Dear Friends, 31/1/2010
Hello from Mexico! It’s nice to finally be able to write you from the mission field to which the Lord has directed us. We absolutely love it down here! In this letter, we’d like to “introduce” you all to some of the people we have gotten to know around here as well as some of the opportunities we’ve had to minister.
Phil, Marianne, Matt, and Monette Chain – These are the missionaries who have been here for years running Mexico Missions, Inc. They have been a huge help to us in getting us settled, showing us around town, teaching us Spanish words we’ll need to use, and telling us the way things work around here. Phil was a youth pastor in Oklahoma years ago at Dennis Jernigan’s church before the Lord led him to the mission field. Marianne is one of the nicest ladies you could know. She is crucial in helping us find needs that we can meet for people. Matt and Monette are pretty much our best friends, even though we’ve only been with them a short while during their moves between Oklahoma and Mexico.
Ricardo and Devora – These are the people we are the most involved with. Ricardo is an amazing cook! They live here at the mission and are in charge of the building as well as the village feeding programs. Like Marianne, Devora is always looking for needs that we can help people meet. Ricardo grew up in a gang with a history of violence, but you would never know it to meet him today, as he is one of the kindest, hard-working, faithful men around. Devora is very out-going and high-spirited. She keeps things entertaining around here.
Martin and Minerva – Martin is the pastor of “Jesus Loves You Baptist Church”, where we have really been able to get involved with the people and their ministry. Martin went to seminary in Mexico City before coming out here to pastor the church. I believe he was also the church’s founding pastor. He has such a fun personality and is also a top scorer on our church soccer team.
Jorge and Selene – Jorge is the music leader at the church and also heads up some of the youth activities. Along with leading music, he is a passionate speaker for proclaiming the gospel. He has a great sense of humor and is always trying to trip us up with Spanish tongue-twisters and jokes. He’s also the goalkeeper on our soccer team. His wife Selene teaches English and sometimes helps us with our Spanish.
Venancio and Raquel – Venancio is crazy! That’s the only way to put it – He’s crazy for the Lord. Venancio is the Minister of Evangelism here at Mexico Missions. He lives to tell people about Jesus. The statement was made to me: “Unless you are able to shake Billy Graham’s hand, I don’t think you will ever shake the hand of anyone who has won more people to the Lord than Venancio.” For you people at Cornerstone, Venancio reminds us both of a Mexican Don Rice – that will give you a good idea of what he’s like! Venancio used to be a part of the Assembly of God, but was kicked out because he wanted to start churches from people’s homes, rather than putting up a building and then trying to bring people in. He told me, “Now I just preach to prepare people to meet Jesus, not to enter a denomination.” For example, we have been working with him on Isla Mujeres, where he has been trying to start a church in a tiny village on the south of the island. He has led one family to the Lord there and we now meet at their house on Tuesdays. There is another family nearby who is Catholic, and since they wouldn’t leave their house to come to the Bible study, we had the Bible study at their house! Venancio will do anything to tell people about Jesus.
Gabriel and Marta – Gabriel is a doctor who attends the church. His wife Marta teaches the women’s Bible study when we go into the villages. She also is a very passionate teacher and very clearly communicates the message of the gospel each time she speaks. Abby has really enjoyed spending some time with her and learning from her in the Bible studies.
Jose Luis and Hilda – These two are a very fun couple. They both speak a good bit of English, so Abby’s really been helped by spending time with them. It’s funny to be listening to someone and trying to understand their Spanish, when they suddenly say something in English! It really catches you by surprise!
We’ve been here for a little more than 3 weeks now and we feel right at home. The people here have welcomed us warmly and we love being involved in the ministry here with them. Here are a few highlights of the ministry opportunities we’ve had thus far.
• Isla Mujeres
I already told you a bit about this opportunity. It’s been neat to see how a new church is planted. It started before we got here with witnessing until at least one person, or couple, or in this case family accepted Christ. Now we are in the process of discipleship with them. Venancio explained on the first night we were there the importance of discipleship and following after Jesus with all of our hearts. We have a very basic Bible study book that we’re now going through with those people and trying to invite others in as well, so they can hear about Jesus, too.
Victoria is a small village about 100 km west of town. We go there every Saturday to do a feeding program for the village, as well as another small village nearby. We drive to the villages and pick up all the kids and adults we can pack into a van and suburban (about 50 typically) and bring them to a thatch-roofed building where we sing choruses, preach the gospel, and then split up into separate age groups. We always ask the people who came if they have a Bible and if they don’t, we will bring them one the next week. The men do a Bible study led by one of the church members. The ladies are taught the basic principles of salvation by Marta. Jorge teaches some of the teenage guys to play the guitar using praise choruses. Susi teaches the older children about the Bible, starting in Genesis 1 with creation. And a couple other ladies teach the little kids about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. While we are in classes, Ricardo and Devora and Abby make lunch for everyone, and then we eat and take them home. On some Saturdays we will have bags of clothes or shoes to give away, a doctor to come give free checkups, a hairstylist to give free haircuts, and of course we play a game of soccer with the kids on the basketball court.
• Film Evangelism
This is Venancio’s specialty! He knows hundreds of pastors with new church plants in the Yucatán peninsula. So we get with a church – any church – and schedule a night that we will meet in their village and show a gospel film with Venancio preaching afterwards. It’s a bit irritating sometimes because he will turn up the speakers absolutely as loud as they will go, but it’s only because he wants everyone that possibly can to hear it. Pray that people will continue to be reached and will respond to the call of God to salvation.
• Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama
I could put several more areas of ministry, but they would all be summed up by this church. The ministry at Victoria, in fact, is led by the people at Jesus Loves You. We have been asked to be involved in the music ministry at church as well as possibly doing some kind of teaching for the 10-14 year-olds. They have also asked if we could teach English classes so that they could bring in people from the surrounding areas and have the chance to witness to them as they study English. We have both been invited to men’s and women’s Bible study, Friday night prayer meetings, and soon we’ll be having special meetings with a group of Americans coming in February. The church is also involved with the Cancun Bible Institute and I’m hoping to be able to attend some of their classes coming up soon. As we have been observing, studying, and visiting different churches in the area, we have found that there is a lot of confusion here – doctrinal confusion. We have found Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons, along with all the different denominations that disagree about what day to have church, how and whom to baptize, who Jesus really is, speaking in tongues, healing, visions, and prophecy. In this way, Cancun is not much different from the United States. But while we are working with many different churches of different denominations, we are committed to the truth of the Word of God. The people in this area are very confused. And thus, we want to plug into a church where the Word is being preached. We want to minister with people who only teach and believe what the Bible says. We want to work with people who are committed to the Scriptures. And Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama has been a breath of fresh air for us. These people know the Bible, they teach it, and they live it. They are the ones reaching out in ministry to Victoria every Saturday. They visit homes every week and then give a type of “roll call” of the families they went to visit to see if they came to church. Typically, more than half of the families visited come to the church that week. Every Thursday night, they get together at the church and go visit people who are sick and can’t make it out of the house to come to church. Monday nights the men meet for Bible study and they stay around for hours fellowshipping and playing volleyball or soccer. On Sundays people will stay around after church and then eventually just start cooking food for everyone there. The women meet for Bible study on Wednesday nights. Some Friday nights, we have a prayer meeting from 8 PM – 12 PM. This church reminds me of the first-century church in Acts, when it says, “And they continued daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house… and daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
I have now heard ten different people from Cristo Te Ama, men and women, preach or teach a lesson. Every single one that I have heard has been completely accurate to the text of Scripture, passionate to communicate the message to the people they were teaching, and correctly applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. Pastor Martin is doing things right. He has been here working at this church with these people for 9 years, I believe. So while the process of discipleship, and passing on truth to people who will be able to teach others also, is no short task, they have got it right. These are the people we want to learn from. We are getting involved with this church because they are the only people we have found in this area who are rock-solid in their doctrine and practice. We thank the Lord for leading us to Cristo Te Ama and hope we can help and encourage them as much as they are us.
We’d also like to thank all of you at Cornerstone and Millbrook for your sacrificial giving to the Lord so that we can be here. Through you the Lord has provided for all of our physical needs down here. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our needs and prayer requests so you can be involved in a very close way with us. Our prayer requests right now involve just getting settled down here. With the many ministry opportunities, we need wisdom in knowing which we can be involved in and which we should not be, so that we don’t overcrowd our schedule. We could also use prayer just for our bodies adjusting to life here. We’ve had a few sick days and upset stomachs from the food here and the weather adjustments. All in all though, we’re taken care of. We’re enjoying ourselves and just love being here!