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