Tag Archives: Mexico

A Look at Missionary Home Teams

A letter similar to this one was recently given to all EMC Administrative missionaries (Mexico, Bolivia, Paraguay) who, in turn, have sent it to a list of their supporters whom they have invited to be on their Home Team. (This is the letter used by Dallas and Tara Wiebe, who serve in Guadalajara, Mexico.) We share this letter to inform you on how Home Teams will assist EMC missionaries as they serve with EMC Missions in their country of service.

Would you have interest in being on a Home Team? Please consider this opportunity to consider becoming part of a missionary’s home team.

Thank you.

Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach Continue reading A Look at Missionary Home Teams

Angel Infantes: The Caravan of Immigrants

by Angel Infantes

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.

Window on Missions: What, a Changed Funding Model?

By Tim Dyck and Ken Zacharias

What? EMC Missions Wants to Change the Missionary Support Model?   

Yes, you read that correctly. The Board of Missions will be presenting a proposal to Conference Council in November for some missionaries. The proposal will be to move from 100% support of ministry to a blended model. The missionary family will raise 40% with the other 60% to come from the EMC General Budget. The change described here only applies to EMC-administered missionaries serving in Guadalajara (Mexico), Bolivia, and Paraguay at this time.

Note: EMC Missions also supports Associate Missionaries who serve with partner agencies. The number of Associate Missionaries has remained about the same since the 1980s and they already operate on a blended model, receiving a subsidy from the General Budget.

Why is the Change Necessary?

The current model has been in place since EMC Missions was founded as a Missions Committee in 1953. At that time, the suggested donation from every congregation was one cent per member per day. Amazingly, this was almost enough to pay the entire cost of the missionaries at that time!

Since then, the number of EMC-administered missionaries grew steadily, along with the finances needed to support them, reaching a high point in the 1980s. This was followed by a period of gradual decline in the numbers of missionaries serving directly under EMC administration. The amount of funding for EMC missions is also declining, especially in the past number of years, while inflation increases the costs of supporting missionaries.

The board recognizes that if the current trends continue, there will eventually be too few missionaries and too little funding available to continue to have a vibrant missions program. In keeping with our EMC Vision statement to be a movement of people advancing Christ’s Kingdom culture as we live, reach, gather and teach, the board wants to see growth in both numbers of missionaries and finances to support them.

How Will this Change Promote Growth?

The Missions sub-committee that developed this proposal researched the current trends and interacted with many other churches and agencies. They also sent out a survey to ask EMCers their opinions about the proposed change.

One of the trends that they observed is that while EMCers continue to be very generous towards missions, they also want to be able to direct their giving to specific projects. They want to have a strong connection to the ministries that they are giving towards. The blended support model promotes this strong connection and allows missionaries the opportunity to develop a larger network of friends, prayer and financial supporters.

To assist missionaries in raising support, the EMC Missions Administration will oversee the development of Home Teams to work alongside existing missions committees and to advocate for the missionaries. The Home Team will provide encouragement, prayer, logistical support, connections, and will generally assist the missionaries in connecting with supporters.

When Will the Changes Happen?

The Board is currently working out the details in the EMC Missions Handbook. The plan is to begin the transition to Home Teams in 2019, and then gradually phase in the blended support over the following three years. Current EMC missionaries are fully aware of the timeline and the changes.

Tim Prefered Cropped 2
Tim Dyck, Executive Director
Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach

How Can I Help?

We would love to have many people engaged with our EMC missionaries as part of Home Teams and as people who are interested, praying, and giving to these ministries. Please contact the EMC office (info@emconference.ca) and also speak to your local missions committee and/or your church delegates to share your thoughts. Thanks for your support of EMC missionaries!

Board of Missions Assignment: Angel and Blanca Infantes

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.

Albert Martens: Polar Bear Marathon Has World-Wide Impact

by Albert Martens

In December 2017, the 6th Polar Bear Marathon took place in Churchill with 17 International runners. It was a challenging event this year because of the indirect effects of the railroad tracks not being in service.

We had Mohamad Ahansal from Morocco run with us. He is a long-time friend from the Sahara Desert, a true “son of the desert,” which is where I met him while running the Marathon des Sables four times. We also had three runners from Mexico, two from Germany, three from Toronto, several from Churchill, and two from Tadoule Lake.

A concern, of course, was to keep the three Tarahumara runners from Mexico safe and warm. The three, from the Copper Canyon, did really well. The father, Santiago Ramirez, ran 50 km in five hours and four minutes. Mario, son to Santiago, ran the full marathon, whereas Juana, daughter to Santiago, ran the half marathon. All were kept safe with no frostbite, even though it was -22 C with chilly wind.

The Athletes in Action dessert night in Steinbach, Man., went very well, with over 200 people coming. Some just showed up without registrations.

The Mexico connection to the Polar Bear Marathon is pretty huge. I was totally surprised to have this become such a big media event. A radio station in Toronto requested an interview with me about the Tarahumara runners. What is so special is that one runner from Mexico is a believer in Jesus, which makes the whole event of the running ministry more meaningful.

Many of you may have heard of the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall, where he writes about the Copper Canyon, the Cabello Blanco 50 mile ultra marathon, and barefoot running. Often the Tarahumara runners run in sandals and the girls run in skirts. Lorena Ramirez is another family member who is famous for her long distance running in Mexico. She could not be with us, because she was running somewhere else during that Polar Bear Marathon weekend.

David Peters was my translator for the Ramirez runners, and he came with me to Churchill to help. He has written more about what happened when the Ramirez family returned to Mexico. Their reception was huge, he says. He called it a “zoo.” The runners were met at the airport by media and government officials, and a press conference was planned with the governor at his palace. (The governor also congratulated them on his Facebook account.) Only then could they go home.

A scientist in Churchill had filmed the marathon and he put it on YouTube. This was picked up in Mexico and, in turn, shown on Mexican national television. David also informed me that Mario was given a house by the governor for all his accomplishments. Pray for Mario as his dream is to develop a Christian school for his Tarahumara people.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

I have a long list of people to thank for all the help that was given to organize the marathon in Churchill to the dessert evening in Steinbach. It was a massive event that influenced many people worldwide. Thank you. I greatly appreciate your continued prayers.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action. He has a long history of ministry and of long-distance running and combines the two in service to Christ.

 

 

Les Kroeker: Mexico, A Vibrant Church, the Continuing Fruit of my Parents’ Lives!

by Les Kroeker

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 food  But 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.

Les-Kroeker
Les Kroeker

“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.

Family thankful for changes since coming to Canada

Challenges, adaptations not easy

by Helen Bergen

When Maria and Heinrich immigrated to Canada with their seven children in June of 2011 they looked forward to working together with their children and earning enough to feed their family.

“We’re just so very thankful,” Maria says in Low German, “coming to Canada and working together on the farm allowed me to get to know my husband again.” In Mexico he’d been too busy trying to make ends meet.

Having grown up on a farm in Mexico, Maria and Heinrich were especially interested in continuing to work in the agricultural sector in Ontario.

At the beginning there were many challenges and becoming accustomed to the way of life here in Canada took some time. Going to the store to shop for groceries and other supplies perplexed them because the brands were all different and neither Maria nor Heinrich spoke much English. They quickly realized how important it would be to learn English. Learning the language wasn’t just about finding the right words and phrases, but about changing their way of thinking.

In their village in Mexico the men of the community often learned Spanish in order to do business. But women and children usually learned only enough of the official language to get by. Their home was located on a large tract of land purchased by her church community and all of their neighbours attended the same village church and school. The government permitted them to teach their native language and religious traditions in the schools and they maintained their own roadways so that their interaction with Spanish-speaking Mexicans was limited.

But in Canada not only were they now living right next door to people from a different ethnicity, but interacting daily with English-speaking Canadians. Thinking back to five years ago, she remembers her surprise at how accommodating and helpful everyone had been.

Her children quickly picked up the language. And she is encouraged to see them making friends, but wonders about how much they will lose from their faith tradition. She would like them to do well in school and grow up to be good workers, but to not forget everything from their heritage. She wants them to cook, sew traditional dresses, and be able to understand their grandparents.

Not having an Ontario Driver’s Licence or health coverage at the beginning was equally challenging as the cultural adjustment. They’d had to rely on others to take them from place to place making her feel less independent. And since they decided to apply for the immigration sponsorship from within Canada, it also meant there was period of time when they were not covered by the provincial health care plan. It was a full year after arriving that the children were finally eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

The biggest surprise came after Maria and Heinrich began to relax into their life here in Ontario. Maria and Heinrich had known there would be time of waiting, but after Heinrich was issued a Work Permit so that he could earn a decent wage and their children were in school everything seemed to progress fairly well. And when the day finally arrived that Heinrich and their children were granted Permanent Residence everyone was excited.

Since Maria was already a Canadian, they applied for a citizenship card for their children shortly thereafter only to be informed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada that Maria had, in fact, been subject to loss of her Canadian citizenship at the age of 28. This news puzzled Maria and Heinrich since she had gone to some lengths to investigate the possibility of this loss when her fourth oldest was born in Mexico in 2004.

“Once a Canadian always a Canadian,” officials had told them after examining the citizenship card and failing to see an expiry date on it.

As it turned out, a little known section within the Citizenship Act deemed her to have lost her citizenship status on her 28th birthday since she had not submitted an application to “Register and Retain” her citizenship. (Many people turning 28 between Feb. 14, 2005, and April 17, 2009, lost their citizenship because of section 8 of the Citizenship Act, regardless of where they lived.)

Now as she sits looking at the beautiful citizenship documents for herself and her children and the Permanent Resident Card for Heinrich, Maria smiles at how nervous they’d felt during the citizenship ceremony in London. During the ceremony their family had been called up first to shake the hand of the citizenship official. This had intensified her nervousness, but again everyone had been very helpful.

Moving to Canada has altered their family. It has opened doors for them. It has brought them closer together not only to Maria’s siblings and parents, who were already living in Canada, but also to each other as husband and wife.

“Working in unity together with our children,” Maria reiterates, “is what I’ve always longed for.”

Helen Bergen is with Mennonite Community Services, Aylmer, Ontario.