Category Archives: Ministry Updates

Every hidden thing must come to light

This has been one of our church planting team’s biggest prayers lately. Satan and his works of evil hide in darkness, and sin loves to remain undercover. As long as the works of the enemy remain undetected, they can go on without interference. As soon as they come to light, they can be dealt with. We can pray specifically against the works of Satan once we see what he is up to, and sin’s power is dealt a death blow when sin is revealed to others.

God is out to destroy the work of the devil:

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work. (1 John 3:8)

So we are praying for every hidden thing to come to light. As we have been praying this prayer the past few weeks, we see lots of sins in our own lives coming to light. This has been very positive, because a number of us are finding ourselves being able to turn from things that have been hindering God moving through us. We are praying the same for those we are discipling.

We pray this prayer on a bigger scale, as well. We want God to expose corruption, greed, deceit, stealing, and any other evil in government, businesses, and so forth. We want the tactics of the enemy to be evident, so that they can be torn down. God has been leading us to pray against powerful, entrenched works of the enemy here, such as fear, drunkenness, and sexual immorality. Every new thing that comes out is weakened, and more and more as we and others pray against them.

So may every hidden work of Satan come to light! Would you join us in praying this prayer? What would happen if you prayed it for your own life and world?

A meeting with the senator

Last week, we were privileged to have a visit from one of our state’s senators on the federal level. He was in the region for several days in order to visit his constituency in a couple of dozen villages. A professor friend of ours arranged for the senator to come visit us at our GFM base.

I expected the visit to only last about ten minutes if he came at all, but the senator graciously spent a full hour with us. We really enjoyed getting to know him a bit; he is a very humble and personable guy. He came to see the various projects we are doing, so we showed him our drip irrigation system, our well drilling and hand pump technology, and the water filtration we’re working on. He even came up to my and Erin’s apartment to see the biosand water filter we have in our kitchen. (We are hoping to start a business selling these filters in the fall.)

The senator was interested in what we are doing, commended us for our efforts to help the people of our region, and gave us his contact info in case we ever need assistance with anything. We all dressed up for the occasion, and the women served café con leche (coffee with milk). We spent a good 20-30 minutes over coffee discussing Mexico, its government, and the senator’s work. He narrowly missed being elected the governor of our state in 2004, but he is determined to win the election in 2010. We had the opportunity to explain that Jesus is the reason we do what we do, and we gathered around and prayed for him before he left.

The opportunity of the visit, from our perspective, just landed in our laps, but we are grateful to God for the opportunity to meet an influential person in government. I am encouraged these days by some positive things I see happening in the Mexican government on the local, state, and national levels. God wants those in government to rule in a way that honors Him, so we welcome any opportunity to pray for governors and to encourage them to act justly and in the interests of the needy.

Here are a couple of photos from the visit:

The senator meeting our staff and summer interns

The senator meets Lauryn

Me explaining our drip irrigation system and other projects to the senator

March mission trips

My recent lack of posting is due to the fact that we’ve been very busy hosting two March mission trips. We just hosted a team of 16 from March 8-16, and now we’re getting ready to receive another team from March 19-29. With each team, we provide two days of cultural training, mission teaching, and spiritual preparation at our base, and then we spend several days in various outreaches in town.

One of the most important things we try to communicate to our short-term mission participants is to come in as learners. Christ came to earth with a humble, servant attitude. When we engage a new culture, we need to learn and establish trust with people before we try and have all the answers for them.

The team that came this past week caught the vision of being learners and building relationships with the locals very well. Most people spent the majority of the week tutoring junior high and high school students in English. The timing for this was good, as the high school students had midterm exams last week.

Here are a few photos from the mission trip:

We enjoyed some good times of prayer and worship together

Hannah tutors junior high students in English

More tutoring. That’s me in the middle.

This junior high student lives by himself in our town. His dad moved to the U.S. and started a new family, and his mom lives in the village he’s from. He speaks good Mixtec, Spanish, and English, and was learning Chinese from some of our team members this past week. He indicated a desire to follow Christ and is being followed up on by one of our apprentices.

The English classes our mission training school students have been teaching all year long had their graduations this past week.

Being learners: Our neighbor showed some of the mission trip participants how to make tortillas.

Some of the team helped a widow harvest her corn field.

September to February – A timeline of progress

Once a week, I send out a prayer and praise report on our church planting work for a number of supporters who regularly pray for us. I thought I would paste a few excerpts from those reports below, to give you a sense of the progress that has been made over the past several months:

September 23, 2007
Our church planting team (CPT) is hard at work and seeing God answer our prayers. This past week was the second of a four-week emphasis on making a lot of new contacts here in [our town], in hopes that out of those contacts we will establish solid relationships with a number of people who are open to Christ. So far, this effort has been pretty successful, thanks to God. Our team has met a number of people who are open spiritually and is working to follow up on those people as we also continue to make new contacts. Some of the best contacts are people who, seemingly out of nowhere, initiate a conversation with a team member and it comes out that they are interested in studying the Bible. This is God at work!

September 30, 2007
This will be the final week of our four-week extra emphasis on making new friends at the start of the ministry year. It has been hard work for our team, but this is an exciting phase as we are meeting so many new people. I like to think about how we have no idea right now what God will do in any of our friends’ lives, but no doubt we are spending time with people who will be used in great ways for His kingdom someday.

October 7, 2007
We are very grateful for the ways we’ve seen God answer our prayers these past four weeks to help us make new friends. This has certainly happened. We will continue to put quite a bit of effort into making new friends in the coming weeks, while we also work on following up with people and seeking discernment on who to focus the most energy on. This week we will be holding signups for a few new English classes we will begin offering next week at our rented storefront. We are offering classes for elementary students, junior high students, high school students, college students, and adults.

October 14, 2007
We are all very excited that two friends of ours, a girl named [S.] and a guy named [A.], have committed their lives to Christ and were baptized on Sunday evening! Though our church planting team has spent some time with both of these new believers, [S] and [A.] have mostly been ministered to by our missionary training school students, their families, and local Mexican Christians. It’s exciting to see how God is using all of our combined efforts in the work of making disciples…We are making progress with several other people right now and hope to be baptizing more new converts before too long.

October 28, 2007
We have exciting news! [G.] and [C.], two women that Pam and Ali have been meeting with, were baptized on Friday! Praise God for this step of faith they have taken. They have been studying the Bible the last couple of weeks, and were recently convicted of their sin and need for cleansing. They gave their lives to Jesus Christ and obeyed Him in baptism. Thank you for praying for them!

November 4, 2007
CPT enjoyed a short retreat this past week on the coast of Oaxaca and then spent a couple of days in Oaxaca City renewing visas and being mentored by another missionary couple. We are now back in Tlaxiaco and ready to dive into ministry again. Our team will be working to disciple new believers [Ca.] and [Sa.] and [G.] and [C.], and will also be hoping to see [M.C.] and her husband [Go.], baptized. We also are developing relationships with a number of other friends and studying the Bible with some of them.

November 18, 2007
We are hitting some tough spots with several of our friends and people we are discipling, which is something we have expected. Prayer is so important in these times. A spiritual battle is being waged for the souls of those to whom God has called us to minister. We need God to break through in people’s lives and free them from spiritual bondage.

December 2, 2007
I wrote some about spiritual attack last week and appreciated hearing from you all about how you’re praying for us. We know that attack comes because we’re doing things that Satan doesn’t like. That became evident this past week as Tino and Jason baptized another new believer, [Juan] from Tino and Angela’s English class. Praise God for [Juan’s] decision to follow Christ! It’s really exciting to see the ways that God is working, answering prayers, and changing the hearts of those who haven’t known Him.

January 27, 2008
As we have come back together as a team, we have…heard God calling us to a greater commitment to prayer. As a result, we are now meeting together as a team five days a week to pray for the people of Tlaxiaco. We believe that prayer is absolutely the most important element in church planting work, and we thank you so much for your role in that important ministry.

February 3, 2008
This past week we had a milestone event in our church planting efforts when two couples came together for a self-led church meeting for the first time. This is just one small step among many along the way, but it is an important step towards self-leadership and self-sufficiency. It was [Ca.] and [Sa.] and [J.L.] and his wife [D.R.] who met, with [Ca.] teaching from Philippians and doing a good job of inviting discussion from everyone. Everyone enjoyed the time a lot and decided to meet again this week, this time with [J.L.] teaching.

February 10, 2008
We can kind of get lost in the trees of the week to week church planting work sometimes. But when we step back to see the forest, we recognize that God is moving. Progress is being made. Our team started September with two baptized believers we were discipling. Now there are five baptized believers, a small church group that has been meeting, and a number of other people are open. Our team has deeper friendships with many of the people we know.

February 17, 2008
If you have been following our church planting strategy, you know that we are working to plant reproducing churches here in [our town] that will spread out to all the villages surrounding us. Many of these villages are without any Christians or any established church. This past weekend gave us a little glimpse of this vision being played out. Pam, Liz (a mission training school student), and [C.] went out to [G’s] village to visit her. [G.] and [C.] accepted Christ and were baptized in October, and then in early January [G.] and her husband returned to their village to live there. The women found [G.] doing well and encouraged with the fact that there are others in the village who are open spiritually. Some of this openness is due to the fact that a believer visited their recently and laid hands on some sick people and prayed for them and saw them healed. [C.] noted that people have been healed recently when Pam has laid hands on them and prayed for them as well.

It’s going to be a difficult road for [G.], and we appreciate your continued prayers for her, but we are excited to think about the power of transformation for this region as believers in [our town] take the gospel back to their villages. Situations like [G’s], where a family lives in [our town] for a time and later returns to their village, are quite common. As we make reproducing disciples here, in time we can send a small army of church planters into all the surrounding villages–church planters who already have established relationships, know the culture, and speak the indigenous languages.

We baptized another new believer!

“Juan” was just baptized this morning by two members of our church planting team, Tino and Chino. He is a guy who has been coming to the English classes taught by a couple of our church planters. In the context of the class, Tino began having opportunities to share with him. When it became evident that Juan was open spiritually, Tino started meeting with him outside of class and sharing more. Now Juan has made the decision to give his life to Christ.

I’m excited about the way things worked out, because Tino got to know Juan while teaching English classes, which is Tino’s “job”. We want to minister in a way that is easily reproduced by our Mexican disciples. It is not likely that many, if any, of them will ever have full-time clergy positions. They will have to find ways to make disciples while working their normal jobs. When a guy like Juan sees that Tino was able to reach him at work, then it will help him have the confidence to reach people at work, also.

Praise God! Please pray for Juan’s spiritual growth and protection in these infant stages of his new life in Christ.

New life

In a recent post, I shared how Pam and Ali had started studying the Bible with two women they met while doing a community survey. About a week and a half ago, those two women were baptized as new believers in Christ!

Pam and Ali had several meetings with them. In one meeting, the women sensed a conviction of their sin and their need for cleansing and wanted to know what could be done about this. When Pam and Ali again saw one of the ladies a couple of weeks ago, she shared that she believed in Jesus, she had invited Him into her life, and she could sense His presence. She wanted to know what to do next, which led to a study on baptism.

After one more study on baptism with both the women together, the two of them decided to take the step of baptism. The baptism was interesting, because just as Pam and Ali and the women went down to the river, a couple of neighbors showed up. These neighbors belong to a religious sect that focuses on observance of Old Testament laws. They told the women they couldn’t be baptized unless they were willing to follow a bunch of man-made rules (things not found even in the O.T.). The women turned to Pam and Ali, confused as to why the girls hadn’t shared these things with them. Pam and Ali sensed a boldness from God and spoke out against these things the neighbors were saying that are not in the gospel. Encouraged, the women stepped into the river, despite the protests of their neighbors, and were baptized.

We are very excited about these two women and their new lives in Christ! They are the first new believers we have met and then baptized under a new ministry strategy we began implementing in September. Pam and Ali now have the exciting and significant challenge of discipling their new friends. We are trusting God for guidance in this and looking forward to seeing Him work.

Survey says

In a couple of recent posts (here and here), I have explained how our church planting team began September focusing on making a lot of new friends. As we develop new friendships, we are making it a point to somehow bring up Jesus or talk about spiritual matters in the first 30 minutes of conversation with someone new.

One of the tools we developed to help us talk to a lot of people was a survey. I have usually not been a big fan of using surveys as an evangelistic tool, feeling them to be impersonal and a substitute for developing authentic relationships. In our case, though, it seemed to be a good idea. It’s important for us to be learners in our community, rather than coming in as people who have all the answers. We wanted to show people that we are here to listen and, as much as possible, to serve in the way that the locals feel is best.

We developed a survey about the needs of the community. Our team went around to houses and asked questions about what people see as the greatest needs and what role we could possibly play in meeting those needs. Doing the surveys provided a great opportunity to talk about Jesus. We introduced ourselves as members of a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to demonstrate the love of Christ while serving. We even asked people what they think is the best way someone could demonstrate Jesus’ love here. This prompted a lot of questions about God and opened up doors for good conversations. In one case, Pam and Ali (members of our team) have been able to return and study the Bible several times with a lady they met doing surveys and that lady’s friend.

The other benefit to the surveys is that we now have a lot of research to help us decide how to meet needs of the community. We are going to study the surveys and brainstorm ways to help. This will be a long-term process. We want anything we do to continue after we leave, which means that we need to encourage the involvement of the locals, instead of doing everything ourselves. Helping organize the locals to solve their own problems will require developing relationships and earning their trust over a period of time.

The surveys gave us a good start to meeting new people, sharing Jesus, and investigating the needs of the community and ways we can serve.

A good change

October ‘07 Birthday Party

Tonight was the monthly birthday party at our missions base, where we celebrated all staff members and missionary training school students who have birthdays in October. This month, we encouraged everyone to invite Mexican friends to join us. We served a meal and invited a rap group from a local church to come and perform.

I was encouraged as I looked around at dinner tonight, because I think probably more of our staff and students invited people who came than at any similar event we’ve had in the past several years. We’ve had lots of locals come before, but they’ve often mostly been friends of our directors. This time, it felt like a lot of different people had someone here they had personally invited, and a number of those who came were new friends that have just been made in the past month or two.

It’s exciting, because I think our ministry as a whole right now is doing the best job we’ve done at being salt and light in our daily lives, reaching out to whoever we come into contact with. A lot of this I would attribute to a major shift in our strategy a few months ago, which I will explain in future posts. In the past, our base has been almost exclusively a gringo hub, but I’m seeing more and more Mexicans around here these days, especially those who live around us in our neighborhood. Seeing a large dining room full of Mexicans and Americans mingling and enjoying each other’s company tonight was cool.