Evangelism

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That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. —John 17:21


We met this week with Jay Dickerson, LAC missionary training coordinator,
and newly approved missionary to Mexico, Elizabeth Dyvig, for candidate orientation.

“Calgon, take me away!” was the catch-phrase of a memorable TV commercial of our youth. It’s the cry of a mom confronted with an impossible domestic situation just before she’s transported to a secluded bubble bath of peace and quiet. For us, it would become shorthand for “I’m having a rough day, or week, or month and I’m ready for it to just be over.”

As we head into this, our seventh month of the pandemic, I’m certain we’ve all at some point wanted it to just be over. We’ve looked for the escape hatch or maybe even strained to hear the trumpet sound heralding Jesus’s return. Still, as we recently concluded our “40 Days to Listen” prayer and fasting emphasis, we’ve been reminded that God has not rescued us from the world, that is to say, taken us physically from it. On the contrary, he’s commissioned us to go into the world as his ambassadors of light in the midst of darkness, bearers of truth in the midst of popular opinion, and agents of life even in the midst of so much death.

Our Mexico Missionary Leadership Team, which Kelly and I lead as Area Directors, took up the challenge of memorizing John 17 during these past 40 days. We did so because we felt that this “high priestly prayer” would reveal his deep desire for us. As we rehearsed the words of that chapter, the nature of our mission revealed in that text became apparent. Jesus prays for us, “I do not ask that you take them from the world.” Furthermore, he says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” As the words of the Keith Green song say, “Jesus commands us to go.”

But he does not send us alone. He has called in the reinforcements, each one an answer to prayer. He sends Shawn and Carolina Sislo, who just last month entered Mexico after 6 months of waiting. They’ll be planting churches in Mexico’s “Last Frontier,” Aguascalientes, a state less than 2% evangelical. He also sends  Elizabeth Dyvig, a pastor from North Texas who just this week was approved by the World Missions Board to work in Central Mexico. And, as John 17:21 says, he goes with us as well into, yes, a divided world, yes, a sick world, yes, a suffering world, but a world that just might begin to understand its need for a Savior.

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Mexico City stretches on as far as the eye can see. To reach it, we’ll need the Spirit’s strategy.

As we shared in our previous prayer update, there has been a growing hunger in our lives to see God’s kingdom break through in power in Mexico and beyond. Still, in the face of the pandemic and the tremendous need (see photo) there is an acute awareness of our inability to satisfy this hunger through human means. It’s for that reason that we are excited to join with missionaries around the world, from a variety of organizations, for the united goal of taking “40 Days to Listen” for the strategy of the Spirit. We recognize that Missions is God’s heart. Therefore, we take this time to intentionally focus on Him, allowing Him to direct us to accomplish his purposes.

During these 40 days, starting August 24th and extending through October 2nd, we’ll be working to align ourselves with the Holy Spirit. We’re laying aside the regular routine and rhythm of life and ministry so that we can pick up the practices or disciplines that will give Him a dedicated space to speak to us individually and corporately.

The cornerstone of our practice is the dedication of extravagant amounts of time. Our missionary fellowship leadership team has committed to tithe our waking hours, giving God 1 hour and 36 minutes, even though He owns it all, to pray and listen, read and memorize His Word, and intercede for the salvation of 10% of the yet unreached people of Mexico. We will be focused on the gospel of John, reading it through twice with a challenge to memorize Chapter 17, Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. For devotional reading, we’re using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship.

To allow for this shift, we’re drastically reducing our use of media, limiting our time on social networks and eliminating entirely other forms of entertainment. When it comes to food, we have decided to forego sugar and everything processed for the 40 days and go without for a 24 hour period each week, finding our satisfaction increasingly in Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Do you long to see God’s kingdom come? Do you long to hear the Spirit’s voice? We invite you to join us in any or all of these practices. We’ve created a calendar to guide your reading and prayer emphasis. Download a copy and be a part of these “40 Days to Listen.”

Thanks for joining us during this special time. 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.

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In the month of November, Kelly, Jonathan and I (Dave), had the privilege of attending the first-ever National Evangelism Conference in Veracruz, Mexico. It was a beautiful sight to see the more than 1,800 participants commit to spreading a message of love and hope in the location where, 500 years prior, the Spanish Conquista had unleashed a wave of oppression.

Still, even with the enthusiastic response in Veracruz, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with the unfinished task in Mexico: over 113 million who still don’t know Jesus, 3 million of them considered unreached, in a nation becoming more violent and less secure by the year. How can so few make a difference in the face of so great a need?

Then, I think of the Christmas story, and how God came to Earth in the form of the baby Jesus, so small and seemingly insignificant. His bed was a feeding trough. His first visitors, simple shepherds. Even at the height of his popularity, he could be described as a homeless, itinerant preacher. His best friends were among the most marginalized of Jewish society. Yet, it was through that one life that God culminated his plan of salvation and through those few followers that he literally changed the world. That is the hope of Christmas.

And that is the hope that we share, that God will bring peace on Earth, fullness of life, as well to Mexico. But who does he have to represent him in that country? Many are like Roberto (photo, bottom left), an illiterate pastor in Kini, certainly not wise by the world’s standards, but with God’s help, he’s planted 8 churches. Or there’s Lupita (photo, top right), not powerful or influential, not even in her local church, but, through her diligent visitation, she’s led dozens to Christ. Against the sheer numbers of those who still don’t know, the 1,800 who attended the evangelism conference may seem a weak witness, but God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength (1 Cor. 1:25).

So take heart wherever this word might find you this Christmas season. The outlook may be grim, and the future may seem dark indeed, but the light has shone in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5). Experience the hope of Christmas and be sure to pass it on.

(This article appears as well in our winter newsletter. Download a PDF copy to print or share electronically.)

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We’re in the middle of a 3,175-mile family road trip (see inset). Our family of 6, (yes, we’ve brought our dog, Kaixin, along) has traveled from Missouri to Pennsylvania; now we find ourselves in Florida. It’s been a journey of reconnection as we’ve had the chance to visit with family and friends, many who have been so instrumental in sending us to Mexico and maintaining us as we minister there. However, this stop in Orlando, where we find ourselves currently, was made with a different purpose in mind. While we have made reconnections as we’ve met together with hundreds of missionaries from around the world for the unprecedented gathering called Together 2019, we’ve spent the last 4 days seeking renewal, acquiring refocus, and enacting recommitment to the “greatest evangelism the world has ever 
seen.1

All this week, as Assemblies of God World Missionaries have been meeting at Calvary Christian Center, we have paused our ministry pursuits to pray for one another, to hear from the Holy Spirit and to respond to His direction. For our entire family, it has been a significant experience, especially as we take on our new responsibilities as Directors of the Mexico Area (members pictured above). It has been a time to give thanks to God and to worship Him for what He has done among us, to encourage ourselves in the Lord and in His power, and to minister and receive the ministration of others.

The culmination of the event was the signing of a document of recommissioning. It was a recommitment to the Lord and to His Great Commission to make disciples of the nations. It was a reaffirmation of our commitment to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of the Church, and to collaboration with our fellow missionaries. As we face the enormous task of reaching the tens of millions without Christ in Mexico we know that it is only as we live out that commitment that we will be able to finish the work.

So as we turn now to the labor at hand, pray for us as we seek to walk daily in the spirit of our gathering. Pray for us to cultivate a freshness in our relationship with our Lord, to maintain our focus on the work of establishing the church, and to endure in our commitment to the Lord and to one another.

1. Statement made during the 2nd General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1914.

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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 my youth, I always loved the times when my dad would let me sit in the front seat during road trips. Not only was there ample leg room for a change, but I was also able to take charge of the map. It was amazing to me how that compact rectangle of paper, designed to fit in a glove box, could unfold to reveal our whole state, and how, with a bit of practice, I was able to not only pinpoint our location but also track our progress and estimate our time of arrival.

Long gone are the days of navigation by paper maps. Still, maps, like the one above can be useful to measure the progress that we’re making toward our destination. In this case, the destination that we’re seeking is the goal of filling the Yucatán with churches.

On this map, each pin represents a new church being planted by workers who have walked through our 12-month church planting process. The red pins represent the communities where we are holding special outreaches in the month of February designed to accelerate the growth of these new churches.

Would you take a moment this month to pray for all of our church planters and especially for the planned outreaches? If you have a bit more time, why not head over to our interactive Google Map @ https://s1.ag.org/churchmap where you’ll be able to click on each pin to reveal the names of our church planters and prayer requests associated with each work.

Thanks for your prayers!

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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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In our April update, we took time to highlight the ministry of Light for the Lost. Through their support, we were able to furnish all of our church planters with the evangelism materials that they needed to effectively present the gospel to the unsaved in the neighborhoods, towns, and villages where they are starting new works. In this July report, we’re excited to update that story as we’ve been able to extend that support to churches throughout the district of Yucatán.

Leading the District Evangelism Department since July of last year, we’ve been promoting the idea that the local church is the engine that drives evangelism. It is therefore a pleasure to support these pastors and congregations, utilizing our network to distribute some 68,000 tracts and 600 Bibles in support of their evangelistic efforts. We’re convinced that through their desire to reach the lost and the use of these tools, their outreaches will leave a lasting impact.

We are also providing churches with a particularly exciting tool: Respuestas De La Vida (Journey Answers) cards. Designed to follow up gospel conversations or be left with restaurant servers, gas station attendants, taxi drivers, etc., these cards lead the lost to an online, relevant gospel presentation and a site where they can respond with questions, prayer requests, or make a decision for Christ. These respondents can then be directed to any one of our local congregations for continued discipleship. Our hope is that this mass distribution will lead many to respond to the gospel and connect with a church home.

Of course, this kind of operation does create its share of complications. Our spare bedroom has since turned into a warehouse/staging center as we prepare evangelism packets for distribution! Still, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to take another step toward fulfilling the vision of the Yucatan full of churches.

Pray with us, then, that these messages will reach their intended audience and influence them to become disciples of Christ. And, as you do pray, would you please add these additional needs to your list?

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As president of the Department of Evangelism of the District of Yucatan, we’ve been given a tremendous platform from which to launch a church planting program. But as our planters enter into this their third month of the process, which emphasizes evangelism and small group formation, the question arises: “How can they do the work without the proper tools?”

Take a look at the above video message for insight into how Light for the Lost is helping us to answer this question.

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On October 20th and 21st, leaders from throughout the district of Yucatan gathered together for a historic event called the Escuela de Multiplicadores (Multipliers’ School). This two-day session was held in preparation for the kickoff of our new church planting cycle, utilizing materials and methods from Red de Multiplicación (RdM). Its goal was to provide the information and the inspiration necessary to set goals for church planting in the two-year period ending in May of 2019 .

The event was a historic one, not because of the methods and materials that we were explaining (we had introduced materials from RdM in June of 2016), but because this was the first time that district officials had ever gathered to prioritize and strategize for the planting of churches in this way. The outcome of this first ever effort was more than what we could have hoped for.

Arturo Robles, the National Coordinator for RdM joined us from Mexico City for the event. During the sessions, he explained the philosophies and function of RdM and emphasized the belief that a healthy church was a reproducing church. He encouraged each participant to to be involved not simply in the growth of their church but also in its multiplication. It was gratifying to see the vision of the district of Yucatan full of churches becoming clearer to our pastors as they came to under-stand their role in its realization.

The time together culminated in a round table discussion led by our regional presbyters in which they challenged our participants to respond to the question ”What should we do?” We asked them to fix a number of churches to be planted as a goal to be reached by 2019. Reflecting back on the past two years, we found that 17 churches had been added to the 225 already in the district, bringing us to the present total of 242. As the numbers from each table were reported, the regions set a future goal to plant 158 churches, a growth of over 900% in comparison with the previous period. The sense of hope and commitment that that number represented brought tears of joy to our eyes.

The Escuela de Multiplicadores was indeed a breakthrough for our church planting efforts, something we celebrate. We understand, however, that the work is still ahead—in the recruitment of workers and the mentors that will guide and encourage them. That is the focus of this month of November. Will you pray that many will answer the call?

Photo Captions:

  • Arturo Robles, National Coordinator of Red de Multiplicación trains district leaders during the Escuela de Multiplicadores (large).
  • Regional Presbyter Juan Hau encourages participants from the western region in the goal planning session (top).
  • Regional Presbyter Raúl Sánchez takes a moment during discussions in the central region (bottom corner).
  • Dave shares inspiration from Isaiah 6 during the morning devotional (bottom right).

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