1st Missions Trips
Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Philip Scoles and I took our first missions’ trip as Vision Latin America to the Mexico City area in April. The purpose of this first trip was first to visit and encourage a couple who is an active part of our VLA team, and second, to recruit potential individuals who might become a part of our team.
Jorge and Nidia are a wonderful couple who live in Mexico City and have been using the GSE Principles to plant churches for the last five years. They were automatically adopted into the VLA family from the beginning, and we wanted to visit with and encourage them. God gave us the idea of getting out of the busy city and going to El Ganthe, a retreat center in Hidalgo. God allowed us to have a time of encouragement and prayer with one another for three days. This experience really deepened our relationships and God showed up in ways that uplifted us all.
Jorge and Nidia were neighbors to Kristy and me when we lived and served as missionaries in Mexico City back in 1991. Through a friend of ours who shared his testimony and served a meal in our home, Jorge and Nidia accepted Christ and began to grow and change. Many years later, they met Tony Webb and Mariano Azcarate and fell in love with the GSE church planting process. Today, they lead about 4 Bible Studies, and are continuing to share the love and message of Jesus Christ.
From there we went to visit some old friends, Doc and Norma, who are semi-retired and living in the little town of Metztitlán. This couple took us into their home, and we were able to share a time of friendship with them, as well as share the Gospel and our mission.
Then we went on another retreat with my old friend Luis Herrera. We have known each other since our childhood in Mexico City, where my parents served as missionaries. Luis is attending and serving at a local church. Like me, he has a passion to reach the next generation. God used this time to help us renew our friendship and spend time in prayer and discussion about our mission. We are certain that we will be partnering in some way in order to complete this shared calling of ours. In addition to Luis, we met about 10 other people, most of whom were childhood friends of mine. We felt a strong sense of God’s presence in that meeting, and hope that it may result in more GSE Church Plants.
Finally, we met with a parachurch organization called Milamex (Latin American Mission of Mexico) which specializes in reaching youth and young adults through networking with other parachurch organizations, training opportunities, and finding innovative outreach methods. This organization has always been passionately evangelistic—its founder, Juan Isais and his wife Liz, have been preaching the Gospel creatively in Latin America for many years. We met with them to seek their advice and discuss ways that we can partner. One of the suggestions they made was that we come to an annual meeting of 100 ministry leaders from organizations who work in Latin America. Mariano Azcarate and I will be attending the meeting on Sept. 3 in Mexico City— we are asking God to lead us to people we can partner with and learn from as we are pursuing the vision God has given us to reach the next generation in Latin America.
Our second trip was to Northern Mexico—where we have over 25 churches that belong to the Grace Brethren Fellowship, where I have served all of my life. We visited about 14 pastors, traveling through Northwestern Mexico, just South of the Arizona and California borders. During this trip, we ate together, we listened to their stories, and we prayed together. We heard many stories about the struggle of ministry in the midst of the pandemic. These pastors have dealt with panic, anxiety, anger, frustration, depression, and grief resulting from the loss of the last two years. They have faced death and severe illness of friends and family due to COVID, dwindling congregations, isolation, division, family and marital stress and financial stress from a depressed economy.
One of the pastors, Arnulfo Vieyra said to me, “I believe that God sent you here to encourage the pastors and their wives and let them know that they are not alone. Many of them have not had this kind of visit in a long time, especially since everyone has been isolated because of the pandemic.”
During this trip, I got to preach at some of the churches we visited. I wanted Mariano to preach too, but he told me that the message that God had given me was what the people needed to hear and encouraged me to share. When I was invited to speak in Tijuana, I asked God to give me a message specifically for them and He gave me Isaiah 42:1-4.
2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
The theme was: “When we are at the breaking point, God is gentle and compassionate toward us.”
We also got to spend time with Jon and Mindy and their son Alo during this trip. Jon and Mindy, along with Mariano and Margarita, are the core leadership team on the field. We got time to share our hearts and talk about the vision of VLA and what God is calling us to do together.
We also got to spend some time with Pastor Ruben and his wife Gaby—who are key leaders working with Jon in Rosarito as well as other places in Northern and Central Mexico. While working at Northwest Chapel as Pastor of Outreach and Missions, I became “the moving” pastor, helping people move to and/or out of homes over the years. I didn’t expect that it would happen in Mexico, but Ruben and Gaby needed help moving, so Philip, Mariano, and I signed on to help them. It was great to be able to serve in this way! Their new home is a bigger and better space to host their GSE Church on Sunday mornings, so this move has already been such a blessing in terms of hospitality.
Overall, our two trips to Mexico this summer were a great success. I am so excited to see how God continues to work through this ministry!
I am so thankful for my wife, Kristy. She has such a heart for God along with immense courage, faithfulness. Her fierce support and encouragement inspire me to serve with all my heart. I couldn’t do this without her by my side.
I am thankful for all of our supporters, who have contributed finances and prayers. They have been so faithful in keeping our team before the throne of Grace and believing in VLA’s mission.
I am thankful to Jon and Mindy for their friendship and teamwork in ministry over the years. Their faithfulness in loving and mentoring leaders is inspiring. I look forward to seeing how God uses their work for His glory.
I am thankful for Mariano Azcarate and his friendship. I have known Mariano for many years, and I am enjoying the opportunity to spend much more time with him as we travel together.
I am thankful for Philip Scoles and his faithfulness as he has become an integral part of VLA. He has been such an encouragement to me and others on our last two trips. His passion and leadership have been an inspiration.
I am thankful for Doug Jones for his encouragement and for the videos he produces about our VLA trips. He was amazing at adapting to the Mexican culture and serving God so faithfully not just behind the camera, but also in listening, encouraging, praying, and helping those he met along the way.
I am so thankful for my stateside ministry team which includes Ben Soller, Kathi Sewak, Olivia Baxter, Doug Jones, Stan Willis, Laurie Tennyson, Lynn Cline, and Laurie Alvarez. There is no way I could continue my ministry without their support in the areas of communication, video, social media, and administration.
1) Pray for me to stay focused on God every day, so that I may keep Him at the center of my mission here at VLA.
2) Pray for my relationship with Kristy that it would continue to grow in unity and strength as we serve Him together and especially as I travel more and more.
3) Please pray for Jorge David Calderon, son to Jorge and Nidia. He was involved in a bike accident in Chile and has experienced surgery and broken bones. Pray for total recovery and strength and encouragement through this process.
4) Pray for Philip Scoles who is being deployed to the Middle East by the National Guard in August. Pray for safety, strength and wisdom and that God would use him to help him grow and share Christ with other soldiers going with him and people he will meet along the way.
5) Pray for Mariano and me on our upcoming trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. Pray for God to help us make connections that could result in more church plants. Pray that we would encourage the leaders and churches we visit so that their faith would remain strong.
6) Pray that God would continue to open doors to start new church planting movements throughout Latin America. 7) Pray for VLA’s leadership team as it expands to include especially young adults to help us carry out this vision of reaching and discipling the next generation for Christ.