Editor’s Note: This article is the second of a six-part series on God’s call and discernment. The first article by Nancy Friesen (not labelled as part of the series) was published in the January 2021 issue.
In my previous mission assignment I was given an illustration to discern God’s call. Like a ship coming in to port should line up three lights to dock safely, so Christians need to line up three lights to discern God’s will: the Word, the church leaders and the voice of the Spirit. The agreement of these three reaffirmed the direction I sensed. But now, married with children, I found more lights to consider. Continue reading Discerning God’s Call to Missions: Responding to God’s Call as a Family→
Immigration is a current issue. Our country, Canada, is made up of emigrants; at least 200,000 people from different parts of the world join Canada every year.
My experience with emigrants at Braeside EMC and Aberdeen EMC allowed me to know their stories that seemed far away; however, the experience of these days have brought me closer to those stories.
Emigrating is not always easy. The reasons are different, the stories too.
These days I was volunteering with FM4 (fm4pasolibre.org), a civil organization in Guadalajara that helps migrants.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, at night migrants began arriving in the city. On Sunday I got a message to go to a shelter and oversee the collection centre. Many people brought water, food, clothes, hygiene supplies, backpacks, and shoes. The collection centre was at the entrance, so I had the opportunity to welcome migrants at their arriving.
A thousand immigrants arrived on Sunday by walking. They came from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Two of main factors they flee their countries are violence and poverty. The “Caravana” crossed the Guatemala-Mexican border a month ago on their way north. On Monday night more than 5,000 reached Guadalajara. The shelter and help collapsed.
As soon the sun came up on Tuesday, a group of migrants decided to continue their journey; soon the whole group followed them. The road covered with people seems like an exodus. They looked weary, sad. Parents pushing strollers. People carrying all their belongings in backpacks; and they kept walking and walking. The image seemed surreal and heartbreaking.
With my van empty I went onto the road and invited a group with four small children to climb aboard. Fourteen passengers fit with their belongings. Remember when I told the joke, how many passengers fit in a Mexican taxi? Yes, one more. I grabbed some food and water and took them to a shelter in Nayarit more than a hundred kilometers away.
On the way back, along the road there were people walking, so I reached the initial point and invited others to get on the van. A 12-year-old boy was traveling alone. He was hungry. I gave him some food and then he fell asleep. I thought I had seen everything until a person asked me for food. We did not have more; then he ate the dregs.
Again, on the way back alone, I was thinking about what was happening, I decided to make another trip. I found on the road a group with four small children and a teenager. It was getting dark and they quickly climbed into the van. A little girl was playing with my GPS phone. She told me, “It is the treasure map”; yes, the treasure maps took her to the treasure of shelter and food.
I was overwhelmed and tired by what had happened, and happy for the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. This combination of emotions led me to remember the story of God taking care of Israel on the desert and of Jesus approaching people on his journey through Palestine. And this question is on my mind: Is Jesus the Christ of the migrants?
Angel Infantes (Aberdeen) serves with his wife Blanca as part of the church planting team in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico.
The EMC Board of Missions is excited to announce that Angel and Blanca Infantes were assigned to serve in Guadalajara, Mexico, earlier this summer. They arrived in Mexico on July 4 and their four children (Saraí, Belén, Christopher, Carlos) started school in mid-August. They join Dallas and Tara Wiebe as part of our church planting team. Pray that God would give them peace as they settle into this city of seven million people as their children are finding it difficult to adjust, having grown up in Manitoba. To send them a note of encouragement, contact us for details.
I came back from Mexico more convinced than ever that God is real, powerful, and working in the lives of people everywhere. It was spring break mission trip (March 24 to April 2) to the City of Juarez in Chihuahua state.
One of the most powerful moments for me was during Sunday morning worship at Nuevo Pacto, an EMC mission church plant, our first day there. I’d been looking forward to worshipping there. It’s a church into which my parents, Jake and Bertha Kroeker, invested many years; it was my home church through my high school years. But that was in the late 70s—almost 40 years ago. I only recognized a few older people.
The worship started with powerful celebration, loud enough for the neighbourhood to participate in even without coming to church. The band was great. The worship leader did a lot of good teaching and application between songs. But the most powerful thing for me was a deep connection with these people as we worshipped the same almighty God.
I found myself getting emotional. How do you explain that kind of love and unity among strangers from such different cultures? A few tears managed to sneak out and make their way down my cheeks. I tried to stop it at that, but just then they slowed the worship right down, reflecting on God’s love and how unworthy we are to receive it.
Now I really started crying, overwhelmed by the love and presence of God there and by the love and unity I felt with those Mexicans. I sat with my head in my hands and cried. The man next to me sat down and put his head on the chair in front of him. The man in front of me was wiping away tears.
What a blessing to experience the continuing fruit of my parents’ lives in this vibrant and healthy church. What a privilege to be invited up by the young preacher to interpret into English his message on the true Gospel—that Jesus did not come to make our lives easy by taking away all our poverty, suffering, and sickness. He came primarily to take care of our sin problem and only he was qualified to do so.
After the service I couldn’t get away because I was getting so much love and attention from people who wanted me to know the impact my dear parents had had on them. It was well into the afternoon before we finally made it to the market place for lunch: chile rellenos and Coca-Cola while serenaded by mariachis sitting out in the patio under the warm Mexican sun.
How do you explain such love and unity with complete strangers across culture and race if not for Jesus? God is real and powerful and working in the lives of people everywhere.
How do you explain the love and unity with our mission trip team members, so different in so many ways?
Seven individuals, four households
Four grown men; three children; one lone girl
Ages 11 to 60-plus
Most hardly knew each other; some had never even met
Squeezed into a minivan (including luggage)
2,700 kms one way; 27 hours; two 14-hour days with one short stop for sleep
Shared sleeping space with guys who snored or coughed and coughed
One insistent on eating only authentic Mexican foodBut we got there and back, got a house straightened out (14 inches out of level in a span of 14 feet), and a new roof put on. It’s just not natural for a group like this to get along so well and work so well together, is it? How often do you see examples of that outside of the Church? It does happen occasionally, but it’s not the norm like it is among followers of Jesus. Love and unity in a common mission because of a common love for Jesus Christ. God is real and powerful and working in the lives of people everywhere.
“I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23, NLT).
Les Kroeker is the associate pastor at Portage Evangelical Church. He is the son of Jake and Bertha Kroeker, who served as EMC missionaries in Mexico from 1958-1998.
Guadalajara, Mexico–What would a prayer team member see when they come to the city of Guadalajara to see the EMC church plant here?
The first thing they would see is that there is no building. This is intentional—we are trying to start house churches or cells. So, the gathering is not in a church building. The various groups meet in different homes. Sometimes missionaries host, at other times the various group members do.
About every two months we try to bring all the cell groups together. Usually it is at a terrace that someone has access to, or at times it has been at a park. For us the church is not a place, but a group of people.
Traditionally, in Canada, Chihuahua, or Nicaragua, our churches have met on Sunday mornings. In Guadalajara we hold church on various nights. We have a group that meets Sunday morning, two that meet on Wednesdays, one on Tuesdays, one on Thursdays or Fridays. Each group has chosen a day that accommodates its particular members.
Traditionally Sunday School is 45 minutes, and is either before or after the service. The worship service typically lasts 60 to 75 minutes. Outside of the singing, the morning service is not overly participatory or interactive. This may be for various reasons, but numbers may be the biggest.
Our services here look very different. We generally sit in a circle, designed for interaction. Our (Koops’) groups meet around the dinner table and we begin by sharing a light meal. We catch up on each others’ lives and build community. Most of our groups begin around food and community.
There is no order of service, no formality; everything is very casual. The sharing of the Word of God is done in community with everyone participating. Questions are frequent, bunny trails are allowed and encouraged; it is exegesis in community. These services, or gatherings, go late into the night. It is common for a group to start at 8 p.m. and end at midnight.
When we get all our groups together it looks different yet. Whether it is Sunday morning or afternoon, time is irrelevant. We all know it will go for several hours; it will be done around food. There will be much interaction and participation. It looks somewhat like a church picnic event! It is community. It is family.
Are there challenges or struggles with our chosen model? Of course. One of our big challenges is trying to build connectedness between all the groups. Each group has some form of common connection with others in their group. That same connection isn’t automatic with people from other groups. But this is our expression of church in Guadalajara. Christ-centred, organic, informal, and multiplying.
Ernie and Diane Koop (EFC Steinbach) are part of the church planting team in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico.
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO–We had the privilege of going on a Missions Prayer trip to Guadalajara on Nov. 8 to 16, 2016. Thank you for supporting and praying for us. What a great time of prayer and fellowship we had with missionaries John and Connie Reimer, Ernie and Diane Koop, and Dallas and Tara Wiebe.
We joined up with three other couples and two singles from Manitoba in Houston, Texas, for the final leg of the flight to arrive at 8:30 on Tuesday evening. We stayed at the missionaries’ homes where we also had a number of prayer sessions and Bible studies. We did a prayer walk in the park, prayed at the school attended by Dallas and Tara Wiebe’s children, and prayed in downtown Guadalajara.
The Mexican hospitality was fabulous, and we enjoyed some of the cultural sites around Guadalajara. We met with each missionary, and prayed over their ministry and individuals with whom they are working.
On Sunday we had a gathering of all the groups that study the Bible with the missionaries. This was the first time that many of them had met other Mexicans studying with EMC missionaries. It took about 90 minutes for people to show up. A worship service began at 1:30.
This was also the first time that some of them had been to an evangelical worship service. They enjoyed the singing. Cam Kornelson shared a touching testimony. What a great privilege to preach and share the Word of God with them. That was followed by a graduation service for three ladies who, in two years, finished the six books on Matthew in the SEAN program.
They had a farewell service for Jessie Friesen, who came with the short-term ASCEND program in January and was leaving on Nov. This is a program we would greatly encourage young adults to consider if you are sensing God leading you into ministry or missions.
Following the service we had a barbecue lunch. During the lunch people mingled, got to know each other, had fun, and enjoyed great food. Eventually we did get to the desserts, and we sang Happy Birthday to LydiaHamm, Minna Thiessen, and several others who were having their birthdays in the next week.
To work off some of the great food, they brought out hockey sticks and the men had a floor hockey game. The women didn’t just want to stand by and cheer, so when the men were tired out, they took to the floor and enjoyed hockey too.
What a blessing to get to know the missionaries, brothers, and sisters in Christ in Guadalajara, and spend time in prayer with and for them. There are many trials and struggles that people face; and, through those problems, they begin seeking a closer walk with Christ. The missionaries are there to guide them through the tough times and into an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Please pray for the Guadalajara missionaries. We hope some of you will consider going next year on the Missions Prayer team to Guadalajara. What faith stretching and growing experiences we had and that await you as well.
Phil and Lydia Hamm (Leamington) are a ministry couple and retired missionaries. They drew upon the EMC Board of Missions’ travel subsidy ($500/visit) available for pastors and church leaders who visit missionaries on the field. Contact Gerald Reimer at the national office for details.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference