Thank you for your prayers for the Methodist Annual Conference in Paraguay on January 26-28, 2017 at the Methodist Campground. It was voting time! Bishop Pedro Magalhães was voted back in as Bishop. Pastor Gustavo Monges is the new Vice- President for the Conference. Cinthia Valdez remains the Secretary and Belén Escobar is the new treasurer. Pray for the pastors, especially those with new appointments. We have been asked to help Missionaries Robert and Joy Varga in Iglesia Central (Central Church)and to continue the marriage ministry.
We ask for prayer for John’s sister, Laren, who fell in the bathtub on Christmas Eve and broke her left upper arm and the transverse process in her lower back and compressed some vertebrae-very painful. Her liver is not functioning well which leads to black-outs. We thank the Lord that we could visit her while in Florida.
She just had back surgery in Jacksonville, FL today in which five vertebrae were fused. She is still in a lot pain and so much depends on her liver. Please pray for her.
Our sending organization has a new name and website address.
Today is the day that The Mission Society’s new name becomes TMS- Global! We are the same ministry, just refreshed. The new name continues our organization’s strong commitment to Train, Mobilize, and Serve wherever Jesus calls us to join Him in His mission but will be safer for who work in closed countries. The website and online giving have changed, too. Hope you love the name like we do. Check out …
Check out the full article in the Winter 2016 edition of Unfinished Magazine: https://www.tms-global.org/_Uploads/Unfinished%20Magazine/UF_64.pdfand check out another article: https://www.tms-global.org/story-details/whats-in-a-name
Continue to pray for the Marriage Course that our colleagues, Luciano and Ana, have begun at Villa Hayes in the Chaco. They had friends visit from Costa Rica who helped teach the Alpha Marriage course with them in January. They had met Francisco y Mónica Ortiz during the Alpha training in Chile a couple of years ago.
Pray for us both as we use this time of sabbatical (until April 5th) to determine how best to minister at this point in our lives. We enjoyed our time in Gainesville, FL learning more about discipleship. Ministries can be self- replicating if the people being discipled or trained, in turn train others in what they are learning. For example in the marriage ministry, we could start facilitating the Alpha Marriage Course with a group of three couples. Half way through the course, we could ask each couple to begin to teach or facilitate what they re learning with one other couple. This gives those we are doing the course with a place to ask questions about what they are doing with their one couple, even while finishing the course themselves. By the time they finish, they will be asking the couple they have been “discipling” to begin “discipling” another couple.
We spent a couple of afternoons enjoying nature.
On our sabbatical we have time to think about discipleship.
Here are a few thoughts….
When we think about discipled, we think about being in a Bible Study, being faithful in our devotions, and attending Sunday School. Is that what it means to be a Christian? If you look at the Gospels, Jesus did not do any of that stuff. Jesus was a revolutionary who told people things like “Eat my flesh”, “Take up your cross and follow me”… Do we lead people to who Jesus was and is or have we created Him in our own image?
It’s funny that when people travel overseas, we are so blown away by the community. We say, “Whoa! I love their sense of community,” instead of saying, “Whoa! We are so individualistic.” We have a “one-third” Gospel which is largely focused on our personal relationship with Jesus. What about the other two thirds that call us into community and on to mission? The Biblical Gospel is more than personal. We notice when people including ourselves go on mission trips to help others that we often feel like we were more blessed than the ones we came to bless. God blesses us when we are about His business of being in community and mission! Can we see the rhythm of life as being gospel centered? Can we see the Kingdom of God at work in our work?
We have people in Paraguay who are not impacted by a sermon in church. As an educator, I know that walking in a room and lecturing for three hours straight is about the worst way to teach. Monologue has been unpopular tool in education for centuries. Yet, that is the way that the church service has been introduced by well meaning people to Paraguay. People learn best when engaged in dialogue and discussion. That is why it is so weird to go into a church,
hear a monologue
It is a cultural thing to be able to be tuned into the Holy Spirit and hear the Lord speak to us through a sermon. You have to be taught how a sermon can make a real life connection; how it can touch your reality. We need to mull over its meaning for us but many people today do not have the tools or the trust that the sermon will be relevant, true or personal. The Paraguayans and maybe the millennials long for something real and interactive. Jesus did so much more than talk. That is why the music in Paraguay’s church services is so lively and Spirit-filled. The Paraguayans and again millennials crave real relationships. Despite social media and technology, people feel lonely, depressed and isolated.
Churches need to create space for response and interaction. Many churches today are not safe places for people to express doubt which makes it hard to disciple. Does our church environment prevent disciples from genuinely wrestling with deep issues or does it encourage disciples to invite others to deal with their deepest and darkest struggles head-on?
Jesus did life with people. He discipled others as he was going on a mission. Jesus would walk past a tax office and invite someone to follow him on the way to healing a leper. In Paraguay, we encourage the believers to always have their testimony of what God has done or is doing in their lives ready to share. We have learned that getting together with people one on one, three on three or in some small-group kind of mentoring opens doors to the Gospel. The pure Gospel and the true Jesus are a lot more appealing to people than we can imagine. Jesus came as a servant. We can be learners…
Let’s do life together and in the process share Christ…
We thank the Lord for this time to reflect and refresh. Thank you for your support in this! Next we will be learning more about coaching in ministry situations. Colleen will have time to meet with a women’s prayer team here at St. Matthew UMC.
We enjoyed celebrating a late 55th wedding anniversary for Colleen’s parents with all of her family. It was great to have all our three children and spouses together for a couple of days, too.
Our debrief in Montana at the YWAM center is really helping us to process our last couple of years in Paraguay! It is like meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus and having His scriptures revealed to us. We can see God at work, especially after putting together a timeline of significant events. God has rewarded us with successes. We are such ordinary people. There have been many stresses where we did not fully give things to God and several losses along the way. Transitions bring losses- when we leave from one area of the world and go somewhere else, when our children leave the “nest” and get married, when our health limits what we can do for a time, or when our job changes…There were things to grieve. It is wonderful to be listened to as we tell parts of our story line. Paraguay is like Asia in that the shame culture plays a role. “Saving face” is important. We talked about shame in the culture and what it looks like to us. We tried to put into words some of the injustices we have seen in the culture. We talked about giving the hard experiences to God. What do we need to let go of? The joys are easy to talk about but there is some hard stuff there, too. Pray for us.
If you want a great place to process a major event in life one on on, contact Emmaus Encounter at www.emmausencounter.org
For the first time, five students graduated from the Bible Institute up in Yrybucua. Yrybucua is where we hold medical clinics. It is a farming community where most of the people speak a little Spanish and mostly Guarani. Another five students graduated from the Bible Institute in Asuncion. John has been teaching in the Bible Institute in Asuncion for many years and many of todays pastors were taught by him! Others received certificates for completing courses in worship or leading children’s Sunday School.
We have begun to see the fruits of our efforts to raise up couples who share our vision to strengthen marriages. We were excited to go out to the Chaco to begin marriage programs with them. We learned the people in rural areas have different concepts about marriage. They have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, and do not have a concept of working toward a better marriage. When they heard the title, Alpha Marriage Course, they thought the marriage course was for those with broken marriages or marriages that needed help. They did not think of marriage enrichment.
Please remember that since around the time of the US Civil War, Paraguay as a country has not encouraged marriage. Paraguay was involve in the Triple Alliance War against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay and lost. About 28,00 men survived the war and 110,000 women. Thus to repopulate the country, Paraguay abandoned marriage. Marriage is still not a norm in Paraguay.
The Paraguayan Methodist Church is trying to change that and the marriage ministry is very needed. We started working with the youth in 2000. When some of the youth would want to get married it was their parents that questioned marriage, saying that the couple would get tired of each other and divorce would be expensive. That is when we saw the need for the marriage ministry- to help these fledgling marriages.
Now we are moving the marriage ministry out of the capitol city to the Chaco. One of the couples, Luciano and Ana, that we sent for training in how to facilitate the Alpha Marriage Course has started the marriage ministry in Villa Hayes with the help of another couple from their church, who does the catered meal, before the marriage talk. It is wonderful to see the missionary spirit in some of the Paraguayan members of the Methodist Church in Paraguay!
The Mission Society will be changing its name on January 17th to TMS- Global! The new name continues our organization’s strong commitment to Train, Mobilize, and Serve wherever Jesus calls us to join Him in His mission but will help be safer for who work in closed countries. The website and online giving will change, too.