On August 14, Mariano and I (Martin) embarked on a three-week missionary journey to Cancún, Mexico City, and Cuba. The purpose was four-fold:
To encourage pastors and churches across the country. We traveled 1600 miles and visited 17 pastors and 9 churches.
To lay the groundwork for a new church planting movement in Cancún.
To network with leaders from 50 mission organizations in Mexico City.
To encourage and recruit church planters in Mexico City.
Cancún was our launching point to Cuba and Mexico City, the first and last places we visited before returning home. We landed in the home of Marco and Elvia, neighbors of Kristy and Martin when they served as missionaries in Mexico City from 1989 to 1996. While in Mexico City, they, along with their two teenage boys, Eduardo and Hugo, accepted Christ into their lives. A few years ago God allowed us to renew our friendship and we visited them in Cancún after their youngest son (Hugo) passed away suddenly. Eduardo is now married with two young adult children.
Meeting Mariano for the first time they said, “Whenever you come through here, we want to be a home away from home for you.” Together, we prayed about whether God would have us start a church multiplication movement in Cancún. Pray as we follow up on this God-sized opportunity.
Most people think of Cancún as a vacation destination with beautiful beaches and great food. Many do not realize it is also home to 972,000 souls, many do not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Pray God continues to open the door to the Gospel.
Mexico City Ministry Meeting
We had a great time meeting with 100 young leaders from 50 different outreach ministries focused on reaching the next generation in Mexico and Latin America. We met with leaders working to help the poor, homeless, and victims of the slave trade and those training and discipling others, church planting, and more. It was wonderful to see what God is already doing and meet some heroes of the faith who are serving Christ and sharing the Gospel with a new generation in creative and transformational ways. Mariano and I got to know several people and are praying for future partnerships for church planting movements.
We spent two out of three weeks in Cuba. Mariano said, “It was a special moment to be able to visit and encourage our brothers and sisters who have been going through many trials and difficulties personally, as families, and as congregations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, political, and economic situation. The churches treated us like
family and cared for us when we got sick. Although we couldn’t physically be with many of our brothers, we were united spiritually in prayer, supplication, and trust in the sovereignty of our Great God.”
The economic situation is already at a critical level and many cannot afford food or medication. When they can, it is scarce. A general feeling of fear, anger, despair, and panic pervades the country. Beyond basic needs, many are searching for peace and comfort that only Jesus can provide. Throughout our 1600-mile journey, many roads were paved but others were undrivable, forcing us to take horses or hike to reach mountain churches. We spent time strengthening relational bonds of fellowship, encouraging leaders and churches, both new and established.
focusing on the next generation
1. As his first mission trip back to his home country, Mandy, traveled with us to the Easternmost side of the island. We spent time preaching and teaching in different churches, visiting and encouraging leaders. Mandy showed compassion for others, a humble learning attitude, and a gift for communicating God’s word through preaching with power and conviction. Mandy, his wife Eymy, and their family represent the next generation of leaders God is calling to lead church-planting movements in Latin America.
2. One of the young couples Armando was mentoring, Rolando and Betsabe were married for two weeks and were gifted a house to start a church. Looking at the abandoned house with no fixtures, appliances, furniture, or running water, they were starry-eyed and brimming with excitement over meeting new people and starting a church. Since our visit, they have already started community Bible studies. Thanks to gifts made possible by VLA supporters like you—they have purchased some appliances, making life a little easier. They have indomitable courage and represent the next generation of leaders God is calling us to mentor and disciple.
3. For over 10 years Mariano and I mentored and discipled young Caleb. We got to know his wife of two years, Ruth, while they joined us on the journey to the Western side of Cuba. They serve as worship leaders and Caleb started a sports evangelism ministry where young people are discipled and have come to faith in Christ. We see a talented and godly young couple, the next generation of leaders in the church planting movement.
4. We saw the birth of a church — they had been gathering informally as a group of believers — led by pastor Reinier and his wife, Rosita, a practicing medical doctor. They decided to launch a Sunday service on their covered patio — over 50 people attended. During a glorious celebration filled with testimonies and great worship. Mariano, Armando, Mandy, and I had the honor of preaching for the inauguration. It was great to be a small part of God’s continuing work, starting churches for His glory. These two also represent the next generation of leaders God is raising.
Two weeks after returning I experienced a sudden heart attack. I went to my usual weekly breakfast with some Christian brothers I have been meeting for many years for fellowship and encouragement. Upon returning I experienced what I felt was heartburn, related to breakfast, but this was different. I told my wife and after some further assessment and prayer, we decided to go to the hospital, thinking it was likely a false alarm. At the ER they performed an EKG and the doctor said “it’s going to get very busy here.” Suddenly, many
nurses and techs were getting me ready and the surgeon was called. During a lull in the flurry of activity, I got everyone’s attention and asked “am I having a heart attack?” Someone yelled back “yes, you are.” I responded, “good to know.” I didn't know, but Kristy began making phone calls to immediate family, friends at Northwest Chapel, our new church family, Lighthouse Fellowship, and many brothers and sisters in Christ around the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba who were praying for my health. We felt protected by God’s perfect peace. Awake and calm as the surgeon worked, I sang quietly to myself “God is so good, He’s so good to me. He answers prayer, etc.” I believe God was answering everyone’s prayers by giving us His peace to guard our hearts. Afterward, doctors worried part of my heart had died and would not recover, but after a month of cardiac rehab, weight loss, and daily exercise, the damaged section of my heart is showing signs of returning to normal.
1. Pray for Philip Scoles of the VLA missionary team as he will be in Kuwait. Pray he would focus on Jesus amidst the challenges of deployment. Pray for his ministry to fellow soldiers sharing Christ's love and Gospel.
2. Pray for Pastor Armando Lezcano Sr. and his wife Moraima who were granted permanent residency in the U.S. They arrived in Columbus Ohio on November 17th amidst joyful celebration, finally here with their son Mandy, daughter-in-law Eymy, and three grandchildren Mandito, Susy, and Benjamin. We are thankful to God for their faithful service to the Lord. Armando and Moraima led a church out of their home, and taught and mentored leaders all across the island, starting a movement of new churches. I’m honored to know them and their family as friends and partners in the ministry. Pray as they learn English, find jobs, a house, a new ministry, and assimilate. We are thankful they've arrived and anticipate how God continues to use them for His glory!
3. Pray for the Cuba Hurricane Relief project. Supplies to begin rebuilding are being purchased immediately. A team from the Cuban churches is working together to ensure houses are rebuilt. I believe rebuilding could be the catalyst to a spiritual revival which we pray results in the continued multiplication of churches reaching thousands with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you want to be a part of our important project please reach out.
4. Pray, I continue to stay focused on disciplined healthy living, minimizing the risk of another heart attack.
5. Pray God would continue to provide funds for VLA so we can continue the vision of training leaders, starting churches, and focusing on the next generation of leaders. Thank you for your continued support. Now more than ever we need you to donate or even become a regular monthly supporter of VLA. Our vision continues because of your financial and prayer support. Thank you!
6) Pray as the Thanksgiving and Christmas season approaches, we would be faithful witnesses for the love and Gospel of Christ to our neighbors and friends who do not know Jesus personally.
what's next for vla?
Some exciting things in store for VLA:
1. Finish the Cuba relief project rebuilding and restoring over 100 homes for Cuban families over the next few months. Thanks for your continued support.
2. We are planning a 2023 mission trip to see the results of the Cuba Hurricane Relief Project and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ serving in Cuba. If you are interested in being a part of the missions team, please reach out to Martin at email@example.com.
3. We hope to hold two conferences in 2023 to motivate and train future church planters in Latin America.
4. We are planning to start a Hispanic church planting movement in the U.S.A. connecting with the movement in Latin America.
5. We are praying God will help us see more churches planted for the glory of God, not only in Mexico and Cuba but also in other Latin American Countries.
6. It is only through the power of the Gospel, prayer, and for His glory we can expect to see transformed lives in Latin America. Thank you for your continued support in making our work possible.