The goal of Free Methodist World Missions in Latin America is to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin Americans for Christ. Many ways exist to approach such an immense challenge, but a clear and consistent sense of direction from the Lord provides focus: We develop leaders and plant churches.
As area director for Latin America, I concentrate my best efforts and continually challenge all teams I lead toward empowering and coaching national leaders. Missionary transitions may occur because of personal calling, family needs and local circumstances. National leaders, however, tend to live in their countries for life. Together, we invest our best in them, equipping them for the present and preparing them for the future.
The coaching and empowering of leaders take a variety of shapes:
There are many ways of catalyzing initiatives and partnerships to plant clusters of churches in strategic cities. Countless church planting techniques have been used. At a recent Latin America Mission District Leaders Summit in Medellín, Colombia, all gladly agreed that Community Church Planting is our official strategy moving forward. Community Church Planting is a biblical, grassroots strategy that embraces, trains and catalyzes church planters at multiple levels of spiritual and leadership development.
This mission and vision have been broadly owned. Leaders of different countries and at different levels of official responsibilities encourage each other, share best practices and openly cheer each other on. Missionaries work together with focus on the mission, vision and values contextualized to the countries they serve. Most Free Methodist missionaries minister in several Latin American countries, and all contribute meaningfully to the goal of fueling and sustaining a biblical movement to reach our continent for Christ.
All of this results in delightful teams throughout the continent serving God together with good ministry traction and fruitfulness. A sense of identity grows as the Free Methodist Church continues to move forward in Latin America across the broad diversity of countries and cultures where we are privileged to serve.
written by Dra. Delia Nüesch-Olver
During this widely anticipated solar eclipse, darkness prevails over light..only for a matter of minutes...but based upon current events, I have found myself wondering if we're in the midst of a much greater eclipse.
On a recent family trip, we visited cities that seemed to be filled with desperation. In one city, the metro stations were practically plastered with adds for Suicide and Depression Help-Lines. Indeed, as we walked about, it seemed the lack of hope was contagious...UNTIL we walked into a church on Sunday morning! What we found was the most ethnically, economically and generationally diverse congregation we've ever seen worshiping...not just going through the motions, but really worshiping God! That congregation was challenged through a Scripture based sermon to fulfill the Great Commission. "...Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age..," (Matthew 28:19-20) Knowing the impact of that particular church on its community and indeed the world, I have no doubt they responded to the message.
We came home to watch news reports of racial clashes in the USA, terrorist attacks in Spain, complete civil unrest in neighboring Venezuela and, this week, a devastating neighborhood fire here in Medellín that left 108 families without homes. The issues seemed too overwhelming...UNTIL we went to church! Pastor John Jairo challenged the church with the Great Commission...to reach even the last little corner of the valley we live in for Christ. This week, the message was intensified and groups are being mobilized to go and help the victims in the fire-ravaged neighborhood of Moravia.
Then, after church, we got to meet Brayen (pronounced Brian) a young man who after eavesdropping on small group meetings in his home, approached the leader and said that based upon what he’d been over-hearing, he was convinced that his gang-ridden neighborhood needed a church. He even offered to pay to rent the space. Brayen, covered in tattoos with his flat-billed hat pulled low, stood at the door of the theater where our church meets peppering Ricardo with questions like "How do I resist temptation?"
We learned that Brayen supplies coffee for a network of other young men who then sell it in downtown. We know that "selling coffee" in downtown Medellín is, in most cases, actually a cover for drug and prostitution rings. Andres and Rossemberg, the small group leaders who are opening the work in his neighborhood, said they prefer to think that Brayen's team is not involved in such things. If, however, the contrary is true, how exciting to think that God could be using these two faithful servants to share Christ with Brayen and in turn transform an evil system into something good! We believe that Brayen is a "person of peace" and will reach a whole new sector of society. Please pray for Brayen as he grows in relationship with Christ and for Rossemberg, Andres and the other members of our church as they spread God's light into the darkest corners of the Medellín Valley!
Desperation, pain and sin WILL NOT eclipse the hope of Christ! Darkness WILL NOT prevail against light! Christ won that battle on the cross and then He sent HIS CHURCH (that's you and me) to provide hope to the nations! Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
While the eclipse might be an intersting thing to watch, we CANNOT sit back and watch evil eclipse goodness in our world! We have a mission to fulfill and we are not alone in it, He is with us...even till the end of the age. We MUST let our light shine. These aren't suggestions for just a few...they are commandments for all believers. IT IS TIME to stand up for Christ and spread His hope to the nations!
written by Beth Gómez
When the plane’s tires hit the runway, I immediately knew that I had landed in a special place. This past January, my family had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua with Drs. Paul and Delia Nüesch-Olver. Our church, CrossView in Snohomish, WA, is praying about developing a long-term partnership with the Nicaraguan churches. My family was invited to go and meet some of the people who minister there. While in Central America, I made several observations about the people, the food, the city, and the schools.
During our time in Nicaragua, there were a few things that stood out to me. First, can we talk about the food? Some were shocked that I liked Nicaraguan food, but it was seriously some of the most delicious food that I have ever eaten in my life. I especially enjoyed the Gallo Pinto, which is a simple dish of rice and black beans, and the Fried Plantain Chips. And while we are talking about starches, can I just tell you how much I enjoyed the potatoes! For a teenager like myself, this was my kind of food!
Even though it was obvious they were facing various hardships, I was taken aback by how joyful the people of Nicaragua were. Their homes are tiny, food is scarce, but they are joyful. Although we may have more material resources in the USA, the people of Nicaragua (at least the ones that I met) are rich in other, more significant ways. Their faces were rarely without a smile, their eyes shone brightly, and they were very welcoming to me and my family.
The schools in Nicaragua are quite different compared to the schools in the USA. First, their school days begin much earlier. Due to the heat, their classes start around 6AM and end at 1PM. Why do the schools end so early? Well, many of the teachers work second jobs, so they have to be able to get there. As well, we were told it’s not safe to be out after 4PM, which is another reason for the different school schedule.
When we visited two of the FM schools, I noticed the classrooms are much smaller than what I had expected. I was shocked to discover that 30 or more students and their desks are in one tiny classroom. A typical classroom is only about three times the size of my bedroom––and I have a rather small bedroom. Plus, the classrooms are very hot. There is no air conditioning and very few fans. And the schools are made of metal with very few classrooms having drop-ceilings, which help to manage the heat. I cannot imagine being able to stay focused to learn in that environment, but the students in Nicaragua do.
Speaking of learning, the schools in Nicaragua may have fewer resources than ours in the USA, but they are equipping leaders for tomorrow. Recently, Pastor Jenny Orozco’s school had their first graduation. If my memory serves me correctly, they graduated 22 students. Of those 22 students, twelve received full-tuition scholarships from the Nicaraguan government, which was based upon their grades, formal tests, and face-to-face interviews. In my opinion, that’s pretty amazing!
Sitting on the plane waiting to take off, I recalled the last five days that I spent in Nicaragua. They were very meaningful to me. I am grateful for the people that I met and the experiences that I had. As the plane sped down the runway, we ascended into the clear blue sky and soared above the city. I looked out the window and said to myself, “This is so beautiful, and I will be back here one day.”
written by Jadon Swanson
We got in the car at 6:00am Sunday for a three-hour drive to a church in the interior of Paraguay where I was to preach. Pastor Ceferino said, “Let’s pray before we set off.” He prayed fervently for safety on the trip. Later, as he was passing a long line of traffic on a narrow two-lane highway with no side berm, I was really glad we had prayed!
Travel in other countries is a real trip! Although some places in Latin America have good highway systems – at least in and around the capital city – many roads are poorly designed and poorly maintained. Even international routes can be just two lanes. Roads are clogged with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians, and the occasional horse cart. Cars break down more often; accidents are frequent.
When requests are shared in church, people often ask prayer for friends or family members who are traveling. Drivers often pause to pray when they get behind the wheel before starting the car. It is a habit something like asking the blessing before eating a meal. The sense of danger heightens a sense of dependence on God. We really need His help and protection to get where we are going. I admit that some taxi rides in Latin America have been good for my prayer life!
The thing is I’m old enough to remember when people used to pray before driving in the U.S. Even though our transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul, the U.S. has made great advances in the quality and safety of our highways. There are many fewer old cars on the road; the reliability of cars has improved; breakdowns and accidents are not as frequent. The upshot is that we no longer need to depend on God for our safety. So we no longer pray before starting to drive.
The issue is not the design of the highway, but our sense of reliance on God. In our comfortable culture how many other things do we now take for granted that people used to ask God for? Let’s pause to pray before we set off on whatever we are about to do.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While you are at it, pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.... Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should.” (Paraphrase of Colossians 4:2-4)
written by Paul Olver
I recently had the privilege of traveling with dear friends Pastors Paul Olver and Delia Nüesch-Olver, as well as Dr. Tina Chang, to Asuncion, Paraguay. Paraguay is a beautiful, green, and hospitable country with a rich, layered personality. It was truly an honor to spend time in Paraguay!
I experienced great hospitality from the Free Methodist Church in Asuncion and an unforgettable opportunity to witness God at work in Latin America.
Here are three things the FMC in Paraguay taught me.
ONE: There is refreshing joy in watching God prepare an entire conference of leaders for the harvest.
In the church today we talk a lot about how God is preparing hearts to follow Him. We pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers. We pray for the seeds being planted in the lives of those we’ll meet to be fruitful.
But there is something unique and beautiful about watching the pastors of an entire conference being prepared by God to move into a season of harvest. In fact, more than unique, it’s refreshing and brings joy to any soul passionate about seeing people fall in love with Jesus. The church in Paraguay is being prepared by God to reach the harvest.
TWO: A sense of urgency is restoring.
Pastors are called by God to the work they do. Much of that calling is founded in an urgency to share the hope of the gospel with those who are truly lost without a savior. That urgency, over time, can be replaced by duties, lists, procedures and policies. Witnessing a group of pastors who share great urgency, years beyond their calling, restores others who are working for the Lord to their personal place of calling. The church in Paraguay has an urgency to reach people for Jesus.
THREE: Being teachable is mission critical.
Being willing to learn from every situation and hear from the Lord in each new encounter is a truly valuable trait. Watching so many people eager to learn more about leadership, conflict management, and church planting and growth was a reminder that we all need to be willing to learn in every phase of our walk with God. When we are learning from the Lord, and those sent by the Lord, our ministry will reflect that. The church in Paraguay is willing and eager to learn, as to benefit God’s work.
John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He willteach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
I believe the Free Methodist Church in Paraguay will continue to see God do great things. I leave this encouragement for all pastors. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
God is at work in Central America! The Nicaraguan Free Methodist Church is on the cusp of a great move of God! After nine years of fervent prayer and leadership development, the Nicaraguan church is healthy, thriving, and ready to explode. They have a powerful Holy Spirit-anointed vision to reach their country and a church multiplication strategy to match. Under the leadership of the Latin American Area Director, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver and the District Leader of Nicaragua, Pastor Hiuberth Zapata, Nicaraguan church leaders are being identified, equipped, and empowered to do the work of ministry.
Recently, Pastor Jada, our children, and I had the tremendous honor to spend a few days in Nicaragua. We were particularly honored to attend a Sunday morning united worship service, where all the Managua Free Methodist churches gathered and worshipped together as one body. During this service, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver formally appointed four Nicaraguan pastors as Conference Ministerial Candidates (CMCs).
Not only did our family have the opportunity to interact with many pastors and provide some leadership development sessions, Pastor Jada and Dr. Paul Olver led a spiritual renewal retreat for the teachers of the Nicaraguan Free Methodist schools. We are so proud of Pastor Jenny Orozco who not only effectively pastors a church, but also gives leadership to the El Mesías FM School in Rene Polanco. Pastor Jenny oversees 425 students. The El Mesias School graduated their first class of eleventh graders this past year. Many of the graduating students made such high scores on their college entrance exams that university professors wanted to know more about this school (El Mesias) of which they had not previously been aware.
As you can imagine, we came back from Nicaragua thinking a bit differently about life, ministry, and our role in the global world. Personally, I was inspired as a leader by Dr.Hiuberth’s vision for the church in Nicaragua. In addition, I was moved by the deep sense of community among the people and overwhelmed by their generosity. After sharing our experiences with CrossView’s Leadership Board and congregation, as well as spending time in earnest prayer and discussion, we feel led by the Holy Spirit to partner over the next five years with the Nicaraguan Free Methodist Churches.
Do we have it figured out? Nope! But we are committed to the journey. We are committed to send teams, raise church planting funds, and gather support from other churches to fuel an apostolic movement in Nicaragua. What about you? What about Nicaragua? Would you join us? Would you consider coming alongside us? What role might your faith community have in helping Nicaragua become a hub for spiritual renewal and Kingdom outreach that extends throughout Central America? I trust that if you prayerfully ask these questions, God will provide answers. And I would welcome the opportunity to share more with you about how we can collectively work together to encourage and support our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua.
written by Jon Swanson
That Latin American Leadership Summit was my first opportunity to see the region’s leadership first hand. I sat in the back next to JR Crouse, who was translating for me. My vantage point offered a prime position for observing the goings-on discreetly, and what I saw overwhelmed me with hope and possibility.
Remember the Burger King commercial from decades ago? Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! These days my favorite drink at Starbucks is a grande, sweetened, shaken, iced, black tea lemonade. In each case, there is a particular order in which to place your order!
What we’re ordering up in Latin America is a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country.
That’s a mouthful and quite a string of adjectives. In English, adjectives come before the object; you start with the modifiers and wind up with the most important thing. Spanish grammar puts the most important thing first and the modifiers come after. Let me explain it in the order of Spanish grammar.
Church. Our primary goal is to establish local groups of believers who are committed to following Jesus and living out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission together. Church is not just one local group but also an organic interrelated network of groups and congregations. This is the most important thing: we are the Church, not an NGO.
Free Methodist. Although we partner with others and understand that the Kingdom of God is broader, we have a particular theology, heritage, and connection. We work with and through recognized leadership and submit to authority/accountability. While we may appreciate and borrow from other groups, our theology and polity determine our identity.
Reproducing. We multiply disciples, leaders, groups and churches. Every “mission field” also shares the responsibility to send missionaries and reach other people groups or regions with the Gospel. Reproduction is in our DNA.
Indigenous. Our communication of the gospel and the way we do church must be contextualized -- or tropicalized – to take root in local culture. Our message and our structures must be translated into each country and into the different ethnic groups, social classes, and geographic regions that make up each country.
Autonomous. We believe that decision-making should be moved to the lowest possible level so that church leadership comes from within. With appropriate training, coaching and guidance local leaders need to determine their own destiny.
Healthy. We do not want to foster dependency on outside resources or perpetuate dysfunctional patterns of relating. Our goal is to see churches and networks that are spiritually and emotionally clear and vibrant, whole and holy.
For years we’ve been saying our mission is to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ by developing leaders, planting churches, and creating healthy sustainable systems. That will result in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country in Latin America. Others can debate which states our mission and which is our vision. However you slice it, this is what we are about.
This means whatever we do -- including sending missionaries or VISA groups, sponsoring ICCM children and giving to Extra Mile Projects – should contribute to fueling and sustaining a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ and should ultimately result in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous, reproducing, Free Methodist Church in each country.
Now would you like a grande, sweetened, shaken, iced, black tea lemonade to go with your two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?
written by Paul Olver
The youth from the Carmen de Areco FMC in Argentina worked all year to raise funds for a youth camp. They made and sold empanadas in the town square. They served meals at Annual Conference and the tips went towards the youth camp. So many signed up to serve that they had to set up a rotation to accommodate everyone. They had so much fun serving they were disappointed they couldn’t do it at more meals.
Eunice dreamed of becoming a nurse one day — until the sight of blood made her want to become a flight attendant instead! As one of eight daughters in a pastor’s family, resources were few, and it was difficult for her parents to make ends meet. International Child Care Ministries, a children’s ministry of the Free Methodist Church, offered Eunice new