Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reaching & Teaching in Panama

Guest post by Reaching & Teaching missionary, Cody Whittaker:

“A special people called out by God, living under His covenant of grace, being preserved, protected, and redeemed by Him and for the glory of His name...this is what the history of the church is all about.”  This was a repeated statement of mine throughout the week of teaching.  The training session for the week was on Church History.  We began with a focus on the sovereignty of God so that the Panamanian people could clearly see throughout the week that they are part of God's redemptive history...a story that is still unfolding today that portrays the grace and glory of God.  Our week was met with much enthusiasm as the people compared some of the events of church history with the events of their own lives and churches.  It was a humbling time for all of us to see that God has always used an imperfect people to accomplish His glorious and perfect will.  Our desire for the week was not just to communicate facts and knowledge, but rather to connect God's people of Panama with all of God's people who have gone before them who have been used by Him to unfold His plan of salvation and redemption.  I am thankful for God's grace that enabled us to accomplish that goal.

The special part about the week was seeing that these Gospel truths that were shared were not only reaching other latinos, but also reaching some indigenous people groups that were represented at the training . . . indigenous groups like the Embera who don't even yet have all the Scriptures in their own language.  To see some of these indigenous people with their Bibles open and rigorously taking notes all throughout the week was quite a highlight.  To know that what we were imparting to them through Reaching and Teaching will be used by God to be taken back to reach their own tribes with the saving message of the Gospel is something that brings overwhelming joy.

The team consisted of three of us from Reaching & Teaching.  Since we were teaching at two different locations each day, our time was extremely busy and the workload was quite heavy. But God's grace was sufficient and we are thankful to have been used by Him to share with the two different groups.  The close of each session involved a time of Q&A which truthfully could have opened up doors for more hours of teaching if there had been time.  There were many questions, but all of their questions showed that they were understanding what we were teaching them as well as showed us a hunger that they have to truly learn.

We are also thankful to Kenny Morris, the IMB missionary in Panama who organized and hosted us for the week.  It was great to hear how the Lord is using him to reach the indigenous people of Panama.  Each morning in the rural setting, he would have one of the indigenous people whom he has been working with stand up and share a story from the Bible. He has been teaching Bible Storying to them since many of the indigenous peoples are not literate.  So, each morning, somebody would start our session by sharing a specific story from the Bible.  Again, what a joy to know that the mighty works of our great God and Savior are being communicated even in story form for those who will never be able to read the Scriptures themselves.

It was such a blessing to teach along side of Trey and Mike, of whom both are excellent teachers.  I myself learned a lot from listening in on their sessions.  Although, I don't think they can say the same for me however since I was teaching in Spanish!

This was my first trip with Reaching and Teaching, but certainly will not be my last since I am a missionary with Reaching and Teaching.  I am so excited for the continued opportunities that the Lord is giving Reaching and Teaching in so many parts of Latin America to help train and equip local pastors and leaders so that they can be more effective in reaching their own people.  It is a humble privilege for me to serve with such a great mission family.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Fifteen and the Fifteen

Fifteen trip members from the USA joined me for a week in Tambo, Ecuador where we taught Highland Quichua pastors and leaders from fifteen different communities in five different Ecuadorian provinces missions, evangelism, church planting, and discipleship. This was one of our most fruitful Reaching & Teaching trips yet. During our sessions on church planting, students committed to reach out to unchurched communities in their areas to evangelize and plant churches. The twenty students in our classes completed the sixth of nine one-week modules. This was by far the most immediately applicable of our classes. Pray for these twenty brothers who are already asking for future training institutes in their home areas. We committed to helping them take the training they are receiving to their areas rather than us being the teachers. This idea was met with humbled silence, but then rejoicing when they realized that we would help them to do it. Indeed, the next intensive module will be Homiletics, which will teach them to preach biblically faithful sermons in culturally appropriate ways. Part of that week’s instruction will include them practice preaching and instructing each other through helpful critiques.
Subsequent weeks will require them to practice teach for more hands-on instruction as we continue to teach teachers to teach future teachers. 2 Timothy 2:2

We also had several from the team building tables and bunk beds for the training center.  Team members also painted the dining room and two dormitory areas. The new tables were put to use in the dining hall before the week was even finished. The training center is really coming together as we put on the finishing touches. A young married couple from Kentucky will be living in the center over the summer. These school teachers will be spending their summer helping Reaching & Teaching in local ministries and surveying surrounding areas. We need this information to enable us to reach and teach the unreached unengaged communities through evangelism and planting doctrinally sound New Testament churches.

God opened the door for us to reach out to an unreached unengaged community that has always been Gospel-hostile. We began building bridges there on previous trips but had our most hopeful interaction there on this last trip as Reaching & Teaching board member and Medical Director, Dr. Jeff Love,
along with Teach to Transform’s Dr. Tom McKechnie led in our medical ministry in this Andean community. One of our Tambo training center students, Francisco, is seeking to plant a church in this area. He was so thankful for this medical ministry to supplement his work, which he said gives the Gospel credibility and opens hearts to receive an evangelical witness.

Francisco would know the importance of open ears and arms. A drunken crowd beat him with fists and sticks just a few years ago, simply for being an evangelical pastor. Unless you have been the lone witness in a hostile community, you cannot imagine the joy that comes from seeing the smiles of neighbors where sneers once were. Reaching & Teaching is partnering with Teach to Transform since we share the same desire and vision to teach teachers and train trainers in the ministry goals God has given each of us wherever we serve. Rather than have Westerners do everything, we long to see solid Christian leaders ministering to their own people with the best training possible in culturally appropriate ways. 

Since we were blessed with so many teachers on this trip, we added evening classes in two different locations. One location hosted a study of 1 John on Thursday evening and the other was held in a believing home where we divided up the 1 John teaching over four evenings. This home is in a community that is hundreds of years old but not only is it without any evangelical church, it has historically been very hostile to evangelicals. On the last evening, Reaching & Teaching staff member, Ben Stafford, led in the study of 1 John 5 while his wife, Marissa, taught children outside so the adults could focus on the teaching. Afterward, a young 22-year-old lady indicated great interest in the Gospel and I had the opportunity to share with her further and lead her to Christ. As I was emphasizing the
importance of the essential first steps to grow in the Christian life and just about to stress the importance of joining a Bible teaching church and being baptized, I stopped short. My heart hurt as it dawned on me that there is no church for her to join. No church exists in her language, culture, and area of the country. This is inexcusable and we are committed to changing that if the Lord allows.

Pray for our efforts to reach and teach in the areas where there is no church, and to train godly men who can pastor these churches and train future generations to rightly divide the Word of Truth. We have invitations from over 100 areas asking for our ministry in places where we are not able to go without your support. Please pray about giving and going to join us in glorifying Christ among the nations, and share this ministry opportunity with other missions minded believers. God is using your prayers, financial gifts, and participation to enable this ministry. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ukraine

I returned from Ukraine Sunday night. At least my body returned; my thoughts continue to swirl around all I saw and experienced in the last eight days. My flight out of Chicago was delayed due to snow and I missed my Warsaw connection to Lviv, resulting in being rerouted through Kyiv before continuing on to Lviv. As I walked out of the airport upon finally arriving in Lviv, my host and a ministry partner met me with a look of great relief. They said they were so glad to see me walk through that arrival door. When I wondered why, they pointed to the huge television screen behind me that was broadcasting downtown Kyiv in flames. I knew that the date of my arrival was the deadline for some resolution from the government. Needless to say, the desired decision had not come and the manifestations began, and defined my time in Ukraine. 

I knew very little about the country before I arrived, whether they spoke Russian or Ukrainian, or even whether it was “Ukraine” or “the Ukraine.”  My time in the beautiful city of Lviv was a steep learning curve for me. I loved that place and being there in spite of the turmoil. I learned that all Ukrainians understand Russian, but many Russians do not return the favor. Only about 40% of the languages are in common and the other 60% is a modern-day shibboleth for the two countries. This fact kept me in check from using the little bits of Russian I learned years ago. In fact, one of the restaurants we went to was built with a small door within the door. When you knocked to go in, the smaller door opened and you had to say, “I’m not Russian!” A voice from inside would then say, “Glory to Ukraine!” to which you were to respond, “Glory to Ukraine!” to gain entrance. I think it was more of a gimmick to make a point than truly serious, but that became a symbol to me of my time and all I learned there. I also learned that their preference is to refer to their country without the definite article, as it is a country and not just a territory. Being in the western end of the country, I was in the pro-European area and those around me all day everyday were very much in favor of the EU and on the side of the protestors.

Lviv is beautiful and very much like the center of Vienna, having been designed and built by the same creative minds in the same era. I wished all week long that times were more peaceful so I could have spent more time getting to know it well. Even though the government building in the next block from me, and all the local police stations were all broken into and burned on my first night there, the general population was quite peaceful on the days following. The mayor even came on TV and announced that the remaining police and military in that part of the country were in favor of the people, “so please do not burn any more buildings.”

I was impressed with one thing repeatedly: this was not mob-mentality or ungoverned, rampant, destructive violence as we normally think of in such times of demonstration. The people preferred peace, but wanted to stand for what was right. They saw themselves being sold to powerful forces as they had been years before, and their desire for freedom was stronger than a desire for peace at any cost. Yet even in their very effective show of force, they demonstrated restraint. The night after the police were neutralized, the people organized themselves to patrol the streets, and citizens had to register to be able to participate. There was no looting or increase of opportunistic crime such as we often see in other countries following natural or man-made disasters. After the government’s snipers mercilessly shot down protesters who were trying to retake their positions on the barricades, the rage and growing indignation of the people yielded no ground, and resulted in apparent victory. When the protestors took the presidential compound, instead of destroying the premises in unmitigated rage, they guarded the home and offices. One man wept to see the wealth of the place, but it belonged to the people. It is almost comical that a protestor-turned-guard told a CNN reporter to stay off the grass.


So much happened in my short time there that I feel I must have been there for much longer. Yet in the 24 hours since I left just as much seems to have happened . . .  and much is happening still. These are dangerous and tentative times for Ukraine. Pray for them and for peace. Pray for peace with men, but pray mostly for peace with God. Only then will they know true and lasting peace.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Update from Tambo, Ecuador

Guest post by Reaching & Teaching missionary, Christopher Sills

I am so excited to be able to share with you some of the great things God is doing at RTIM’s training center in Tambo, Ecuador. 

Last month, I had the privilege to work with a small team from the US who came to both teach and help in construction at our training center.  This small team was comprised of three men:  Pastor Steve Weaver of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY, Jason Dudley, and Andrew Zopff.  Though few in number, the Lord used these men greatly for His Kingdom work here in Ecuador. 

Steve Weaver taught a course on hermeneutics, and he taught the entire week in Spanish.  IMB missionary Al Rodriguez volunteered to help us and sat in with Steve in case there was ever a need for help in translation with a word or phrase.  We are so grateful to Al for all his continued help and assistance in what RTIM is seeking to accomplish in Ecuador. 

One of the great blessings we experienced this past week was the presence of five new students!  We are continuing to see the Lord bless and grow RTIM’s ministry here in Ecuador.  The needs that these pastors and lay leaders who come to our training center have become even more apparent to us as more and more men (and women) come thirsty for more understanding of God’s Word, and these needs are   Steve’s pastoral heart and wisdom were valued greatly by these men!
evidenced in the questions that they ask as well as the energy they put into learning all they can from those who come to teach them.

The two others who came to serve with us, Jason Dudley and Andrew Zopff, were able to make a lot of progress in the construction needs that have presented themselves over the past months.  These two men came prepared to work!  Most of Monday, the first day, was dedicated to deciding what materials would be needed and purchasing them from various hardware and lumber stores in Cañar, a nearby town.  Over the following four days, the men were able to install five doors, build 12 beds (6 bunk beds), and build one partition wall as a model for the men of the church to continue dividing one large room into several, smaller guest rooms.  We are indebted to these men for their tireless efforts for the progress of our training center, which will allow us to be able to serve and teach more men the Word of God!

We are also very thankful for the hard work of Pastor Felix Dután, Director of our local RTIM center in Tambo, who helped us this week with contracting the work and purchasing the needed items for the men to be able to make as much progress as they did.  His help necessarily kept him away from the classes, which he regretted somewhat as he wanted to hear what Steve had to teach.  However, without his help the guys would not have been able to accomplish what they did this past week!

The Lord was abundantly good to us this past week, keeping all of us from illness or other major obstacles.  We now look forward with expectancy to see how the Lord will prepare the way for and how He will use the team that comes in March!  Please join us in prayer for the coming months of teaching and training, for the students as they seek to put into practice what they have learned, and for the continuing construction and preparation of the building.  And, please pray for us to be faithful and good stewards of the resources with which God is blessing us so richly!



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trust in God's Word

Guest post by Jason Wright:

“God give me humility, give me clarity, and give me confidence in Your word!” That was the prayer I prayed over and over again last week as I served with Reaching and Teaching in Panama.
This was my first trip with Reaching and Teaching and there were many questions that crossed my mind as we began. Are the people following what I am saying? Am I really teaching them anything new? What if I say something culturally inappropriate?

We taught two different groups over the week. The morning group, which met at a church in Capira, was made up of a good mix of about 40 men and women of all ages. There were young men preparing to be church planters as well as older believers longing for more teaching. It was encouraging how eager the participants were to receive the teaching. The questions that were asked throughout our time made it clear that the people were being challenged and really thinking through what they were being taught.

This class was organized by IMB missionary Kenny Morris. Over and over again he expressed his thanks because of how much this training was needed and really serving the church there. It is encouraging to know that we were able to be a positive in his work there and meet a very real need. The evening class met at the First Baptist Church of Balboa. This group of about 30 was also quite diverse and, like the morning class, they were eager to learn. As we taught on basic Christian doctrine it was evident that the students were trying to apply what they were learning to every day issues. Their questions during the Q&A time made this clear. The theology we were learning about was not something that was merely challenging them intellectually it was also impacting their hearts. At other times their questions revealed that they werenʼt quite sure that what they agreed with what we were teaching. But, they were thinking it through and searching the Scriptures.

At the end of one teaching session a man who happened to speak some English approached me. His questions ranged from how to deal with youth who were no longer interested in church to women serving as pastors. He mentioned things he had heard on TV or at other churches that were not biblically accurate. I did my very best to give answers based on Godʼs word, the highest authority. He left seeming satisfied but I couldnʼt help but wonder what kind of answers he might have found elsewhere or what he would have taught others had he not been shown biblical truth.

Other questions revealed the ongoing influence the Roman Catholic Church has on believers and pastors in Panama. They truly desire to understand and obey the Scriptures but when what they have been taught contradicts Godʼs word they struggle. This is a struggle that will continue but these leaders must repeatedly be shown the truth of the Bible and the need to cling to it above all else.

I was privileged to be on this trip with Dr. David Sills. Dr. Sills is clearly passionate about teaching and training church leaders anywhere and everywhere. After one teaching session he was more energized afterwards than when he began! This clearly is his passion and it is contagious.

When I consider the great need that exists for pastors and other leaders to be trained in the Word and that God would use a simple servant like me I am overwhelmed! God is sovereign and he will accomplish his purposes. He will build and train his church. And he will use whomever he chooses. I praise God that he chose to use me in such a way on this trip.

As I reflect on the week it is evident that God answered my prayer over and over again. My fears and questions were laid to rest. My hope was not in my ability to teach but in Godʼs word. I am confident in the words of God found in Isaiah 55:10-11:


For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Encouragement from the Dominican Republic

Guest post by Cris Garrido:

Due to civil unrest on the Haitian side of the border, our partners there advised us not to come at this time and we were therefore unable to train the about 35 pastors with whom we work in Haiti. Instead, we focused on the 40 pastors and leaders that work in and around El Cercado, Dominican Republic. We were also blessed to have a brother from Port-au-Prince who attended the previous training in Haiti travel to the DR to join this one.

The trip was a great blessing. We were able to deliver more than 50 hours of training to the different groups along the week and made books available for them to have as a reference once we left. Given the foundation we were able to build on from previous training sessions, the teaching was especially rich as we focused on “Basic Christian Doctrines” and “Worship as a Means for Personal Sanctification.”

It was especially wonderful to hear how the previous trainings have impacted the students’ lives and ministries. Even more rewarding still, was the fact that we see growing critical thinking within the group. We see how many of the students are gradually moving away from a passive listener’s position, where they accepted anything that they would be told at face value without discerning its value or contrasting with what Scriptures reveal. We had very interesting group discussions, where many made important contributions and asked difficult questions. Some even testified to having had their understanding enlightened with regards to heresies they had embraced and taught in their congregations, or to having preached a shallow gospel that did not conform to the Bible.

I was also blessed to have several pastors approach me, seeking individualized counsel for specific situations they are facing. I was able to encourage and pray with them and to point them to principles in the Bible that could shed some light on how they should proceed.

We would like to take a scheduled trip early in the spring to work exclusively with the team of pastors in Haiti so that we can love on and encourage them and to help catch them up on the training schedule. Please pray for and consider partnering with us to make this possible. Our next regularly scheduled trip to work with both groups is in late May 2014. Please pray for all those who have been taught and all those God is calling to serve.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Students, Missions, and You

Guest post by RTIM Staff

Generations of college students have spent the days surrounding New Year’s Eve considering the call of God to go to the nations. The stories of those who have been called out from the Urbana Missions Conferences go back decades and reflect tremendous Kingdom impact. This past New Year’s holiday marked the beginning of a new era in student missions conferences with the launch of the first Cross Conference.

Given the long legacy of student missions and the confessional integrity of the Cross Conference, we were both thankful for the conference and excited to be able to participate. Dr. Sills was a breakout speaker and a sampler from his coauthored upcoming missions text was distributed to many of the students. In addition to these opportunities to engage students, we were able to speak with more than 500 students at the Reaching & Teaching booth throughout the weekend. One of these students, Luke, was the winner of our iPad Mini giveaway, which is always an encouraging point in the weekend to bless someone in that way.

We were able to share with the students how the Lord has grown Reaching & Teaching from one training center, two short-term trips, and about 20 volunteers in 2012 to seven training centers, 12 short-term trips, around 200 volunteers, and seven career missionary families by the end of 2013! There were two primary questions posted by the students with whom we spoke: 1. What is Reaching & Teaching; 2. How can I be involved? We shared with them that we are a missions sending agency that sends short-term teams as well as career missionaries all with a focus on making disciples. We shared that they can be involved in trips as short as one week or as long as the rest of their life. That they can pray for our missionaries. That they can support our trips or personnel.

If you are a student, then we encourage you to pray about how God might use you in this season of your life. If, however, you aren’t a student . . . we encourage you to pray about how God might use you in this season of your life. That’s right, ultimately God intends to use us all of the days of our lives and there is no reason that cannot start today. Is He calling you to go? Is He calling you to pray? Is He calling you to give? Say yes to Him.


Photo of Dr. Sills teaching: Copyright CrossCon, all rights reserved.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A Testimony from 2013

As we look back on all the Lord has done in 2013, we realized that a post written by Reaching & Teaching partner and trip participant, Bill Walsh, captures well both the challenges and fruit we have experienced over the past year. The Lord has done amazing things and led us through incredible growth that we will be telling you more about in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Bill Walsh, Director of International Outreach for The Gospel Coalition has given us permission to share the post he wrote upon return from a trip with us this July. The following was written by Bill and originally posted on the TGC blog at http://thegospelcoalition.org/io/story/equipping_the_church_in_ecuador:

I don’t speak Spanish and couldn’t tell what the conversation was about. But I knew that there was a bit of a debate happening. I whispered to one of my team members next to me who knew Spanish, “What’s happening?” I soon learned that the Ecuadorean pastors in the room were questioning the premise being taught by one of our youngest teachers, who currently had the floor. The topic was sin, and some of the pastors in the room were arguing that true Christian pastors generally don’t sin. We were somewhat stunned. 
 
The discussion over the next couple of days centered on correcting that thinking and laying out the doctrine of progressive sanctification; how Christ takes sinners like us and, over a lifetime, makes us more and more like Him. There are of course plenty of Christians in the West who have unbiblical views on this topic. But the situation brought home why theological training for pastors is so needed around the world, particularly for those who have little access.
 
In July I had the great privilege of traveling to Ecuador where teams from several U.S. churches joined Dr. David Sills from Reaching & Teaching Ministries in their long-term efforts to strengthen the church in the Quichua regions of South America. We spent a tremendous week together studying the scriptures alongside two-dozen indigenous pastors from the provinces around El Tambo. I had the personal privilege of teaching on systematic theology, which was a real treat for me. 

Dr. Sills shares how we experienced a significant number of trials during the week:

It was also an extremely difficult week with regard to the opposition from the evil one. A bag that went missing finally arrived in our possession, but without the laptop and various other possessions that the team member had packed. Five team members became ill during the week with altitude sickness, traveler’s stomach issues, or a combination of both. Three vehicles had problems with overheating that resulted in them breaking down at the most inopportune times. One missionary suffered a head-on collision and totaled out his vehicle. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it was clear that the enemy was fighting hard against us.

Our primary purpose was in training indigenous Ecuadorean pastors and church leaders who have very little access to pastoral education. Members of our team also did VBS with the children in the community, as well as some health wellness checkups and some construction. During the week, I had the rare opportunity of teaching 4 sessions with pastors, focusing on aspects of Systematic Theology, with side-by-side translation into Spanish. Most of my focus in past years has been in working strategically to provide resources in the right languages, from my base in the U.S. It was so enjoyable to be able to also engage in active teaching of the scriptures, personally and in the field.

At one time, Ecuador had Latin America’s lowest percentage of evangelicals. In recent decades however, there has been a dramatic rise to number around 1.2 million. The percentage of believers in the country now stands at 8.5%, mostly focused in Quito and other growing cities, with a high concentration amongst the Quichua peoples. This growth has also made a dent in the influence of the Catholic Church. 

Reaching & Teaching (R&T) has a long-term commitment to this region. In collaboration with community leaders, they are nearing completion on a pastoral training center and ministry base in Tambo, an area with more than 330 isolated communities and only 32 churches. This is a region where believers are often quite isolated from each other and many are persecuted for their faith. 

These church leaders epitomize those whom we sense a burden to serve across Asia, Africa, and South America. A very small percentage will ever be able to attend seminary, and their access to solid theological books is extremely limited. Few of the men pastoring these churches have ever been discipled. They've rarely been taught the Bible, apart from R&T’s involvement. 

This trip brought together so many elements of collaboration: U.S. church teams, a ministry engaged in overseas theological training, long-term missionaries laboring in the field, and indigenous church leaders there in the Tambo region. We were humbled as we saw the commitment of these Ecuadorean pastors, to pursuing this time of training in order to better serve their congregations.  

Our mission with this team was a chance to put boots on the ground living out the core burden of TGC International Outreach: to provide Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. On this trip, our team did Packing Hope, bringing 8 cases of Spanish-language resources for two ministries working in Ecuador. 

Pray with us that God will bring fruit from our time there for the sake of His glory, by the grace of Christ being displayed through his church in Ecuador. 
Bill Walsh is Director of International Outreach for The Gospel Coalition. He worked for Desiring God Ministries for 13 years. Starting in 2006, he and a small team built a global network of partners for the cause of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. This initiative joined TGC in 2012. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in Minneapolis and has two adult children, Beau and Regan. Contact Bill at Bill.Walsh@TheGospelCoalition.org.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Reaching & Teaching in Panama

Guest post by: Trey Moss

Panama October 2013 was my second trip with Reaching & Teaching. Spending a week in Panama impressed upon my mind several things that make Reaching & Teaching the perfect short-term missions opportunity.

Participating in a Reaching & Teaching trip will expose you to the hunger for the Bible in Latin America and the rest of the world. In Panama I encountered peoples from all different walks of life who were all hungry for biblical truth. This is not a self-serving hunger, but a hunger to know and apply the Bible in obedience to what God has commanded. Pastors, evangelists, and young disciples are doing the work of ministry in Panama. They know that they lack knowledge and skills that you can impart to them. 

Additionally you will be spurred on and encouraged in your preparation for ministry or in the current work you do as you get to know these believers in Latin America. In every setting during a Reaching & Teaching trip I have met Christians who sought to compliment and encourage growth in my teaching and preaching. God has used these kind words in my life and they are memories I will cherish forever.

The leaders at Reaching & Teaching know their craft. If you want to see up-close missions done well sign up for a trip ASAP. Their godly example challenges me even now. Their love for these people and their desire to see Jesus glorified in Latin America and around the world is contagious. My involvement with Reaching & Teaching is happy providence for which I continually give thanks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Partnership

I just had the wonderful privilege to speak at The Masters College global mobilization week in Southern California. While there, I took advantage of a free morning to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. It was amazing to see exhibits about so much of his public life and to actually go into Air Force One that transported him and the last seven US Presidents around the world. Two plaques he kept on his desk in the oval office also struck me. One read, “It CAN be done.” The other, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” Clarence Jones, founder of the worldwide Christian radio ministry, HCJB Global, similarly said, “It's amazing what can be accomplished if you don't worry about who gets the credit.” There is so much to be done. It is time to leave logos and egos at the door and stop caring who gets the credit. It can be done if we will work together.


Every day I hear from someone in another country asking for training for pastors. Many of the brothers in these countries have no access to pastoral preparation and the theological education that they know they desperately need. They remind me that they do not have Christian parents or grandparents as we do and did not grow up in the shadow of a good church attending VBS as kids. When we are onsite, these brothers often see our Reaching & Teaching instructors as the Christian Google to ask questions they have wondered about for years.

It is overwhelming to be constantly reminded of the untold millions still untold. It is even more staggering to think that what passes for Evangelical Christianity in many cases is actually the health and wealth heresy of the “prosperity gospel.” It is heartbreaking to have to send an email every day to someone else who is asking for the help that we do not have the staff and funds to supply, knowing that this means continued heresy and syncretism. When I consider that so many need help, I remember William Carey’s response upon seeing the masses in India. He said that if India would ever be won for Christ, the Indians would have to do it. He knew that they could never send enough missionaries to reach and teach the multiplied millions of India. We share that vision at Reaching & Teaching.

I rejoice to see the partnership we have with Felipe Castro, Cris Garrido, and the IBI church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Felipe and Cris have participated in our work that Cris started in El Cercado since the beginning. Indeed, it was their initiative that launched us into Haiti this year. Not only do they provide the teaching teams for these two locations, Felipe led a team of brothers from the DR to two remote locations in Peru to teach for Reaching & Teaching this summer. We now regularly have teams made up of international teachers from multiple countries. Our motto has always been, “All of God's people going into all the world faithfully obeying all of the Great Commission.”

God has His people all over the world to join in the effort of training leaders. A pastor studying in our class in Panama is a university professor who plans to take what he learns from us and train others in the part of the country where he lives. That is our joy and desire for all of our students.

However, the exploding need and people requesting our training is increasing faster than we can plan and staff trips to train. We believe God is calling for an expanded model. We are working to respond to requests all over the world, and in some countries like Brazil we are launching multiple locations at once. Our expanded model calls for us to begin training centers to train trainers of the many needed institutes, sending them to train the thousands of pastors and leaders who need training in scattered locations more accessible to more students.

The genesis of the model grew out of a pure need to respond to the requests in Brazil. However, if the Brazil model would help immensely to meet the needs in that vast country, why not elsewhere? Think of the many requests we have to come to Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, East Asia. Where would it stop? It doesn't stop. At least it doesn't have to; we only need to connect with the ones God is calling out and equip and empower them to follow Him.

Imagine sitting in a darkened indoor sporting arena. What if everyone would light a candle and help those who are struggling to get theirs lit? Together we can light the world for the Light of the World. How is God calling you to share in this ministry? Would you consider going on a team to train, going career to receive teams and coordinate training, giving to make this possible, or praying to plead God’s favor? I would love to hear from you and help you connect with the place God has for you in the world.



Friday, October 25, 2013

God Oversees and Overrules for the Best!

“I’m sorry, your permission to work here has been denied.” That was the word to us on Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM before our team was to depart the next morning for Ecuador. The government office that grants clearance to visiting medical teams now requires several new steps that neither we nor our Ecuadorian coordinator knew about. We had been planning last week’s Fall Break Tambo, Ecuador trip for months and thought we had everything in place. Our plan was to continue to build bridges and relationships in several unchurched communities by offering free medical clinics while our instructors taught pastors and others furthered construction on our teaching center.

The teaching went beautifully as our team taught twenty Quichua leaders church history, the personal spiritual discipline of meditation on the Word, and pastoral administration. The construction team provided the windows for the center, put down the floor planks for the library, and began on dorm rooms for instructors and students. Marco, our Ecuadorian “maestro” led our men wonderfully in the fine art and backbreaking labor of installing tongue in groove flooring over eucalyptus beams.

On our last trip to Tambo several months ago, we were able to send evangelistic teams to share the gospel and work with young people in some closed, gospel-hostile communities. We announced then that we would be returning in October to do more of the same but also to bring a multifaceted medical team to minister to their physical needs, just as we were ministering to their spiritual needs. Word spread like wildfire and both interest and need was great. The medical team’s credentials were notarized and recognized by both governments, the medicines were purchased, the bags were packed . . . and then the hard news of denial came. I made the decision that we would not work without permission or break the law in any way. To their credit the medical team came on as planned, trusting that the Lord had a plan for it all, with the intention to join in any area of the week’s work where they could help.

Ironically, I had discussed many times with Reaching & Teaching’s medical director, Dr. Jeff Love, how so many mission teams blast into an area and give out ten days of vitamins, some anti-amoeba or parasite medicine, and maybe a few aspirins. A few days after the team leaves the vitamins run out, they people drink untreated water again, and their condition is the same as it was before the team arrived. We have felt frustrated at the traditional medical mission trip approach and longed for a more holistic health program for communities rather than the short-term Band-Aid to long-term problems.

When we arrived in Ecuador we learned that the communities expecting the medical care would not take the disappointment easily. One of the students in our pastoral training center had recently moved to one of the harder communities to start a church. He was particularly nervous about being called a liar and even suffering physical persecution from the villagers. He was attacked and almost killed a few years ago by an anti-evangelical mob wielding sticks and rocks, and the memory is still traumatic to him and his family. We decided that the best plan would be to go to the community and explain what happened, take some food and juice for a light meal, and hope to appease them.

As I prayed the night before we went, I felt great peace as I realized that God had actually stepped in to intervene, bringing about the kind of medical ministry we had wanted all along. If we had received the government clearance, the week would probably have offered a ministry that resembled what we had wanted to avoid. That kind of ministry was not possible now. I decided to go and explain to them that we preferred a long-term relationship with them. We wanted to get to know them and their needs before we just blasted in with a carryon filled with antibiotics and parasite meds, only to leave them in the same condition we found them, with only a hazy memory of a visit from gringo doctors.

You could cut the tension with a knife as we all gathered in the community schoolroom. I shared my thoughts about the best way to minister among them, and they exchanged hard glances as they realized no medicines would be forthcoming. I shared the Gospel as their greatest need, Ecuadorian missionary Joselito Orellana voiced his agreement, and the local church planter Francisco concurred, but the chill in the air continued. We passed out the refreshments and spent about five hours sharing food and learning their names, ages, medical conditions and needs. We began to laugh and trust and hope together. Some of the team went out and played futbol and basketball with men and women of the community, mixing team members, laughing, encouraging, and genuinely liking each other. Soon the community members were agreeing that multiple return trips to teach them how to prevent disease by improving hygiene, eating well, and monitoring their health was much better than a one-and-done medical mission trip. We promised to return, and we will do everything we can to ensure that we do so.

I began to envision a healthy evangelical church thriving in that community. I envisioned the fruit of our Reaching & Teaching training center pastoring that church, and through that church starting many others throughout the traditionally Gospel-hostile communities of the Andes. Through the needs we witnessed in this single day, I also began to see the human need for many doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, a hand surgeon, and the funds necessary to carry this out. God led us to a young nurse who lives in the community but works a couple of hours away. Since she is the only medically trained person anywhere near the community, it was a great blessing that she agreed to be our onsite coordinator and to communicate special needs as we prepare for future trips.

The pastoral training was a blessing as always, and made so smooth by one of the best teams I have ever led. I believe that God is stirring some among them to be Reaching & Teaching missionaries and others who came to be short-term team leaders for future trips. The training center is almost at the point where we can house and feed our teams there as well as teach, cutting down on time spent commuting to and from the hostal and teaching center. God is doing an amazing work in, to, through, and with Reaching & Teaching. If all this were not enough, we also had a team working in the Dominican Republic and Haiti during the same week. I marvel to think what all God has in store for us, and the part you will play. Come join us!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Reaching & Teaching in the Dominican Republic & Haiti

Guest Post from Cristopher Garrido:

The Lord has commissioned His church and His body is present all over the world. God has burdened me to work towards helping to equip some of these leaders around the world, knowing that this will have an exponential impact. Investing a mission trip to equip those called by God as leaders will bear fruit long after the team has come and gone.

I began working with Dr. Sills and Reaching & Teaching earlier this year after learning about his vision and the scope of the ministry. During the summer, Dr. Sills and I took an initial trip to the community of El Cercado in the Dominican Republic and started working with some 25 pastors and church leaders. We made a commitment to this group of church leaders to take 9 one-week trips over the course of three years in order to offer RTIM's complete training program.

I returned last Sunday from leading a second trip to train pastors in El Cercado. But this time, we not only worked in El Cercado, but were blessed to expand across the border into Haiti, thanks to my home church's on-going involvement there. We started training Haitian pastors in the community of Belladere and plan to offer the complete three-year training program there as well.

The trip was not without obstacles, ranging from last minute cancellations and delays, a funding deficit, our vehicle breaking down hours away from the training site, problems getting through the border, and so forth. But through it all, we saw God's hand at work in our favor.


Seven instructors worked with some 70 church leaders and delivered close to 70 hours of teaching time. Some participants traveled for hours in order to part-take in the training. The testimonies from the training were deeply encouraging. First time participants particularly spoke of the training being eye-opening to them. One participant in particular said, "this has been an answered prayer, all the uncertainties I had with regards to my faith and to the bible have been addressed, a lot of the things I had seen in the Bible, but were not accepted by my church leaders, have been affirmed. I hope that in the future, you guys will also bring training specifically for women." Maxell, one of our translators in Haiti, who works with many organizations and translates for many missionary activities said, "I wish this type of training could happen all over my country, this is the greatest need, you have no idea the state the church of Haiti is in."

God is confirming this calling by backing us in all that we do, and broadening our horizons. Reaching & Teaching’s next trip leaves today for the Amazon jungle of Peru.

Our next trip to work with the pastors' association at El Cercado and in Belladere, Haiti, is scheduled for January 5-11, 2014. Please pray that God will bring those who will join the trip as teachers and the resources needed to make it happen. If God moves you to get involved you can obtain the details about the trip on the Reaching & Teaching website here.

As I close, I leave you with two additional testimonies from pastors who have been in our classes at these locations. Will you join with me in praying that God will raise up more teachers to go so that more pastors might have this same testimony? Might that be you?

“God bless you in a great way. For me it is more than a privilege to be part of this learning experience in the biblical knowledge. My devotional life and my passion for the bible have radically changed for the better. What impacts me the most is seeing how the things we learned months ago is still fresh and is part of the lives of us all in such a powerful way. Truly the word of God is living and effective. I think that all I learned during this past week has not only caused a great impact in the pastors leaders that were present, but will also impact families, churches and communities. I can’t even imagine what great fruit these seeds that have been sown, will produce. My prayer is that God rewards each of those who make these trainings possible.” –Natanael Medina


"Rich and abundant blessings; someone once said that he who knows the truth shall never return to darkness. I believe that you are being instruments, so that we may know, or grow in knowledge of the truth of God. My prayer is that God will continue to use you for His glory and honor.” –Pastor Juan Francisco