New roof, new life in Haiti

By Steve Spellman

I laughed as I watched the little boy’s mother jump into Anne-Marie’s arms.

Anne-Marie Johnson is part of our GlobalFingerprints Haiti leadership team and had come to visit the boy’s home. Anne-Marie had never met the child before. She had never met the mother before. She had never been to this home before. So what was it that caused this mother to almost knock Anne-Marie to the ground at first sight?

Some three months before, a family in the United States began sponsoring the boy through the GlobalFingerprints program. Two weeks later, the boy’s Haitian supervisor, Evans, visited him for the first time. Per his monthly routine, Evans evaluated the boy’s medical, nutritional, educational, spiritual, and general living situation. By the end of that day, he was talking to the Haitian leadership team about the unique and urgent need in the boy’s home.

Evans knew something was seriously wrong the minute he walked into the home. Yes, the family is very poor and lives in a tiny two-room house in one of Port au Prince’s slums. But that was not the issue. The issue was that he could see the sky through the numerous holes in the tin roof. The mother later told Evans that during the rainy season, the family passed many a night standing up in a corner of the room because their bed (a moldy cushion on the floor) would be underwater.

The cost for the repair was only $400, but that this six months’ salary for most Haitians.

Our Haitian team immediately allocated money for the roof repair from their emergency fund. At the same time, the program was given a one-time gift of $150 from a church in Chile. Within two weeks, materials were delivered. Soon afterward, a construction worker, the Haitian head of GlobalFingerprints, and the mom worked together to remove the old tin and wood slats and replace them with a whole new structure.

The mother had no idea that this would be part of the program’s commitment to her child. And so on this day, Anne-Marie had the joy of virtually being tackled by a thankful mother — a mom who was able to sleep through last night’s rain storm safe and dry for the first time in years.

P.S. The GlobalFingerprints Haitian team should have that moldy cushion issue solved by the end of this month!

Serving in Rio Azul

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“At the end of 2013, my husband and I were invited to serve as leaders in a Costa Rican church restart in a nearby slum, Rio Azul. We had prayed for years that God would open doors so that we could participate on just such a team and were blown away by God’s goodness to provide such a wonderful opportunity. Since accepting the position, we now regularly teach, serve on the worship team, co-lead the Sunday school, preach, lead a Bible study, teach music and English classes and serve in a variety of other ways.”

Dave and Angie Ziel are ReachGlobal missionaries serving in San José, Costa Rica, since November 2011. Learn more about their life and ministry on their blog, Ziels in LA.

 

Mexico: ‘We need water’

Emergency drinking water needed in storm-ravaged town

Mexican MudFrom ReachGlobal Mexico City Team Leader Joshua Smith:

As we stepped into the village of Bejuco, it was like a war zone. The military had arrived to respond to the massive flooding, most villagers had been forced to flee and live in temporary refuge centers, and those who remained said very simply, “We need water.”

Through partnerships with local pastors, the regional government of Coyuca and Operation Blessing, we have arranged to bring two water treatment facilities to the area. One will be placed in the city center and provided clean drinking water that will be distributed to the most affected villages in the region. The other will be placed in this village, meeting a pressing physical need. Both water plants will be supervised by local pastors who will ensure that both clean water and the Living Water are offered to the people of the area.

We hope that the Lord might use this crisis to break the crippling power of local drug lords and bring salvation and hope to the region through His gospel and His church.

How to help

We need to raise $2,000 immediately to cover the cost of the water plants and related ministry efforts. Please donate at Mexico Emergency Flood Response.

Haiti: Lessons From a Missionary-sending Nation

By Laura-Jean Watson

Everyone knows about the poverty of Haiti: The country suffers from sky-high unemployment (more than 40 percent). Thousands of people still live tents sent after the January 2010 earthquake.  Per-capita GDP is $1,358 (compared to $51,248 in the U.S.), making Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

But Haiti is, in many ways, rich in valuable assets – contentedness, gratitude for small things, resourcefulness and a collaborative culture. Haiti’s poverty still boggles the mind, but churches are using their cultural assets to transform Haiti into what many thought it would never be – a missionary-sending nation.

Haitians are now sending missionaries back to West Africa, where animism and Islam dominate, to share the life-changing message that Jesus came and died so people could be forgiven and have a new life.  They understand the culture – the voodoo and spirit-worship common in both areas — and the French language in West Africa. They are well-equipped to minister to people there.

One Haitian Christian recently said that if Haitians had not been brought from West Africa as slaves, they would not have had the opportunity to hear the gospel.  God has used something evil to bring them great blessings spiritually.

Do we in the U.S. see profit in the bad things that happen in our lives or become bitter and resentful?

But how can Haitians afford to do send missionaries?  The short answer is sacrificial giving.

One pastor encouraged his congregation to support missionaries by selling what they did not need.  He said, “If you own two shirts sell one.  If you own two pairs of shoes, sell one.  If you own two dresses, sell one.”

The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

How much are we in the U.S. willing and ready to give up in obedience to the great command to love one another and the Great Commission to share God’s saving message with the world?

Haitians have learned to be content with little and thankful for small things.  Materialism is not as rampant in their country as it is in ours.  People are resourceful and hard-working.  They look for creative ways to provide for their families.

Are we thankful for all we have or do we just complain about what we do not have and dwell on what we still want to obtain? 

Another asset Haitians have is collaboration.  They think of others and help others.  It is not unusual for one Haitian who has a paying job to support 15 to 20 other people.  They are family-oriented, and they include distant relatives in their responsibility to family.

Do we care about our communities?  Do we even know the needs of our extended family members?

Unfortunately, many families in Haiti do not have enough resources to feed their own children.  Orphanages are filled with children whose parents could not afford to feed them. Other parents send their children to live with other families, where the child must work for the host family.  Parents do this so their children can eat, but also so that they have access to an education (education is not free in Haiti — families must pay even for public schools, and all children must have uniforms to attend school).

The poverty of Haitians is striking, yes – but so is their example of love and concern for others and the kingdom of Christ. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual needs right here in the U.S. that we should be meeting.  Time needs to be invested in discovering needs.  Our conversation should not be centered on ourselves.  We need to be listening so that we know how to both pray and act to make a difference in our families and neighborhood.  We need to truly care about others.

What are you investing in?  What will you give up in obedience to God?

Nicaragua: Pastors Find Hope Amid Struggles

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Before Iglesia Resurreción y Vida had an actual church building, its original 25 members would carry wooden benches back and forth between various meeting places for worship.

All were young and without jobs. Romero struggled to shepherd his flock as well as maintain a job to earn income to support the church.

Twenty-nine years later, those benches still are used by this church as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Twice a year now in Chinandega, Nicaragua, Pastor Evaristo Romero opens the church to more than 80 pastors and leaders to be taught sound doctrine. For four days in June and again in November, people sit on the benches, plus a few white plastic chairs, in the one-room building with open windows.

The Bible Institute in Chinandega goes beyond simply teaching rural pastors and leaders fundamental doctrine. People take the doctrine that they learn and apply it to their lives. The truth of the Gospel impacts their lives in ways that make them grateful.

Seated on one of those benches is Pastor Martha Bonilla. As worship concludes, Bonilla steps forward from the front row of benches to lead her family of faith in a prayer filled with passionate thanksgiving.

Pastoring a church in El Viejo, a small city near Chinandega, Bonilla faces her own difficulties. For 13 years, she has cried out to God for her own husband. After 10 years, some of her anguish was swept away as her husband became a member of the church. Bonilla says that although her husband has been going to church now for three years, he does not want to commit himself to serving in the church.

“He helps a lot but he doesn’t want to sacrifice for the church,” Bonilla says.

She keeps wait for the day when her and her husband will work together in pastoring this church. She says that she knows the woman was made to be man’s helper and hopes someday for this to describe her relationship with her husband regarding the church.

Bonilla is not a stranger to heartache. Even as she attends the Bible Institute with seven other members from her church, she longs for more people from her church to come and study in Chinandega for the four days Iglesia Resurreción y Vida hosts this institute.

There are two explanations for why people from her church do not want to come, she said. Leaving for four days would mean they would not work for four days.

“Not all people want to come because they have work, families and can’t just take these days off. They don’t want to,” explains Bonilla.

And, as much as she tries to motivate them, many of those in her congregation do not like studying, she says.

One regular attendee at the Bible Institute who loves to study God’s word Pastor Reynaldo Acuña, who has been attending the Bible Institute since it first began in 1998. Despite already attending and receiving his degree from seminary, Acuña continues to return to Chinandega for the Bible Institute.

“In seminary I learned how to meditate,” Acuña says. “At the Bible Institute I learned biblical application.”

Looking back at other ways they Bible Institute has impacted their lives, both Acuña and his wife, Brenda Barahona, speak of the relationships they have today that have come from the fellowship here. During one of the most difficult times in their lives, Barahona quickly recalls how ReachGlobal missionary Melanie Wilson came alongside her in prayer in her time of need.

For 12 long years, Acuña and Barahona waited and prayed for a child. After two years of treatments and plenty of visits to the doctor, they were told that they would not be able to have children. Nevertheless, Acuña and Barahona continued to pray for a child.

Acuña recounts when his wife told him how when she read the Bible story of Hannah’s barren womb, Brenda cried because she knew how Hannah felt when she desperately cried out to God for a child. Smiling, Acuña says God heard their cries and two years ago blessed them with a son. They named him Samuel.

“He is only 2 years old but has the energy of a 12-year-old,” says Barahona with a laugh as she watches Samuel chase a ball around the dirt courtyard outside of the Bible Institute.

Though the lives of Romero, Bonilla, Acuña, and Barahona bring different difficulties, the strongest thing they have in common is their faith. And, thanks to this ministry of sound doctrine teaching, the Bible Institute has helped shaped their faith so that they are able to face difficulties with hope.

“It has been a great blessing and a great impact because we have taken a lot of what we have learned and we are teaching it and applying it in our own churches,” Pastor Romero says.

In Nicaragua, Bible Training Strengthens Churches

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Inside a sweltering, one-room church, fans blow, children wander, and English and Spanish blend together. At the front of the room, Chris Moore, a pastor from Fort Smith, Ark.,  passionately teaches on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. By his side, Nicaraguan Chico Avendaño translates the words into Spanish.

This gathering in Chinandega, a city of 120,000, is one of eight Bible Institutes happening throughout Nicaragua twice a year. Most of the attending 80 pastors and leaders from rural churches don’t have the resources to attend a formal institution for biblical education. These four-day gatherings address that need, and the accompanying problem of incorrect doctrine being taught to congregations.

“So, what are people teaching?” asks Bible Institute professor Stefan Feliz-Kent. “Basically what they hear on the radio or TV, which is a lot of prosperity gospel and garbage doctrine.”

Jim Wilson, missionary with ReachGlobal and the general overseer of the Bible Institutes, seeks to fulfill the need for formal theological education in rural Nicaragua.

“Our primary objective is to provide Latin American pastors with biblical, theological, and pastoral training that they otherwise don’t have access to,” Wilson says. “We have 15 courses; it takes about seven years to complete the program.”

In 1998, when he was pastoring a church in Huntsville, Ala., Wilson got a call from a friend asking if his church would be interested in doing long-term ministry in Nicaragua. After his first trip there, Wilson saw the need for pastoral training and his church decided to begin meeting that need.

“We began in 2000 with our first institute in Chinandega and God has blessed that,” Wilson says. “Now, we have eight different Bible Institutes in eight different cities in Nicaragua. We also have three in Costa Rica and we have one in Panama.”

As a result of the growth, Wilson says, more U.S. churches have begun partnering with the Bible Institutes and adopting specific locations. Churches who adopt an institute are responsible for bringing a team to teach, providing lunch for the pastors who attend and paying their daily transportation costs.

On day one, Moore and his team hand out copies of “For Your Joy” (“Para Tu Gozo” in Spanish) by John Piper. Many pastors ask for multiple copies to take back to their congregations. Giving out resources like Piper’s book is another role that churches like Moore’s — Fellowship Bible Church of Fort Smith — take on when adopting an institute.

“I believe that there is a lack of resources that are available to the pastors,” Moore says. “What we are able to provide in the Bible Institute is resources for the pastors and the church leaders so that they can get equipped and trained so that they can turn around and equip and train their people.”

Avendaño, a former Bible Institute student, followed this model.  After attending the Bible Institute, he changed his approach toward reading the Bible.

“When I am reading the scriptures, I apply the message that they’ve given us: how to read the Bible and how to interpret it,”  Avendaño says.  “I used to go to the Bible like any other book and I didn’t know how to do it in the right way. Now, I read it, meditate on it and then I interpret it and apply it.”

One of the key beliefs in the Bible Institute ministry is that training locals like Avendaño will give their ministries a lasting impact.

“[In missions] we don’t have a good history of transferring the authority to the local leaders,” Feliz-Kent says. “This ministry is doing that pretty well. Our idea is teach the local pastors and church leaders these fundamentals so that they in turn, continue teaching them to others.”

Feliz-Kent believes that equipping local church leaders with correct doctrine and principles for interpreting the Bible will help the church in Central America as a whole prosper.

“The church is not what it’s supposed to be because of bad teaching. That’s what motivates me and that’s what moves me. That’s why I do this. There is great need for theological education,” Feliz-Kent says.

Leaders of the institute agree that they are seeing God move in their ministry.

“They’re hungry, they want to learn, they’re picking up what you’re saying and are able to respond and ask good questions and explain it in their own words,” Feliz-Kent says.

Wilson also finds the growth of the institute and the testimonies of the pastors to be an encouragement.

“So many of them have come back and told me the blessing they have seen in their church,” Wilson says. “As they have turned around and reproduced and multiplied what we have brought them, they’ve taught it to their people.”

After the final session, despite the humid heat that fills the room and the six hours of intensive teaching and worship they’ve just experienced, the local pastors form a line behind Wilson and the team of teachers from Fort Smith. Some come up with their Bibles and ask probing questions about what they’ve learned. Many kiss the teachers on the cheek and bless them for their work.

“Thanks a lot for this kind of job that you are all doing here because you are a great instrument from the Lord,” Avendaño tells some of the leaders. “Just by coming here from a long distance to train pastors, I can see you have a love for the Lord.”