God will use our past for His work in the future

Who would have ever thought?

I shake my head in amazement and awe at the God driven coincidences with regards to the expansion of our ministry vision after 7 years in Panama.

God will use our past for His work in the future.

During our 7 years in Panama, we gave ourselves away in the raising up of a church for immigrants – Buenas Nuevas Panama.

Leaving Buenas Nuevas Panama as a result of our mission expansion was difficult to do. We had a great good bye party and were sent off with lots of prayer to step into our new work.

DespedidaBuenasNuevas2

Our Farewell Party with Buenas Nuevas

That church is part of a network of churches based in Venezuela.

One of its lead pastors has felt the call to relocate his family and plant a church in the town where we now live.

Pastor Jose Rea, his wife Yesenia, and their children are in the process of leaving central Venezuela to raise up a Buenas Nuevas church in the town we live in.

ReaFamily

The Rea Family

We’ve been meeting with their leadership team since September and have quickly made friends.

We have several friends in common with Buenas Nuevas Panama, and Buenas Nuevas Venezuela.

Since meeting up with this group, we have felt a sense of being in our place with regards to being involved in a local church.  We tried a few local churches but didn’t find a place to call home, but upon our first meeting with this group, we were connected.

This will become the third church plant for immigrants our family has served from day one.

We’ve spent time in leadership development (pictured below), worship, prayer, and small groups.

CostaDelTesoroBuenasNuevas

The friendships are beginning to form.

Dreams are beginning to take shape.

What has been really fun and meaningful for us is the fellowship that is occurring outside of Sunday morning.

Below, some of the men are making hallacas before the Christmas Party.

MakingHallacas

In another amazing coincidence, one of the families from our church in Panama has moved to this area and gotten involved already.

FamilyFriends

So amazed to reconnect with these friends from Panama

How to Pray for us

  • Pray that our love will grow for this new church and its mission.
  • Pray that God will open doors for the Walkers to connect with Spanish speaking immigrants.
  • Pray that our children will develop a missions heart to launch a new church.
  • Pray that the Lord would fill our lives with the joy of seeing people come to Christ.
  • Pray for provision for us as missionaries.
  • Pray for provision for our future church.

What amazes us is that we can build on our time with Buenas Nuevas Panama.

Our investment of our 7 years doesn’t just end with our ministry expansion, but it seems God has prepared us for this part of the next phase of our ministry expansion.

God will use the past for his work in the future.

We’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to let us know how to pray for you.  If you have received this by email, simply reply.

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Please come back we want more

In October of 2014, Pastor Oscar invited our Dunamis team to share some basic Dunamis teaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

He was “beyond excited” about this opportunity to grow as a pastor and to receive this biblical and practical theological training. Continue reading

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There are not enough prayer slots!

Last month, you may have followed the story of my return to Nicaragua to work with Area Directors for Young Life Central America.

Nearly 50 leaders from six countries gathered for an intense time of skill development, ministry training, and encouragement.

Quick game: Find me!

Young Life Area Directors Camp

These are young men and women with lots of responsibility — spiritual, pastoral and financial/administrative.

For example, the Honduran and Salvadoran staff  are on the front lines with gang issues; the Guatemalan staff disciple leaders who minister with teen moms in garbage-dump type conditions, just to give you a sense of some of their contexts.

On the way up the mountain from Managua, I asked a few leaders what they expected.  Some had traveled nearly 20 hours overland by bus to come to this camp.  Most were expecting a time of rest and refreshed vision from God for a new season of ministry expansion.

Pastor from Salvador leading devotions

Pastor from Salvador leading devotions

We served as intercessors for the camp, to pray for these leaders to be refreshed, and look for ways to encourage their ministry.

In our role as ministry coaches, we also got to serve as wing-man to those leading the evening meetings.  It is a joy to watch these leaders step out in faith into moments of significant ministry.

A Panama YL Leader reminding us of the awesomeness of Jesus

A Panama Young Life Leader remind us of the awesomeness of Jesus

Every leader needs someone to pray for them

On the first day of the camp, we offered 28 slots for personal prayer with our team.  They filled up in 90 minutes!

Unfortunately, not everyone who wanted had a chance to get such personal prayer.

But, because of the demand, our team welcomed some of the leaders to help us form additional teams.

YoungLifeAreaDirectorsCamp

 

It has been really awesome to watch these leaders moving in the gifts of the Spirit in prayer ministry. It’s been our team’s joy to watch, supervise, and coach.

As each leader sought us out, it was awesome to see how Jesus would meet them in the 30 minute prayer session.

People left our ministry time refreshed, comforted, and some found guidance forward in the face of some situations.

Forget the schedule, would you pray with me now?

Our intercessors were called upon to ask that God would give us kairos moments not only on our fully booked prayer appointments, but in our downtime conversations as well.

We saw answers to those prayers as people sought us out for conversations and prayer ministry.

One by one, people sought out our team and during personal prayer time, these  leaders experienced an encounter with the Lord that restored them, refreshed them, and renewed them.

Yenner, the leader of Young Life in Guatemala

Yenner, the leader of Young Life in Guatemala

 

Every leader needs an encounter with Jesus.

The ministry of PRMI has developed a pattern of prayer called “The Walk.”    Eight of them are published for free on the PRMI website somewhere.

The basic idea is a structured prayer time that involves walking between different points and reflecting on the promises of God.   You can climb the mountain, sit around the fire pit, hide among the coffee trees, sit by the stream, wherever the Spirit leads on the 170 acres and enjoy the Walk.

At the FirePit Overlooking Camp

One leader took it upon herself to translate all eight Walks, and make them available during the extended 12 hour fast and retreat of silence that came mid week.  We heard many reports of people using these prayer guides to have their own refreshing encounter with Jesus.

When One Part of the Body hurts, we all hurt

Hard news that came to the camp mid-week.

The wife of a former and well known Nicaraguan Young Life leader was found brutally murdered in another city.

The whole camp descended the mountain to Matagalpa on Thursday night, suspending camp for this reason.

When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.

It was really hard news on the camp, and a significant deflation of mood and energy.

With leaders there from all over Central America,our visit demonstrated love and care by going to be with the family on Thursday.

The Future

There is also continued interest in more of Dunamis in this ministry, underlying the importance of getting Dunamis completely into Spanish.

I want to thank everyone who held us up in prayer as we were at the Young Life Area Directors’ School in Nicaragua, where we had the joy of ministering to leaders from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala , Honduras and Panama as well as the regional staff.

Your financial gifts and prayer support this work.

P.S.  I head back to Matagalpa on Friday morning, October 3 for 10 more days of training in 3 cities.

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Would you join us in prayer for this trip?

On Sunday morning, Chris will return to Nicaragua to continue investing in the leaders who work with Young Life Central America.

This week is their annual camp for Area Directors, a chance where they can receive ministry and ongoing education after spending the last year ministering to kids.  It’s a time to seek renewed vision, refreshed passion, and some private time to deal with their own stuff before the Lord.

Young Area Central America Area Directors

Young Area Central America Area Directors – 2013

We have been teaching the PRMI Dunamis material since our first trip over 10 years ago.   Our team will be bringing a Dunamis presence to the Area Directors school for YoungLife Latin America.

This is a great honor and privilege for us to once again be invited into the lives of these top leaders who are advancing God’s kingdom in seven countries.

This is a small camp with leaders who are in charge of the ministry for their country, city or barrio (large neighborhood).   They are young adults with lots of responsibility — spiritual, pastoral and financial/administrative.

For example, the Honduran and Salvadoran staff are on the front lines with gang issues; the Guatemalan staff disciple leaders who minister with teen moms in garbage-dump type conditions, just to give you a sense of some of their contexts.

Prayer Requests:

  • Safe uneventful travel for our team on Aug 30, 31 and return Sept 6.
  • Good relationships between our team and with the YoungLIfe staff workers leading the retreat
  • Clear sense of God’s leading for next steps/future steps for our partnership between YL and PRMI
  • That the leaders will hear from the Lord and experience His love, healing etc as they do “The Walk”; that many will perhaps encounter the Lord in new ways
  • Outpouring of the Spirit and clear direction for the closing service (Friday Aug 29) which our team has been asked to plan/lead. The person who asked requested a time of prayer for ministry and family for the leaders and “of course leave room for Holy Spirit”.
  • Pray that the Spirit comes and we know what to do/how to cooperate as well as for time to debrief.
  • For Susan and Chris to be led of the Spirit as they do prayer ministry for several hours each afternoon; that they will know the direction to go with each one; for God to move in the limited times (30 min appointments)
  • For team members to join them in these prayer appointments and continue their equipping

Moving Update

We have begun to settle into our new location in Florida.

Eventually, this website and newsletter will change it’s branding to Mission To the Americas to reflect the expansion of our vision.  If you haven’t seen the video yet, please check it out

We have seen God’s provision for our move – We continue to pray in the remaining $3,000 to finish that goal before 15 September.

The family is beginning to adjust to the local culture, our kids are enrolled and school, and our family is on the quest to find a local church home.  Continue to pray for us as we adjust.

We’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to reply with how we can pray for you.

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7 Years in Panama and What’s Next?

Mid July will mark 7 years since we bought those one way tickets to Panama.  What will the next 3-6 years hold? Continue reading

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Fulfilling a dream: New Teachers Released into Ministry

For over 10 years, many of you have given financially, prayed, and supported our work in Latin America.

Some of those gifts and prayers have supported the theological training of Young Life Leaders from 7 countries in Central America.

You’ve enabled me and a team of teachers from the Dunamis Institute to teach on the person and work of the Holy Spirit over the years and invest in many leaders from many countries who have received sound training to reach their peers for Christ.

Young Area Central America Area Directors

Young Area Central America Area Directors

As Young Life Central America stepped into missionary expansion over the last 3 years in particular, their leadership training camps have also grown exponentially.

Whereas there used to be one camp for everyone, there now at least 3 camps to cover all their leaders.

I praise God to have a part in in that training over the past 10 years, and praise God for our supporters that allow us to be there.

New Teachers

This week, this Semana Santa, you’ve helped us reach another milestone that we’ve been working on with Young Life Central America:

Teachers that we have been training and mentoring are teaching.

This week, these teachers have been raised up from within Young Life to provide the same theological training to their youngest and newest leaders.

These teachers have been with us since near the beginning of our investment in them and, like a proud leader – we get to stand back and let them teach.

These leaders were there when our class only numbered 30 people.  Classes now regularly push 100 for us.

Part of the role of every cross cultural mission should be to raise up local leaders to do the work of the ministry, so that it can be self-sustaining and replicating

This week – we are seeing the fruit of the effort.

Pray for these teachers this week.

The next phase:

This week, Young Life Central America is having training camps all that the same time, in at least 3 different countries.

I wish I could attend all their camps when invited, but I can’t get to all those places on the same weekend.

WineCorkPlug

We can’t spend $17,000 to send multiple short term teams when asked at the same time during Holy Week when most of our calendars do not permit mission travel at the high season of Easter and US public schools’ spring break.

Since Young Life Central America has grown so much in the last three years, our team is not able to be at all the camps where this training is wanted. We’ve had to turn down or postpone invitations.

Many of the camps are now at the same time in different countries.

The problem now is:

How can we help Young Life raise up teachers fast enough in multiple locations at the same time?

What if we could put a native speaker or two in a video format and allow Young Life to put this teaching in their hands of their entire network?

What if we could continue to teach our style of prayer ministry by video in bite sized chunks so that students don’t have to find 5 additional volunteer days without pay for training?

What if we could create a resource, done with native speaking teachers you’ve invested in, and release that resource to that organization for their use and distribution to leaders they’ve identified?

Those recordings could become

  • part of their curriculum,
  • taught by their teachers,
  • influenced by their organizational culture and
  • distributed throughout their international network into the farthest corners of their ministry.

What if that resource could be done in such a professional manner that other major Latin American mission networks could use it, free of charge?

I can’t wait

I get bubbly when I think about this.  I can’t wait for that dream to become reality.

A future phase of our ministry may throw our efforts behind this and spearhead this project.

The Dunamis Institute already has the proven training material that has been used worldwide.  We’ve spent 10 years translating a lot of it into Spanish.  Much of the groundwork has already been done.

We’ve had teams, translators, financial supporters and prayer warriors make such an investment in these leaders, that this could be a logical next step to reach more people.

I’m still working on a budget for a project of this magnitude.  My inexperience in budgeting for something like this is showing.  If you have project budget setting experience, I could use your advice as I figure out how to make this a reality.

It’ll take your prayer, your provision, and your participation to help make this a reality.

I don’t have all the details yet, but I’d like to talk with you one to one about it.

I invite you to email me for a conversation.

Cork photo credit: tripleigrek via cc

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Can we solve a pastor’s desire for SOMETHING to change?

The asphalt ran out.  We had turned our car off the one lane road and started up the mountain to a small orange church on the side of the road.

Though we were only 15 minutes outside of a metropolis with skyscrapers that glisten in the sun, our sedan was making its way up an unpaved mountain road to bring a workshop to a church that meets in a former house in an under-resourced community.

The road to Church

The one lane dirt road is bordered with deep storm water ditches and cement fences that help mark the way.  Behind the fences are simple cement houses tucked in among the jungle trees.

The church meets in a house off to the right.  In a community where cars are rare (and therefore few parking spaces), parking my car means hoping I don’t drop it in the storm ditch trying to get to the narrow spot on the shoulder between the ditch and the fence.

I arrived already exhausted.  I just returned to Panama 15 hours before, after conducting my Grandmother’s graveside funeral 1700 miles away in ice cold Atlanta.

Pastor Celina has invited us

Brenda with Pastora Celina

Brenda with Pastora Celina

Pastora Celina [left] has been ministering in this community for years.  She and her husband planted this congregation, but her husband died some years back, so she labors alone in this community.  Her bedroom is attached to the church, right off the patio.  We stand in front of it for a brief visit as people arrive.

From talking with her, it’s clear that she loves this community and desires to make a difference.  Her small church is trying.

If you could hear her speak, you’d describe her as a person who knows how to

  • “get to it” or
  • “get ‘er done” or
  • “pick yourself up by the bootstraps. . . “

But something needs to change

She struggles with many of the same struggles of small church pastors.  As we talk, we hear the frustration in her voice.

We hear a desperation that something has to change.

But the lack of significant pastoral training, supervision, and resources leave her to do what she only knows: get your act together and try again with what you know.

So with raw determination, she keep plugging away, trying to reach their community and it feels like a never ending cycle of optimism that crashes into reality.

Can you bring us fresh ideas?

She’s invited us to share some fresh ideas that might inspire her leaders to do something different.

  • Brenda does a workshop for the children’s ministry leaders, and
  • I’ve been invited teach Sunday school workers for a few hours.

CraftsLomaCoba

Brenda’s class is in the sanctuary.  A few young ladies who are doing ministry for the children are able to make the workshop on this warm Saturday.  They are preparing for an upcoming VBS and the training is meant to help them with that outreach.

Brenda had prepared crafts using 100 % recycled materials.  Communities like this don’t get a Wal-Mart or a Michael’s.  Crafts have to be done with whatever recyclables come home from the supermarket or convenience store.  Few cars mean that any shopping for resources must be well-planned out.

One of Brenda's Crafts

One of Brenda’s Crafts

Brenda also shares a teaching on creativity, helping to show the process she’s been using to develop the bible lessons for the the Children’s ministry in our own church.

However, when she shows people how she finds ideas on the internet, Brenda is caught off guard – we were not prepared for the level of computer illiteracy.   So we have to “go back to the drawing board” for the next time.

A class for Sunday School Leaders

Chris' Classroom

Chris’ Classroom

My class is outdoors in a partially constructed class room.  The smell of cement dust is strong.  Pastora is apologetic for the condition.

The church is in “perpetual construction,” meaning that remodeling will happen in steps as offerings come in.   She’s waiting for the offering money to pour the slab for the second floor above our heads.

The church kitchen is a detached structure in the back yard, and the bathroom is a third structure in the back yard [pictured above to the right].  The bright blue water thank  holds the reserve water when the water pressure from the city doesn’t allow the water to make it up the mountain.

I spend about 3 hours, in spite of my tiredness, with a few leaders of their adult Sunday school to discuss ways to make it more evangelistic.   The intimate format allowed for creativity and ideas to flow.

I am encouraged to hear “That’s a great idea” and people writing down notes and action steps.

The creativity sparks a fresh round.

LomaCobaClasses

As we drive home, we are grateful that we could attempt to make a difference.  We have been invited to return again when the scheduling permits.   But we feel like the changes Pastora is looking for is more than we can accomplish in a 3 hour workshop.

We can provide the fresh eyes.  We can provide a fresh wind of motivation.  We can provide fresh ideas, but ultimately, the responsibility for reaching the community belongs to this local church (and the others tucked in back there).

Will any changes be made?  Will Pastora start doing some things differently?  Only time will tell.

Help us invest in Pastors like Celina

This invitation is part of our core calling:

to come alongside church planters and pastors in Latin America to help them reach their communities for Christ.

Several of you who read this newsletter already financially support our work with pastors like Celina.  Thank you!

We want others to help us invest in Celina.  Make your financial gift or monthly contribution by following the directions here.

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Would you train me and my team?

Meet Josh.

Josh is a young pastor of a new church development in the city of Colón, with an evangelistic dream to reach the young people around him for Christ.

JoshMaxWell

He grew up in a family of ministers, hearing the gospel preach.  This type environment nurtured an evangelistic passion in his heart.

He learned

  • how to worship,
  • how to preach, and most of all,
  • how to reach the youth of his generation for Christ.

JoshMaxWellWorship

His mom and dad pastored a growing church in a distant area between Colón and Panama City, until a family tragedy struck. Continue reading

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