December 2019 Newsletter
|Greetings in His name during this time of Thanksgiving,As you know, my call is to work in the background with a camera, to help tell the stories of what goes on regionally and to document moments and activities that normally go unseen. I have the privilege of being on the field to witness what God is doing here up close and I am so excited to share a few of those highlights with you below. Before I do, I’d like to begin this newsletter with a portion of a sermon translation from my Venezuelan brother, Pastor Isaac Machado, in which he gives hope to the hopeless and introduces faith to the lost.|
“This is our reality in Christ, because, although we suffer, God is in our midst. Every time you suffer because of the Gospel, because of your sin, because of the sins of others, God is with you. Today, the Saints of God are scattered throughout the world, but those Saints continue to pray for each of us, even without knowing us. Today, our brothers in all parts of the world have their own battles. Today, the Saints of God suffer wherever they are, but God is faithful and is in the midst of His church, giving us faith to be able to withstand all the problems we have.”
Here is what I’ve been up to this fall and some news from around the region.
Many times I get questions or comments asking what the mission or it’s missionaries are doing a little closer to home. A recent partnership with a SELC District congregation, Ascension Lutheran Church, and The Latin America and Caribbean region, is working to bring the Gospel to people in Montreal, the most unchurched place in North America. Our regional facilitator in the Caribbean pastors this church.
Ascension sits in the poorest neighborhood in Montreal, Parc-Ex. Roughly 30,000 people are living within the square mile that surrounds the church and about 22,000 immigrants live within walking distance, making this area the Grand Central Station for mission work.
During the month of September, a gathering was held on site to discuss a strategy for the mission work at Ascension. Representatives from the LCMS and the LCC, English and SELC Districts, both French and English-speaking congregations, and the Latin America and Caribbean region discussed expanding the Gospel’s reach in Canada’s second largest city. During the week of Ascension’s 90th anniversary, we were able to see Christ’s work in action as we celebrated the baptism of a young Chinese girl. Following the service I sat in with the Pastor and a group of young teens during their catechism and Bible class. The Pastor began the class in English while reading passages from the Bible in French, and as the kids discussed the questions, they switched to Mandarin. The adult Bible study went similarly with some of the Indian members speaking Malayalam.
With people from around 20 different cultural backgrounds in this church, we are reminded that no matter our background, culture, or skin color, the one we all have in common is Christ. We enjoyed a potluck dinner of rice and curry, kabobs and handmade dessert delicacies. In this ever-growing diverse landscape, we are not just called to witness to Spanish speaking Latinos, but to all those who need the light of Christ. Uruguay
During my time in Uruguay, I had the opportunity to work with two of our missionaries there who work with two congregations and a Lutheran school along with CPTLN (Lutheran Hour Ministries). My task was simply to document their everyday ministries in cultivating and finding people searching for a Savior.
Missionary work is not glamorous. It’s messy, oftentimes dangerous, and takes patience as the Lord works on the hearts of those who are lost. As missionaries, we are His vessels and do our best to carry out His work. We get to see the joy and watch as people’s lives are transformed. In Uruguay, I had the opportunity to see some of these moments taking place. Be sure to read more about them in an upcoming letter.
Lutherans of Spain celebrated together for the annual Assembly and rejoiced in the Ordination of Felipe Lobo, who was Installed alongside Venezuelan Pastor Isaac Machado. The 80 people in attendance also witnessed the confirmation of Sofia from Valencia.
Pastor Lobo and Pastor Machado will both serve in the capital city of Madrid and are among the six pastors serving in Spain. Be sure to check out this article to read more about Pastor Lobo and Pastor Machado and see photos from the service.
There has been much to celebrate recently in the Dominican Republic and we thank the Lord for an ordination, Reformation, and blessings in the Seminary. Through these the Lord continues to touch lives.
One of our dedicated members to the church here in the Dominican has a son who had been on dialysis for many years and had been slowly declining in health. Along with a Pastor, seminarian, nurse and deaconess, I went on a home visit to meet him a few months back. After repeated invitations to church her son finally came this past month and since then, has been in regular attendance and arrives before all of the other Dominicans. Our dear brother is now no longer on dialysis and is doing much better. It is a true miracle to witness.
Partners from the Dominican FORO worked together to discuss how the church can continue to joyously spread the Gospel, plant Lutheran churches, and show mercy.
The highlight of the weekend was the ordination of Concordia the Reformer seminary student Pastor Yban Navarro, who is the third Dominican pastor to be ordained. Pastor Navarro will serve in Licey at Cordero de Dios church. Our five churches in the Dominican, and partners from the States, were together to celebrate this joyous event.
Some months ago during Lent, I attended a church service with two people in attendance in Ozama, which then, was a new mission plant in the capital of Santo Domingo.
With the Lord’s strength and the tireless efforts of our Venezualan alliance missionary Pastor Maita, this growing mission is now a church known as Pan de Vida Church. This year for Reformation Sunday, members from our largest congregation in Santo Domingo, as well as missionaries, came together and began the day with a street procession leading up to Juan Pablo Park located across the street from Ozama where a service was held outside to accommodate the large crowd. During the service, its first members were confirmed and baptised. There were seven confirmed, and two young boys were baptised — an extraordinary event.
The church’s newly confirmed members are now able to attend Bible instruction as well as a Divine Service each week to hear the true Gospel proclaimed. Thanks be to God for this church growth. Seminary
The Concordia Reformer Seminary finally received a shipping container of over 300 boxes of books to fill the empty library. After waiting for nearly a year the men will finally have books and other resources in Spanish to access at the Seminary as they study to become the next generation of Pastors in Latin America.
Belize and Mexico
The Placencia Peninsula is famous for its resorts and white sand beaches, a frequented location for tourists and beach goers. However, the small village of Seine Bight, nestled within the peninsula, stands in stark contrast to the grandeur and is home to our newest church, Christ Lutheran Church. This church building was delivered on a truck a few months ago. During my visit, we celebrated its dedication. To add to the celebration, Mariluz Hernandez, a young woman from Seine Bight, was confirmed and Pastor Duane Meissner was installed as President of the Belize Mission Society.
Also during my time in Belize, I joined our missionary stationed there on his weekly trek to Mexico to meet a man who is being trained to be a Lutheran Pastor. We drove most of the day to get to the border, paid our fee to exit Belize, waited in line to cross the border, made it through immigration, and we drove to a very humble home in the city of Chetumal, Mexico. While there, we met a group of people. We sang together, prayed together, shared a meal together, and listened as our missionary pastor preached the Word of God.
As our missionary and upcoming Lutheran Pastor are spreading the Gospel in pockets within the city, small groups of people are coming together to hear God’s Word. This coming March we will celebrate with a group of 20 people who are right now in instruction to be confirmed into the faith.
It was an honor to see these people ask questions and hear the true Gospel. We ask for your prayers that this gathering of people soon becomes the next Lutheran church.
“For where two of three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 Again, I say thank you for your continued prayers. You do this despite not even knowing me. We are all scattered around in different parts of the world, but the Lord uses each of us to His glory.
Being a servant of Christ isn’t always easy, but together in Christ we are stronger because he gives us the faith to withstand trials. The greatest blessing to my work here are your prayers. I am convinced that this would simply be much more difficult without them.
May God bless you as you walk on the mountain tops and through the valleys, but in all times in service to Him. To God be the glory.