Jesus Film Project

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In this entry, cross-posted from her blog, Every Day is New, Kelly shares about her first visit to Cocoyol, the site of the first projection of the Jesus Film in Maya.

Cocoyol (coco – joel’). It isn’t on google maps, but it certainly exists. It took us over 3 hours to get there, which included a few wrong turns. It was raining during about half of our trip and raining when we arrived. Why did we go? To be part of a new work going on in Yucatan to start or “plant” new churches in the Mayan language. We are what you might call the “link” – hooking up those who have a vision to see the message of Jesus brought to people in their own language with a group of believers who have a desire and commitment to start a church, oh, and that speak both Maya and Spanish (that part is important!).

The Maya have been in math & history books, in several tourist guides and even in Hollywood, but I don’t think the current culture or people get that much publicity. In Cocoyol, we saw a snapshot of life for this indigenous people group.

It was a bit like entering any other small town at first glance. After we found the correct road, we traveled under a canopy of trees, that would have provided shade had it not been raining, and arrived at the “center of town” where the Catholic church and the local school were situated on two joining sides of a basketball court. The team had arrived before us, visiting the 100 families that make up this Maya community and letting them know about the event. Upon returning, they got to work setting up a portable screen and projector to show the Jesus film, not in Spanish but in Maya. “Wait!” you’re saying, “aren’t you living in Mexico?” Yes, yes we are. Although Spanish is the national language of Mexico, there are, according to Wikepedia, over 6 million indigenous Maya in 4 countries! And one of those is Mexico.

While the setup was taking place, I watched, snapped some photos, and spoke with the kids who were gathering. Fortunately, I didn’t need a personal translator since some of the kids were able to communicate in Spanish. I even got a few questions/words in English since some of the kids’ family members most likely have work in tourist areas. One particular boy acted as a sort of spokesman for the group; he even confiscated my camera and snapped a shot of Rebekah and me.

However, the kids spoke to each other in Maya, all the time. It was like being in another country for me. I knew that there were several families, even in the city where we live, who continued to speak Maya inside the home or between family members. There are older ladies in our church who help us with basic phrases to learn something new in their native tongue. But, hearing their everyday conversation being spoken in something other than Spanish was a bit surprising.

This was not the first time that the message of Jesus’ love had come to the small town. One boy told me of another group that had come on a few occasions (with a bigger screen!). The difference, we hope, is that the team’s goal is to come, to stay, and to speak their language. The Maya language. The team is not from America or Korea, but from a larger town in Mexico, about 30 minutes or so away. And they don’t plan on being a passing memory.

I played a small part, not being on the team and not speaking the language. Sure, I spoke Spanish and a few answered me in Spanish. I mainly talked and played with the kids. My kids and I taught them Simon Says and they taught us “veneno” (poison) which, fortunately, was a harmless game where they spun in different directions holding hands ūüėČ They practiced some English phrases and I practiced some Maya ones. They were amazed at the height of our daughter, who is 12 going on 13. I marveled at their ages being 12 and 17 and still being in the 3rd and 6th grades, respectively, of their elementary school.

It is clear we are very different, but we are loved by the same God. I am glad my God doesn’t speak to me in Mandarin or French or Turkish. Can you even imagine? . . . That is the idea behind this team and others that will follow in their footsteps and in the footsteps of Jesus – speaking the language of the people, sharing His beautiful words of life.

Kelly’s added a few of her photos from the trip to our photo album. You can view them all here.

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Abel prays for the Action Group members. The songs spoke of fulfilling the Great Commission. The sermon was from Romans chapter 10. Believers were called forward for special prayer to be sent out to do ministry. It sounds like any other missions service that you’ve witnessed in your local church, right? Except this service didn’t take place in the U.S. It was held in Chemax, Yucat√°n, where, this past Saturday, a group of believers were sent out to plant the first evangelical church in Cocoyol, Yucat√°n. (View more pictures of the event here.)

Kelly the kids and I traveled the 2 1/2 hours to be there for this special event, which marks the first outreach based on the Jesus Film Project that we have been promoting throughout the district. The church was filled for this Saturday service where a group of 7 church members committed themselves to the 8 week project of evangelism and discipleship guided by the Jesus Film material. Abel Can, the District Missions Director, and Miriam Pech, the District Coordinator of Ministry to Ethnic Groups were on hand to encourage and witness the event. Also present was the Jesus Film Team comprised of Pedro Pablo Balam and Angelino Ek, who will be guiding these believers through the church plant process.

I also had the opportunity to greet the congregation. I thanked them for their vision to break down the barriers to the gospel that many Maya speakers face. In many parts of the Yucat√°n, those who would want to learn more about Jesus have to learn Spanish to do so. As this Action Group moves to plant this church, they are announcing to the community of Cocoyol that God has come near, that He speaks their language, that He desires to dwell in their context. I commended them for catching the vision of Revelation 7:9 where those of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, even the Maya, gather around the throne to worship Jesus, the Lamb of God.

It’s our prayer that this event is the first of many as the vision of reaching the Maya people is extended throughout Yucat√°n.

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Cruzadas Estudiantiles representatives David Gamboa and Oscar Gonzalez pray for Pedro Pablo Balam and his wife Noemi Uitzil during our visit to Cocoyol. You’ll have to excuse me for my tardiness in getting this post up, I’m a bit breathless from all of the activity of the past week. In four jam-packed days, we visited two church plant locations, covered the Jesus Film church planting strategy, stepped through an 7-week discipleship course for new believers, and outfitted our Jesus Film Team with all of the tools that they need to put the plan in action. The seminar ended on Thursday. The Yucatecan pastors, and the representatives from Power to Change, Canada and Cruzadas Estudiantiles, Mexico, have all returned to their homes. The the event is over, but there is the feeling that a movement is just beginning.

As I had mentioned in this previous post, our goal is to plant churches among the Maya of the Yucatan. The seminar was a first step, but the vision needs to be defined. The dream needs to be made concrete. What has been studied on paper will need to be put into practice in the real world, and that is exactly what we plan to do.

On October 22nd, Kelly, the kids and I will travel, along with Abel Can our District Missions Director to Chemax, Yucatan, to commission the first Action Team who will be charged with planting a church in the comisaria of Cocoyol, where there is currently no evangelical presence. Our desire is to recognize the step of faith that these believers are taking as they are being sent out from among their own to make disciples.

Missionary Ken Priebe from Power to Change inspects the Jesus Film equipment. Following the commission service, The Jesus Film Team, made up by Pedro Pablo Balam, and Angelino Ek, will organize the first projection, which will take place on Sunday, October 30th at that site. But more than simply showing a film, these gentlemen are committed to evangelism and follow-up in the area until 15 adults are registered to receive discipleship studies. The Action Team that the church has raised up will provide the support and oversight to solidify this new work in the weeks that follow.

But the founding of the new work in Cocoyol is not the end of the project; it is only the beginning. Eleven other pastors and congregations are waiting their turn to put the Jesus Film strategy into action in their area. The month of November has been designated to help those pastors form their Action Teams and receive the training that they need in order to replicate these church planting efforts throughout the Maya speaking regions of Yucatan and beyond.

Tom√°s Vera speaks before the commissioning of the Jesus Film Team and equipment. Our District Superintendent, Tom√°s Vera, has stated his vision for the next two years: one hundred new churches planted and one hundred new ministers for the state of Yucatan. That kind of vision requires much more that the efforts of a chosen few. It’s a vision that requires a concerted effort on the part of pastors and congregations alike. There is the feeling that the Jesus Film Project might just be the right tool at the right time to fulfill that vision.

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A picture of our STL vehicle in downtown Tunkas. More on why we were there later.Lately I’ve been traveling. I’ve been two hours to the east, and twice on 2+ hour trips to the south of Yucat√°n. My goal? It’s to find workers.

In the last print edition of our newsletter, I mentioned the organization, Power to Change, which is looking to bring the Jesus Film Project to the Yucatan. In this program, a team of two will visit churches to train action teams who will project the Jesus Film in the Maya language with the goal of planting a church within one month. The program is well defined and has produced some tremendous results all over the world, but the fact is that programs do not run themselves. They are only as good as the workers who take part in its execution.

For this reason, over the past two months, I’ve visited sectional meetings of pastors in order to promote the goal of partnering together to reach the Mayan culture. Through this promotion, I hope to find this team of two who can take the reins of this project and continue the work of evangelism among this marginalized people group. Not only will it require those who can speak the language, but it also calls for a special missionary vision to reach people throughout the state of Yucatan and beyond.

Would you pray with us? Pray that qualified, potential workers will respond. Pray as well that we will have God’s mind as our team selects those who will be trained to make up this Jesus Film Team.

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