Who is the LACRET Team?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if a mission had an elite squad, their own “think tank”, their own group of veteran missionaries to call upon in unique and specific situations where experience and wisdom would be really helpful for knowing next steps to take?  Let it not be a surprise then– the Latin America/Caribbean Regional Equipping Team is just such a group.

They are made up of a group of veteran missionaries, many beginning their years of service in Venezuela decades ago.  They are highly educated, with almost as many doctorates as team members. However, they are not just a bunch of lofty, brilliant minds from the academic world. In fact, they are some of the most humble servants that can be found, with their hearts in grassroots ministry, in equipping people and helping them along in their various ministries throughout Latin America.  These are men and women who have a heart and much experience in mentoring, in team leadership, in pastoral training, Christian education for both children and adults, virtual ministry, and seminary training. They may just be our greatest untapped resource in the Latin America/Caribbean Division.

Ernest Dyck, the team leader of LACRET, says that the heart of the team is to be right in the thick of ministry on the field, and not simply be in academic settings. Ernest became the team leader just this January, and says it is a joy to work alongside his longtime colleagues and peers in this new role. Ernest and his wife Effie work as regional specialists in church planting and training teachers in Christian education.

ReachGlobal also has the wonderful resource of a Global Equipping Team, that functions much in the same way as this regional team.  However, the added strength of the LACRET team is that in their combined years of service on the mission field and years living in Latin America, there is a profound cultural awareness–they can pick up on many of the nuances of language and culture that many of us newer and younger workers would miss. They understand contextualization on a different level, whether that is in urban church planting, rural ministries, or in the educating of church leaders.  Every person on the team brings a different field of specialty and knowledge to the table– Rebecca Rodriguez with international women’s ministries, Jim Panaggio with spiritual formation, Ross Hunter with equipping for indigenous ministries, Carlos Tejada with pastoral networking, and the list goes on.

Ernest Dyck speaks for his entire team when he says that they greatly desire to be used as a resource to the other teams in the Latin America Division as well as to their national partners. They would be honored and delighted to come alongside you, whether it is in a consulting role, or to help facilitate training of some sort. For more information, please email LACRET1@efca.org

This video was made for the 2018 Latin America/Caribbean Conference. Team leadership has changed since then, but the heart of the team remains the same. Enjoy!

Brumadinho, Brazil :: An Update

On January 25, 2019, a worst nightmare was realized as the Brumadinho dam collapsed. In the state of Minas Gerais, a dam used by a mining company gave way, killing 166 people, and causing an additional 200 people to remain missing, according to the latest reports. Mudslides caused by mining waste gave rise to fear of widespread water contamination.

ReachGlobal staff member Craig Weyandt was able to be on the scene just after the event, alongside several Brazilian pastors to offer support, prayer, and assess how to partner with the suffering and families of the lost over the long term.  They drove 10 hours out from Rio de Janeiro to be in this small mining town and to simply love people and offer their assistance. Craig is the leader of the ReachGlobal Rio de Janeiro team, and has been in Brazil for nearly 20 years now.

Back in January, when Craig was on the scene, he sent updates, including this one:

“We have been able to talk with, listen to and pray with a number of families and individuals. It appears that in a few minutes Vale will release their updated list of found people both the dead and living. this will be a very intense time for everyone including us. We’ve been asked to go to the municipal cemetery because the recovered bodies now will begin to arrive there and many families will be arriving there as well. Please pray for the families.”

Now that a bit of time has passed, and the crisis is no longer in the headlines, people may wonder what has become of the situation.  This is a common reaction–in the ReachGlobal Crisis Response Ministry Team, they call it the “CNN Effect”; where as soon as it’s out of the forefront of people’s minds, everyone assumes that life has gone back to normal.  Anyone who has volunteered in Crisis Response knows that this could not be farther from the truth–that it is only in the second or third month, when things calm down a bit, that the real work begins.  This is when grief truly sets in for the families who lost loved ones, and this is when despair and financial struggles also truly begin.

ReachGlobal always tries to take a long-term approach with any sort of crisis response situation, and make it about recovering the whole life of the affected people, not just what they lost physically.  Just as we do in all of our city teams and other outreach efforts, we always want to partner with the local church and pastors who are on the ground and known in their communities. We want to offer help to bring healing in the physical, yes, but also emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

With that in mind, here is the latest updates from Craig concerning the town of Brumadinho:

“The Union Church of Rio de Janeiro [Craig is in leadership there]  is partnering with EFCA ReachGlobal, local Belo Horizonte Church- Igreja Esperança and an NGO called “CADI” to make a difference.  CADI has been contracted by Igreja Esperança and are using a community development assessment tool to determine long term development and care.

Now that the first phase of emergency response is over they have hired CADI, an NGO that specializes in long-term, community development.  They have targeted one poor, residential community called Parque da Cachoeira that suffered high-loss of life and infra -structure damage.   CADI is being paid to do a Community Development Assessment.  When the project is complete on paper the local churches will work to building a new reality for the families and especially the children living in Parque da Cachoeira.

This is an informal partnership where we (the Union Church of Rio and ReachGlobal) are contributing funds to a local ministry that we have met, worked with and trust.”

On a more personal note, Craig shared a story about a particular young boy who lost his father in the crisis:

“Pastor Enio was one of the pastors who was on-site with Craig just after the tragedy.  He was able to pray with a boy named Luiz,  and listen to him as he awaited news about his father at the Vale center for receiving employees and families of employees.  Luiz  shared with him that he called his dad just minutes before the accident. He was asking for money for a hair-cut.  He shared how his dad replied with, “Alright but you better be keeping your grades up!”  As the day went on Enio recalls watching Luiz staring with a profound look of sadness yet fidgety, while anxiously awaiting some news of his dad.   A lasting bond was made between the two as Luiz would return that day to Enio sometimes for a hug and sometimes with just a smile.

A couple of days later Luiz sent a picture of his father to Pastor Enio.  “They found my dad.  The funeral was today.”  What would provoke a 12 year-old boy to communicate a loss so profound to a Pastor that he met for only hours a couple of days before?  The authentic love of Jesus poured out by a man who cared enough to offer real help by leaving behind his own family driving 10 hours to a place he had never been to offer a listening ear, a hug and prayer.  The Lord in his compassionate grace orchestrated this meeting and forever touched the heart of a boy who needed to feel  the love of a father- a father lost as well as an Invisible Heavenly Father, fleshed out by one willing to get involved by “going” in Jesus name.

Pastor Enio and Luiz continue to talk through texting on Whatsapp. Please pray that Luiz  would come to know and recognize the Love of the Heavenly Father.

Please pray for the children living in Parque da Cachoeira  and the volunteers offering real help to re-build this broken community in Jesus name.”

For more information about how you can pray or contribute to the ongoing needs in Brazil, please contact craig.weyandt@efca.org

 

In Defense of the Short Term Missions Trip (Part 3) :: How to Arrive Prepared

Last month we found ourselves discussing short term missions teams and how they can be useful, helpful and a blessing to those on the field as well as the local community.  We are coming to the end of summer (at least in North America), which means that many people’s lives have been full of sending/receiving such groups for the past several months.

In this particular article, we’ll be discussing some of the ways teams coming on trips can prepare themselves, and arrive in a good mindset and ready to serve.

While in Brazil, I had the opportunity to interview two separate pastors leading teams–one was an American pastor, leading his team of 15 from First Free Church of Lincoln Nebraska. The other was leading  group of 14 from southern Brazil, from a church called Celivre.

I asked both of them what it looked like to prepare for a trip like this.  There was a wonderful lack of DRAMA from any during the 8 days we were together, and that says a lot being that there was a mix of ages, personalities, and nationalities too!  Not everyone was able to even communicate together, yet everyone did well to work together and accomplish the goals set forth.  How did this happen?

Robb Maddox, the Missions and outreach coordinator of First Free of Lincoln shared with me in an interview that preparation was key.  Getting to know one another before coming, having clear expectations, and preparing everyone to be flexible always helps.  One interesting element that their team did was that every participant, whether teenager or adult, wrote out a brief testimony to share.  Often times, the guests and visitors are called on in church settings to give a word, and so arriving with these already ready to go was a great idea.  Robb took it one step further too, and had each member of his team share it before they came, in their group and then with someone in their hometown as well.  So, their testimonies and verses and devotionals that were being put together for a Brazilian missions trip were also being used to share the good news and the Word in their own town.

Robb also mentioned a few important interpersonal aspects as well– he and his co-leaders try to keep an eye on the people they bring with them and see how they are feeling and reacting to things.  The key to reducing drama is to nip it in the bud before it gets started, and also to truly hear people’s hearts and needs as the week progresses.  A lot of this has to do with establishing trust and open lines of communication before they get on the plane though. Helping people have realistic expectations and making sure they know ahead of time that they might get tired, overstimulated, or just generally overwhelmed helps manage the situations in the moments when they actually come up.

Lucas, of Santa Catarina has a heart for the Brazilian church, and sees himself as a national missionary to his own people.  He loves to teach people about using their everyday skills and talents–be it jiu jitsu training or accounting, spray painting murals or cutting hair–anything can be used to draw people into a conversation about Christ.  His team was an incredible asset, and they were pretty colorful too!

A few insights from Steve Spellman, who was really the guy pulling the strings for this whole thing shared with me near the end of the week.  He commented that not everyone was involved in any one thing, but everyone was willing to serve.  Because there was a spreading out and a proper use of everyone’s gifts and talents, more ground was able to be covered.  The Brazilians were able to go into some neighborhoods that were a bit dangerous, and use jiu jitsu as a door to share the gospel.  The Americans were able to get into the public schools, simply because they were Americans (and therefore interesting) and teach English.  When the students asked direct questions about God, they were able to give direct answers and share the gospel as well.

So, what I learned from these three men and all the people they were leading boils down to a few simple concepts:

  1. Teach and practice sharing your testimony and sharing the gospel before you arrive.  If you do these things in your own hometown, then you are already doing missions before you even leave the country!
  2. Try to give your team realistic expectations, and educate them on culture as much as possible before leaving.
  3. It’s always better to have too many activities prepared rather than too little, just as long as the people on your short-term team know that they might not get to everything.
  4. Prepare everyone to BE FLEXIBLE.  Things rarely, if ever, go according to plan or stay on schedule when in a different location than your own.  If everyone comes in expecting this, there will be fewer hurt feelings and way less drama.

Do you have any other suggestions for arriving prepared to a short term missions trip?  Is there any advice that has been really helpful for you or your teams over the years?

Here is a video filmed during the week of the trip to Recife, Brazil. Enjoy!

In Defense of the Short Term Missions Trip (Part 2) :: Pick Up Your Paintbrushes Again

In the last post, we talked about the bad wrap short term mission trips have gotten in the past few years, and ways that they can be done well.

Today, I need you to follow me down to South America, to the eastern-most tip to Brazil, overlooking the Atlantic ocean.  Painting, English classes, and VBS’s are all projects that have been presented as unhelpful, sometimes even harmful in the grand sweeping statements of “the church should just get rid of short-term missions trips altogether”.  Once again, I disagree, and beg you to not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Just a few short weeks ago, I was in northern Brazil, doing my normal photojournalism and filmmaking job, following Steve and Liz Spellman for the week. This trip they were on was incredibly unique and unlike any I’ve yet witnessed– it was comprised of a team from First Free of Lincoln, Nebraska (15 people), and a team from southern Brazil led by Pastor Lucas (14 people, with a few added later on), doing outreach in a Evangelical Free church (add another 20 or so people here) that had never before received an American short term team.  In the mix of it all were the Spellmans, as sort of ringmasters of this three ring circus, and I just tagged along dragging my camera bag.

There were so many interesting elements here.

The history of this particular church was very interesting, being planted 25 years ago and then kind of left to fend for itself.  Over the past few years, Steve has established relationships with several pastors in that city to encourage and disciple them, particularly the pastor we worked with during the week, named Andre. The city we were in was pretty isolated from the rest of Brazil, mostly because of distance, and had its own flavor of culture and life. Most of the Evangelical Free churches are in the southern states of Brazil, and we were pretty far north.  To give a visual comparison for the Americans reading this, it would be like church planters going from Mississippi to northern Minnesota, building a church, starting a congregation, and then going home and hoping it all works out.  Fellowship, further discipleship, and accountability are necessary for every church plant, every pastor and every congregation, regardless of their location.  The vision for the week and for the combined teams was to come alongside and encourage and to get to know the people of this church and their community.  Encouragement in whatever ways were most needed.

Another interesting element was that one of the big projects that was to be done during this particular week was the one singular thing that has gotten the worst attention on short-term missions projects EVER:  painting.  Painting needed to be done, to both the interior and exterior of the building.  A team of many of the same southern Brazilians had come up the previous year and done some work, but much more was still left to do.

Here is the testimony of the pastor of that church that turns the whole “issue” of painting on its head:

Pastor Andre said that the building they were given as a church all those years ago was simply too big for them, and they didn’t have the resources to finish it or to maintain it.  Church planters built it and they were supposed to finish it and maintain it, yet their congregation was small.  Over the years it had its struggles like any church would.  When the team of Brazilians came last year, they painted the exterior of the church, it’s first coat of paint in decades.  The effect was rather incredible.  The neighbors started to take notice of the building, and soon realized it was an actual church!  For years they had thought it was an abandoned warehouse.  They came around more, during Bible studies and community outreach days and wanted to learn more about what was going on there.  The team had also painted the interior of the church and fixed the roof so that people could sit through the service during rainy season and not have to arrange their chairs around buckets catching water. They had made it a desirable place to be, a refuge from some of the dilapidated buildings around it.  A coat of paint earned them respect in their community, and people started becoming interested in what was going on there.

This year, with the same Brazilians and the added Americans, more painting was done.  A small apartment had been added next to the church building, to house the pastor and his wife and save money on rent.  Underneath the apartment are the classrooms that were originally built with the church, and unfinished until last year.  I watched a group of men transform that space into what would be a warm and welcoming home.  It was both beautiful and humbling to know that the purpose of this project wasn’t the actual painting itself–the purpose was to encourage the pastor, to hear his heart and listen to his stories, to build relationship with him, to let him know that he and his church do not have to walk their road alone.  Sure, others could have done the work. But the fruit of it goes so much deeper than just throwing some bright colors up on a wall. THIS is what painting should look like, this is where I declare with gusto “Pick your paintbrushes back up and get to work!”

Later on in the week, smaller groups were sent out to other local churches.  Some of the Brazilians went to a church in a difficult area, and later on they went to a community center in one of the most dangerous favelas in the city.  Both times, they were able to do the same types of things–transform a neglected and ugly space into something beautiful and bright and fresh, all for the sake of building relationships.  This wasn’t the horror story you hear of useless mission trips, of orphan children dirtying the walls just so the teams feel useful when they come.  This was something asked for and welcomed, and done with far more purpose than just painting itself.

While painting was going on around the city, the American team from Nebraska was able to teach English in several local schools as well as also lead three children’s programs in different locations.  With the bigger goals in mind, much more can be accomplished.  The goals weren’t for them to just teach English, or just teach children a few new games and Bible verses.   The objective of the American team was to come alongside the local church and multiply their resources and efforts of showing the community that the church had open doors. That the church was a safe place.  Just before going in to the first school on the first day of lessons, the Americans were warned that they were not allowed to share the gospel, mention the church by name, or anything to do with God at all.  However, if they were asked specific questions, they would be permitted to answer.  In the first class that was offered, a student asked “So, what do you believe about God?” and one of the teenagers on the trip clearly laid out the gospel.  When they walked into that school, the headmaster was a bit hesitant, a bit wary of the whole situation.  By the end of two days, he had told the local pastor that he was welcome to come into that school and share whenever he’d like. THAT is a successful English class.

On the last day of the trip, all the Brazilians (southern and northern), Americans, pastors and Spellmans joined forces and headed to a nearby city to lead one last mini-VBS. By this time, our circus had swelled to upwards of 50 people and I was tempted to buy Steve a top hat and cape as the ringmaster. We were able to go to a very poor community that has a huge problem with gang-related violence and drugs.  Most people stayed put in the ministry center that supports local children with tutoring and art classes, while some of the Brazilians were able to venture right into the center of the favela and share the gospel (as well as a jiu-jitsu class…hey, they’re from Brazil!) It was a beautiful thing to see multiple nationalities coming together, working side by side, laughing and giving it all they had.  You know who the true recipients were that day, though?  Of course the children of the community received the Word, but it was the workers who we really went for.  The people who serve this community day in and day out, who love these children, who suffer alongside them and know their struggles and hurts–we went to encourage them. They so rarely receive teams, and they definitely never receive teams of 50+ from multiple countries!  They took time to share with us the history of their program, what their struggles and needs were, what the children face, what they face.  At the end of the day, they were heard. They had new friends, and two new church groups who knew their names and faces and could be praying for them in the days to come.  THAT is a successful VBS.

The key here is relationship, is communication, is asking.  Asking what the real felt needs of the church and community are.  Listening to the heart and hopes and struggles of the local churches and pastors and missionaries.  Coming with a heart that is willing to serve and learn, that has goals of friendship and prayer rather than finished projects.  If painting and building maintenance are expressed as helpful tasks, then by all means, pick up your paintbrush!  If teaching English is needed as a way to get the foot in the door of the local school, then teach English!  If a local pastor is discouraged, then encourage him! If the ministry of long-term missionaries is struggling, or even just feeling isolated, then go, see, hear, learn.  Listen, pray, use your resources wisely, plan and be flexible.

Next week, I’ll be sharing an interview with the pastors who were on this trip, talking about how to best prepare for a successful trip on the end of the goers.  A special thanks goes out to this wonderful group of people who let me follow them around for over a week and continually stick a camera in their face!

Calling Young Adults! [Summer Apex Missions]

Combine your passion to serve in cross-cultural missions with our passion for developing future mission leaders.

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From June 19-August 4, 2017, ReachGlobal is sending out teams of young adults (college age and post-grads) to locations around the world as part of our Apex mission program. Apex teams will integrate into the local ReachGlobal teams, serving alongside our missionaries while receiving training and equipping for future mission and ministry success.

Let us invest in you while you invest in the cities and countries that we call home.

Find out more about how you can serve this summer in:

Applications are due by April 2017 — however, the programs are first-come, first-serve and may fill up sooner. If God is calling you to go deeper into missions, don’t miss your opportunity to be part of His greater story in Latin America and the Caribbean.