Country leaders of the Free Methodist Church in Latin America have agreed that Community Church Planting (CCP) is our official strategy to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin Americans for Christ.  Based on the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, this strategy has been taught to 850 people in 16 Latin American countries in the last three years. As the contextualized Latin American version of the CCP manual rolls off the presses this week and we prepare for the next church planting summit to be held in Medellín, Colombia, July 24-27th, we wanted to provide a glimpse of the CCP training that took place in Nicaragua last year (and invite you to pray for the social unrest there).  We believe that God will bring about transformation in Nicaragua and throughout Latin America through His Church!  For that glimpse we promised, please watch the video below.
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In December, Yenni and her family, moved to the city of Pereira, Colombia for her husband's job. Prior to moving, Yenni had been the director of Children's ministry at the Camino de Vida church in Medellín and it was hard for her to leave her comfortable home and ministry. However, Yenni realized that this was an opportunity to be a witness for Christ wherever she goes. In January she joined the Community Church Planting (CCP) movement that we are overseeing here. Every Friday, Yenni joins the other 14 members of the team via skype for training and encouragement.

In accordance with CCP training Yenni began praying and going out into the community in search of people of peace. One day she said she walked so far that her feet hurt. She had been praying the whole time that the Lord would lead her to the right person but finally, she had to sit down and rest. There were some children playing in the park and Yenni started talking to one woman named Sandra there. In fact, Sandra opened her heart to Yenni, sharing her problems and concerns allowing Yenni to tell her about Christ and pray for her. Sandra said was amazed that she had felt comfortable enough to share her heart with a stranger...but now she and Yenni were friends and they started going on prayer walks together. Through those walks they met other women and decided to open a prayer group in Yenni's home. The second week, everyone brought someone else to the prayer group and it has continued to grow.

During Holy Week a group of youth from Medellín went to work alongside Yenni and her family in Pereira (about 6 hours away). During their evangelistic impacts in various parts of the city they reached 84 new people! Yenni has begun visiting those contacts in their homes and has found them to be very open to the Gospel. In fact, more than one have told her, "God put you in my path for a reason."

Yenni is like many of us and many of the people in our churches. She isn't a pastor. She isn't theologically trained. She is a lay person with a open heart and a willingness to respond to God's call. In Matthew 28: 19-20 Jesus commissioned us all. He said, "Therefore 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 then He made us a promise saying, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Let's be obedient and trust Him to keep His promises! Through Yenni's story, we can see evidence of the concept of Prevenient Grace; no matter where we go, God goes before us preparing others to receive Him.

Yenni says, "I give thanks to God because He keeps His promises! He took me out of my Comfort Zone and moved me to a Zone of Faith. I didn't know anyone in Pereira and no one there knew me but I knew that God would do wonderful things...and He is doing wonderful things! Praise GOD!"

This is only one of many examples of what God is doing through the CCP movement that we have the privilege to lead in Colombia!

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Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Great Commission applies to ALL believers, not just a select few. Thankfully, as the Latin American Area focuses on Community Church Planting, a diverse group of people are responding to Jesus’ invitation to go and make disciples. Watch the unlikely story of Sister Naya’s answer to the call. Perhaps she will serve as inspiration for the rest of us respond to God’s call too.   Click here to support the Latin American Church Planting Movement.

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Some 10 years ago Christ Community Church in Columbus, GA entered into a strategic partnership with a conference in Latin America to plant a church in the capital city. They contributed funding, prayer support – and Pastor Keith Cowart personally mentored the church planter.  (Because of security issues we cannot publicly name the country.)

A church was established but after several years the church planter got into difficulty and had to leave. Nevertheless, Christ Community Church continued their support, a new pastor was appointed, and the church continued to thrive.

The new pastor, Simon, was saved out of a background of rock music. God not only redeemed him, but his music also. The church has a worship band that has become well known and through Christian rock they have reached many musicians – and music fans – for Christ.

 Several years ago the conference officially adopted Community Church Planting (CCP) as their ministry model. Pastor Simon voiced his sense that CCP would not work in the city where people are more sophisticated and busy – and where people are afraid to open their homes because of a context of violence and fear.  The superintendent told Pastor Simon that if he tried it and it didn’t work they could have a further conversation, but that he couldn’t say it wouldn’t work unless/until he tried it.

So Pastor Simon and his leadership team went back to the drawing board, studied the material, prayed and sought God’s direction for where they should go to find persons of peace. In less than two years since then they have started more than 35 house churches.

Other church plants in the central and western parts of the country have also started through Free Methodist contacts using CCP. At their recent Annual Conference a new Mission District was officially formed with this network of new churches in the capital and beyond. Pastor Simon was designated as the Mission District Leader.

Many of the leaders of the new district voiced their gratitude to God and to Christ Community Church in Columbus GA. All that we are seeing today is a direct result of their faithful prayers, guidance, and financial investment over a 10-year period. From a distance they not only mothered a new church, but a whole new district!

written by Paul Olver

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The Latin America Area has adopted Community Church Planting (CCP) as its official strategy to fuel and sustain a biblical movement for Christ.  CCP both trains and empowers leaders as well as plants new churches.   Since adopting the strategy, several training sessions have been held throughout the region and as a result, new churches are being planted.  This video provides a quick glance into the beginning of the church planting movement in the Central American country of Honduras.

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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:

  1.  Annual leadership conferences in each country have been well-accepted. These training events are open to all who attend Free Methodist churches and are required for pastors and ministerial candidates to attend. Many lay leaders enthusiastically participate. They often take vacation time from work, pay their expenses and travel long distances to be present. Current and future leaders understand they play a vital part in the development of the church in their own countries and are eager to be trained to do it well.

  2. Our new pastoral formation system is up and running. This well-received system prepares pastors for effective ministry and ordination. It establishes and trains Ministerial Education and Guidance (MEG) boards in every district while coaching each Ministerial Appointment Committee (MAC) toward health.

  3. In some countries, the church is highly educated. In some others, it isn’t. The system welcomes people where they are and takes them to the next level in their education and preparation for effective and contextualized ministry.

  4. Mission district leaders are offered personalized coaching to internalize, contextualize and implement what they have learned at leadership conferences and through participating in and implementing the new pastoral formation system.

  5. We model decentralization at every level and encourage the use of technology for peer mentoring among leaders in different countries.

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

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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

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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

 

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The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest fields.” Mark 9:37-38

Eunice Alvarez and David and Ginegda Lopez are answers to prayer.  For many years, the North American church has been sending workers to Latin America.  Latin American Area leaders have dreamed of sending people from one country to another.

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The Latin American Leadership Summit that was held in Medellin, Colombia focused on community church planting led by Bruce Bennett and pastoral formation under the leadership of Dra. Delia Nüesch-Olver, Dr. Paul Olver, Dr. Ricardo Gómez and Jason Morriss.

After the summit, Area Director Dra. Delia Nüesch-Olver asked the 28 leaders

who represented 9 countries to reflect on their experience.

The summit “strengthened the Latin American vision to plant community churches and fortified the new program for training and forming the next generation of pastors in our church.” – Pastor Dan, Creative Access Country X

J.R. Crouse, a missionary, said, “It was a time to forge relationships and encourage one another to fulfill God's calling on our lives.”

The delegation from Ecuador reflected on how the summit personally affected them.   Pastora Eunice Alvarez said, “I was challenged to see beyond what I can imagine with regard to ministry in Ecuador…challenged to trust in the faithfulness and the will of God and to work where He is already working, even if I can’t see it with my own eyes.”

Her colleague, Pastora Mariana Mafla said, “I received many blessings in all areas: spiritual, physical and material. Most importantly, I confirmed that Jesus is interested in multiplication. A good seed placed in good earth will obtain a good harvest.” She went on to outline the many good things she took home to Ecuador with her from the Summit. Her list included:

“- The confirmation of God on my calling to plant community churches.

  • A desire to help with the development of healthy, well-prepared leaders in our Free Methodist heritage who can effectively serve in whatever social context.
  • Through prayer I will find the people of peace that God has for me to disciple and plant community churches in every neighborhood of Quito.”

When asked what their next step in ministry would be based upon their experience, Pastora Eunice said it was to unite with the vision and infect the other leaders to work together in planting healthy community churches. She said she would meet with the national board in Ecuador to come up with a plan and the steps to follow in order to bring about God’s mission in Latin America. “After all,” she concluded, “with God it is easy!”

Hector Perez of Mexico said he would “raise and train leaders on all levels to become church planters and share the vision, passion, and recourses that I received [at the summit].” He concluded that he will restructure “everything that we do as a church in order to focus all of the spiritual, human and material resources we have on the priorities of the Kingdom of God to bring forth a great harvest…And we will gather it in the name and power of Jesus.”

Multiply those responses by 28 and sift in the contexts of 9 countries and you can see a glimpse of how the Free Methodist Church in Latin America is fulfilling the Great Commission.

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