Wednesday, December 11, 2013

11 December 2013 Update!

Dear partners,

We write constantly about prayer and we frequently thank you for your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  Here is some info that is important for you to consider as you pray about your financial gift to this year's offering:

Global population …………………………………………7.0 billion people

Population of unreached people groups with limited
  or no access to the Gospel …………………………….....3.9 billion people

Number of Southern Baptist missionaries currently
  serving overseas with IMB …………………………..….. 4,854 missionaries*
    (* Plus their approx. 4,000 children)

Number of countries in which they are working ……….….. 134 countries

Number of people groups currently being engaged
  by IMB missionaries ……………………………………. 874 people groups

Number of people groups currently being engaged
  that do not have Scripture in their language
  (“Bible-less people groups”) …………………………… 204 people groups

Your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions is what enables our work to continue. Without your support, we, and all of your Southern Baptist missionaries, would not be able to serve, and the people groups among whom we serve might not otherwise currently have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. There are many more missionaries waiting to be sent out. Please pray about giving even more this year to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions through your church or through , so that the many people groups among whom we serve, as well as those who are still waiting, will hear the Good News.

Our prayer is that your gift to this year's offering would show that you are 'Totally His!'

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson Holeman

Monday, December 9, 2013

9 December 2013 Update!

Merry Christmas from Wonderful Oaxaca!

Each one of you who pray for us are a wonderful gift from the Lord.  Your prayers are and have been our most important resource in 2013!  We have had a great year and we have seen the Father do so much through His people...both Mexicans and folks from the USA! (and a sweet couple from Argentina, too!)

We're excited about coming home for Christmas. Here's our schedule for the holidays...

May the Lord bless you all during this holiday season!

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

We'd love to hear from you or get a Christmas card from you...

Here's our USA Address:

Jeff and Liesa Holeman
c/o Arnold Jackson
55 Terrapin Drive
Brandon, MS  39042

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

26 November 2013 Update!

Saludos from Oaxaca!

We have had a great and busy few weeks.  We are very thankful for your prayers!  Your prayers make a difference in our lives every day.

Here's some highlights of the past few weeks...
  • Haylee and Jackson are doing great.  This has been a challenging semester at school but both are doing great with their schoolwork and social activities.  Jackson continues to grow taller and perfect the art of doing homework and playing video games at the same time.  Haylee received her ACT (American College Test) scores and she did great!  Her current scores will bring scholarships and she has an opportunity to go to any college she wants.
  • We were able to visit a new area of southern Mexico to investigate a people group that we had never visited before.  We found a lot of need for church-planting but we also found some believers who are making a huge impact for the Kingdom where they are living.  We came home so encouraged by what the Father is doing through His people.
  • Liesa continues her ministry at the children's home, working with our Hands On girls, working on financial stuff for our Connecting Cluster, and a multitude of other tasks.  She's looking forward to a holiday break soon.
  • Jeff has been busy conducting research in some areas of Mexico and also trying to serve some of our other missionaries in the Americas.  We're seeing open doors among several unreached people groups in southern Mexico.  We are praying for good Mexican church partners and some great USA church partners to work together to plant churches.
These next few weeks will be a mix of fun and work...
  • Our Fall Team Retreat will be on the beach during Thanksgiving Week.  We are blessed with a great team of folks to work with and we'll spend a few days celebrating and relaxing.  
  • Jeff will be traveling to another country in Central America to attend a meeting of missionaries working to reach the unreached people groups in our part of the world.
  • Liesa will be taking care of home base and being 'Super Mom' to our super kids.
  • We'll be headed to Mississippi on Dec 21 to spend a few days with our families and friends.  We are ready for some time with the folks we miss so much.
  • We'll say good-bye to several of our team mates who will be returning to the USA after serving for this semester.  We'll miss Jim, Jasmine, Sarah, Shelley, Hannah, Kat, and Hannah #2 so much.  They have been a huge blessing to so many and have worked extremely hard.
You can join us in praying for these things:
  • Pray for a  HUGE Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year.  We are at a critical moment in the life of Southern Baptist Missions and to reach our $175 million goal would certainly solve a lot of problems.
  • Pray for some new Hands On team mates who will be arriving in February.
  • Pray for new USA church partners who understand the importance of training, learning culture, and engaging in healthy ministry practices.
  • Pray for Mexican Baptists to have a vision for southern Mexico that will motivate them to give and go to their own people.
You all are a blessing to us.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Monday, November 4, 2013

4 November 2013 Update!

Hola from Oaxaca!

We're going to share an update through photos...

 This is an open door among the CS people group.  This village has a few believers but they have not gathered as a church body.  Would you pray for a church in this village?

Liesa's birthday was this week and these folks showed up for some cake, ice cream, and to love on Liesa.  She deserves it!

Nando and Mili came all the way from Argentina to serve as missionaries on our team for two weeks!  They are a HUGE blessing and we already miss having them here.  Pray for them as they follow Jesus wherever He leads them.

The Fall Festival at Oaxaca Christian School was a lot of fun this year.  Here's Jackson and couple of his buddies.

If there's an opportunity to dress up in some weird way then Haylee is usually the first in line.  She definitely gets the school spirit award!

Hands On is a missions program for young adults to serve with missionaries on the field and get 'Hands On' training.  Hannah and Kat are leading our team meeting in this photo.  Pray for Hannah A, Hannah B, Kat, Jasmine, Shelley, and Sarah as they finish up their semester with us.

Hands On is also a program for young adults to see how many ice cream cones they can eat at once.  Here are Hannah and Jasmine giving it their best shot.
World's Best Team of Missionaries.

We are so grateful for your prayers.  You are an important part of our team.  Keep up the great work!

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

15 October 2013 Update!

Liesa and one of the many cactus 'trees'
we find in our part of the world.
We are grateful every day for the prayers of all of you who are partners in the work here in southern Mexico.  We have just finished several really busy weeks and we look forward to a few weeks of no travel and 'normal' stuff.
Here's an update:
  • Haylee and Jackson are in the middle of a busy semester of school work and are hoping to survive the school grind until the Christmas break. 
  • Several USA fellowships have come and gone over the last month.  The Word was proclaimed and taught, people were loved on just like Jesus would have done, and doors were opened for future ministry.
  • The number of believers among the SBY people group has doubled from 2 to 4!  As best we know, no new believers have come from this people group in the last ten years.  This is a big deal and we are rejoicing that the Father allowed us to be able to see this.  Keep praying for the SBY people.
  • The SPT people are located in southern Mexico and in the western part of the USA.  Please pray for a USA fellowship that is working to plant a church among them in the USA.
  • The CC people has been a people group that has been a challenge for us to find a USA fellowship who would come to plant a church among them.  Last week, a Vision Team from a USA fellowship came and they are praying about beginning a church planting attempt among this group.  Please pray for them.
  • The CS people group have been adopted by a USA fellowship in Ohio.  A recent visit to this people group was a huge success with open doors into a village and even a very nice place for teams from the USA to live in this community.
Those are just a few of the great stories we can share with you.  Your prayers are so important to the work the Father is doing here.  Thank you for your help!
Please pray for the following needs:
  • Pray for Fernando and Milli who are coming from Argentina to join our team for a couple of weeks.  Pray for them as they work in another culture with a slightly different language.  Pray for open doors among agricultural workers.
  • Pray for another USA fellowship that are here this week visiting the MC people group.  This Vision Team will be praying about planting a church among these people.
  • Pray for Natasha who returned to the USA today after spending 9 months with us.  She has been a blessing to so many!  Pray for her re-entry into the USA and for her adjustment to a different life.
  • Pray for Ready Reserve worker Jim R. who is here until  December serving in so many ways.  Jim has worked in Mexico for many years and has come out of retirement to be a great help to us.
  • Pray for our six Hands On students as they enter their last six weeks with us.  Jasmine, Hannah 1, Hannah 2, Shelley, Kat, and Sarah have been working hard and want to finish strong.
  • Pray for research opportunities that are coming up as we visit new areas.  Pray that we will be led to the right places.
  • Pray for the many in southern Mexico who are blinded by religious tradition and who have no knowledge of a personal relationship with Jesus.
Thank you for 'holding the rope.'

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Saturday, September 28, 2013

29 September 2013 Update!

One of the many interesting blessings of being a missionary is that you get to see the Lord do some amazing things right before your eyes.  In these six years that we have served in Peru and Mexico we have seen God pull off some really cool stuff.  Your prayers are always a part of this.  We are so dependent on you doing your part in 'holding the rope' through prayer.  Obviously, you are doing your part.

This week one of our great USA church partners came for a return visit to their adopted community in southern Mexico.  This community is several hours out in the mountains and is only found if you're really searching for it.  This is one area of southern Mexico where there are no life-giving churches.  There are a few institutional churches that are pushing a certain brand of religion. Because of this, USA churches are praying for and coming to southern Mexico to share the Gospel, train Christian leaders, and plant new churches.  This particular church from the USA was hoping to meet some people in this village with the hopes of getting permission to work and live among the people of the village in the future...maybe months down the road.

There is certain amount of fear involved in going into some of these communities.  Cross cultural workers who rarely leave the city tell stories of how closed these communities are to outsiders and how dangerous it is to get out of your vehicle.  I (Jeff) have traveled all over southern Mexico and have yet to find one of these communities.  But, I'm still a little nervous with all of these stories in the back of my mind.  These stories often are more influential on my thinking than, say, the promise of scripture in Joshua 1:9 that assures me that The Lord is with me wherever I go.

God really showed out this week.  I led this team to their village and we got out of our vehicles to see who the Lord would allow us to meet.  We had no place to eat or sleep in the village.  Remember, our intention was to just meet some people and hopefully find an open door into the village in a few months.  However, immediately we were greeted by Ellen* and her children.  We had met them several months ago.  Ellen invited us into her little restaurant and cooked lunch for us.  We then met Jackie* who allowed us to rent some space so that we would have a place to sleep for the night. This all happened within one hour of getting out of our vehicles.  A new friend named Allen* greeted us and showed us around the village.  While in the center of the village I noticed a group of men standing in front of the City Hall building.  I greeted them and introduced myself and sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to speak boldly and ask for permission to live and work in the village.  So, that's what I did.  And they said, 'YES!'  

I was somewhat surprised at this so I went to get the leaders of the USA church that were with me.  I brought them over and again we asked permission to live and work among their people.  Again, the leaders of the village said, 'Yes! We want you here!'  Our next option was to find a more permanent place in the village for ministry teams to be able to live in the future.  Standing beside us was a lady named Lucy* and she spoke up and said, 'I have a place.'

We toured Lucy's place and it was perfect.  Lucy and her husband have basically built a hotel in the this little village.  Remember, this is out in the boonies.  Nobody is coming out here looking for a hotel!  So, in the span of three hours we had met some new friends, gained permission to live and work in the village, and had found a perfect place for ministry teams to lodge in the future.  The Lord is with me wherever I go.  Indeed.

So, here I am sharing with all of you so that you will know that your prayers are powerful.  Over the past months we have seen the Lord take our little plans and make them so much bigger.  He has expanded our influence in exponential ways so that His Name is being proclaimed.  You are a part of this work.  Actually, you are the most important part.  

Please join us in praying for these needs:
  • Pray for Kat, Hannah A., Jasmine, Shelley, Hannah B., and Sarah.  These are young adults who have given up four months to live and serve the people of southern Mexico.  They have long days and some tough assignments.  Lift them up.
  • Pray for Jim who has come out of retirement to spend a few months serving these sweet people in Oaxaca.
  • Pray for two USA churches who will be exploring communities over the next couple of weeks.  These churches are seeking open doors for planting churches among communities in southern Mexico.
  • Pray for Jackson, Haylee, Liesa, and Jeff to be faithful to Jesus and to be able to complete the task given to us.
We are grateful for your partnership in prayer and your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Saturday, September 14, 2013

14 September 2013

Thank you so much for your prayers on our behalf.  You are a part of the work when you pray.  Without your partnership through prayer, we are confident the work in southern Mexico would look very different.  It is our responsibility as missionaries to recruit prayer warriors and keep you informed.  We are grateful so many of you are doing your part.  

We have some busy days ahead so please pray for these requests:

  • Sept 21: Second Baptist Springfield, Missouri sends a team of 'Mission Trip Rookies' to Oaxaca to experience hands-on missions in a cross-cultural context.
  • Sept 22: Urbancrest Baptist Lebanon, Ohio sends a team to continue research and building relationships among their people group.  Pray for continued open doors.
  • Sept 30: Pillar Church Stafford, Virginia sends a Vision Team to visit and pray over the SBY people.  Pray for this team to find favor among their people.
  • Oct 7: SonRise Baptist Newnan, Georgia sends a Vision Team to visit and pray for the CC people.  Pray for this team to find favor among their people and for discernment about the future.
  • Oct 13: Crossway Baptist Springfield, Missouri sends a Vision Team to visit and pray for the MC people. Pray for this team to be led by the Spirit and to build relationships with the small group of believers in their people group.
  • Oct 16: We have two believers from Argentina who will be visiting Oaxaca on a two-week mission trip.  This married couple are praying about a call to missions and want to come as short-term workers to another Latin American country.  We are excited about this opportunity to receive missionaries from other countries other than the USA.
  • Pray for our teammates (John and Jenny) who are continuing work on a Zapotec story set to be used in future ministry.  Pray for success in translation and acceptance by the Zapotec people.
  • Pray for local Community Transformation Training that we are hopeful will help equip more Mexicans for effective ministry and church-planting.
  • Pray for the group meeting at Cuilapam to become a strong church.  The International World Changers teams from July were a huge part of helping this group get started.
  • Pray for the ESL training that is being used to build relationships, share God's stories and to find more national partners to serve as interpreters for short-term workers.
  • Pray for our teammates who are here for the remainder of the year.  Jim, Kat, Sarah, Shelley, Jasmine, Hannah #1, and Hannah #2 are doing some great work.  Pray also for Jose, Moises, and Manuel who are Mexican brothers who we have the privilege of working alongside over the next few months.
Lots of great things are happening in and around Oaxaca.  There are so many great opportunities.  Please pray we will have discernment on what are the BEST things to be doing.

You are blessing!
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Pray for this family leading a church
among a community in southern Mexico.
These are the ones who are
GREAT in the Kingdom.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

8 September 2013 Update

Hola! from Oaxaca!

Thank you so much for your prayer support.  We are thankful for the many who are praying for us and the many who are praying for the work that must be done in southern Mexico.  Your prayers mean so much and are a very important part of what the Father is doing.

A very important training event is coming up in January 2014.  We would love for you to participate.  Click HERE for more info!

Here are some important updates:

  • We continue to see more opportunities to work among the unreached communities of southern Mexico.  We are thankful for the good relationships with some great Mexican partners.
  • The Father has sent us some fantastic students for this semester.  Kat, Jasmine, Shelley, Sarah, and the two Hannah's are such a blessing.
  • Our Ready Reserve missionary, Jim, has arrived.  We are so thankful for his willingness to come and serve.
  • Summer 2013 was a busy one but we are continuing to see so many great things come from the relationships that were made.
  • Haylee and Jackson are doing great as the new school year is well underway.
  • Our meeting/retreat in Brazil was a great time.  We were able to get a lot accomplished and to have a lot of fun, too.
Please pray with us about these things:
  • Second Baptist Springfield, MO/First Baptist Branson, MO will be sending a team to Oaxaca this month.  They will be spending time in various ministry projects as well as working at the Lacy Seminary.  Pray for this team as they minister in and around Oaxaca.
  • Urbancrest Baptist, OH will be returning to their people group this month.  Pray for open doors and good relationships to be established.
  • Pillar Church, VA will be sending a Vision Team to southern Mexico to investigate an unreached people group.  Pray for this team to have wisdom and discernment.
  • Pray for our team (Jim, Hannah, Hannah, Sarah, Shelley, Jasmine, Kat, Hope, Elijah, Luke, Caleb, Jenny, John, Jackson, Haylee, Liesa, and Jeff) as we seek to serve faithfully in this great place where the Lord has placed us.
Thank you for your partnership!
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Missionaries from Mexico and the USA enjoyed some great training
this past week.  We are thankful for the training provided by Southern Baptists.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

25 August 2013 Update!

Greetings from Foz do Iguacu, Brasil!

We are here this week as guests of the great people of Corryton Baptist Church.  These fantastic folks are footing the bill for a few days of retreat for missionaries and have brought us all here to Iguazu Falls, Brazil.  We are having a great time of fun and some sweet times in worship and Bible Study.  These Corryton folks sure know how to love on missionaries.  We are so thankful for this opportunity.

A special blessing today was receiving letters from our Oxford, Mississippi family.  We have letters from Robert and Beth Allen, Donna Atwood, Greg and Rosemary Brewer, Bubba and Mistie Robinson, Beth Fitts, Jamie and Heather Hopson, Heather Card, Drehr and Peggy Harris, Earl and Pat Freeman, Lanny Shackelford, Holly Abel, Matt and Paula, Peyton, Kaitlyn, and Hayden Moore, Pam Abbott, and Mitchell, Tammy, and Carter Diggs.  What a blessing to hear from home folks and to have you continue to be such important influences in our lives.  We love each of you dearly.

We'll be headed back to Mexico in just a few days.  We thank you for 'holding the rope.'

Jeff and Liesa

Monday, August 12, 2013

12 August 2013 Update!

Double Click the Prayer Card to Enlarge!  Download and share!
We are winding down our time in Mississippi and will be headed back to Oaxaca in the morning.  We're ready to be home but we've really had fun with our family and friends while in Mississippi.  If we did not get to see you this time, maybe we can get together next time we're in the Magnolia State!

We are so thankful for your prayers.  Here's some general prayer requests that you can pray all the time, anytime, sometimes, daytime, nightime, get the picture!

  1. Pray for us to love the Lord with our whole hearts.  We are tempted in so many ways just like you.  Pray for us to not have divided hearts and to keep our lives focused on the task He has for us.
  2. Pray for us to be humble and submissive to the leadership of the Spirit.  Pride is dangerous in the lives of missionaries so pray that we'll be able to avoid that.
  3. Pray for us to be diligent and disciplined in our personal study of the Word.  We're busy just like everybody else and we need to be reminded to keep the study of God's Word a priority.
  4. Pray for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  5. Pray for us to have wisdom and understanding of God's plan for the work we are doing.  We want to be doing what the Father needs done.
  6. Pray for purity and holiness in our thoughts and actions.
  7. Pray for boldness in sharing the Good News.
  8. Pray for us to find our comfort and rest in the Lord when the days are overwhelming and when people and circumstances are challenging.
  9. Pray for us to have favor in the eyes of local governments.  We work among indigenous communities where there are few or no churches.
  10. Pray for us during the lonely times when we miss our family and friends.  Pray for the Lord to provide a peace that will overwhelm the hard days.
Thank you for your partnership!  Come and visit Oaxaca when you get a chance!

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

8 August 2013 Update!

Greetings from HOT and HUMID Mississippi!

Cousins having fun in Mississippi.  August 2013.
We are in Mississippi for a few days of vacation and we're enjoying our time of family, friends, fun, and food!  We wanted to update you on a few things:
  1. Summer 2013 was a great one!  We saw the Father do some amazing things through our family and through our Mexican brothers and sisters and through some great folks from the USA.  We are grateful for the prayer support you all have supplied us.  We saw new doors opened for the future, several new believers become a part of God's family, USA partners with a clearer understanding of missions, and some young folks who sense a call to missions as a career in the future.  God is so good to allow us to be a part of all of this.
    We were blessed to have some great friends to help with
    International World Changers 2013.
  2. We have SIX young adults coming to be a part of our team until December.  Hannah, the other Hannah, Jasmine, Katherine, Sarah, and Shelley will be arriving on August 20.  They will be with us until December.  We are thankful the Father continues to send us workers to help us.  Please pray for them as they adjust to the crazy life we live in Oaxaca.
  3. Community Transformation Training is coming to Oaxaca in early September for USA partners and IMB personnel, and other interested folks.  If you would like to come down to Oaxaca and be a part of this training, we would love to have you.  Email us and we'll get you the info you need.  Please pray that this training would better equip us to plant churches in southern Mexico.
  4. We have several USA churches coming to southern Mexico on Vision Trips in the next few months.  These churches are seeking the Father's plan for them as they engage unreached communities.  Pray for each of these fellowships to have a clear understanding of where the Father wants them to work.
  5. Haylee and Jackson return to school in a couple of weeks.  Pray for them.  Haylee is entering 11th grade and Jackson is attacking 9th grade.  Pray for them to have a great year!
Thank you so much for your prayers!  We definitely need them and they are so important to the work the Father is doing in southern Mexico.

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1 August 2013 Update!

Then and now: How missionaries have impacted Mexican villages
By Nick Smirniotopoulos (Summer 2013 Student Worker)

Several decades ago, there were no known Christians in this small village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. However, one man's life was radically changed by American missionaries.

In the 1980s, Pedro accepted Christ and became the first believer in his village, yet he immediately encountered persecution.

"When they found out, they threw me in jail," Pedro said. "I was scared. I didn't know what was going to happen to me."

Pedro only stayed in jail for several days, but he endured a full year of loneliness as the only believer until his wife came to accept Christ.

Today, Pedro is a part of a bustling Christian church in the village with about 30 regular attenders. This summer, another group of missionaries, from IMB's Nehemiah Teams who were serving with the Holeman and McLamb families, joined Pedro and his church in reaching the village.

Nehemiah Teams is a 52-day mission trip aimed at reaching the world for Christ in this generation; Joseph Lewis, 
Destinie Duckworth and Ashleigh Prejean served in Pedro's village this summer.

"I initially thought people would be less inviting," Duckworth said. "I had no idea that even if people didn't want to accept the gospel, they would accept us purely because of their hospitality."

This hospitality differed radically from the days of the early church in the village, which allowed the team to make meaningful relationships. They had four or five families with whom they returned to weekly to share various Bible stories and talk about Jesus.

Many of the families were devout Catholics, who attended mass, had elaborate altars to saints in their homes, but seldom read the Bible. Many of the families were very inquisitive and interested in learning more about the Bible. However, one day they received a question they didn't feel equipped to answer.

"He brought out the Apocrypha and I was thinking, 'Lord give me the words, the wisdom'," Lewis said. "I had never read it so I said, 'Lord I cant do this, so you're going to have to'."

Since Prejean didn't speak any Spanish and hadn't read the Apocrypha either, she did the only thing she knew to do: pray.

"God clearly spoke through him," Prejean said. "He didn't understand it at all at first, but after praying it just came out so clearly."

Prejean experienced a lot of frustrations this summer being the only one unable to speak Spanish. However, God had a different plan for her.

"Even if my purpose here all summer was to pray for my team and the people in my villages then God was going to do big things," Prejean said. "Prayer is the most important part of it."

While the team encountered many obstacles sharing the Word, they had a constant encouragement in the local believers, like Pedro. They attended Pedro's church every Sunday and a local Bible study every Wednesday night.

Growing alongside local believers encouraged Duckworth to put others, whether it was the nationals or her own team members, before herself.

"I've learned that I should submit myself to others because Christ first submitted himself for the world's sin," Duckworth said. "It's a daily struggle learning to walk in humility."

Lewis encountered some similar growth in humility this summer.

"The Lord has made me listen a lot to what He and other people are telling me," Lewis said. "I realized that this summer that I have a lot of issues in my heart that I haven't allowed The Lord to heal. He's begun to heal that."

Leaving after two months of building relationships with the people in this village was hard for the team; however, God has already moved in the hearts of the national believers to pick up where they left off.

In their last Bible study, they talked about the power of sharing their testimony with the people in their village. The next day, they went out together and shared the gospel to people in a nearby village.

In that village, one man named Luiz, who had struggled for a long time with alcoholism, accepted Christ into his heart. It may have taken all summer, but they were ecstatic to see the fruit of their labor. 

Having the opportunity to share with so many people over the summer, like Luiz, made Lewis want to share more when he returns to the US.

"It's sort of like God has taken my life and turned it upside down in just a few weeks," Lewis said. "The same way I shared here, I can share at home and not fear."

Friday, July 26, 2013

26 July 2013 Update!

IWC assists local church plants
By Nick Smirniotopoulos (Summer 2013 Volunteer)

Several months ago, this IWC trip to Oaxaca, Mexico looked like it wasn't going to happen. But God had other plans.

"There weren't a whole lot of participants and the trip was looking like it was going to be cancelled," said Collin Cooke, youth pastor in Chelsea, Tenn. "We went ahead and planned to do something else."

While Cooke had already signed up for another trip, Phil Taylor, IWC trip coordinator, was busy mobilizing students to join the trip, making it a reality.

"The key was having four student pastors saying yes," Taylor said. "They were the catalysts for this project. It takes building relationships day by day and sharing your passion for reaching the world."

Once the IWC trip became solidified, Cooke found out his other mission plans were no longer available, providing the opportunity to join the team of 29 students and a handful of team leaders and adults.

Reaping the Harvest

While Cooke originally thought he would be most comfortable in either the construction or sports teams, God placed him in the only other available option: English classes. However, Cooke came to appreciate this role even more.

"It was definitely God ordained," he said. "ESL teams was where I was supposed to be. I've learned a lot of Spanish so I could take time to sit with kids and teach them English."

Sandra Swafford, co-team leader with Cooke, felt that teaching English really helped to "make real connections with the kids."

Cooke and Swafford's classes took place in Cuilapam, a village where a local church, Lluvias de Gracia, has been working to plant a church since March.

Currently, the church has a foundation and a temporary tent covering. What made more of an impact on the success of the camp, however, was the months of work Lluvias de Gracia had spent at the site prior to IWC volunteers coming. 

Their labor resulted in the biggest turnout of any other IWC site: more than 80 children showed up to learn English, sing songs and hear Bible stories.

"The trip far surpassed my expectancies," Cooke said. "We worked more, we had way more children and we got to spend more time with the people planting church."  

Working alongside Lluvias de Gracia was one of the biggest blessings for Cooke, and they had a profound impact on Swafford as well.

"The servanthood of the people here makes me feel super selfish," Swafford said. "I see how thankful they are to see someone new. I want the same attitude they have."

While Swafford feels her main mission is with the children she teaches back in Tennessee, her long summer break allows her to take more summer mission trips in the future.

Working and ministering in a Spanish-speaking country has inspired Cooke to continue the same work back in Tennessee. He, along with others from the IWC trip, plan to reach out to the thousands of Hispanics that live in their community, attempting to plant a church just like Lluvias de Gracia has done.

Planting the Seed

At another IWC site volunteers were laying the foundation for the future of potential work for Lluvias de Gracia there. There weren't as many children at this site -- less than half compared to Cuilapam -- but God still moved there.

The site coordinator from the village was very strict, so they weren't able to share as openly as some of the other sites.

However, on the last day of camps for the week, she left the site for a while, which gave them the opportunity to share the salvation message.
While the site coordinator originally seemed resistant about even hosting the IWC group, she requested them to come back the following week with the other IWC team.

Lluvias de Gracia members are looking forward to the opportunities there in discipling those children and in reaching out to their parents.

For Taylor, these mission trips are all about revealing "the mighty works of God" to students, as the team saw at the site where numerous children professed Christ as their Lord and Savior.

"These students need to be given that opportunity," Taylor said. "If we don't step up and say 'let's go,' they don't get to see that." 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

20 July 2013 Update!

2013 International World Changers Oaxaca --  Week One!

We just sent 56 students and adults back to the USA after a great week of missions and ministry.  We are grateful for the folks from Alabama, Tennessee, and Illinois who came and loved the wonderful people of Oaxaca for a few days.

Highlights of the week:

  • A part of the city of Oaxaca that was very resistant to a new church start is now asking for more of our mission teams to come and work in their area.  BIG BLESSING!
  • A part of the city of Oaxaca where there is a new church being started saw over 60+ kids attend the English Camp each day this week.
  • Several of the students who were a part of the week have now committed to being involved in missions in the future...including the possibility of career missions service.
Your prayer support helped make all of those things happen.  Please continue to pray for:
  • Another group of 33 International World Changers will arrive on Monday night, July 22.  Please pray for safe travel, good health, and great opportunities for ministry.
  • Haylee and Jackson are enjoying some vacation time in the USA.  Pray for their safety and for some great times with friends and family.
  • We have several Vision Trips coming up with churches from the USA who will be investigating some of the indigenous communities of the state of Oaxaca where there are no churches.  Pray for wisdom for all of us to know where to join the Father in His work.
Finally, we are thankful for the faithfulness of Southern Baptists who give so generously to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  We are able to work with teams from the USA with the only objective being telling people about Jesus.  We don't have to have a time with our USA teams asking for money or telling them we have great financial needs.  We don't have to travel to the USA and plead our case for funds from donors.  We are only focused on the task here and that is a blessing.  Many missionaries not with the International Mission Board have huge burdens of fund-raising.  Thank you so much for your financial support!

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Saturday, July 6, 2013

6 July 2013 Update!

Happy Independence Day America!  from southern Mexico!
Howdy from southern Mexico!

We are in the midst of some really good, busy times.  Here are some highlights:
  • Jeff's mom is here!  She will be with us until July 15 and we're enjoying our time with her.  She is working with us in all that we're doing and has been a huge help.  We're thankful she is here!
  • We have 11 students serving with us in Oaxaca during June and July.  These students are doing an awesome job.  They are constantly showing how resilient and talented they are as they take on some really difficult tasks.  Here are some links to read about some of the things they have been up to:
  • International World Changers comes to Oaxaca on July 13.  We will be working at six different locations around the city of Oaxaca where churches are being planted, churches are seeking to reach their neighborhoods, and some housekeeping work at a local seminary.  

You can join us in praying for:
  • Haylee will be traveling to Ecuador this week for a retreat with other kid missionaries.  Pray for safe travel and for a great week of growing for her.
  • Haylee and Jackson will be traveling to the USA on July 15 to participate in Super Summer Mississippi.  This is a leadership and discipleship camp that is held at Mississippi College.  Pray for them to have a great week of learning and fun!
  • Several of our summer students are battling various illnesses.  Please pray for improved health and for them to be able to have good physical strength to finish their assignments.
  • We have several churches who are planning Vision Trips to southern Mexico over the next few months.  Pray for open doors among the many unreached communities where we are seeking to plant churches.
  • Pray for Natasha Murphy who is serving in a variety of ways with us.  You may remember that Natasha arrived in February but decided to extend her stay until the end of July.  She is a huge blessing and has given of herself over and over again to encourage her teammates and to continue building relationships to share the Gospel. Pray for her to stay healthy and to have great opportunities to invest in others.
Thank you for your prayer support.  We cannot stress enough how important it is that you do your part and pray for the work here.  You are so very important.

I Thessalonians 5
23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 25Brothers, pray for us also. 26Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27I charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brothers. 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

You all are a blessing!
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson

Sunday, June 30, 2013

30 June 2013 Update!

Mississippi Girls Jumpstart
ESL Ministry

By Nick Smirniotopoulos
Media Missionary in Oaxaca, Mexico

Mississippi and Mexico may not have much in common, but three girls sought to bridge the culture gap with their native language.

The girls, under the leadership of IMB Missionaries Jeff and Liesa Holeman and John and Jenny McLamb, taught English classes to local seminary students, church members and children from a nearby village for six weeks.

Teaching English provided opportunities for those like Kaylee Morgan, a junior at Ole Miss, who don't have foreign language proficiency to minister effectively abroad.

"I'm not a good Spanish speaker in the slightest," Morgan said honestly. "Teaching English gave me an opportunity to connect with students and build relationships in my heart language."

A typical class consisted of basic conversation pieces, like "What is your name?", pronunciation and application of learning through Bible stories. Students learned the creation story, the fall of man, the faithfulness of Abraham and others.

Mary Kate Barthel, a senior at Mississippi College, had experience teaching English before, but never outside the US. 

"It was a really good experience for me," Barthel said. "I learned that teaching English is a really good way to build relationships with people and meet some of their needs tangibly." 

In addition to teaching formal English classes, the girls participated in "intercambios" -- cross-cultural conversation partners learning a second language -- with natives, presenting an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with those who may not normally hear about it.

"It takes a long time to build relationships with students, but at the same time you can do a lot in a short amount of time," Barthel said.

The girls developed a special relationship with one of their intercambio partners. On most Monday evenings, they would find themselves at her house, sitting in rope chairs and eating "arroz con leche" (rice with milk).

The girls got to share the story of Zacchaeus, among others, with her to show that Jesus has the ability to transform hearts.

"Yes, I see that (Zacchaeus) put his confidence in Jesus Christ," she said.  For Ashley Crane, a recent graduate of Mississippi College, the experience helped her realize that you can effectively minister cross-culturally without language proficiency.

"As long as you're trying to share his word, he's going to open the door for you," she said. "Even though there's the language barrier, God still moves."

Morgan shared doubts of her effectiveness prior to coming, but her experience in Mexico led her to a similar conclusion to Crane.

"I've learned that God really is the promise maker and the promise keeper," she said confidently. "He's going to put people in our paths that we can communicate with. He was faithful to put people in my life that I got to have some very real conversations with."

For much of their work, however, the girls merely planted the seed. For many people they've formed relationships with, they had to say goodbye when it seemed like they had just begun.

They left only a week after one of their friends started reading the Bible. They may not get to see him grow in his understanding, but they have confidence in God's ability to work in others after them. In fact, there is already a team in place to take over where they left off.

"Even though we may not get to see the fruit of our work before we leave, we may be that number seven in a line of 15 before that person comes to Christ," Crane said. "Are we willing to be that number, no matter what number it is?"

Monday, June 17, 2013

17 June 2013

Greetings from southern Mexico!

Here's a quick update:

  • Thank you for praying for Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson.  They have returned from Peru and had an awesome experience sharing the Gospel there.  Thank you to all who prayed for them.
  • We have said good-bye to Jennifer Ingram.  Jennifer served with us for 4 months and served VERY WELL!  The cool thing about Jennifer is that she just graduated HIGH-SCHOOL in December 2012 and enters the University of Arizona in August 2013.  So, she has several summers to spend in Oaxaca!  :-)  Here's a video Jennifer made before she left us!
  • Central Baptist Wendell, NC is here this week ministering to kids through Sports Camps.  Please pray for this team to stay healthy and be able to accomplish their ambitious plan!  
  • The Nehemiah Team arrived and they have seen incredible things already.  Here are some blog sites of several of the students:
  • Our ESL Team of Kaylee, Mary Kate, and Ashley are a HUGE blessing!  They have blown open a door of opportunity at a local language school and are definitely pouring their lives into some of the students there.  They are investing time at a local church, the local Baptist Seminary, and the local children's home.  We have less than two weeks left with them!  :-(
  • Jeff's mom arrives in less than a week!  We're excited to have Mimi here for several weeks.
  • Grace Baptist from Tennessee arrives in about a week.  Pray for this team of students to be well-prepared for a challenging assignment!
Blessings to all of you!
We need your prayers now more than ever.
Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson