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.

Colleague Close-up: Jennifer Blevins

For the next several months, ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean will feature Q&A biographies on our newest staff members from Mexico to South America. Staff journalist Lincoln Brunner recently asked Jennifer to fill us in on herself and her new ministry in Haiti.

Jen BlevinsWhere are you from originally?

I have lived my whole life – until now – in Minnesota. I went to college in southeast Minnesota, worked for a year in northeast Minnesota, but otherwise have always lived in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to do some traveling that has shown me more of the world, but am also happy to call Minnesota home.

Tell us a little bit about your spiritual journey to Christ.

I have been a Christian since age 6.  I remember kneeling down beside my bed one night and asking Jesus to come into my heart.  I was fortunate to be part of a loving, Christian family as well as a solid church with a thriving youth group in which I became highly involved and quite passionate.  And yet, I don’t think my faith was truly personal yet – it wasn’t fully my own.

I say this because college not only brought with it my moving away from home, but also an unintentional moving away from God.  I never stopped believing in God, I just wasn’t doing much of anything to maintain a relationship with Him. I was basically living my life apart from God.  I tried to do things on my own.   I tried to find the love and acceptance I was looking for through achievements and in other people, and those things became the priority in my life instead of God.  Most of the things I was doing and people I was spending time with were good, but they could never totally give me what I was looking for.  And, unfortunately, that search for love and acceptance led me into some relationships that I knew God didn’t want me to be in.  So, I tried to compartmentalize my life – separate what I was doing and my relationships from my faith in God.

But God kept pursuing me!  Nothing could ever fill the place in my heart that belonged to Him.  So, after many years of trying to do things my way, I finally gave up, made some hard choices, and re-focused my life on God.

I still mess up sometimes and try to do things on my own.  But I know that I am forgiven because of Jesus and that God loves me unconditionally, just as I am.  I no longer feel like I’m living two separate lives, but desire to live fully for God.  With Jesus in me, I have a peace that passes understanding and a hope for the future.

How long have you been there in Haiti?

I have been in Haiti for seven months now. I arrived February 5, 2013.

How did you get to Haiti? Can you walk us through your journey from where you were to where you are?

You sometimes hear stories of people who heard a missionary speak at their church when they were a small child and, from that point on, they knew they, too, were going to be a missionary someday.  Well…from the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher.  And that’s what I have been.  For the past 17 years I have been living that dream I had when I was young.  And it is great – I love teaching 7th grade life science.  I know – some of you are thinking, “Who in the world can love teaching 7th graders?!”  But I really do.  And yet, five years ago when I was on a week-long mission trip down to New Orleans to help do some cleaning up and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, a little voice inside me said, “I could do this.”

You see, I was meeting people who went down to New Orleans just for a few weeks to help out, and they ended up staying for six months or a year or were even working out how they could stay on indefinitely.  For the first time in my life I wondered if God might be leading me to long-term missions.

I came back from that trip with many questions:  “God I know you want us all to live our lives missionally, but where is my mission field?  Is it in New Orleans?  Is it somewhere overseas?  Or is it supposed to be in my 7th grade life science classroom?  God, where do you want me to be so I can serve you best?”  At the same time, God was opening my eyes and my heart to the great need in the world.  I knew that just as there were people in need in New Orleans and in so many third-world countries, there were also those in need right in my community and even in my own church body.  But I also saw people with the skills, money, time, and resources to help.  What a great way to show the love of Christ to others!

So I started serving more at church and in the community, and I kept going on missions trips.  And that little voice inside me kept growing.

More and more I was thinking about the possibility of leaving teaching and going somewhere to serve.  But I didn’t know where I would go, or with who, or what I would do.  More and more I was talking about it with God and with other people. And God spoke to me through a wise friend.  She told me that maybe, since I’d been thinking about this for so long and since God hadn’t given me a definite “no”…maybe He was waiting for me to take a step of faith.  And she reminded me that God would be faithful to show me the next step – maybe it would be continuing on in the same direction I was traveling or maybe it would be turning me back around the other way, but God would guide my steps if I just asked Him and trusted in Him. [Psalm 25:12 and Isaiah 30:21].

So, I took a step and contacted someone with ReachGlobal.  And that step led to an e-mail containing an initial application…which I decided I would open and “see how bad it looked.” Eventually, God’s next steps for me led to a request and then approval for a leave of absence from my teaching job…which led to the completion of the full application and ultimate acceptance to serve for 23 months.

What gives you the most joy as you look around you in Haiti?

The joy and love of the people.  Even though they have so little, their smiles are so bright and they are so warm and loving.  I especially love the children waving and calling out “blan” (white person) to me as I am walking or driving down the road with big smiles on their faces. Better yet, I love it when I hear them call out my name in their sweet way: “Jeneefeh!”

How would you describe the challenges you face there?

One of the challenges I face is how to best balance my time.  I get the privilege of serving with several partners here in Haiti, so it is my desire to continually work to maintain and deepen those relationships…as well as consider new partnership possibilities. At the same time, I also get to work with lots of short-term teams that come down to serve with us for a week or so at a time. I consider this part of my ministry, and it is a blessing to me to spend time with them. However, I also have a number of other responsibilities that my role entails (planning the menu, buying groceries, paying employees, doing the bookkeeping, managing the house and vehicles, etc.). Thus, it can be a challenge to balance all of that.

Another big challenge I face is dealing with the incredible poverty I see and knowing how to handle all the requests I receive. Pretty much every day I have people asking me for something – food, money, a job, a better home (instead of the small Samaritan’s Purse shelter they’ve been living in with their whole family since the earthquake in 2010), etc. And they all really need these things. But I/ReachGlobal can’t possibly meet every need of every person. Nor do I/we want to just create dependency. So I definitely need to continually seek God’s wisdom, discernment, and strength for how to respond.

Please tell us about something that made you laugh recently, and something that broke your heart.

Something that made me laugh: Playing the “Wop” game with a group of kids who were just really having a fun time and belly laughing. I can’t help but laugh along!

Something that made me cry: Seeing the tears roll down the face of a little boy at one of our partner orphanages as he was showing me the skin infection that had returned again. I’m not sure if the tears were out of embarrassment, shame, sadness due to being ostracized, frustration at the infection returning or what. But all I could do was hug him and tell him I love him no matter what, shed some tears myself, and pray for him.

What would you tell someone who is considering ministering in Haiti?

Haiti, as a whole, is so poor economically…and in some ways spiritually. However, the Haitian people are incredibly rich relationally and many maintain a strong faith in the midst of huge daily struggles. We have a lot we can learn from them.

Ministry Opportunities in Haiti

ReachGlobal has many immediate ministry opportunities in Latin America. Today’s focus is on Haiti. Read over the following and ask the Lord where He might have you serve!

For more information, write to latinamerica@efca.org.

Map / http://d-maps.com/m/america/haiti/haiti76.gif
Map / http://d-maps.com/m/america/haiti/haiti76.gif

1) Global Fingerprints Coordinator. Global Fingerprints – Haiti is our growing child sponsorship program in the region of Port au Prince.  With more than 200 children currently sponsored, we need a U.S. coordinator (we currently have a capable logistics director overseeing the day-to-day operations of GF-Haiti).  As the program grows, the need for someone strong in church relations, vision casting and strategic decision-making with our Haitian partners will become more vital.

2) Youth-oriented leader (disciple-making and leadership development). More than half of all Haitians are under the age of 24, and as such, there are tremendous opportunities among our partners and in our target community for energetic leaders with gifts and skills working with both children and youths.

The United Nations directional team for rebuilding  Haiti coined a term for what they perceive as the long-term need in Haiti. That word is accompaniment.  It simply means walking with our brothers and sisters in a 15- to 20-year process. No, you don’t have to sign up for a 15-year commitment; but do you love youths and children?  Would you be committed to working with out team as we walk alongside them, all for the sake of gospel transformation?

3) Short-term interns. With myriad short-term teams coming from the U.S., Brazil, the Czech Republic and elsewhere, there are constant opportunities for people willing to serve for three to 12 months alongside our long-term staff in the coordination and hosting of short-term teams in Haiti.  In addition, internships in Haiti will provide opportunities to minister and serve with our partner ministries.

Making an Oasis From Grief

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ministry offers safe place for women suffering abuse

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — At the bottom of the hill that runs through the slum of Guarari stands a two-room building.

Despite its humble appearance, the building is a refuge for many of the women who live in Guarari. The Costa Rican missionaries who come here regularly seek to make it a place of unconditional love.

“Jesus never intimidates women, hurts them, or sexually threatens them,” Shelley Snitko says while teaching a Bible study to some women here.

For many of the 40 women sitting with her, trusting Jesus is difficult because of both his masculine character and the troubled circumstances they believe he allows them to live in.  Snitko, a member of a short-term team from Huntsville, Ala., appeals to these spiritual obstacles by contrasting the character of Jesus with the oppressive men that control many of these women’s lives.

“Jesus is the light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless, peace for the restless,” Snitko says. “He is everything.”

Melanie Wilson, a missionary with ReachGlobal, initially became involved with ministry to the women of Guarari after going there in January 2012 with a short-term team.

“After getting to know the Costa Rican missionaries, I was really excited to join with them because they pretty much are the only people working in Gurari consistently,” Wilson says.

Serving with street-smarts

The ministry, which has been active in Guarari for six years, is led by Costa Rican missionary Hugo Salas. Salas grew up living on the streets and says that experience gave him a heart for others suffering from hardship.

“God gave me the vision to work in a community like this,” Hugo says. “And I began to get involved in this type of community work. I became dedicated to the ministry and the kids.”

The ministry leads Bible studies for the women and children, and also teaches women crafts like jewelry-making and painting to generate more income for their families. Salas says that in the six years the ministry has been working in Guarari, the spiritual state of the community has improved.

“We’ve been teaching the women how to love their children,” Salas says. “But apart from that, we are doing Bible studies and discipleship. Not just for the women, but also for the teens. All this is simply for the reason to tell them about the love of God.”

According to Wilson, one of the main goals of the ministry is to provide a physical place where the women can take refuge.

“It is one place where the women and children can come and it’s safe,” Wilson says. “Many homes have physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse. Violence is everywhere in some form or fashion, sometimes just one of those things and sometimes all of those things. So it’s a safe place where there’s no violence.”

Redemption on display

Wilson says that one of the most powerful testimonies to the power of God’s word that she’s seen in this community happened this past June when a short-term team from Huntsville came to work with the Guarari ministry for a week. In October, Wilson had sent a prayer request asking the team to pray for a young girl who lived in Gurari and was the leader of a drug-trafficking gang.

“We sent them a prayer request to pray that God would work in the gang leader’s life and that the gospel would transform her life,” Wilson says. “We started praying in October, but then kind of forgot about it.”

To the amazement of the short-term team and the rest of the women in the community, the gang leader came with her mother, sister, and daughter every day to the June Bible studies that the short-term team held.

On the last day of that week, the women and the short-term team were trying to fill time while waiting for a pizza to be delivered. One of the ladies from Huntsville came to the front of the room and gave her testimony about her daughter who’s been heavily addicted to drugs. The woman talked about how she copes with that and how it affects her relationship with God.

As she spoke, the mother of the drug dealer cried uncontrollably. Afterward, the mother and daughter came forward.

“This is what I’ve done to my mom,” the daughter said.

“They really were touched by God’s word so we’re praying that the seed was planted and it will grow,” Wilson says.

Despite these small victories, Wilson says spiritual opposition is strong.

“Spiritually, it’s just hard to break through the hold that Satan has,” Wilson says.

As the ministry establishes itself as a place of refuge for the women and continues trying to drown out the darkness of sin with the light of Jesus, the missionaries say their greatest need is prayer.

“I would say to anybody who reads this, pray for the protection of the missionaries there and that the spiritual light that is there will shine brightly and Satan will be thwarted in all of his efforts,” Wilson says.

© 2013 EFCA. All rights reserved. ReachGlobal News is a division of EFCA-ReachGlobal.

 

Missionary Pulse: The Cabécar

Living the Gospel Within Another Culture

After a 24-hour trip in the mountains of Costa Rica, Brian Duggan was exhausted.

The arduous journey was worth it, though. He had witnessed something beautiful that day—the singing and dancing of Cabécar Christians.

The Cabécar are one of six distinct indigenous groups native to Costa Rica. They live scattered in remote mountainous regions within protected reservations—so distant from one another that it may take a day’s hike over difficult terrain to visit a neighbor. Growing bananas, creating hand-woven baskets and hammocks and doing day labor outside the reserves are their simple means of survival.

Cabécar people typically have little in the way of education or economic opportunity. They often speak quietly to outsiders with downcast eyes, as if they are inferior to other Costa Ricans.

Transformed through worship

However, when it comes to worship, the Cabécar are anything but quiet. Their voices transform into loud praying and singing the moment they begin to worship, creating songs in their native tongue.

Since the Cabécar people are so scattered, church is not a weekly event for them. Instead, they gather together once a month for an all-night celebration of singing, praying, preaching, dancing and eating.

It was a Saturday afternoon in May when Duggan found himself in one of these raucous services. Meeting in a small building with a dirt floor and planks for pews, the church asked Duggan to speak that evening. He kept his message short and to the point.

“Because I have been in so many churches of all kinds throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, I can encourage them with a simple truth: We are all one family and equal before the cross,” Brian says. “I bring them greetings from sister churches who are similar in many ways.

“Though geographically distant, with different languages and cultures, understanding that they have brothers and sisters in Christ who are worshipping along with them is a great source of encouragement.”

Traveling home

Following the service, which ended at 2 a.m. Sunday, Brian began his long journey home.

After walking for two hours down the mountain in the dark, Duggan and his group were covered in mud. They finally made it back to their creaky 4WD truck and drove for four hours over bumpy gravel roads to the capital city of San José.

Just before collapsing into his bed at 7 that morning, Duggan turned his thoughts to the Cabécar believers.

“They have learned to live the Gospel in the context of their own culture,” he says. “It is not an imported worship, but a heartfelt and natural expression of the grace we have received.

“Thanks to the provision of our supporters, I have been honored to be able to visit, encourage and share with churches all over this region of the world how they are God’s choice for the growth of His kingdom.”

© 2012 EFCA. All rights reserved.