Meet Teresa: Reaching Youth in Chile

[Please see “Restoring Hope One Friendship at a Time” for background on the work in the displaced people’s camp in Dichato, Chile.]

For the Pennsylvanian churches that comprise the Mission of Hope in Chile consortium, working with partners on the ground is key to the long-term success of their mission to bring hope to the people and ultimately plant a church in the displaced people’s camp in Dichato.

No formal partnerships have formed yet, but some important friendships have begun to develop.

One of those friends is Teresa Sanhueza, a university student from Concepción (an hour south of Dichato) who trained with YWAM and now ministers to the youth in her local church.

“I completely fell in love with the place and people,” Teresa says of her work in Dichato. “It was the most beaten up by the earthquake of 2010, and I became involved in Dichato by the invitation of Pastor Randy [from Susquehanna Valley EFC]. Through contacts, we met and we talked about the project.”

Teresa enjoyed working alongside the Pennsylvanians while they were in Chile in June. However, she continues to serve in the displaced people’s camp regularly. She has even brought the youth group from her church in Concepción to visit the camp.

“We make friends, chatting with the youth and children,” she explains. “Not just talking, but playing and giving love to them.” Teresa also brings her guitar so they can worship together — youth from Concepción with those from Dichato.

It’s relationships with those young people that keep Teresa motivated to keep making the trek from Concepción to Dichato.

“I asked a small group of young people, ‘What or who is God to you?’” Teresa says. “Generally, the youth at my church in Concepción answer me, ‘He is my life, my all, my best friend, the Lord of Lords, the Almighty…’

“Perhaps I had become accustomed to hearing that answer, but that day in Dichato was different. The response of these young people was silence… nothing,” she says. “They had no words, and not because they were moved, but because God is really nothing for them. He is not important.

“Now they already know a little more of God. I know I need to spend more time at camp, but I see growth, perhaps a kinder love between them. I’m glad.”

Maybe this resonates so deeply with Teresa because she remembers her own story and a time when she thought little of God.

After walking away from the church as a young teenager and rebelling against God and her parents, Teresa was reintroduced to Jesus as her savior a year after starting college.

“At that moment, I decided that I would live my life for God… but it wasn´t as easy as I thought it would be,” Teresa says. “I had a reputation at my college that was harder to restore than I anticipated. There were people of my past who didn´t believe in me. They thought I was crazy for thinking that from one day to another I could change my life and decide to live for Christ.”

But Teresa has experienced personally how God can change one life — how God can go from nothing to everything just overnight.

That’s what Teresa and Mission of Hope pray will happen with the youth (and adults) in Dichato.

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Bring a short-term team to Chile to help with rebuilding.

  • For Teresa and others like her who are investing in the lives of the people in Dichato, Chile — that God would open doors to share the gospel.
  • For the restoration of hope in the people displaced by the 2010 earthquake and tsunami.

Make an online donation to Chile earthquake relief efforts.


The Phoenix Takes Flight

New church plant starts from ashes of another

On July 29, 29 people gathered on a second floor patio in Campo Grande, Brazil, to worship, pray and  study God’s word. Led by Thiago Lehmam, a 21-year-old computer engineering student, more than two-thirds of the group was young adults with the dream of starting a new church out of the remnants of their old church.

Three guest pastors pray over the Phoenix Church at their July 29 worship service, asking for God's blessing and direction.

Eight months earlier, the Free Church that these young Brazilians attended closed its doors when its pastor left. Unable to find a church that both felt like home and aligned with their beliefs, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

“Everything ‘began again’ one afternoon when we talked together and the question was raised: ‘Why don’t we start our own youth group?’” Thiago says. “And why not? One beautiful characteristic of our group is that we seem to have limitless creativity, young people with incredible gifts, and youth who know that they have a strong calling from God.”

Meeting weekly for more than five months now, the group is slowly making the transition from youth group to church plant. They call themselves Phoenix Church, aptly named for the mythological bird that is reborn from the ashes of another.

“We are working together to grow, both spiritually and in term of numbers, and we dream one day of having our own space, with services on Sundays, and a ‘more trained’ pastor leading and helping us to grow,” Thiago says.

Steve, an EFCA ReachGlobal missionary, attended the July 29 meeting and came away impressed with these young adults, many of whom came to know Christ several years earlier through the Brazilian Free Church’s summer English Camps.

“They realize that the responsibility is on their shoulders, and they’re taking that on with full conviction,” Steve says. “They didn’t ask any of the visiting ‘pastors’ to bring the Word. They didn’t ask for a dime for anything. They led us in an evening before the Lord.”

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Contact us to find out how you can serve in Brazil — individually or with a team.

  • For God to lead these young adults in planting the Phoenix Church.
  • That the youth in Brazil would continue to experience the life-changing power of the gospel and that they would help spread the gospel throughout the country.

“Transformation Begins in the Heart of One”

The world versus God.

In a culture characterized by sensuality and promiscuity, where evangelicalism often carries a stigma and many people are looking for a “quick fix” or a “feel good” religion as opposed to a long-lasting commitment to God, Brazilian youth face competing messages.

So, when the Brazilian Free Church brought 350 young people together for their second-ever youth gathering in April, the theme focused on transformation — a transformation that begins in the heart of one but grows to include the community, the nation and the world.

Conference keynote speaker, Olgálvaro Bastos Jr. (Latin America coordinator for Tribal Generation), challenged the mostly high school-age youths to adopt a biblical worldview.

“I wanted to bring discomfort to everyone to awaken them to the Great Commission,” explains Olgálvaro.

“He called the young people to think about their values, think about their decisions, think about the way they live and breathe and laugh and cry,” says Steve, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary serving part-time in Brazil. “But mostly they were called to think about who they are in Christ and how that impacts (or doesn’t impact) who they are in their daily lives.”

Break-out seminars challenged the youth on topics such as “Removing the Mask,” “Hearing the Voice of God” and “Revolutionary Thinking.”

“I feel God can use this conference to raise up church planters and leaders from amongst the youth,” says Johny Stutzer, church planting secretary for the Brazilian EFC and the main program coordinator for the youth gathering. “We [the church leaders] need to help them hear God’s call to ministry. It’s amazing to see them respond.”

Olgálvaro agrees that the response of the youth was encouraging to him.

“We could see in the students a growing interest with each day. The participation of the youth was incredibly expressive,” he says. “That shows the great potential of the church in its development both in Brazil and in the world.”

Many of the youth posted their reactions and responses to the conference on the event’s Facebook page.

“The great marvel is that even though we’re separated by thousands of kilometers, we discovered that the love of Christ unites us in a ‘super cool’ fellowship with one common objective: Transform the setting where we live, become the salt of the earth, light that transforms and reflect the love of God through our lives,” wrote one young woman.

More than just an idea

The conference leaders didn’t just talk about transformation. They also presented the youths with real opportunities to put transformation into practice.

  • Serve the country’s indigenous population.
  • Work with street children, prostitutes and the homeless in inner city Sao Paolo.
  • Travel to Haiti in September as part of a Brazilian EFC short-term team partnering with ReachGlobal.
  • Help with church planting efforts in New Orleans, specifically targeting the Latino community, as part of the upcoming EFCA’s biannual youth conference, Challenge 2012.

“Each church was charged with helping the youth continue to grow in their ministry life,” says Johny.

Johny, Steve, and the other conference leaders only want to see the spirit of the conference grow as the Brazilian students commit to a different life — a transformed life that goes against the grain of the culture.

“Our greatest challenge is to maintain the passion for Christ and His work, as we work toward growth in the church, and enrichment to both families and churches,” Olgálvaro says.

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Contact us to find out how you can serve in Brazil — individually or with a team.

  • That the passion for transformation and for serving Christ in Brazil and beyond its borders is maintained among the Brazilian youth.
  • For the leaders in the Brazilian Free Church who are investing in the lives of the young people, equipping them to be the next leaders.

1000 Words: Acting Out The Gospel

Teens from Hershey Free Church in Pennsylvania bring the gospel to life through a skit during a two-hour evangelism program in a Shipibo village located in the Peruvian Amazon. In August, nine youth from Hershey partnered with 16 Peruvian youth to share the gospel of Christ in nine villages along the Rio Mazaray.

Photo credit: Joan M., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary to Peru

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1000 Words is a column dedicated to photos from the field — photos that capture more than words can say alone. See archives.

1000 Words: Face Painting in Costa Rica

Anderson, a Costa Rican boy, paints the face of Sierra, a volunteer from Rimrock Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, during a vacation Bible school activity. Fourteen youth and five adult leaders from Rimrock traveled to San JoséCosta Rica, in July for a 10-day mission trip working with a local church, Centro Internacional de Avivamiento (International Revival Center) in San Diego de Tres Rios.

Photo credit: Melissa P., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Costa Rica

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1000 Words is a column dedicated to photos from the field — photos that capture more than words can say alone. See archives.

Easter Reflections From Tarma

It’s not Jesus plus anything. Not Jesus plus good works. Not Jesus plus confirmation in the Catholic Church. It’s Jesus alone who saves. As a missionary in Latin America, though, I’m frequently reminded that the gospel is often muddled in a stew of biblical and unbiblical practices – and sometimes it’s really hard to tell which is which.

Catholic traditions

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Latin America is characterized by a mix of religious ceremony, processions and traditions combined with spring break-style travel and partying. Tarma, Peru, has become one of the hottest travel destinations for Peruvians and foreign travelers during Semana Santa, mainly due to the elaborate floral carpets created on the streets in the main plaza.

Everything starts on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, with an evening procession. Several hundred people wave palm branches and stop at different stations around the plaza. They participate in liturgical readings, recite the Lord’s Prayer and pray to the Virgin Mary.

Then, every night that week, a different shrine to a “lord” or “virgin” is paraded through the streets, carried on the shoulders of those faithful to him or her. Lord of the Garden. Lord of the Nazarene.

Good Friday is the main event. The floral carpets are prepared on the streets around the plaza. The streets are roped off in advance, and different communities and groups are assigned a spot for their carpet. In the afternoon, starting with chalk, each group marks out their design. Designs tend to be scenes of the countryside, hummingbirds (the symbol of Tarma) or geometric shapes.

After outlining the edges with wet coffee grounds, the groups use buckets of flower petals, separated by color, to fill in the designs. The carpets are beautiful but soon are crushed by the procession, which starts as the sun goes down over the mountains around 6:30 pm.

After the procession passes, many people scramble to collect the trampled flowers, considered to be good luck. Street cleaners have the final work of leaving the plaza in its normal state.

At midnight before the dawn of Easter morning, a second round of carpets is prepared for the resurrection procession at 6:00 am. At dawn, a woman portraying Mary comes out of the cathedral and takes off her black veil of mourning – Jesus is alive!

What’s true?

As missionaries from other cultural backgrounds, we can appreciate the shared belief in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The other traditions awaken curiosity, and sometimes confusion, as we wonder “Where did that come from?”

Peruvian evangelicals tend to consider the entire celebration pagan, avoiding involvement and rejecting the drinking and partying that follow most processions and can last for several days. And for many (Christian or not), even if they don’t consciously realize it, syncretism (in this case, the mixing of biblical truth and pagan practices) results in confusion. It seems like Jesus alone is not enough.

This year, the Easter processions and traditions weren’t the only reminders for me that syncretism confuses the hearts and minds of the Peruvians. I also saw the confusion surface amongst the youth in Tarma as they interacted with some visitors from Lima.

Testimonies, questions and clarity

Before moving to Tarma in 2009, I served in Lima, Peru, at Los Pilares EFC for six years as the youth leader. Now, many of my former students are in college and working, and four of them came to visit me in Tarma during the Easter weekend. While they were visiting, I asked if they could spend some time with the youth in Tarma.

Now strong Christian leaders at Los Pilares EFC, each of my former students has a powerful testimony to share. Testimonies of difficult pasts, periods of spiritual uncertainty or rebellion, and breaks with the prevailing Catholic tradition. Testimonies declaring Jesus as the one and only way to salvation and reconciliation to God.

As these passionate twenty-somethings from Lima shared their faith stories with the teenagers in Tarma, we could hear the Tarma students’ confusion about what it means to believe in Christ. What about being a good person? What about church tradition? We clarified the significance of baptism and confirmation, but we emphasized the truth that only Jesus saves.

In spending just two afternoons with the Lima group, the Tarma youth opened up to their new friends, inviting them back to Tarma to spend more time with them.

For these teenagers, in the middle of Semana Santa – a week where the beauty of the resurrection can often be muddied – they received a clear, beautiful picture of hope and the power of the cross. We drew the best from Easter tradition, national vacation and the Scriptures to celebrate what Easter really means – Jesus is alive.

Story by Meredith, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Tarma, Peru

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  • For the youth (and the community) in Tarma to clearly see, understand and accept the gospel.
  • For Meredith and her teammates in Tarma — that they would persist in their ministry and make headway, gaining ground for Christ in a difficult field of ministry.

Make an online donation to the Peru Church Planting Fund.