In Their Own Words

At the end of our recent Community Health Evangelism training in Asia,  our trainees were given the opportunity to share what impacted them the most from the training.  Here are a few highlights.

I am the only Christian in my family and village. Sometimes I lose hope that they will change. But now I have hope that through CHE I can help my village and family

I learned multiplication. We don’t have to do it ourselves, we can teach others and reach more people

We are rejected in the village when we talk about spiritual things but now I know we can start with the physical and integrate the spiritual

From the River Crossing story I learned that when people have problems, we should not do things for them but teach them do do it themselves

I am a schoolteacher. I will take this new way of teaching back to my school

These are just some of the lessons learned through our Community Health Evangelism training. Please pray that our students will keep their enthusiasm and implement this training in their region so that individuals and communities are transformed.

 

Medical team returns from South Asia

img_1885Our medical team of 8 people just returned from South Asia.  We saw 1429 people and gave general medical care and reading glasses. We worked in conjunction with an indigenous ministry which is reaching out to unreached peoples in their region. In one village they served, there were only a handful of followers whose had come to faith in the last few months as our partners had been working among the people. Another village had a small church begun from a crusade that they had done a couple of years ago.   We saw many people with common medical problems who simply lacked access to care or medicines. Our main impact spiritually was our care and love for the people we served. Open evangelism is much more difficult there now as there have been new government restrictions on believers, so we were mainly just planting seeds. Some accepted prayer, others didn’t. But all were cared for with the love that we have been blessed to be able to share.

 

Celia’s Story

This is the story of a lady I met on our team to Nicaragua in

Our team of doctors in Nicaragua

Our team of doctors in Nicaragua

August. Her story reminded me of many lessons I have learned about missions, medicine and wholistic care.

Celia came with multiple medical problems and insomnia. She had also been having pelvic pain for 8 months. However it became quickly clear that something else was going on.  It turns out that her symptoms began when 15 month-old baby died. He had been having diarrhea and she took him to the hospital and he died. She hadn’t been to the doctor for her own symptoms because she felt like they didn’t do anything to help her son.  Several things ran through my mind as we talked.

1. What happened to her son? Was this a preventable death?

Our Nicaragua CHE team, working to prevent illness and bring life in Christ

Our Nicaragua CHE team, working to prevent illness and bring life in Christ

15,000 children around the world die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea. Had there been a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) program in her community, maybe better water and hygiene would have prevented his sickness.  Maybe she would have recognized his illness sooner and begun home treatment or taken him to the hospital sooner, both of which might have prevented this death. Of course I don’t know the details. He may have had some other illness or a surgical emergency like intussuception that the local hospital resources weren’t adequate to treat. Or, he may simply have had some other catastrophic illness that would have resulted in his death no matter what care he received. We simply don’t know, but we do know that many children like her son still die of preventable illness. Are we doing enough?

2.  Physical, emotional and spiritual health are connected. Her symptoms were clearly connected to her son’s death and her resulting grief and depression. God made us as whole persons and when one part is affected, the whole body suffers.  Her illnes could not be treated with a pain pill or by just prescribing an antidepressant. She needed care for her whole person.
3. Jesus is the answer, even when we have no answer.  My first response to her was just to listen and try to avoid platitudes and pat answers that are really of no help to hurting people. I told her I don’t know why her son died. I validated her pain and grief.  She said she was a Christian. I told her I understood that being Christian may cause her to have even more questions. Can God let something this bad happen even to a Christian?  Although I didn’t have answers to her specific situation, I could remind her of some things we know are true an that we can hold on to.
  • God is good. We may not understand. We may not be able to see His perspective. But we can cling to his goodness even in hard times.
  • God loves her son and he loves her. It may not feel like it right now, but she is greatly loved.
  •  God knows how she feels. He too lost a Son. He had to watch his son die a horrible, painful, unjust death. He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) because he too has been brokenhearted. However, because of Jesus death and resurrection we have hope. When we trust in him, we can know that we have a placed prepared in heaven where one day he will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4)
We prayed together through tears. I did address her medical condition as well with some treatment, but I am convinced that our conversation and time of prayer are just as critical to her healing.
I am also motivated to continue to serve those who are medically underserved. I am motivated to bring preventive care and improved health to communities through Community Health Evangelism. And I am motivated to share Christ so that people like Celia can have a hope in times of pain.

The Whole Gospel

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. Colossians 1:19-20

Cultambo Mission Team June 2016

Cultambo Mission Team June 2016

Which is the most important thing we do on our medical mission trips, caring for the sick or sharing the gospel? This is a trick question. Caring for the sick IS the gospel. Just like feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, caring for those swept up in human trafficking, and all the other things GO InterNational teams do. This verse makes it clear that Jesus died on the cross, not just to save us from sin, but also to restore all of creation to its original state before sin entered the world. That won’t ultimately and completely happen until Jesus’ return, but his purpose for us who follow him now is to bring His kingdom into every area where we have influence. The gospel affects every area of life.

This was made clear once again on our recent trip to Peru. Our team helped construct a roof on the community center our partner Olinda is developing. This center will reach out to poor children with education and a medical clinic, while sharing Jesus love. We also ministered to over 900 people with medical, dental and eye care in three different communities. Many of those people would never come for a church service or to see the Jesus film. But they came because we cared about their needs. And in the process they met Christ. I was able to pray with several people to receive Christ. Our Peruvian doctor,

Dr. Willyams

Dr. Willyams

Willyams, said that one day the Spirit was moving so powerfully that almost every patient he saw prayed to receive Christ. That same day some of our team taught health lessons and showed the Jesus film in the public school. Without any prompting from our team, the children responded to the invitation at the end of the film and over 60 children professed faith in Christ! God was moving powerfully through everything that the team did to bring people to himself. This is the power of what we call wholistic ministry. Thank you for your support and prayers that allow it to happen. Come join us on a team soon and see for yourself!

The Power of Wholistic Ministry

One of the things I like to do with my teams each evening is have each person share about their favorite moment of the day. I just want to share a couple of stories that our team members currently serving in Honduras shared last night that show the power of wholistic ministry on our teams.

Dr. Kallies at work

Dr. Kallies at work

Dr. Heather Kallies shared about a patient who came in for dental care. As she and the dental team cared for her painful teeth, they also had the opportunity to share the gospel with this lady. She had professed to be a Christian in the past but had fallen away. Because of the love and concern the team showed this lady, she recomitted her life to Christ. Ministering to her physical need led to the opportunity to minister to her physical need.

Dr. Phillip Yunker told of a patient he had seen that day in the medical clinic. Jose had come in with multiple medical problems. However, it was clear that his main problem was his anger over his condition. It was a very tense situation as they tried to minister to him. Dr. Yunker was able to enlist the help of our host partner, Pastor Ivan Gallino Paz to come assist him.

Pastor Ivan and his wife Rosanna counsel and pray with patients during the clinics

Pastor Ivan and his wife Rosanna counsel and pray with patients during the clinics

Together with several other of our medical team members, Ivan led this man in a time of prayer. When it was finished, he was giving hugs to team members all around. He was a changed person. Ministering to his spiritual and emotional need made it possible to care for his medical need.

These stories demonstrate the power of Jesus command in Luke 9:2 to heal the sick AND preach the good news. As we do both, we can make an impact far beyond trying to address these aspects of people’s lives separately.

Please consider using your gifts and talents on a GO InterNational medical team. You will be able to join in each evening with your own stories of seeing God at work through you and your teamates in amazing ways as you minister to the whole person.

Vocational school provides hand up to Nicaraguans!

Women learning to sew at new vocational school

Women learning to sew at new vocational school

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Building picnic tables

“Withhold not good to them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.”  Proverbs 3:27

 

That verse makes me feel uncomfortable, and in fact being around destitute people living in the trash dump near Chinandega, Nicaragua this past month left me puzzling over the question, “Just what can we do?”  Hundreds of folks living in shanty housing, scavenging garbage every day to find something to eat or sell – “what power do we possess to really help these poor people?”

One dream is coming to fruition – the launch of a new vocational school, designed to help some gain a skill like electrical, carpentry and sewing. Last month two GO volunteer teams helped move this vision forward laboring with Nicaraguans to build the new structure, and actually helping with the first week of classes.  We were glad to “give a hand up and not just a hand out.”

I wish you could have seen the faces of those young men and women, when they completed their new dining tables and finished new clothing for their children!  It was pure joy!  They were excited to learn something they could
actually do with their hands to help their families.

Hope is in short supply in places like trash dumps.  The oppressive heat, horrible living conditions, little food and few resources add to their hopelessness every day.

Thank you for your support this month, with what God has given you, we have “the power in our hands to do it.”

During our final days in Limonal (trash dump) we had the privilege to pray with all of our students and many prayed to receive Christ.  New Bibles have been given and new hope has been born. God is good and we are so grateful for your partnership.

In Him,

Larry Cochran

What can Calvin & Hobbes teach us?

Imagination… Creativity… Vision… when I hear these words, I think about Calvin from Bill Watterson’s famous comic strip. Calvin and his tiger friend Hobbes certainly found some creative ways to pass time during snow days, crashing through a town of fake snowmen being one of my favorites.

When we here at GO InterNational are not on foreign mission trips, we’re here in the U.S., working, living, in school, at the grocery store, driving, etc. – but the call remains the same here and abroad: engage the world and engage people with God’s good news, in word and in deed.

So, as Christians, how do we use our imaginations and creatively engage with the world in our local context – where verbal proclamations of the gospel are typically frowned upon in public, where people continuously try to force religion out of the public sphere, where we feel like people don’t want to talk about religion?

We’ve been encouraged by some creative stories recently of people who proclaim the gospel and show the love of Christ on short-term mission trips, and do the same thing in their day-to-day life at home:

  • A man who works at an Amazon warehouse during the day and drives a truck for another delivery service at night. He meets people and identifies their needs during the day, then prays for them while driving in the evening!
  • A young girl who works as a waitress at a restaurant shows love to her coworkers through her genuine joy and forgiveness (even after a co-worker stole money from her!). She also freely tells patrons that she is working as a waitress to get her through Seminary, opening the door to share the reason for the joy she has in Christ!
  • A father of a high school basketball player who develops relationships with other parents, modeling healthy competition and sportsmanship and finding one’s identity in more than sports. You can’t underestimate what showing forgiveness after a loss and genuine humility after a win does to bring glory to God!
  • A mother who hosts community potluck meals at her house, modeling Christian hospitality and identifying people in her neighborhood who need support and prayer!
  • A young couple who opens a coffee shop and sends as much profit as they can into holistic Christian ministries and development efforts in Rwanda and Nicaragua. The husband sits on the city council and the wife on the city beautification chair, using their business expertise as a platform to also have a voice in politics.

These people aren’t often called pastors or missionaries or evangelists, but they are no less living into the values Christ modeled for us in unique ways. The work of the Kingdom of God is not limited to pastors, or short-term mission trips, or physical places like churches… it is our future hope, but it is also here and now in the way the community of believers engages creatively with the world for God’s glory.

If you know someone who is creatively integrating their faith in their workplace, neighborhood, or general sphere of influence we would love to hear their story, or yours!

Who Will GO?

Who Will GO?

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:8

 

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In Isaiah chapter 6 we read the story of the prophet Isaiah’s call to ministry. From it we can learn several things about our own call to join God’s mission in the world.

  1. The supremacy of God in worship.

The passage begins with Isaiah’s vision of the Lord. In that we see a picture of worship in heaven. We will never be in a position to serve God if we are not continually engaged in worship. It is out of our recognition of who He is and our worship that we can begin to serve him.

  1. Our shortcomings don’t prevent us from being used by God.

When we encounter the living God in worship, we become aware of our own sinfulness. Isaiah cried “Woe is me!” However, God still called him and used him. Whenever we are presented with an opportunity to serve, we often feel inadequate. Many times people respond to an invitiation to go on a mission team by saying, “what can I do?” If we resonnd in faith, God can and will use us for His glory.

  1. Obedience to the call is the proper response to God’s glory.

nepalWaterfall-1030x772oWorship is our proper and primary response to God. But, it must lead to obedience. Think how wonderful it would have been for Isaiah to just stay in the Lord’s presence and worship forever. But, he was called to GO. Just as we are called to GO. The Lord blesses us for a reason – to GO and invite others into His presence forever.

  1. Being sent by God is no guarantee of (earthly) success.

This passage goes on to describe how the people would respond to Isaiah’s message. It isn’t a pretty picture. Their hearts would be dull, their eyes, blind, their ears unhearing. Isaiah’s message would not win him any popularity contests. We need to realize that we will face trials and challenges when we serve. We will be called out of our comfort zones. We are not to measure our “success” by worldly standards. Yet we are still called. Isaiah went and was faithful to the call and we must do the same.

  1. God will be with us.

Though God’s spirit rested on the prophet, we have an assurance that Isaiah didn’t have, the promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that he would give us the Holy Spirit. It is because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we have the power to obey him and join him on mission wherever he sends us.

Be assured of this, you are called! God calls us to join in the mission to take his message to the ends of the earth. Consider joining a GO InterNational team this year as an opportunity to answer the call. Let your answer be, “Here am I, send me.”

Why Did Jesus Come?

At Christmas time, we celebrate the coming of Christ as a baby. How amazing to think that Christ left the comfort and privileges of heaven to come to earth as a helpless baby. This might be the ultimate mission trip! However, as we celebrate such an amazing thing, we also are left to wonder, why did he do it?

There are many biblically accurate answers to that question. However, when I think of Christ’s mission, his reason for coming, I am always drawn to the “mission statement” that he gives in Luke 4. Early in his ministry, he went to his hometown, Nazareth, and went into the synagogue to preach. He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, who gave the reasons that the Messiah would come. Here is what he said.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

    and recovering of sight to the blind,

    to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This was Jesus announcing at the outset of his ministry what he came to do. Notice that it involves so much more that “saving us from our sins,” as awesome and important as that is. Jesus came to minister in all aspects of life:

Physical –recovery of sight

Emotional – liberty for the oppressed

Social/justice – liberty for the captives

Spiritual – the good news of the gospel

Notice also his special emphasis on the poor. He was born in poverty and he came specifically to bring his good news to the poor. His news is good news for everyone, but especially for the poor.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us ponder how we can follow Christ’s example of ministering to those around us, especially the poor. Let us be his messengers of physical, emotional, social and spiritual healing to those around us. And let us commit to serving in these areas in Christ’s name in the year to come. If you are wondering where God may be calling you to do this, we have many opportunities at GO InterNational.  But wherever you serve, let your good news be good news for the poor in all areas of life!

An Amazing Servant in Mexico

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Pastor Jose Padilla

One of the amazing people I met on my recent trip to Mexico was Professor Jose Padilla.  He is a man of no formal education, but who has a deep faith and a desire to help his community.  He taught himself and God used him to build a Christian school in his village, Kilometro 29, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez. This school began as a one-room school in a cardboard shack and now educates 300 students on its campus which also includes a church. The school has received numerous awards for excellence in education and the students regularly win contests for academic achievement.  The school charges no fees and many of the teachers and other workers volunteer their time.  It’s graduates have gone on to meaningful work throughout the area and many come back to volunteer at the school.  What Professor Jose has done with his school in these circumstances is a powerful testimony of his own faithfulness and the power of the Lord to work though men and women who are sold out to Him.  He is an inspiration to me and to many others.

There is no way humanly-speaking that this school should have the success that it has.  It is located in a village of desperate poverty that to this day has no running water or even any water source.  All the water is trucked-in weekly.  Each family receives three 50-gallon drums a week to use for all household needs.  They also receive 2 gallons a day of clean drinking water per household. However, the water station is only open a few hours a day and many families face the choice of traveling to the city for work, or staying home for clean drinking water for the family.  Unemployment, broken families, poor health, and drug and alcohol abuse are rampant.

Pastor Jose knows all of this and has been praying about what to do next in their ministry.  When he attended our training, he learned what God wanted him to do next. He said, “we know we need to reach out to our community.  Now we have the way to do it through Community Health Evangelism.” I was amazed that this godly man could have learned anything from us. I am encouraged because I know his commitment to the Lord and to sharing Christ with his community means that great things will happen in the days ahead in Kilometro 29, to the glory of God!