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!
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.
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
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.
Years ago we learned an axiom that has proved to be a basic principle of cross-cultural ministry: Nothing for us without us. This is from the perspective of people from other cultures who have coached us in effective cross-cultural ministry. Nothing for us without us means: don’t do things for others without processing it with them, without asking their opinion, without discussing with them at the front end what you plan to do to help. Don’t come up with ideas from the outside and tell them, “This is what we are going to do for you.” That’s charity. There is no dignity in that for either the giver or the receiver.
People from within their own communities tend to know quite well what they need. In the case of the church, when there has been a clear framework of why we exist -- a clearly articulated vision for who we want to be -- local people come up with fantastic ideas, much better than any outsider could.
Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, plowed across Puerto Rico last September. It was dreadful. Twenty-five years after a similar hurricane hit South Florida, we’ve seen grown men cry when they remember the day the hurricane hit. It was a life changing experience for everyone.
There were many in the US mainland who prayed through the night as Hurricane Maria was mauling Puerto Rico. The following days we desperately tried to communicate to determine if our friends and leaders and church people were alive, and to find ways to help them survive the aftereffects of such a storm.
You have given generously to help meet their needs! The money sent has been used in remarkably creative ways. People have been treated with dignity as they have started the slow and painful process of rebuilding homes, families, and communities. Generators were used not just to bring light to churches and homes but also to provide medical help for those who need to be connected to electricity to remain alive. Food and water has been distributed. Counseling is being offered. Stories of bravery, sharing, and sacrifice abound.
The last money we sent to Puerto Rico has been used – get this! -- to purchase laundry equipment. In our church buildings our friends have installed washing machines so neighbors can wash their clothing and other items that got soaked during the storm. Their homes may not have electricity yet, but people who live near a Free Methodist Church can walk down the street with clean clothes and their dignity intact. What a great way to serve the neighborhood! I would not have thought of that.
And here we all are at the end of 2017. Those of us who live in the US have the opportunity to give a generous end of year financial gift that will also lower our taxes. I’d say: Let’s do it. Let’s send more money to our leaders in Puerto Rico. From my perspective as the overseer of the Free Methodist Church in Puerto Rico I can tell you with my hand firmly placed on a stack of Bibles that the money you send is being used in totally responsible ways. Your giving has saved lives. And the integrity and dignity of the process we have been using is something we can all be very proud of.
On this last week of the year, I invite you to give a generous gift to be sent to the leaders in Puerto Rico. They will be able to determine how to use it to rebuild lives in their communities.
Here is where you can send your end of year gift. Please be generous. Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund
written by Delia Nüesch-Olver
Puerto Rico Will Rise: A Rally Call for All of Us
Since Hurricane Maria hit land on the island of Puerto Rico on September 19th, most people are waking up each morning thinking about their basic needs: Where can we get enough water for the day? Where can we get food? Is my employer functioning enough to get me back to work? Will our food last for the day? Where can I go to the bathroom? Will my medical equipment work when I need it?
The island, still in about 60% electrical blackout, faces the most basic questions each day, still, two months after the storm. When a team of strategic leaders arrived from Costa Rica’s Shoreline District, however, they did not see a defeated people. Instead, what caught their attention were the flags and signs, ubiquitous on the island, declaring Puerto Rico se levanta, or Puerto Rico Will Rise . It is the breath and daily rally cry for those facing challenges to rebuild their homes, businesses, schools, churches and communities.
By request of Pastor Mercedes Reynoso, from San Juan, the leaders from Costa Rica were sent on a specific mission: firstly, to comfort and to listen. It was the first of the Free Methodist teams to be sent out and the first team to bring the love and affection of the Free Methodist family from around the world. They arrived to see a church family who has risen to the occasion. Pastor Mercedes’ church, along with many other Free Methodist pastors, received us with the utmost hospitality and warmth, said one of the team members, Irena Ruiz. “They are people full of love and compassion. They are hard working and empathetic towards the needs of their neighbors. We went to bless them, and it turned out that, we were the ones being blessed.”
Secondly, the team comprised of an architect, civil engineer and a child educator, was there to assess the damage that the hurricane left behind. All three members report that the island has been completely devastated. Some from our church members have lost their homes and are living with friends or family or whomever will receive them. Those that own businesses have also been affected greatly.
One of the local bi-vocational pastors, Pastor Polanco, lost some of the equipment for his catering business. Due to the lack of electricity and clean water, cooking and maintaining the food has also been complicated. Every time they cook they have to make sure there is no food left over because there is no electricity for the refrigerators.
The devastation has caused many to leave the island looking for stable work. This, in turn, has affected the churches. There have been fewer attending since many have had to leave. Since the streets are dark at night, it also makes it unsafe to attend services held at night so services are being held in the afternoon for those who are able to attend.
But this brings us back to the anthem Puerto Rico Se Levanta. Catalina Cordoba, one of the team members, says, “This anthem rings true with those that we met. Though they have lost everything, they have not lost their faith in God; that He will raise them up.” She also reports the generosity of the churches. “They do not have a lot, but what they have, they are sharing with those around them. Drinking water, for example, is hard to come by and is rationed daily. Members of the church are keeping water in the trunk of their cars to have it accessible for those who need it. They are not sitting back with their arms crossed, waiting on the government to provide.” She sees them uniting to help their communities and in prayer.
The team from Costa Rica was formed to come alongside the local Free Methodist Churches in Puerto Rico to create a plan to rebuild and repair the church buildings that are serving as a refuge for many in their communities. The plan is to help provide local jobs during the reconstruction. They ask that the anthem that is heard around the island, Puerto Rico se levanta becomes the rally cry for all of us until it truly comes to pass.
It's not too late to make a financial donation to the Puerto Rico Recovery Fund. You may do so by clicking here.
written by Andrea Green
I’m not a shopper, but this year I am excited about Christmas shopping! Let’s give to Puerto Rican families and churches still trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria almost 2 months ago!
The Puerto Rico Electric Power’s grid is working at less than 50%, leaving much of the island in the dark with no electricity. Pastors from Puerto Rico want me to express their thanks for the generators we all sent right after the hurricane.
The generators have not only been used to provide light for some homes and church buildings, but they also make life significantly safer once the sun sets. Bad things happen in the pitch darkness, folks!
An unexpected use of the generators is that neighbors with medical needs have been showing up at the churches to use the generators for routine medical therapies that require electricity. The word has spread among the medical communities near our churches, and neighbors keep coming. Our churches have become places of respite and healing – truly holistic sanctuaries. Who would have thought that our basic generators would keep people alive?! Friends in Puerto Rico have expressed that they need a few more for specific medical purposes.
Puerto Rican people are very creative, and are making do with gas barbecue grills, daily trips to the grocery store, and wide-open windows to stay cool. But it is not fun. No electric power means no jobs. No jobs mean no money. No money means all sorts of other unpleasant things. This is an economic disaster with no end in sight.
Thankfully we can continue to help! We can continue to come alongside churches, families and children – many that have become sanctuaries both spiritually and physically. Our giving this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas can make life a little bit more bearable for our sisters and brothers on the island!
Here is my suggested gift list for Puerto Rico:
Items 1 - 3 can be ordered and sent directly to the address below.
Pastora Mercedes Reynoso
Hacienda Real Jazmín del Mar 322
Carolina, PR 00986
(Our friends in Puerto Rico tell us that items sent via UPS are getting there, while other means of shipping are not as reliable.)
Together we can! These gifts will not only make life a bit better under awful circumstances, but also will let our friends in Puerto Rico know that we have not forgotten them.
A recent Newsweek article states that ever since Hurricane Maria hit on October 4, 80% of the people in Puerto Rico still don’t have electricity. “The lack of electricity means water treatment facilities and purification systems are not fully functional, and some people turn to bacteria-contaminated water for relief in the humid, 80-degree weather.”
According to Pastor Mercedes Reynoso, the situation is very, very difficult. Probably the worst is the lack of sufficient drinking water in a very hot climate, and the instability in terms of food and safety. She, as always, has a foolproof spirit and testifies to a very strong presence of God in the midst of an indescribable crisis.
As of today, at least 3 donated generators been received by our members in Puerto Rico and 7 more are en route. We give special thanks to Luis, a member of one of our churches in Tampa, FL, who has worked diligently to save almost $4,000 in shipping costs. Likewise, suitcases of water filters have been delivered and more will arrive with a team of people going from California on November 6.
That being said, this is just a drop in the bucket. The needs are great and the recovery effort in Puerto Rico will be long! On behalf of our friends who are suffering, thanks to so many who have generously given finances, generators and water filters to help alleviate some of these needs. It is not too late for you to help provide for the basic needs of clean water or electricity to people in Puerto Rico. Please help us help Puerto Rico recover by donating here. Puerto Rico Recovery Fund
Our sources in Puerto Rico tell us it will be many months before electricity is restored.
Superintendent Mercedes Reynoso says it is a priority to have a generator for each church and each pastor’s family so that they can minister to others. Our churches and pastors’ homes have become centers of respite, counseling, and aid distribution. This is a project for a family, Sunday School class, small group or church.
We finally found a reliable way to send the generators when UPS started delivering in Puerto Rico again. Here are 2 good options to channel your help. (I said reliable not cheap!)
• You can purchase a new generator wherever you are and ship it via UPS. This will be a significant blessing as people in Puerto Rico have been without electricity for almost 4 weeks already. Shipping costs start at $140 per generator depending on the weight and where your are shipping from. It will take a week to get there. UPS is open until 6 PM Mo-Sat.
• Please note: In Puerto Rico gasoil generators are much cheaper to run than regular gas, but they will use whatever you send.
• Purchase the quietest generator you can find. 3000 watts or higher.
• Pastora Mercedes Reynoso
• Hacienda Real Jazmín del Mar 322
• Carolina, PR 00986
• We continue to gather money to purchase generators at about $430 each. To give money towards a generator, please click on the link below. Write GENERATOR in the comment box. We will find volunteers to buy generators in the mainland and mail them via UPS.
Please continue to pray for strength and wisdom for our brothers and sisters living an unbelievable crisis. Pray that God will protect their minds, emotions, and health as they deal with their new normal. Also, pray for the children.
Thank you! Thank you!
written by Delia Nüesch-Olver