Partnership missions: Journal entries from Acapulco
In January 2011, Andy Peck, Associate Pastor of Missions, Community Ministries, & Contemporary Worship at Bethel Baptist Church (Norman, Oklahoma), traveled to Acapulco with Sam Porter, Director of Partnership Missions with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Meeting with nearly all of the 15 Baptist pastors in Acapulco, Andy formed a special relationship with Pastor Jim Blackwell and Pastor Humberto Garcia.
After Andy and Sam returned home, Jim Blackwell (Pastor of the Renacimiento Baptist Church) stepped out in faith and planted a church in San Luis, Acapulco. Bethel voted to partner with them on this new church plant and currently provides the monthly rent for the San Luis church that meets outside of an apartment. Pastor Moises Olivares was called to pastor this church in August 2011 and serves there with his wife Cynthia and 3 little girls Julia, Itiel, and Dara. In October 2011, Andy led a 7-person team from Bethel to come alongside the 3 churches in reaching their communities for Jesus. The team conducted evangelism training, did sports and tract evangelism, and helped conduct 6 revival services at 3 different churches in the week-long mission trip.
Bethel stepped out in faith in this endeavor and God has poured out His blessings. Andy returnd in October 2012 leading the team and continuing with evangelism training, encouraging and supporting pastors and their churches with materials, tools, and “The Way of the Master” and “180 the Movie” DVD’s. There are great opportunities for continued support, partnership, and evangelism projects. A great question to ask is “How is the Lord calling me to respond to His work in Acapulco?” This journal, written by Associate Pastor Andy Peck, reflects God’s moving in and around the team during the weeklong mission trip, October 13-20, 2012.
To God be the glory.
Andy Peck, Team Leader
More info regarding Bethel Missions, how to get involved & a thank-you letter from the churches in Acapulco can be found at www.bbcnorman.com.
Pictures at: www.facebook.com/andy.peck3
Videos at: www.youtube.com/BethelBaptstMissions
Follow us at: www.twitter.com/bmissions
E-mail Andy: [email protected]
October 13, 2012 (Saturday) – But written at the end of Day 2
It has been a whirlwind of 2 days. Our Seal Team of 4 Missionaries met together at 2:45 am in the Student & Multi-Purpose Building parking lot yesterday morning (Saturday). That seems like ages ago! We were joined in our baggage check line at the airport by approx. 75 Army trainees, headed to their next stage of training (some to Ft. Jackson, SC where I had my Air Force Reserve Chaplain training during the summer of 2011). I was sure that getting to the airport a full 2 hours before our departure at 5:39 am was a little overkill… but we arrived at our gate about 10 minutes before they started boarding… I’m glad we followed the airline’s instructions!
This year our flight route was much more direct than last year. We flew to Houston and then directly to Acapulco! Praise God! Last year we went from OKC to Atlanta to Mexico City to Acapulco… Mexico City was hectic… we nearly missed our flight… and they thought that our 50 deflated evangelistic soccer balls looked like good containers to transport drugs… needless to say – customs took a while last year! This year wasn’t so bad… but they did search through every single one of our bags in Acapulco… and they found what Gabe was trying to smuggle in… about $30 worth of beef jerky. Apparently this is a no no… and so the lady politely told Gabe that she had to take it, but she was going to give him an official receipt declaring that they were going to incinerate it. It seemed this was supposed to bring Gabe some comfort… it did not ☺.
We had a long layover in Houston (7 hours that was supposed to be 5), and so we tried to make the most of it. We ate breakfast and lunch together… and we all used the few hours to prepare for our respective teaching/preaching opportunities on Sunday morning. While we sat in the food court, the entire ladies soccer team from Syracuse sat down all around us and it provided the perfect opportunity for our first evangelistic encounter of the trip. Since the ladies were all about Brittany’s age, she took the optical illusion gospel tracts over to their tables, and after asking them a few questions about their team, upcoming games, etc., showed them the trick and then told them it was a gospel tract on the back. This led to more questions and they started asking about our mission trip to Acapulco. One girl immediately went to her friends and did the optical illusion for them, and another girl talked about her previous mission trips… being a leader in FCA, and her desire to use her soccer skills to evangelize and bring glory to God. The girls who were outspoken Christians got 5 extra copies so they could pass them out to their friends. It was a very encouraging interaction… way to go Brittany!
Brittany was also the evangelistic superstar on the flight from Houston to Acapulco, sharing the gospel with a lady from Colorado who was sitting across the aisle from her. She was more closed to the gospel, but she still took a tract, gave a copy to both of her grandchildren who were with her, and it was a positive conversation.
Pastor Calet Lorenzano, Pastor Jorge, Pastor Juan Gabriel Flores, and Benji picked us up from the airport in the Nissan Frontier truck now owned by the Renacimiento
Church. They had our team sit up front, and the Pastor Jorge, Pastor Juan, and Benji rode in the bed of the pickup during the 30 minute drive from the airport to Sam’s Club, Costco, and finally to the church in Renacimiento. At Sam’s we picked up food for the week and a few other supplies… at Costco we picked up bottled water and other assorted items for the week. The 3 men along with all of the supplies we
picked up made the bed a packed place! While driving by the Bay of Acapulco (where all the large hotels are) we were stopped by a police officer, who apparently said something to the effect of “the back of your truck is not a safe place to be!” He asked for license and registration (Pastor Calet was driving) and seemed like he was heavily considering ticketing us when Pastor Calet told him that he was a pastor taking a team of American missionaries to his church. He asked for proof that Calet was a pastor and praise God he had some… and so the guy let us go with just a warning. After a few minutes we stopped and transferred some of the grocery items from the bed to the cab. We made it the rest of the way without incident.
When we arrived at the Renacimiento Church (MCR – Mission Church Renacimiento) Calet’s wife and other ladies from the church were waiting for us with a wonderful dinner prepared. After some introductions, we enjoyed the spaghetti dinner, and got to know each other a little better. It turns out MCR has wi-fi and with my iPhone I was able to Facetime (video chat) with my wife Sasha
for a few minutes… introducing her to the pastors and wives at MCR. Technology can be a wonderful thing!
We finished the night back at the same Hotel we stayed last year (Hotel Marcial). Gabe and I are in the same room I was last year, and Sally and Brittany are in the same room Brittany was in last year. We are right next door to each other and the hotel has a security guard on duty all night long. I think we all feel safe here. The hotel is very base… but we have the basics… bed, towel, bathroom, window a/c unit… so we are good. ☺ ~Andy
October 14, 2012 (Sunday)
Which brings us to today… it began with the church service at MCR. Gabe and Brittany taught the youth, Sally taught the Adult Sunday school class, and I preached the message. Gabe and Brittany did a great job, and the youth really opened up, asking
lots of great questions. Sally taught on the parable of the soils, and the class ended with an excellent discussion about evangelism. I preached on prayer and evangelism from Matt. 9:35-10:5 and the congregation was very attentive and responsive. I was
encouraged to see the congregation using the projector that Bethel Baptist Church gave them last year. They had even built a permanent station for it that hangs down in the worship area. They use the projector to show the lyrics to worship music, scripture verses, and to show other presentations, videos, etc. After our evangelism training this afternoon, they packed it up in the travel bag we gave them, and took it to San Luis for use at the Revival Service later this evening.
After a delicious lunch, we had about 20 people return for evangelism training at 2:30 pm. This year we brought down the Way of the Master Season 2 (in Spanish) for MCR to be used at all of their mission locations. We brought the Basic Course (Season 1) last year and they watched every episode. After watching the first video in the series, we heard awesome testimonies of how God has used the Way of the Master to teach and inspire them to share the gospel with neighbors, strangers, and family members. Pastor Moises (the Pastor of the church plant we sponsor in San Luis) said that he had never been comfortable doing much more than inviting people to church before he saw the video series, but now he is confident when he shares the gospel with people. This congregation is jazzed up about learning more about evangelism. Praise God we could give them this gift of teaching resources.
At about 4 pm we headed off to San Luis for our first revival service tonight. We spent about 1.5 hours inviting people from the surrounding community to the services this week. Young kids from the congregations went with us, handing out tracts, playing soccer with Mission Balls in the streets, and it was a great time of inviting. Tonight was the dedication of the new church building. They met in there last Sunday but they did not finish all of the construction, painting, etc. until THIS week! Pastor Moises’ mentor, a pastor from about an hour away, came with his wife for the dedication. There were 45 people in attendance, including 4 people who had either never been to the church or had only been a few times. Joel, a young man from the congregation, played the worship music on the keyboard, while we sang. Gabe gave his testimony, and I preached.
Finally, all of the pastors came forward and I was asked to give the dedication prayer for the new church building. We read 1 Kings 9:1-3…“Now it came about when Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all that Solomon desired to do, that the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. The LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.’” And then I prayed a prayer of dedication while Pastor Jorge translated.
It was a moving moment and then Moises’ mentor, Pastor Gabriel, spoke about what a privilege it was for him to see Moises leading a godly life and leading the congregation in San Luis. The church members and all of the pastors wanted to express their heartfelt gratitude to Bethel Baptist Church for their partnership in the gospel. It is through the gifts of Bethel Baptist Church and monthly support that they were able to acquire the land and build the new church building. They were renting before but now this land is THEIR land… and tonight we claimed it for Jesus Christ! Thank you again Bethel family!
We headed back to MCR for a great dinner, and finally to the hotel. Tomorrow we are roadtripping to the seminary 4 hours away… so we are getting up earlyl! We are taking them many great resources that will be used to equip pastors all over Guerrero, Mexico (the state that Acapulco is in). Financial Peace University (in Spanish), the Way of the Master Course: Seasons 1 & 2 (in Spanish), and 180 the Movie (in Spanish). Finally we are presenting them with 3 Mission Balls and the seminary director with a special book. Pastor Humberto has volunteered to let us take his 15 passenger van tomorrow and so it will be a packed van there and back. See you tomorrow! God Bless! Dios te bendiga! ~Andy
October 15, 2012 (Monday)
Today was seminary day! It is a full 4-hour trip with a lot of traffic in Acapulco and a long highway up the coast to San Jeronimito. Our friends, Pastor Humberto Garcia, and his wife Aida, volunteered the use of their church van for our trip and we accepted their offer. I thought that it was a 15-passenger van and so we had 15 people recruited to go on the trip with us, leaving at 8 am this morning. When we finally loaded the TWELVE passenger van at 8:20 am, we had 15 people on it as originally planned… just a little more cramped than was anticipated. Everyone was an incredible sport! Later, when we picked up our friend Pastor Jorge, Benji volunteered to ride in the back of the van (where there is only about 1 foot of storage space) for the next 2-3 hours…he did. Wow. The believers here are very selfless, are not afraid to work hard and sweat even harder for the Lord.
Brother Jim, the “Moses of Mexico” as he has been called, is now retired and living with his wife Jani in San Jeronimito at the Seminary where he taught Hebrew and Evangelism for 15 years (before spending about 5 years in Acapulco planting churches). Last year he invited us to come and see the seminary that equips many of the pastors around Guerrero. This year we are headed there to visit with Brother Jim and Jani, but also to equip the seminary with the resources I mentioned yesterday in the update. One of the most encouraging things that I heard today was the testimony by Aida (Humberto’s wife). She shared how after we gave Humberto’s Church “El Cristo La Unica Esparanza = Christ is our only hope” Baptist Church, the Way of the Master Basic Evangelism Course last year, they showed the entire course to their congregation and began practicing it around their community, Los Loridos (sp).
They said that it simply “worked” in their community and they have seen their congregation get on fire for evangelism. They have seen 2 families who had stopped coming to church come back in recent months. Also, last year on the road trip Humberto told me how he felt like God may be calling them to plant a church. This was a challenging thought for them and it challenged me as well! They’ve got a church of 50-75 people, are 24 years old, fresh out of seminary, and feel like God is calling them to plant another church in addition to the one they are trying to build! Three months ago, after having prayed for over a year about the idea of planting a church, God provided them with the van through Aida’s father, and a Mexican believer who had been living in Missouri (USA) and now lives in Las Joyas (an unreached part of Acapulco). They stepped out in faith and have been planting a church there for the past 3 months. Nine people from La Unica Esparanza load up in their van every Saturday morning at 9 am, and go spend the entire day doing evangelism and bible studies throughout Las Joyas. Then they do the same thing on Sunday evenings to hold their weekly church service there. All this in addition to their regular Sunday morning services and weekly prayer and evangelism times in their own community. What inspiring work they are doing for the Lord, and there is more great news…
Pastor Humberto was elected as the President of the National Convention of Baptist Pastors for Guerrero, Mexico this year! Way to go Humberto! During their week long conference a few months ago, he led the pastors to watch 6 of the 8 videos in the Way of the Master Basic Course. The results were nothing short of amazing. The pastors wept and were heartbroken as they realized their need to evangelize their communities. Some left the room to weep and pray and repent aloud asking God to change their heart and help them step out of their comfort zone to really engage their communities in evangelism. Pastor Humberto then led the pastors on outreaches around where the conference was being held so they could practice what they had been learning about. How amazing that Bethel’s small investment of $50-60 for some evangelism training DVDs combined with practical training last year could have impacted so many in such a short span of time! Praise God! This is one of those answers to prayer that is abundantly more than we could ask or imagine!
We made it to the seminary at 12:30 (only an hour late ☺ and were greeted by Bro. Jim and the director of the seminary, Omar Bustos and his wife, Hortencia. They prepared a special lunch for us earlier than usual (typically they eat at 2 pm) and it was amazing! After refreshments at Jim and Jani’s, a short tour of the seminary’s library and offices, and the new bathroom area for the male dormitory (a gift from the BGCO), we enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Mexico… a thinly cut steak cooked with SO MUCH FLAVOR along with beans, salad, and a corn/ cabbage soup. It was phenomenal. During the lunch we had the pleasure of meeting Alisa Duncan, a previous basketball player for OSU, who for the past 10 years has lived and served in Zihuatenejo as a missionary and administrator for the seminary. She organizes outreaches for Oklahoma churches and helps conduct basketball camps around the state of Guerrero. She has ridden her bicycle
TWICE from Zihuatenejo to Oklahoma, writing about her experiences online, raising support for herself and the work she does in Mexico. At the end of lunch we presented the resources to Omar and he was a little bit overwhelmed by all of the gifts that we gave him. Aida was able to share the testimony about the Way of the Master in their church as well as the Pastor’s Conference so that he could see the potential impact the videos would have on his students. We gave the seminary 3 Mission Balls to use on outreaches and sports camps, and presented them with a small monetary gift in appreciation of the wonderful lunch they prepared for all 16 of us and to further the work of the seminary. We finished our time by presenting 2 boxes full of Peanut Butter & Jelly to Brother Jim (gifts from Bill Sisson from Okla). Jim was very pleased and blessed to receive them! Thanks Bill for blessing Jim with some items that he does not have access to in small town Guerrero!
At about 2:30 pm we departed for Acapulco, only making one stop for snacks and restrooms, and one 15 minute stop for pictures at a scenic spot that overlooks the ocean. The local believers who were with us all helped themselves to coconuts served by the local restaurant at that scenic lookout. It didn’t seem that any of the Americans liked coconut juice… an acquired taste I suppose. We drove straight to San Luis for the revival service and arrived at 6:10 pm. We then grabbed some of the soccer balls and rounded up some of the local kids. We got to know them, learning their names and teaching them some English words…like how to say “My name is _______” and a few other phrases. When they found out that we were going to be giving away soccer balls at the end of the service, they went and got their friends and we had a total of 6 kids who attended the entire church service. Two adults who were first time visitors joined us as well, and then we had about 22 others including our team and believers from the various mission churches. Brittany gave her testimony and then Gabe preached from 1 Tim. 2:2 about discipleship. Aida interpreted and did a wonderful job. After the service Pastor Calet felt led to give an invitation and share the gospel. The adult man rededicated his life to Christ and all 6 boys indicated that they were making a first time decision to follow Jesus. The lady who came gave testimony of already knowing Christ.
Probably the most amazing story of today was that the man who came, Margarito Torreblaco, shared this testimony. Earlier in his life he was a follower of Christ, but began getting more and more involved in alcohol through the years. Six months ago his alcoholism was so bad that his wife left him (taking their children with her). He has been in a deep depression and earlier today decided that he could not take the pain and the addiction anymore. He was planning to commit suicide when he got to his home. As he rode the bus home from work, he remembered that he had seen the new church building in San Luis. But then he remembered that it was Monday and so of course there would be no services tonight. But then the bus let him out at the bus stop (directly in front of the church), and he saw all of the people, heard us singing, and immediately came into the building to join us for the service. God orchestrated everything so that Margarito could not only preserve his physical life, but have a resurrected spiritual life. He connected with Pastor Moises and Calet after the service, and we collected his contact information. Praise God! Please pray for Margarito that God would demolish the stronghold of alcohol in his life and that in time his family could be restored.
Finally, because of wireless internet at the Renacimiento Church, I have been able to Facetime with Sasha (video chat) for free. What a blessing! Unfortunately she has been struggling lately… feelings of anxiety, of being overwhelmed, and questions about her faith, and she has been asking me for prayer for this. She also told me I could share about her struggle with others, to get their prayers and advice. I shared with Aida today and she shared that she went through some similar things a few months ago. She talked about how God sustained her through the time and how
sometimes she could not even pray and just had to ask Humberto to pray for her. Tonight after dinner, I was able let Aida facetime chat with Sasha for 20 minutes or so, to minister to Sasha with what she is going through. Praise God! These believers here have much to offer and teach us, and are a huge encouragement to me and our entire team. Please pray for Sasha during this tough time, especially as she bears the burden (and privilege) of taking care of our 2 little dudes at home while I’m away this week). Thank you for all you do and who you are my sweet girl! You are such a wonderful wife and mom!
Thank you for your prayers. In anticipation of what God is going to do tomorrow… Andy for the Acapulco Team
October 14, 2012 (Tuesday) – “It’s Not About Us”
Overall, one of the lessons that we learned today, or at least that was demonstrated for us, was that this mission trip is not about us. I have been reading a book over the past few months called When Helping Hurts: How to Aleviate Poverty Wthout Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It is an excellent book, written from a Christian perspective with much to say to churches, helping ministries, and those who lead “mission trips.” Before I say more, I’d like to say that I do not view the church in Acapulco as poor. Unemployment here is high, and the churches receive sometimes less than $100 a month (US) in offerings, but the people we interact with dress well, are not homeless, and have much to offer us in the American church. The book challenges us as Americans to not have a god complex, thinking that we have it all figured out & that the people we are helping do not. Rather, we are to view mission partnerships as just that, PARTNERSHIPS, with each group contributing and learning from each other. This is definitely the case in Acapulco… for the believers are selfless, hard working, eager to learn, not beggars, and have a deep love for God and love for their church family.
All this to say that I am learning more and more about how to effectively lead mission trips and how to form mutually beneficial partnerships with churches in foreign countries (and anywhere for that matter).
I gave the devotional this morning for about 16 people from Philippians 1:3-6… our theme verse for this year. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I finished by touching on 1 Thessalonians 3:8 which says, “for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” Gabe preached on discipleship last night and these verses were all a great follow-up to his sermon. How often do we base the strength of our spiritual life on how the people we have poured into spiritually or led to Christ are doing in their walks with God? This is a challenging thought for me and I shared with the believers here this morning how much joy it brings us to see them standing strong in the Lord… planting new churches, and willing to continue reaching out to these mostly unreached areas with the gospel. It is inspiring and gives us great joy… we are “really living” because they are living out their faith and witnessing.
After the devotional we watched another Way of the Master Evangelism Training video and then split up into about 4 or 5 teams. 2 local believers with 1 Bethel member. We then went different directions and did evangelism for about 1.5 hours. I was with Pastor Moises and Juve (Juve is a fun, happy, energetic 12 year old from the Renacimiento Church). We didn’t make it more than half a block and we encountered 3 people drinking beer, standing around talking, next to a local store. We did the optical illusion gospel tract for them and then Pastor Moises passionately shared the gospel with them all for about 20 min. Since they didn’t speak English, and neither do Pastor Moises or Juve, I decided that I was the prayer partner and began praying for those Moises speaking with. Within a few minutes, a friend of theirs walked up, Michelle, and said hello in English to me. It turns out that even though she has lived in Acapulco for 16 years, she was raised in the States and spoke perfect English. I was able to briefly share the gospel with her and give her some tracts before she headed back to her fish store! ☺ Pastor Moises (Spanish spelling of Moses) had 3 more of these type conversations during our time… Juve didn’t let a person pass by without inviting them to church and giving them a tract… and I prayed for those Moises spoke with. Then four Mormon missionaries popped up out of the blue & I ran over to them because 2 of them looked like English speakers. It turns out that 2 were from Mexico (did not speak English) & 2 were from Utah (completely bilingual). I shared the gospel with them (Elder Velasquez, Elder Russell, Elder Hafin, and one other). Elder Russell even translated for me to Elder Velasquez because he was curious what I was talking about! In the end they did not repent from their false religion and put their faith in the true Christ, but they did listen intently, and I am praying that my testimony that Joseph Smith is NOT a prophet of God and that the book of Mormon is false will impact them for the Lord. Please join me in prayer for them. They are sincerely deceived. (http://goodnewsforlds.com/ has a great video called “Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith”)
When we returned from the church each group was eager to share their stories of sharing, salvations, and even some persecution. Pastor Jorge’s group (with Brittany) led 5 people to Christ, and Sally’s group saw one person come to Christ (with Pastor Juan Gabriel Flores). Others had great conversations. Aida’s group received heavy persecution from 2 Catholic people. They spoke down to Aida, treated her poorly, called her names, and even insulted her.
They did not want to listen to the gospel, but Aida was able to share some with them… and by God’s grace she was able to be kind and gracious even amidst their persecution. Please pray for these hard hearted Catholic people. Catholicism certainly has a hold in Mexico, and Acapulco is no exception. You may remember from my updates last year that there are shrines to Mary ever other block or so. Some people have them in their front yards, businesses have them… they are everywhere! In English I call this Mariolatry (worshipping Mary as an idol), in Mexico it can be called Maria Idolatria. Please pray that God would break the grip that the Catholic church has on people here and that Catholics (the grand majority culturally Catholic and not pious at all) would come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
After a wonderful lunch we loaded up in the truck (16 people in a pickup truck – 5 in the cab, 11 in the bed) and headed for San Luis. Today we invited people to the revival services at 6 pm but also invited the kids to a soccer game by the church at 5 pm. We ended up having about 14 kids who played soccer with us and even Pastor Moises and Pastor Juan joined in the fun. Our team won 5-2…GOAL!!!!. There were some VERY talented soccer players out there! And it was NOT us! If you know any college coaches looking to recruit players tell them they should look up Danny from San Luis… it was like poetry watching him move and weave around people with the ball. I told this to one of the other kids and he told me in Spanish, “las piernas aire,” which literally means “air legs.” I think it is similar to our phrase, “he is light on his feet” meaning that he moves quickly and skillfully. Danny was awesome! After an hour of soccer, the kids wanted a break so Pastor Moises invited them into the church building for some water. I had heard the Ice Cream Truck earlier (really an Ice Cream VW Bug) and I asked Pastor Moises if he thought it would be a good idea to buy ice cream for all the kids… he and Pastor Calet agreed YES and so I gave 70 pesos (about $6 US) to buy what is called “paneta” for the kids. This way he was the one buying it, establishing a relationship with the vendor and his family, and also the kids saw the gift as coming from the local church, not from the Americans. In the end they thanked us, but I told them to go thank Pastor Moises and they did. We also ventured out and tried this mysterious paneta (after getting confirmation it was safe for us to eat from Pastor Calet), and it was VERY GOOD. They had different flavors but mine and Brittany’s was smashed peanuts, ice, milk, and banana… Gabe’s was coconut with ice and milk. Tasty!
We had 20+ kids in the service tonight (up from 6 last night) and after Sally’s testimony and Pastor Calet’s sermon, basically every one of them indicated that they wanted to make a decision for Christ. They all prayed the prayer of salvation out loud, and were even willing to come and stand up front afterwards. It was an awesome sight. We praise God for these decisions! There is a reality check in that some of those who came forward tonight are the same ones who made decisions last night… so it seems that they did not completely understand what they were doing. Many of them were horsing around with their friends during the sermon, and the singing, and even when they came down front, and so it is very likely that many of the “decisions” were not genuine, but I’m confident that some of the kids were sincerely repentant and truly put their faith and trust in Christ for the first time tonight. Either way, each of those kids had a great experience learning about God tonight, and were even willing to stand up with their friends and say that they were going to follow Christ. Please pray for these 20 children and for Pastor Moises, and his wife, Cynthia, as they try to minister to their families and disciple these young boys and girls.
Back at the Renacimiento Church for dinner, and Benji brought his 20-year old friend Adrian for supper. After we were done eating, I began a conversation (from across the room) with Adrian. He works in his uncle’s clothing store, his parents both left for another part of Mexico to find work 2 years ago, and the only believer in his family is his grandma. I then asked him if he considered himself to be a good person and he said “yes.” I asked him if I could ask him a few questions to see if it was true and he said, “sure.” It turns out that like all of us he has broken most if not all of the 10 commandments. I asked if he would be innocent or guilty on judgment day and he said “guilty.” I asked him if he would deserve heaven or hell and said “hell.” I asked him if that concerned him and he said, “yes.” I asked if he knew what God did so that he would not have to go to hell and he said, “He gave us the 10 commandments?” I explained that the Law’s function was not to save us, but to leave us helpless before a just and holy God and that really the Law shows us our need of a savior. I shared the good news of the gospel with him and then asked if he understood. He did. I asked if he was ready to repent and put his faith and trust in Christ and he said that he was. I then explained more about the significance of the decision, and that with it a person is promised to receive persecution, to be hated, and that he would lose friends over it. Also, in addition to salvation, we receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the daily presence of God in our lives, and a spiritual family – every believer in Christ throughout the world. Adrian said that he was ready to commit his life to Christ and so after Benji prayed for him, Pastor Calet led him in the prayer of salvation and then gave him a Bible along with follow up materials. Gabe and I spent another 10 minutes or so talking about the importance of discipleship and Benji encouraged him to spend more time with Pastor Calet. Nearly everyone in the room (probably 13 people) hugged him and welcomed him to the family of God. It was an amazing time! Benji, by translating for me, had just led his close friend to Christ, and the entire American team, along with a core group of Acapulcan believers, had just seen an evangelistic encounter from start to finish… ending with Adrian choosing Christ and then starting the discipleship process.
Praise God! Please pray for Adrian as he begins this lifelong journey of following God. And please pray for Benji to be an encouragement to him and keep walking closer and closer with Christ.
We finished with our nightly debrief back at Hotel Marcial…and it seems that the entire team is EXTREMELY ENCOURAGED! Sally felt like she turned the corner and was really used by God today, Gabe was able to spend quality time discipling Benji after the evangelism time this afternoon, and Brittany was really encouraged to see Pastor Jorge (“George” in English) so fervent in his desire to see the lost saved, and with such an ability to relate to people and engage them in conversation. I am encouraged by the awesome team I’m privileged to lead from Oklahoma and the team that we are partnered with here in Acapulco. We presented Tshirts earlier in the day to the pastors and their wives, and we will all be wearing them tomorrow as we have our final revival service in San Luis after the rematch of USA vs Mexico.
Blessings from Acapulco. Dios te bendiga, Andy
October 17, 2012 (Wednesday) – Final Revival Service in San Luis
It was a long, very good day. We basically followed the same pattern as yesterday, with a few changes. Brittany gave an excellent devotion on standing up under persecution after breakfast… this was at least in part inspired by what Aida endured yesterday during the evangelism time. It was a timely word that was challenging and encouraging at the same time. True Christians will be hated, falsely accused, and persecuted… we are promised trials, temptations, and hardships as believers. This is an important message for every Christian to hear.
During the training time we showed the first DVD in a set of 6 called Paz Financiera (Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University presented by Andres Gutierrez in Spanish and using illustrations relevant to Spanish speakers). Pastor Calet said that the gift of these resources is very timely as the financial crisis in Mexico, and Acapulco specifically is terrible. I knew that the DVDs would talk about credit cards and credit and had been told that this was not much of a problem… since people operated solely on a cash basis. But Pastor Calet and Aida told me that it is a problem because stores will allow people to buy things “on credit” even if they are not issuing a card to them. Supermarkets do this, Costco does this, and others. They said that often times people get behind because they owe so much to so many different stores. If the problem goes on long enough, one of the stores or a debt collector will come and take the items you have bought and other things from your home. After the video all of the people who watched it agreed that it was relevant to their situation and they really enjoyed it. Praise God for this! Pastor Calet was given 4 member kits so that he can train the 4 mission church pastors and they in turn can help teach these principles to their congregations. The DVDs use some scripture to teach the principles and so Paz Financiera is a great tool for church members and also as an outreach tool to bring in people from the surrounding community who are looking for help with their money. Benji (an accountant) who has been translating for us a lot this week, had plans before we got here to start a financial counseling business with his sister Kristy. How cool that this course may help give him the tools he needs to get closer to realizing his goal!
We split up for evangelism around the Renacimiento Church again today and it went very well. My team was Sally, Aida, and Juve. Sally was able to share with 2 people and I shared with 2 guys who said they were ready to make a decision for Christ but wanted to wait until they got home so they could lead their family to make the same decision. We encouraged them to make the decision soon and lead their family in that way since there is no guarantee that their family will be as ready as they were today. Please pray for them! In total, we saw 3 people make decisions for Christ during the 1.5 hours we were out witnessing. Pastor Calet led those 3 to Christ and was praising God when he returned with his team members.
Tonight we had another soccer game with a LOT of neighborhood boys and girls in San Luis. SPECIAL THANKS to the GA’s and Miss Elaine from Bethel who provided the gift of 25 Mission Balls for us to play with and give away this week. They are a great tool that has been a HUGE draw for kids all week long! After the game, we had our final revival service at the new church building and had about 40 people there. Two boys who had played soccer with us both days were very standoffish about coming to the church service both nights, Miguel and Danny. They did not come last night and tonight they were playing soccer across the street from the church when we started. Me and other people invited them and motioned for them to come but to no avail. Finally, when I was called to the front to give my testimony I said in my broken Spanish, “Please come hear my personal testimony.” When they heard that it was my personal testimony, they looked at each other and then decided to come. They stayed throughout the whole thing, the music, and even the sermon. They received a New Testament to take home and Miguel read his new Bible through much of the service. Praise God!
At the end of the service we presented a set of pastoral resources to Pastor Moises. Last year we gave him a nice Thompson Chain Spanish Study Bible, a Bible dictionary, and a concordance. This year we presented him with a set of Bible maps, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, a Biblical backgrounds book covering customs during the time of the writing of each section of Scripture (Old & New), and finally a book called Pastoral Ministry by John MacArthur. He humbly received them and one of the neatest things was that as soon as we gave him the Pastoral Ministry book he said that it was a book that he had been wanting for a while! We took pictures and said goodbye to the San Luis church members and kids, and Lordwilling, we will see them again next year!
Tomorrow we will show 180 the Movie in Spanish and in the evening we will be helping with the installation service for Pastor Juan Gabriel Flores in the Coral neighborhood (right across from a school and down the street from the largest prison in Acapulco. We did the same last year but this year they have Juan as their new pastor (he started 1.5 weeks ago), and Brother Jim Blackwell is travellng to be there for it. Please pray for me as I preach, and for Maria from the Renacimiento Church who will be giving her testimony (Lord-willing).
Hasta luego, Andy
October 18, 2012 (Thursday)
Today was awesome. This morning Pastor Calet gave a devotional about trusting God and the blessings of obedience to Him even when it doesn’t make sense to us. He spoke from the story of Jesus and the disciples where He tells them to cast down their nets after they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. When they trust Jesus and obey Him, they receive a great harvest of fish. In the same way, when we trust and obey the Lord in reaching out to our community with the Gospel, we are blessed with a great harvest of souls. He continuously thanked me for the spiritual benefit his church and the other mission churches have received from Bethel this week. The blessing has been mutual to say the least! They have blessed us greatly!
For the training time we watched 180 the Movie. It is a moving 33minute film that shows how abortion is a modern day version of the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler led Nazi Germany to legalize the slaughter of millions and millions of people because of their race among other things. Despite our
government having legalized abortion (the slaughtering of innocent little babies still in their mother’s wombs), it does not make it right. The movie has been seen millions of times online and countless people have changed their mind about abortion after watching the video. Some women are sending in pictures of their “180 Babies” that they carried to full term and kept as a result of having seen the video. If you have not seen it I encourage you to watch it. You can find it online at http://www.180movie.com/spanish/ and http://www.180movie.com/ for the English. If
that doesn’t work, google it and you will find it! Pastor Calet and everyone in attendance (about 20 people) said that the video was impactful and very needed in Acapulco. Pastor Calet is meeting with some pastors soon and plans to present the video and talk about how they might be able to take it into local schools to show it to the students. How awesome would that be!
I nearly forgot that yesterday we presented two Proclaimers to Pastor Calet and one to Aida for their church. The Proclaimers are the size of a small radio and can play the entire New Testament loud enough for over 300 people to hear. We gave one of these two Humberto and Aida last year, and they have used it just the way that Faith Comes by Hearing envisions. They have a church member who cannot read but still wanted to follow along with the Bible Reading Schedule that they put out for their church members. So they gave this lady the Proclaimer and not only did she use it, but she has a weekly time where she invites friends and family over to her home to listen to the Bible. Aida shared that the new church plant in Las Joyas is in a more rural area and many of the people there cannot read. We were very excited to bless La Unica Esperanza with another Proclaimer because we know that it will be used effectively! They were ecstatic to get another one and plan to take it to Las Joyas THIS Saturday when they go there for outreach. Pastor Calet has friends who are church planting pastors and missionaries in the mountains close to Zihuatenejo and he said that they will also be very grateful to get a tool like this in their hands!
Back to today… for evangelism we travelled to an area where there are at least 2 schools. In the hour and a half that we evangelized, at least 100 students came through the area. Not only that, they stopped and talked and hung out and were basically waiting for us to come share the gospel with them (maybe not that but it was a perfect opportunity and place). Multiple people repented and put their faith in Christ and we had dozens of incredible conversations where people were really engaged and listening. In addition to gospel tracts, we passed out little business cards advertising how they can go see 180 the Movie online for free. The timing of watching the video this morning, and then evangelizing in an area with hundreds of high school students was providential. Please pray for these students. We encountered many young couples in impure relationships, more than one homosexual, and many others who were Catholic. They all need Jesus and a strong church family. Pray they get involved in the Renacimiento or Coral Church and begin learning how to follow God.
After a great lunch, then picking up Brother Jim and Jani Blackwell from the bus station, we headed to the Coral area for more evangelism/inviting, a soccer game with the local kids, & the installation service for Pastor Juan Gabriel Flores as the new pastor for the Coral Church. He and his wife Maria Ester, along with their 2 sons and 1 daughter, moved into the church building just 2 weeks ago! Brother Jim and Jani made the trek from San Jeronimito by bus to be here for the service and pray for Pastor Juan at the end of the service. Jim and Jani have left a huge mark on churches and ministries throughout Acapulco and all over Guerrero. I praise God for them and their testimony. They are truly finishing well! You inspire us all, Jim! At the end of the service we presented a large set of pastoral resources to Pastor Juan, a set to Pastor Calet, a Bible and Concordance to Pastor Jorge, and then presented Christian books to all of the men and ladies who have helped out and served all week long. The main one we gave away is called How to Bring Your Children to Christ and Keep Them There by Ray Comfort… but we gave them the Spanish version☺. We gave away 2 soccer balls and the kids loved them. We left 2 with the church there and told the 20 kids who didn’t get one that they could always come to the church and ask to use theirs. Everyone received their gifts with humility and thankfulness… what grace these brothers and sisters in Christ show.
Tomorrow we head to Humberto and Aida’s church, then a quick tour of the new Icacos Church plant where Pastor Rafael Martinez is serving, then to Hotel Malibu for a lunch on the beach and some fun with our partners in the gospel. We had an amazing time fellowshipping during this time last year and we are all looking forward to it after a long and wonderful week!
Thank you for your prayers, & encouraging replies… God Bless, Andy
October 19, 2012 (Friday)
Blessing after blessing. The day started differently than planned. We originally planned to go to La Unica Esparanza with Pastor Humberto and Aida to join with their church family to help evangelize their area. When I asked Humberto if he had an idea about where he wanted us to go he told me there was a problem. The problem? Since our visit last year, and since his church family has gotten on fire for church planting and evangelism, they have so thoroughly saturated their immediate area with the gospel that he could not think of anywhere for us to go! What a problem to have! Imagine that! It also turned out that the new pastor of the church plant in Icacos, Rafael Martinez, was unable to see us today and so our plans to drop by his area were not going to work out. Humberto and Aida then suggested that we could drive 45 minutes to their new church plant in Las Joyas if we wanted… we now had time because there area was saturated and Icacos wasn’t going to work out… so we said YES! We drove down some windy dirt roads over and past MANY potholes, down into valleys and then up in the mountains and lush forest… to finally find Las Joyas – a little farming community of about 100 people far from most civilization. More about the story of their church plant in Day 3’s email. We split into groups once again and headed out to do evangelism and invite people to their Sunday evening services. A lady named Sandra knew Humberto and Aida, and politely listened as Maria shared the gospel, but then said she was not ready to commit her life to Christ. But she said that Humberto and Aida are always welcome at her home and if she’s available she will attend church if they come get her (she lives across the street from the home they meet in). Then we spoke with Julia, who had a very soft heart towards the gospel. She actually said Buenas Dias to us first as we walked up the valley that leads to her home. After I showed her the gospel tract and Pastor Juan shared the gospel, she said that she was ready to commit her life to Jesus. She prayed then and there to do this, praise God! Gracias a Dios! Afterwards Pastor Juan spent some time talking with her about what to do now that she is a Christian… read the Bible, pray, fellowship with other believers, attend church, and share her faith. We later found out that Aida had met her before but she had not been willing to talk much. A month ago or so Humberto and Aida brought in a doctor, some nurses, and a beautician. They held a medical clinic and cut hair for free. Julia said that she knew they had done this service act for her community and I believe this definitely softened her heart towards Humberto and Aida, the church, and Jesus as well. Julia is the 9th person to make a profession of faith in Las Joyas… praise God!
One story shared by Brittany during our debrief time tonight was that a couple months ago Aida encountered a woman in the town who was sick. She asked for prayer when they came by her house and after praying for her they shared the good news about Jesus and His offer of salvation with her and she accepted, repented and believed! When they came back a week later they found out that this woman died 2 days after she committed her life to Christ! The Lord’s timing is amazing! We have seen it at work all week long! To some of you reading, it may seem unfair that this woman who was probably in her 70s or 80s was able to live her entire life as a non-Christian, then live only 1 or 2 days as a Christian and then now she is able to spend an eternity with Jesus in heaven… in perfect relationship with him and with no pain or sin or temptation to worry about. Jesus is rich and mercy and He is always ready to forgive anyone willing to repent and believe, no matter what they have done, and no matter how young or old they are. Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy!
We then headed to a different hotel than we have been staying. To save money, and out of convenience for the members and Pastor of the Renacimiento Church, 6 out of our 7 nights, we stay in a 1⁄2 star hotel called the Hotel Marcial. It is very basic; bed, towel, bathroom, soap, towel. There are some roaches but not too bad. They turn off the window A/C when they change the sheets each day so it is VERY HOT when we return home each night… but about 3 am it is nice and cool, at 4 am it is freezing. To be honest, after staying there last year the bottoms of my feet got really weird for about a month, mostly just severely dry skin… so this year I remembered to bring SHOWER SHOES! Praying for no weird foot issues when I return home! Sasha is too! So tonight we are staying in the Hotel Malibu on the Bay of Acapulco. It is an older hotel, not flashy at all, only about 5 stories tall (compared to some 20-30 story hotels) but with a Christian owner, director, and manager. The manager allowed Jim Blackwell to hold church meetings here in their largest conference room at no cost for many months while Jim was getting started planting churches in Acapulco.
The rates are less than most of the other hotels & the people are very nice. The view of the beach and the bay is incredible. The food at the restaurant is very good and we love it here. Lunch was great and we enjoyed it with our old and new friends from the Renacimiento and other mission churches. Afterwards we worked out a deal to ride around the Bay for 2 hours and swim for about 20 minutes. This was a sweet time of fellowship and very relaxing. We finished our time with our friends by taking a short trip to the market on the way back to the hotel. I can’t wait to see Justice and Hudson in their little Acapulco shirts, and of course I bought matching ones for Sasha and me to wear. I don’t mind being the cheesy family that dresses alike sometimes. ☺
After we cleaned up in our hotel rooms, we said goodbye to our Acapulco friends. This is always a hard part of the trip because we feel so close to them, and have worked so hard alongside them all week long. It is said that you grow closer with someone working alongside them doing a work project, service project, evangelism, etc., than you do in just “knowing” them as acquaintances for years. I agree and have seen it to be true during Bethel’s community ministries service projects over the past 2 years, the men’s work project working on the Chapel at Camp Gruber, and others. Please join us if you can in the future on a work project, on a mission trip, or going into our community doing evangelism in our “Jerusalem.”
Back to Acapulco… our final goodbye was to Humberto and Aida. They are wonderful and we laughed so hard with them this week! Humberto got the nickname “Flaco Suave” which literally means “Skinny Smooth” and Aida gave herself the nickname “Hambre Loco” which means “Crazy Hungry”… Flaco Suave because Humberto is skinny and a store clerk called him a little boy “Niño” earlier in the week, and Hambre Loco I think because we didn’t get back to the Rena church for dinner each night until about 8 pm or 9 pm after evangelizing and inviting and playing soccer then preaching or teaching… WE WERE OFTEN VERY HUNGRY! All that to say, we love Humberto and Aida and so we had a special time of prayer for them and especially their church plant in Las Joyas. We presented them with a financial gift to help with the church plant and they very humbly received it. They are so humble I thought there was a chance they would refuse, but they graciously took it. We know that they will use it further the kingdom of God in Las Joyas.
The night ended with a team dinner (just the 4 of us) in the Malibu Restaurant. This was a special time to reflect on today but also the entire week. We all shared testimonies of seeing God move and work, and how amazed we are at Him and His providence. Brittany said “I don’t see how we could expect anything better than to see what we have seen this week.” She was saying that after coming last year and leaving resources, teaching evangelism and modeling it with the local church members. How could we expect anything better than to see each and every one of the believers we worked with to be trained and confident in evangelism, living for Jesus, and with a real joy in their hearts? The answer is that we couldn’t expect anything better. Ephesians 3:20-21 says it best, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Amen. We are so blessed by this Acapulco partnership! Thank you to all of our Acapulcoan friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our co-laborers in the work of the kingdom.
One additional note so I don’t forget… we found out today that after Humberto showed the Way of the Master (www.wayofthemaster.com) to the pastors, he loaned it out to one of the churches and it has now been working its way around the churches in the state of Guerrero. Pastors are calling from the north, south, east, & western parts of Guerrero asking if they can get it next!
Humberto said that is nothing short of a revolution in evangelism! Amazing is the best word I have to describe this! Thank you Lord! Gloria a Dios! The final picture attached to this email is a picture of the resources we presented to Pastor Humberto for use in his church and at his disrection to share with the rest of the pastors all over Guerrero! They loved them and Aida gave me one of the sweetest, most heart-felt thank you’s afterwards. Our church is so happy to make this investment in you and your church. You are bearing fruit one hundred fold… it is an easy decision!
Acapulco to Houston, Houston to OKC… back at 10:15 pm Saturday night… looking forward to seeing my family!
And looking forward to worshipping with our church family on Sunday morning and Sunday night! God Bless! Andy
October 20, 2012 (Saturday) – HOME SWEET HOME
This is mainly a short update to let you know that we made it home safely. We had a relaxing morning on the beach, a short swim in the pool, and after lunch at the hotel we said our final goodbyes to Pastor Calet, Pastor Jorge, Benji, and Juve – who took us to the airport. The flights were thankfully uneventful, we had a final team meal in Houston, and after visiting with a missions team from Ada returning from Honduras in the terminal, we took off for home in OKC. Many thanks to Randy McGuckin for picking us up from the airport after the Sooners soundly beat KU on Saturday evening!
It was sweet to fellowship and worship with the believers back here at Bethel on Sunday morning and Sunday night. We missed you guys and being away helps us appreciate you even more. The believers in Acapulco have much to teach us about working alongside each other, selflessness, & having a heart for the lost. Our entire team was challenged, encouraged, & blessed by our time in Acapulco. Lord-willing some of you will get to experience it with us in person next year.
Final statistics for the week are that we saw 38 people indicate they were making a first time decision for Christ, 1 person rededicate his life to Christ, and a total of 185 people in attendance at our 5 Revival Services. Though I did not capture all of the names of those who made decisions, the church did keep contact information for the grand majority of those who came to the services and made decisions. Here are the names I have of those who made decisions for Christ Margarito Torreblaco (rededication), Jose Angel Mendoza Barcen, Hector Jose Bava Barroso, Luis Gustavo Salscado Lozano, Alexis Avila Dolgado, Carlos Alberto Torres Chege, Jairo Saul Lorenzo, Benji’s friend Adrian, & Julia (in Las Joyas). Please pray for these new believers!
Speaking personally, this was a hard week for my wife Sasha at home… and there are not enough words to express how thankful I am for her service to me and to the Lord by taking care of our family this week while I was away. Thanks to all of you who encouraged her, spent time with her, helped with the kids, and ate meals with her. The Lord is faithful and continues to show His provision and care every day of my life. I praise God for my wife and for our church family. I have attached a couple pics of the boys after I got home… when I left Hudson couldn’t sit up by himself and now he can!
Thanks so much for your prayers, please continue to remember the churches and believers in Acapulco throughout the year.
Andy (for the Acapulco Evangelism Team)