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

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Amazon Trip Photos!

Thank you for praying for Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson as they traveled to Peru with a team from Oaxaca Christian School.  

Click HERE for some great photos.

Monday, June 3, 2013

3 June 2013 Update!

Somewhere out there is my family working hard to teach others about Jesus.

Greetings from the rainy season in Oaxaca!

The rain has finally come and that means wonderful weather for us here in southern Mexico.  It also means the lakes, rivers, and, most importantly, the water wells, are filling up and everything is turning green and another type of pretty.

We've had a busy couple of weeks and June and July are going to be fun and crazy busy.  We have already welcomed summer students from Mississippi who are already veterans after just two weeks.  And we welcome eleven more students on Thursday, June 6 who will be with us until the end of July.  Working with students has been a huge part of our lives before and during our time as missionaries.  We are excited about how the Lord is going to use them to open doors for the Gospel over the next few weeks.

We also have several teams from USA churches coming to Oaxaca.  Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee will be sending teams of short-term workers to Oaxaca during June.  And, we'll have several more USA churches sending teams in July.  So, you can see we will have a busy few weeks.  We would love for you to join in and be a part of the work in Oaxaca through your prayer support.  Please pray for:

  •  Liesa, Jackson, and Haylee who are with a team from Oaxaca Christian School in Peru until June 12.  They are ministering in a village on the Amazon River sharing the Gospel, discipling kids and adults, and finding ways to serve the people.  Pray for them to be used in mighty ways.
  • Jennifer will be finishing up her 4 months with us next week.  This young lady has been a huge, huge blessing and the Lord is very strong in her.  She will definitely leave a huge hole in our hearts and in the hearts of many Mexicans into whom she has poured her life.  Pray for her as she returns to the USA and begins school in Arizona soon.
  • Shindler Drive Baptist will be returning to Oaxaca to learn more about the community that they have committed to minister to in the coming years.  Pray for them to find favor with the leaders of the community and to have open doors to see new believers, new leaders, and new churches.
  • Central Baptist (North Carolina) and Grace Baptist (Tennessee) are coming to meet some very strategic needs for us in discipleship and opening some doors in indigenous communities.  Pray for the teams from these two churches to be able to serve well.
Thank you for your prayers.  When you pray you are a very important part of the work.

Jeff, Liesa, Haylee, and Jackson