Jesus Film Project

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Expanding Horizons


Just last week, as I was sending birthday greetings to Noemi Uitzil, a pastor who has been working with our Jesus Film effort, I was told of new movement beyond the borders of the state of Yucatan in Punta Laguna, Quintana Roo.

Punta Laguna is a small, Maya village, known for its nature reserve, where the spider monkey and the racoon-like coati roam free. Here you’ll find the villagers spending life much like their ancestors had when the town was established in 1930. Chickens and pigs are common sights on the village streets, so too are the women of the town, routinely seated before an open flame, preparing tortillas for the afternoon meal. Towns like these have been difficult to reach, particularly because of the traditional way of life that many of the villagers lead, which includes the practice of a syncretistic faith blending indigenous Maya beliefs with Roman Catholicism.

Nevertheless, it would appear that a new wind is blowing in Punta Laguna. Noemi and her husband, Pedro Pablo projected the Jesus Film in Maya there this month, and their effort is paying off! Two families have committed to the discipleship process, welcoming Noemi, Pedro Pablo and fellow church members to teach them more about the God of the Bible and his Son, Jesus, who died for their sins.

We’re encouraged to know that this effort, started in the District of Yucatan in 2011, continues to advance, pushing even into new territory with this event in Punta Laguna.

Won’t you pray for this fledgling group, that they will receive the support and encouragement to not only remain firm, but also to grow?

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Illiteracy is a huge hindrance to the study of the Bible, but it’s one that we believe can be overcome. Hit the link here or click on the picture to find out how a new partnership is providing us with a tool to do just that. While you’re there, don’t miss the rest of our latest quarterly update from the field!

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.

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Go East Young Man?


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.


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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Speaking with prayer group members

We were in San Isidro de Ochil on Monday night. We went there as as family in order to meet the new congregation planted by Jesus Film team member, Efren Sánchez. We made our way through a driving rain to meet Efren and his team, and then picked our way through the back roads that led from Efren’s village of Pixyah to the town of Ochil. Once there, we met the owner of the home where the church was meeting. Then, I got busy interviewing those who were there while Efren and his group went out to invite those who had not yet arrived.

The prayer service was quite standard in many respects, except of course for the Latinized Maya language that flowed through the house. We sang, prayed for the needs of those in the home, and received a message from Efren about the uniqueness of Christ. It wasn’t until all was over that the significance of the situation struck me.

With the service over, several members of the team from Pixyah headed to a corner store. They came back with bags of snacks and bottles of soda. The snacks were placed in a common bowl and passed for all to share. Plastic cups were then filled and distributed among those who had gathered in the house. It was as I reached my hand in the bowl that I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what Paul had in mind when he gave his rules for communion in 1 Corinthians 11.

Here were people of different levels of education, social circles, and economic status all gathered under the same roof. There were those who spoke Spanish, Maya, and English, conversing with each other, granted, some better than others. There were people from all walks of life sharing from a common bowl. We were disparate members, each with his or her own story, but in this one spontaneous, boisterous, yet holy moment, we were unified as the body of Christ.

There, in that little room, was a congregation. There, in that gathering, a new church had met. This is why we came. We remain so that others might live moments like these, moments that give opportunity for changed lives.

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Expanding the vision

Be it with new students or on new soil, God has called us to expand our vision so that all may be reached. Click on the image or follow the link to read about how we’re responding.

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.

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

Reach the lost

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

Remove obstacles to the gospel

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

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

Raise up others to do the same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Decay, abandonment, death. Entering the town of Santa Maria the signs are everywhere, from the dilapidated central plaza to the disheveled houses on the streets leading to it. However, none of these scenes speaks the volumes that does the ruins of the town’s cathedral. It’s proud facade tries to hide the harsh reality, but, passing through its closed doors, one finds nothing but a crumbling edifice: the roof, collapsed, the windows, replaced by rough hewn boards to keep out trespassers and truth seekers alike. It stands as a testimony to a proud community that could not stop the passage of time. Its monument, like its people, ravaged by the relentlessness of progress.

Still, there is another ruin, perhaps less visible, but no less remarkable. It appears as nothing more than a mound of rubble. To the untrained eye, it could be no more significant than any small hill or rocky bluff, but, in reality, it is the remains of an ancient Maya temple. This culture had once reigned far and wide throughout the Yucatán peninsula, extending its influence, its learning, and it’s power. Now, however, all that it once boasted of is ruined, forgotten, at best left to be stumbled upon by an unsuspecting passer-by.

It’s a sad tale a thousand years old. Still, the lesson that it teaches seemed to have been lost on the residents of Santa Maria. When pastor Josué Novelo and his team arrived early this year with the Jesus Film and its message of hope, few seemed interested although the need for hope in the community were all too visible. But then, one man whose wife had passed away reached out the the Pastor Josué’s team for help and comfort in his time of loss. After that, a woman who lost her husband to cancer approached the group, as well as an elderly couple feeling the same abandonment that their community is suffering, their’s the result of a family looking elsewhere for opportunities. Small beginnings to be sure, but is not that the New Testament pattern? (1 Cor 1:26-31) We had the chance to visit these families, to pray for them and to encourage them, letting them know that they had not been forgotten, helping them to understand that in Christ, although the signs of death may encircle us, there is eternal life.


Certainly, the road ahead is difficult for these new believers. Many of them do not read or write*, and skeptics still abound, like the husband of one believer whose short Maya phrases, though difficult to interpret, were easy to understand. Nevertheless, another look at the ruined structures at the town’s center reveals an interesting discovery: new life. Among the decaying structures, grass, vines, and even trees cover what were once smooth, stone surfaces.

There is life after death, but, for the town of Santa Maria, it doesn’t mean the rebuilding of structures. It means the rediscovery of the real life that comes from knowing God and being known by Him. This month, won’t you pray with us that the new life that has sprouted in this location and others throughout the Yucatán would take root and flourish?

*We’re working to deliver discipleship materials designed for the functionally illiterate with pictures instead of words. We’re also looking to furnish them with a way to listen to the Mayan language New Testament via MP3 so that they can explore the scriptures on their own, hearing it read aloud to them.

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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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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.

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