Equipping Pastors and Leaders

Significant progress is being made as we strive toward empowering and equipping leadership here in Paraguay. Empowerment and equipping initiatives may take on different forms and venues; however, key elements involve personal growth and becoming clear communicators of God’s Word. We are seeing those two areas addressed through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus seminars. 

Since receiving The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus books in Spanish (see August update), we have begun the tedious task of training pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and Christian leaders on how to teach Scriptures for lasting worldview change. Our students come away with a greater degree of commitment to Christ’s command to “make disciples” by moving beyond the goal of only seeking “decisions for Christ”. They are growing in their personal faith, and their worldview is being transformed by the Biblical narrative.

We have given three 8-hour seminars held in three different cities with a total of 56 students completing the course. We have also led four different workshops in various cities with a total of 100 students in attendance. These workshops have been from 2-4 hours in length.
Many have accepted the challenge to teach the Word of God and are using “The Stranger” as a tool. There are close to 1,000 kits (book and manual) in strategic points around Paraguay already, and we believe the impact will be significant as these men and women teach others. 

If you would like to give toward this nation-wide initiative, you can sponsor a seminar for $50 in the region of the Capital and $100 for cities close to the Argentine and Brazilian borders. The donation covers fuel expenses for our team of teachers/facilitators. 

Our ministry partners gave a Stranger on the Road to Emmaus book to all the presidents of the association of Evangelical churches from a number of countries in Ibero-america (Spain, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, etc.). 

Upcoming Seminars in 2018:
1. Iglesia El Faro: five 2-hour sessions over five weeks.
2. Couples Retreat: two days. 
3. City of Caacupe: 8-hour seminar.
4. A Missionary Training Center: 24-hour module.
5. A Bible Institute: 3 modules of 12 hours each.  

We appreciate your prayers and support! 

First Nations Partnerships

RELIEP (First Nations Pastors Network) organized their first regional consultation in the department of Amambay, home to many Pai Tavytera communities. (See September Newsletter for context)
Mike and Trisha drove from Asunción and spent time with Mark and Odie Goddard (Mike’s brother) and picked up several leaders for the RELIEP consultation held in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero. It had rained the day of the consultation, making it difficult for many to attend. 

Cipriano Ayala led the discussions and focused on the importance of partnership to see all the communities with access to the Gospel.  

We spent time in prayer together for each of the local churches with plans to do outreach. More regional RELIEP consultations are being planned for 2018, in addition to the National Conference planned for October. 

We continually see the “Three Waves” (western, Paraguayan, and First Nations) coming together respectfully and interdependent as God designed the Body of Christ to function. Although we all have responsibilities in our own organizations, it is a joy to have the leaders temporarily set aside their agendas and programs to see the First Nations leadership strengthened. 

Please take time to prayer for Cipriano Ayala as he leads RELIEP and future regional consultations for First Nations Christian leadership. He has a very tight budget, and it is amazing what RELIEP actually accomplishes on a “shoe-string budget”.

If you would like to partner with RELIEP and the vision to mobilize, equip, and empower First Nations Christian leadership, you can designate your gift through Partners For Paraguay in the USA or directly to Organización Ñandutí in Paraguay. 

Mobile Media Program

In October, we brought from the USA portable electronic equipment from our ministry partners Renew World Outreach, which is designed to show films in rural areas of the world.

For more information, you can watch this introductory video, and this in-depth video that we made in 2016.

In November, in partnership with the Pai Tavytera church in Jakaira, we provided training for the use of the Vista Projector for showing films and the LightStream for media distribution.

This church also received the I-FILM training (see July Newsletter), and Mike encouraged them to use their iPad to produce quality, short films and testimonies of believers, to add to their collection of media available in the heart language. 

We currently have seven First Nations local churches that we are partnering with as they take the Gospel into other communities with little or no Gospel witness.

The upcoming year 2018 will be full of travel, training, and follow-up as we engage with local churches in their outreach initiatives.  

Guarani Bibles

Local donors in Paraguay, in partnership with our organization, purchased 360 Bibles in Guarani and subsidized the costs so that they could be more affordable for local ministries working with Paraguayan Guarani-speakers and First Nations groups.

We would like to do more campaigns like this in the near future and invite you to join by giving to our Bible Fund. 

Rest – in Florida

The last time we set aside a block of time for a Family Vacation was in late 2014. Now, there were ministry trips, where we did enjoy family fun, but we were due for another block of time to be intentional to disconnect, in order to be refreshed. Trisha received an invitation to participate and serve in a conference for women in NY state in October this year and was blessed by having an anonymous person cover her travel expenses. So we began to make plans to travel as a family to Florida and spend three weeks with family and enjoy the ocean!

We were blessed to visit both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of Florida with our extended relatives and celebrate Michael, our oldest son, getting his learner’s permit!

John and Barb Windler (Mike’s sister) traveled south to meet up with us and Mike’s parents. We took advantage of the time together to have our Annual Board Meeting for Partners For Paraguay. We are pleased to welcome Dr. Keith Wiebe Sr. as the most recent and 8th member of our Board. 

God has greatly blessed us in the founding and setting up an entity in the USA that exists to partner with the believers in Paraguay! As Partners for Paraguay, we are nearing our first year anniversary and have loved every minute of it. Not only is God taking care of our basic financial needs, but He is blessing the ministries we are partnered with. 

Recently, we were amazed how God heard the prayers of First Nations missionaries in both Paraguay and Bolivia. He led Renew World Outreach to partner with them by equipping them with some amazing technology designed to facilitate sharing the Gospel and growing in their faith. 

We brought the all the equipment from Renew World Outreach back to Paraguay and are now making arrangements for our first delivery/training. Our game plan is to customize each delivery/training for the reality of those involved in outreach. 

More to come in future updates! 

There is no one here like that!

As we sat on the back of our pickup truck after a night in our tent in a First Nations community, we reflected on the day before. Mike had asked a member of a community where there had been an Evangelical church for nearly 40 years, “Out of all the families you know in this community, who would you say lives a life above reproach and of integrity?” He quickly answered,

There is no one here like that!

Earlier, the same issue came up in a conversation with one of the newly appointed church leaders. He said, “The community doesn’t trust their leaders. They don’t have any financial accountability, and money is always disappearing.” Mike thought quietly to himself, “Surely this is an opportunity for the followers of Jesus Christ to make a real difference!” Mike’s hopes were dashed at what came next, “The members of our church don’t put much money in the offering plate, because they don’t trust the Pastors.” 

We are overwhelmed with concern for the health of the First Nations churches in Paraguay. Many church planting agencies speak of leaving behind “mature” churches, but few have produced a solid and sustainable model of what that looks like in Paraguay. 

Recently we drove past a very, very old tree, one that Mike remembers from his childhood. It is a “Lapacho” tree, a very exotic hard wood native to Paraguay and worth a mint on today’s market. For a tree like this to weather the storms, deforestation, forest fires, drought, floods, etc. it must be deeply rooted and firmly established in good soil. 

We long to see First Nations men and women firmly established in the truth of God’s Word and walking in integrity in every area of their lives and committed to leading their people in truth, honesty, service, loyalty and justice.

The vision statement of the organization we lead in Paraguay states: “Communities holistically transformed through sustainable development”. In our Biblical terms, that means men and women of God are empowered to live out their faith and glorify God through visible action in the community where they live. 

Men and women of God are needed. Men and women of integrity. People willing to place their own personal needs and desires aside for the life and livelihood of the community.

Transformation has to begin with each person, and then, and only then, will we see communities transformed.

Please pray for the First Nations of Paraguay to be firmly planted in the Word of God and for those who are still lost, that they will see their need of a Savior and a personal relationship with God Himself.

Other Activities in September 2017

INTERVIEW ON TV: Mike and Cipriano Ayala were invited this month to talk about First Nations on a Christian TV program. It was Cipriano’s first time on television. His comment to Mike was,

Your ministry in Asuncion is essential for the tribal voice to be heard. This is yet another example of what ’empowerment’ looks like!

SURVEY TRIP: Mike and Kaleb made a trip to visit Wayne Goddard (Mike’s cousin), and together, they visited a region of the country where many Ava Guarani have yet to hear the Gospel.

We are excited how God is leading Wayne and that we could have a small part in his ministry by surveying with him. We even traveled into Brazil where there are several communities. 

TRAINING SEMINAR: In partnership with ASIEP, Mike has began training teachers in how to use The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus material.

This month, we presented to 40 Pastors and Christian leaders an overview. Many are asking for follow-up sessions in their local churches and denominations.  The next session in October will be done without Mike’s help.

YOUTH CAMP: The Ache youth of Cerro Moroti had a camp organized by a Paraguayan ministry. Mike was invited to take a couple of sessions to teach the Word of God.

It’s always fun for our family to visit the community and church where Mike grew up and was baptized. Each time we visit, people ask about all the missionaries that used to live there and what they are doing at present. 


Investing in Leadership

Since 2013, our ministry focus has been on working primarily with Christian leadership. Leaders of churches, organizations, businesses, and communities. Over the past 4 years, we have seen the impact our role is having in Paraguay. The way we gauge the success of our ministry is by rejoicing in the success of those with whom we have partnered with. Our model for partnership is one of empowerment. 

This month, Mike traveled north with Cipriano Ayala and missionaries from a Paraguayan Mission agency to meet with the Pastors and leaders of 11 different Paĩ Tavyterã local churches and one Mbya Guarani church. They arranged to meet up in one of the communities with the Pastor of a local church in Pedro Juan Caballero that has been working with the Paĩ for several years. 

In the hours following, they presented the vision of RELIEP (First Nations Christian leadership network) and the importance of coming together for the defense of religious freedom, leadership training, community development, education, etc. Each community visited, expressed that they were facing challenges that were beyond their ability to handle alone and that together the Body of Christ is stronger.  

The Paĩ pastors and leaders affirmed that they would like for RELIEP to organize and facilitate a Consultation in the city where they could continue the dialogue and be more intentional. 

A few phone calls later, our partner in Pedro Juan Caballero had tentative location and dates for the first of its kind: First Nations Leadership Consultation of the Amambay region!  

It is our firm belief that the transformation of communities is a result of the transformation of its leaders. Please pray for these Paĩ Tavyterã men and women as they seek to grow in Truth.  

Be sure to read our November Newsletter for the follow-up article.   

August Ministry Activities

On our way back home from an Ache community, we stopped by a Mennonite community where MOVIDA had organized a youth missions event. Mike shared two messages and workshop on Evangelism for the young people receiving the training. We are excited that many young people from Mennonite churches are being called into full-time, cross-cultural ministry. 

We partnered with RELIEP to jointly sponsor Marciano Chevugi to receive Fundacion Caracter’s computer training provided for Christian leaders. They teach the basics of operating a laptop, how to use powerpoints, use Bible programs, and make videos. A Christian businessman subsidizes the costs of the laptop and projector for greater affordability. 

Mike received a call from a Chamacoco friend asking him to visit his pastor and wife who was very ill and in a hospital about an hour drive from our home. We encountered a very discouraged man. All he needed was to know God loved him and that he hasn’t been forgotten.The food that we took them as well as the time of prayer together was just what he and his wife needed! 

Once a year, many organizations come together to spend 24 hours in prayer for Paraguay. Mike has been responsible to lead in prayer for the 19 First Nations people groups in Paraguay during this yearly event. We believe the reason God is working so mighty in Paraguay is due to prayer.

Getting ready to equip!

Books. Lots of them. 11,000 workbooks printed locally. A shipment of 10,000 books from Europe. As our family unloaded all the books from their pallets and into our home, we joked, Have we become book hoarders? The answer is “No.”. All these books will be used to train disciples of Jesus Christ here in Paraguay to make more disciples.

We estimate that within a 2-4 year period, over 10,000 Paraguayans will receive training from Creation to Christ, using The Stranger On The Road to Emmaus. If each seminar has an average of 15 people, it will take 600 seminars for us to reach our goal. 

Our initial focus in what remains of 2017 and in early 2018 is to train instructors and facilitators. These instructors will in turn teach through a seminar of Creation to Christ. Please pray that God will raise up faithful learners and teachers. 

How does an initiative like this develop? 

THROUGH PARTNERSHIP!  It takes teamwork. People willing to take a chance and trust the other to keep their end of the agreement.