within such nations.

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We understand these tendencies. Those mentioned were ones who opened up new territories to the Gospel. But, now that those areas have been opened, what of those who have been reached? Do they have a responsibility to share in the burden of World Evangelism?

Jesus seemed to think so. His missions strategy was the original Pay it Forward plan. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mat. 10:8). He expected his fledgling disciples to pass on what they had learned from Him, and he commissioned them to engage in that worldwide effort from the get-go (Acts1:8).

Still, while some have answered the call, actually reaching the country of their calling is a tremendous challenge. The reality here in Mexico is that, although missionaries are responding, the church as a whole remains largely non-committal in regards to missionary responsibility. This is dangerous, especially as unreached areas close to those fitting the traditional missionary profile.

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This month, were working toward a solution. I had the chance to preach in our sectional pastor’s meeting, and I challenged our leaders to take steps to increase missions consciousness among their churches. Also, this week, we are in the middle of our District Missions Convention, “The Awakening of the Mayas to Missions.”

What is the goal of these efforts? It’s to encourage our churches to feel the responsibility of missions and to sense the empowerment that Christ has given to all his disciples regardless of nationality.

We believe that the Yucatán can be a force in missions. Pray with us to that end, and, maybe someday, we’ll read of a Norma Uitzil, or a Lidia Pompeyo among those lists of missions heroes.

Blessings on you as you stand with us in prayer!

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Go East Young Man?

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Practicing personal evangelism

Certainly that’s not right. The direction is supposed to be west, is it not? Well, if you live in Merida, and your goal is ministry among the Maya, then east is the direction you want to travel.

And go east we did, Joseph and I that is, to be a part of another Action Group training for the Jesus Film in Maya. We travelled three hours on a rather circuitous route to make it to the city of Tizimin, where one of my former students, Alex Canul, served as our host.  Once there, churches from Tizimin, Espita, and Dzonot Carretero, five in all, were trained with the view to participate in a Jesus Film outreach in their area.

Of course, the goal of the Jesus Film is much more than simply the projection of the film itself. The goal is to leave a nucleus of believers, a functioning church, in each place it is shown. To do so, Action Groups are trained in everything from personal evangelism and testifying to teaching discipleship classes to new believers.

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Pastor Alex Canul

Our time in Tizimin was a full day of teaching strategy, methods, and techniques, but we took time as well to emphasize our dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit to create opportunities, to open doors, and to work in the hearts of those reached by the film. We left satisfied with the ground that we were able to cover, but more desperate than ever for God to reach Maya speakers in the Yucatán with a clear presentation of the story of Jesus and a church home full of the sound of their native language.

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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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There are only a few things that I like better than baptisms. There is something about that step of obedience, that confirmation of the faith of new believers, and the determination to live a lifetime of discipleship. I’m always excited to take part. It’s even better when the baptisms represent the fruit of believers that are working to plant churches.

This time, I had the privilege of participating in the baptismal ceremony for the church in Holcá, Yucatán, which took place in Dzilam de Bravo. Pastor Angelino Ek, one of our Jesus Film Team members invited me to share during the service before taking part in the ceremony. What’s more, Kelly and the kids were there to participate and document it all! I’ve attached a YouTube video of the preaching and a gallery of the photos at the end of this post. Enjoy!

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In the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the power of the Spirit. It’s a power that God has promised to all who believe as Moisés found out. It’s a power to be His witnesses, a power that Guadalupe has experienced. Still, individual salvation is not the end of the process. Jesus announced His plan in Matthew 16:18 “…I will build my church…” Therefore, if we’re not about planting churches after the New Testament model, we’re failing to fulfill Christ’s stated mission.

Frankly, we’re not interested in failure. That’s why we’ve sought to stimulate church planting, first among the Maya though the Jesus Film, and now through a new opportunity that has opened to us at the Bible Institute. I was asked recently to teach the course on church planting to our second and third year students. Through a process of study, interaction, and contact with needy areas throughout the Yucatán, we’re seeking to create a plan of action so that each student finishes the course ready to plant a new church. Our prayer is that those who have yet to be reached by the gospel will never be out of the reach of a Bible-believing church, and that beginning disciples, like those studying with Guadalupe, will never have to search for a spiritual home. Pray with us as we step through this process!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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Team Members

If you’re a regular reader of disciplemexico.org you’ll have see my comments on the team play of missionaries. We’re blessed to be a part of an international group of ministers committed to seeing God’s purposes advance throughout the world. My recent trip to Florida to meet with ACLAME members was a reminder of how vital this network realizing this goal.

Still, regardless of how effective our missionary network is, if our team doesn’t extend to include national believers in the work, our goal of incarnational ministry, of making the work truly part of the fabric of the culture to which we are called, will fall short. That’s why I’m glad to be a part of the team of faculty members assembled to teach at the Bible Institute this fall.

Yesterday, we assembled at the church, “Cordero de Dios” to celebrate the opening of another year of ministerial formation in the Yucatan at Instituto Bíblico Bethel. In all, 28 different professors will collaborate across 3 separate programs. As you can see, it’s an undertaking that requires more that an individualistic effort.

So I’m blessed to link arms with fellow national believers to take part in providing an education that will raise up disciples will will strive to do all that Jesus commanded us to do.

What’s your take?
Is team ministry simply a missionary enterprise, or is it essential in your context as well?
Have you seen a good model of team ministry in action? Share about it.

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Discipleship in progress... Discipleship has lost traction in our fragmented society. Once upon a time we had been discipled simply by exposure to the gospel both in teaching and in practice several times a week. Now, however, packed schedules and enticing alternatives to the classical Christian community have left us searching for ways to make disciples in the modern world where even professing Christians seem to have left their faith behind when it comes to everyday living.

We face the same challenge here in the Yucatán. The taste for Christian activities and the informal discipleship structure that they promote seems to be dwindling. Where Christian maturity was once on display several times a week to serve as a model for the younger or less mature, many are beginning to ask, “What does a mature Christian look like?” and “How do I become one?”

Fortunately, resources are out there for us to help answer these questions. Recently, El Centro Cristiano Gólgota has begun an intentional discipleship program based on materials offered for free by Global University. We’ve been blessed to be a part of team working to adapt the individual studies to a group format. Meeting once a week, we’re going step by step through the process of Christian growth with the goal of making discipleship a tangible, achievable process. The picture above is of one of those sessions.

How about you? Have you’ve been wondering lately about discipleship? Have you heard someone asking aloud what mature Christianity should look like? What steps have you or your church taken to make discipleship an intentional process?

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Since we’ve been back from the field I would say that the #1 change for us has been the McDonald’s experience. Moving itself from a kid magnet restaurant barely tolerated by adults, McDonald’s has remade itself with drinkable coffee, a new menu, and a new look. Now, when the kids say, “Let’s go to McDonald’s,” more often than not we say, “OK!” More recently, my reduced ambivalence to this nearly ubiquitous eating establishment set up an opportunity to minister.

It all started when Brad Keller, a fellow minister, scoping out a spot to set up his Mac to catch some free wi-fi, greeted a twenty-something guy named Ricky. After exchanging some greetings and comments about the technology that we were pulling from our bags, Ricky asked us what it was that we did. It was as though he was asking us to tell him about Jesus.

I began by giving him my prayer card and explaining my mission of calling Mexicans into relationship with Jesus. He responded almost immediately with a smokescreen of excuses for not attending church. I sensed from this that Ricky was seeking, but he wanted someone to help him justify his practice of keeping the spiritual at arm’s length. I listened to what he had to say, but I gave him no justifications.

When he spoke of ministers that fail, I responded with statistics that I had heard only earlier that day that it takes some 300 A/G ministers in order to come up with only two moral failures. When he talked about judgmental churches, I encouraged him to talk to two separate ministers that lived in his area that I was sure would welcome him as he was and help him on his spiritual journey. When he brought up others’ experiences, I asked him to look to his own and to understand that he needed a personal relationship with the only on who could settle his questioning; he needed to encounter Jesus.

So I want to thank McDonald’s. Because of their change, they made possible my encounter with a searching heart. I’d also like to ask for prayer for Ricky and his friends. They have my card. They have names of pastors that they can talk to. Let’s pray that they’ll take the next step on their spiritual journey toward Christ.

Photo from LancerE’s flickr photostream

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New Life in Tekax

tekaxreportIt started with a blown radiator and a whole lot of improvising. It ended with dozens having committed their lives to the Lord. That, in a nutshell, was the result of our evangelistic campaign in Tekax, Yucatán.

On Friday January 23rd, I had the opportunity to take 17 students from Bethel Bible Institute to the town of Tekax, which lies some two hours away from our city of Mérida, to hold a two-day evangelistic campaign. The campaign was the culmination of a four week training that we had held for the members of “Templo Emanuel,” where Romeo Calvo is pastor. The goal was to start a small group in the neighborhood of San Juan de Dios at the site of what had once been a catholic chapel.

On the day of the event, we left just about a half hour late, which, here in the Yucatán, is no small feat. Little did we know, however, that the real delay waited only a few miles down the road. At mile 16, I noticed one of our students pulling to the side of the road. When we stopped, I asked what was the matter. Lifting the hood showed the obvious problem. The cap of the water tank had been left off, and all of the water had spilled out. The result was a severely over-heated engine, a big mechanic bill, and a delayed start to our campaign. After a bit of traffic direction around the stalled truck, and a two-hour wait for a replacement, we were back at it again, finally arriving at Tekax with enough time to scramble to put things in place

At the site, basically a street in the middle of a poor neighborhood, we busied ourselves grabbing electric from a nearby house for our lights and sound and starting as soon as we were able in order to keep the crowd that had already gathered. Fortunately, the quick thinking of students and the preparation of the host church paid off. Not only did the people stay, they responded! After the songs, the dramas, and the message was over, students dispersed through the crowd to pray. Several decisions were collected that night. I personally got a chance to pray with three people who had decided that night to follow Jesus. Still, that was only the beginning.

We arose the next day to a hearty breakfast, ready to serve the people’s needs. From 10 AM until 2 PM, we had a team helping with dental hygiene, another giving haircuts, a nurse giving health examinations, and a team fitting people for glasses. On top of that, the church had gathered clothing to give away. All the while we were serving, we were inviting the people to attend the closing service, and attend they did.

In the final event, we had over 100 kids and several adults. The kids laughed, played, and sang with the students and church members while all stayed attentive for the dramas, and the closing remarks. One drama, the Auction, pulled no punches as it spoke of the life that many of the inhabitants of that neighborhood were living–a life full of alcohol, drugs, and despair. As the call was made, we found that we didn’t need to go out to them, they came to us! The children responded first and then the adults. Many came forward to repent of their past lives as whole families wept together. It was an amazing sight! As I greeted the pastor and gave him the 15 decision cards that I had received from other students, he pulled out a stack of his own, possibly up to 40 in all had made a commitment in the two-day event.

The wonderful news is that the event itself was just the beginning. There is now a small group meeting at the site of the campaign. Discipleship materials from John Hall, “Start-up Studies” in Spanish are being utilized to help these new believers experience the eternal life that they now possess, and church members are being utilized to help them along their journey. It is our prayer that not only those 40 will be affected, but that a whole neighborhood will be changed because of this intense effort.

The road is difficult though. Tekax, although ready to receive the truth, is ripe to be deceived by falsehood as well. Signs of false teachings were evident, and cults seem to be gaining ground among the spiritually hungry. Still, we are encouraged by this first step, and we are confident that the results will remain and grow.

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