We have chosen our sending agency!

Reaching & Teaching Will be Our Sending Agency
We have officially been appointed as missionaries with Reaching and Teaching

As you may know we recently completed our time on staff with
To Every Tribe. Over the last two years we have enjoyed helping to train other missionaries, church planting in Northern Mexico and filling in some of our own gaps in needed preparation for the mission field.

We are now focusing our sights on long-term ministry in Peru. Our goal there is two-fold: 1) To partner with and train Peruvian pastors, leaders, and missionaries to reach the unreached with the gospel and 2) To entrust biblically sound teaching to faithful men who will be equipped to teach others, thereby strengthening the church in Peru. Therefore we have chosen Reaching and Teaching as our sending agency for two primary reasons:

  1. Their focus and expertise in training and mobilizing indigenous pastors and missionaries.
  2. Their expertise on missions in the South American context.
Please praise the Lord with us and pray for us during this exciting transition.
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Recklessly Abandoned – But Not the Way You Think

Ed McCully of the “Ecuador Five” once wrote a letter to his good friend and missionary teammate, Jim Elliot, that he had resolved to live his life in “reckless abandon” for Christ. Now, if you know anything about To Every Tribe or David Sitton (the founder of To Every Tribe) you know that the phrase “reckless abandon” is at part of the heartbeat of the organization, its leadership and missionaries.

IMG_0117However, over the last two years I have become close to a people who would have a different context and understanding of this phrase, “reckless abandon.” These are the people living in the small villages and towns in Northern Mexico whom myself and others in the Center for Pioneer Church Planting have been ministering among over the last two years. So how would they understand this famous phrase? They would understand it not as who missionaries are but what missionaries have done…to them.

Yes, over the last several years American missionaries and mission organizations have by-in-large recklessly abandoned the people of Northern Mexico, including our own brothers and sisters in Christ. That stings to hear, I know. But let me briefly explain from what I have experienced over the last two years of doing mission in Northern Mexico.

First, well meaning Americans were reckless in their approach to mission in Northern Mexico the last several decades.

Not long ago Northern Mexico was saturated with well-intentioned short-term and long-term mission work. Sadly, the approach to much of this work was driven by the shock that most Americans have when they see the economic and cultural disparity between what they just left back home and what they encounter just across our Southern border. Thus, the approach to mission work in Northern Mexico centered around “service projects,” handing out material goods, building houses, building church buildings, etc.

Sadly, it seems as though nobody stopped to ask what this was communicating to the people. Well, Garry Weaver, points out to the missionary trainees he oversees at To Every Tribe, “One of the best parts about church planting in Northern Mexico is that you get to see the lingering results of mission done poorly.”

The steady flow of American handouts and “service projects” effectively communicated that the Mexicans should move over and let us show them how things should be. In fact, American mission efforts possibly put some people out of business as we brought in clothing to give away and building supplies to build with. Had we never considered that before gringos arrived the Mexican people were getting their own clothes and building their own houses and church buildings. Actually, they were building structures that they could maintain themselves as opposed to the American structures which require different tools, materials and skills to maintain.

The worst result of all of this is twofold. First, along with the handouts and buildings also came decisionistic gospel presentations which focused on getting people to come forward or raise their hand to receive Jesus. Again this is all well-intentioned but perhaps not well thought through. Anyone who has a very basic understanding of the Mexican culture immediately sees why this is a poor approach – Mexican people are very agreeable people. In other words, they do not want to disappoint you. Thus, if you ask them to do something or ask them a question they will give you the answer they believe you want to hear even if they have absolutely no intention of following through.

For example, our team goes around our village inviting dozens of people to our evangelistic Bible studies and every single person gives us the perception that they will be there. In fact, they will even double check the time and place with us before we leave their home. But when the Bible study rolls around a vast majority of those who indicated they would come are not there. Why? Were they lying to us? Well, I guess from a technical sense maybe, but culturally speaking, no. They just did not want to embarrass us or shame us by saying “no” to our faces so they said they will be there even if they had no intention of coming.

This is true for invitations to receive Christ as well. I could go to the villages we worked in right now and get almost every single person I share the gospel with to pray the “sinners’ prayer ” with me, not because they are genuinely giving their lives to Christ but because they do not want to embarrass me by rejecting my message to my face. However, odds are that many or all of them would probably have no real intention of truly following Christ. American Evangelicals have traditionally not only taken this approach but handed out stuff while doing it. Given the cultural context and a desire for the free stuff to keep coming, what other response would you expect? As a result of this simple lack of cultural understanding, American missions practices have led to many false conversions.

Furthermore, I have seen firsthand that this approach has effectively side-lined the Mexican church in gospel proclamation because they cannot reproduce what the Americans just did. Therefore, when presenting the gospel, seeing conversions and discipling people who live in Northern Mexico we must truly walk alongside them in life and have a long-term, fruit-oriented, reproducible approach.

Second, American evangelicals have abandoned our brothers and sisters in Christ in Northern Mexico.

All that was stated above leaves no doubt in the one’s mind that the church in Northern Mexico, in a vast majority of places, is very weak and wide open to heresy and other troubles that come with a lack of proper discipleship and leadership development. This is further compounded by the fact that over the last 15 years or so missionary efforts in Northern Mexico have really dried up due to the growing dangers associated with drug cartel violence.

I am not casting judgment on the churches and mission agencies that have pulled out of this region but I must ask the question, “what does this communicate to the people there?”

Those that I have spoken with feel abandoned. In fact, many people just over the Southern border do not believe gringos keep their word or genuinely care about their well-being. This is surprising when we first learn it but this perception is solidly backed a history of broken promises and leaving them when things got tough. What would you think of people who told you they loved you and wanted you to truly know Christ but when the situation gets dangerous and difficult they stop coming? I think we would all feel how many believers and unbelievers in Northern Mexico feel – recklessly abandoned.

My conclusion then is this: Northern Mexico does not need any more short-term trips seeking to do things for the people that they are capable of doing themselves. The people of Northern Mexico do not need any more slick in-and-out gospel presentations focused on quick decisions. The people of Northern Mexico do not need to be saved by the American heroes with matching t-shirts who come in for a week to help “those poor people.”

What the people of Northern Mexico do need is missionaries and US churches who are committed to loving them and laboring alongside them for the sake of the gospel for the long-haul. They need people who will walk through life with them, teaching them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how they too can make other disciples. In other words, the people of Northern Mexico need what every people need, the fullness of the Great Commission carried out among them.

 “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, to the end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:18-20, emphasis added).

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Pictures of from our final trip to Northern Mexico

Two years ago I would have never imagined that I would have privilege of playing a role in planting a church in Northern Mexico. I would have never imagined the close relationships that my family and I would build with both believers and non-believers across the border. Therefore, it was bittersweet to say goodbye to our friends in Villages CO and EZ.

However, I believe that our time there ended on a real high note. Over the last several months we have been teaching the members of our church plant how to study the Bible on their own. So for our final gathering with them we simply gave them the text (John 17) and let them loose. It was incredible to see them digging into the Scripture together and then sharing great insights, observations and applications with the whole group. What a privilege to see that happen! I have no doubt that teaching them how to study the Bible on their own is the best gift that we could have given them.

Below are pictures from our last trip:

Believers from the church in Village CO digging into the Bible using the principles they have been learning over the last few months

Believers from the church in Village CO digging into the Bible using the principles they have been learning over the last few months

These two ladies meet everyday to study James together using the Bible study principles we have been teaching

These two ladies meet everyday to study James together using the Bible study principles we have been teaching

some of the members of our church plant

Some of the members of our church plant with our team

Our best friends in Mexico. They have even come to visit us in S TX  a couple times

Our best friends in Mexico. They have even come to visit us in S TX a couple times

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Two brothers that own the store in Village CO. We had good evangelistic relationships with

Two brothers that own the store in Village CO. We had good evangelistic relationships with them.

Mr F and his family. His son followed us everywhere we went. We really enjoyed this family and they seem to have a real interest in the gospel

Mr F and his family. His son followed us everywhere we went. We really enjoyed this family and they seem to have a real interest in the gospel

One of the teens we met playing soccer who also seemed to have an interest in the gospel

One of the teens we met playing soccer who also seemed to have an interest in the gospel

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The teacher in Village EZ. He let us use the school property to teach the kids. We shared meals with him and had some good gospel conversations with him as well. A real man of peace (Luke 10:6).

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Nora LOVES Mexico!

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One last time – thoughts on going on my final trip to Northern Mexico

One of my favorite pics of our family together ministering in Mexico

One of my favorite pics of our family together ministering in Mexico

It seems like just yesterday I was preparing to go on my first trip into Northern Mexico leading a church planting team from the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. Some things have certainly changed during these two years – familiarity with the people and culture, we are based in a different village than where we started, we are working with a church plant that has begun during our time, many members of the team, relationships in villages, expectations, going in Sundays as opposed to just one week per month, etc.

However, there is one thing that has always remained the same – the reality of our utter dependence on the Lord. When I return I plan on writing about many of my observations and lessons I have learned from working in Northern Mexico over the last two years. But, perhaps, the best experience that I have had in going so regularly to Northern Mexico is the feeling of total dependence on the Holy Spirit every time we go. I cannot rely on my abilities. I cannot rely on my communication skills. I cannot rely on my ministry experience or my seminary degree. No, I am left with only one person to rely on, Jesus. The good news is he promised to be with me in this missionary endeavor(Matt 28:20)!

Therefore, these last two years have been humbling and exhilarating. I have had the privilege of seeing God show His sovereign power to work in the lives of people who do not know him despite my lack of abilities. I have had the privilege to see God grow people who do know Him into better disciples simply by pointing them to truths of His Word. Because so much of what we tend to rely on in the States has been stripped away there is no temptation to point people to ourselves or our abilities.

I cannot help but wonder if perhaps I have received a two year education from the Lord about the reality of how much I need Him in every way no matter where I am and what I am doing. 

So, as our team travels to Mexico today to labor for Christ this week please pray that we finish well, that the work we took part in lasts, and that all glory and praise for any fruit would be directed solely to the Lord of the Harvest!

Team CO - What an honor to lead this great team

Team CO – What an honor to lead this great team

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Mexico Week Prayer Requests

 

A beautiful sight. The church gathered with Bibles and pens in hand taking notes and engaging in the text together.

A beautiful sight. The church gathered with Bibles and pens in hand taking notes and engaging in the text together.

team pic IMG_4720

Our church planting team leaves in about one hour to spend the week in Mexico. Please pray for us in the following ways:

  1. We encourage and strengthen the believers in our the church plant in Village CO. We are continuing to teach them each night how to study/understand the Bible on their own.
  2. We proclaim the gospel clearly to unbelievers who we already know and new people we will meet this trip
  3. For the Lord to use our escuelitas biblicas (little Bible schools) in a profound way in the lives of the children in villages CO, EZ and C.
  4. Unity and joy among our team
  5. That the Lord would bless my Spanish abilities beyond my natural capabilities
  6. Safety in travel and while we are in the village – that we would be able to move around and minister freely
  7. For Betsy and the kids back here in TX that they would have joy and peace in the home
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Peru Trip Recap Video

I (Trevor), and the two other men from the families we will be teaming up with long-term, had an incredible time in Peru. Everywhere we went we saw great need for the gospel. Check out our video to hear and SEE important details from the trip – there is a lot of great video footage and pictures included. Most importantly, our families feel very strongly that the Lord is leading us to serve together in Peru long-term. Our goal is to take the gospel to the unreached through training up indigenous pastors and missionaries while working alongside them to plant churches among the unreached in their own country.

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23 days 15 hours and 24minutes-But Who’s Counting? (By: Betsy Holloway)

betsy and kidsThis March my husband, Trevor, had the opportunity to travel to Peru with two other men to determine a location in Peru where our families can serve long-term.  Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to be sanctified and refined as I took care of our children (ages 7,5, 2 and 1) and household alone for that same amount of time.

While Trevor was experiencing new places and meeting new people much of my life stayed the same.  I still awoke each day to the typical tasks of a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom.  Some people may assume my role as a missionary wife is much different than any other Christian wife. In some regard, there is truth in that.  However, I contend that much of my life is the same as any other Christian wife and mother.  Although my time may not have been as adventurous as a 23 day trip to Peru it was equally satisfying.

God sustained our family, and more personally, me, with more grace then I could have imagined.  I was blessed that He gave me more patience, love, and gentleness for my children.  My children also surprised me-they showed me love in ways I didn’t expect and were gracious to me when I sinned against them.  The body of Christ was also an encouragement to me as they cared for my kids so I could have a break, kept me company so I wouldn’t be lonely, read Scripture with me, called to check on me, and countless other things.  The role of a missionary wife has many different facets and unique challenges but it also brings greater opportunity to see the work of God more clearly in my life, my family, and the world around us.

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