Saturday, July 23, 2011

Graduation and Germany


Dear Praying Friends,

The last few months have been more exciting than I could ever begin to convey in the few words that fit on this page.  When I wrote last there were many things that were just beginning and now just three short months later wow, there is much to tell!  Since January I have had the privilege of being invited to two local churches to do their teacher training.  In both churches there were between 18-20 teachers taking the course.  It was exciting to see their commitment and enthusiasm, especially after the class was done!
In January I was also given the responsibility of beginning a women’s ministry in our church and training women to be able to be the leadership for this new ministry.  It has been such a joy to work with them and watch them as they grow in their desire to minister to the women of the congregation.  Each month we plan a fellowship for the women of the church and each month we see more women attending and bringing visitors with them.  We have been able to reach some through this ministry that previously we were not able to reach, we have also seen some come to know the Lord as their Savior as a result.
Our Single Women’s ministry finished at the end of April and was a wonderful success; we drew women from 5 different churches for a time of fellowship and reflection of the sufficiency of Christ in all things.  We made new friends, studied God’s Word together and encouraged one another in our walk with the Lord.
School, I am Finally!! done.  I graduated on May 14th in Lansdale, PA with my Masters in Christian counseling.  I was cheered on by precious friends in the area, a fellow missionary friend from Mexico City, Darlene Gabler, long time co-laborers, Bob and Terri Metze and the best surprise of all, the oldest of my brothers drove all night from NC to be at my graduation.  The entire day was such an amazing blur but wonderfully so.  I finished and finished well, I’m excited to see how the Lord uses these skills further in the ministry here in Mexico City.
The day after graduation I left for Germany (a trip paid for by some who love me very much), to celebrate the completion of seminary.  The trip thus far has been beyond a blessing.  Just meeting and staying with fellow believers has been such a wonderful highlight of the trip.  It is very humbling to meet and hear the testimonies of fellow believers who share such passion for sharing the Gospel with those who have never heard.  If this was all we got to see and do it would have been worth it all.
As soon as I make it back home (Mexico City), there is so much more to be done.  I have been invited to the sierra (mountains) of Vera Cruz, some call it the “jungle” to do teacher training there for several churches (probably for about 2 weeks).  Those of you who know me well know I am anything but a jungle girl so it should be interesting.  It would have been easy to say I’d pass but I truly do believe there is a need for teacher training in local churches so while the whole jungle theme kind of is daunting for me I’m willing to go.  As I get more details I’ll share them with you so you will know how to pray!
Thank you for the wonderful love and support system that you are each a part of that makes what I do look easy.  I am extremely blessed.

Because He Lives!
Cynthia Castillo

PS.  My immigration process for my Visa will begin all over again when I arrive in Mexico on June 9th.  Please pray.  The last word I heard was that I would NOT have to take my car to the border after all.  What a relief!!  Thank you for your prayers on my behalf!!!  Please just pray that the process is quick as I still cannot use my car during that time.  I’ve been without the use of my car since March 15th.  If you want to see pics of my trip to Germany see my Facebook account.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Settling In and Staying Busy

Jan-Feb 2011

Dear Praying Friends,

When I wrote last I was just beginning transition once again in ministry; going from working with an American missionary couple to working under National leadership.  I am so happy to report that the transition has been phenomenal and beyond what I could ever have imagined, isn't that just how God does things?
Probably the hardest part of transition was the first Sunday I attended church by myself without the Hydes.  I felt a little overwhelmed; I felt like I was alone for the first time, BUT I didn’t have time to feel that for long at all.  That first Sunday was our Christmas program and as I sat watching everyone rehearse, the pastor’s mom came over and sat by me to talk.  Valeria told me she and her family had been talking about me the night before and felt it important for me to know that they loved me and were excited that we’d be working together.  They also talked about the fact that with the Hydes gone it would be of utmost importance that they look out for me, and they have and have been so loving!!
            As a single missionary working with a couple, you become a part of their family and have that security of knowing you always have someone that is looking out for you.  When “my” couple left it was kind of scary.  The pastor I work under is young and single with an equally young fiancé.  But God in his wisdom placed me exactly where I needed to be.  Pastor Hugo, while young has the maturity, pastor’s heart and dependence on the Lord’s wisdom to lead his congregation.  His fiancé Jessica shares his passion for ministry and is eager to learn whatever she can to be used of God.  So really what I’d like you to know about this transition is that I LOVE how God has arranged and prepared the place he has me serving now. 
Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in the ministry and what I’m doing...hope you’re ready because it still makes my head spin at times. BUT, I am having so much fun and absolutely loving the challenges.  Ready?  I’m backing up and helping to train the new Sunday School director of the children’s ministry.  I’m mentoring three women weekly (including the Pastor’s fiancé) in leadership for women’s ministry and beginning a women’s ministry.  Right now we’re doing monthly meetings for the women of the church (which have been SO fun and well-received).  Part of the mentoring, includes how and why (Biblical basis) to have a women’s ministry, how to reach and minister to women, how to prepare devotions (studying and sharing from God’s Word).  I’m also helping to organize our VBS (I prefer sooner than later) and assisting two other missionaries with their VBS organization.  I was asked to do an 8 week Bible study for single women at a sister church and am taking the opportunity during this Bible study to train one of our ladies in preparation for a Sunday School class of young ladies in our church.  I’m also getting to do teacher training for several of our sister churches in the area.  I just started one on Saturday and will start another in about 3 weeks at another church...I’m getting to TEACH THEM TO REACH THEM.  I think that’s everything for NOW, oh wait I’m finishing my course work for my Masters, I have two classes to finish.  As you can see there’s much going on but God has enabled me to keep it all straight.  Right now the goal is survive until May (said with a smile).  I’ll be stateside in May for graduation from Seminary and I’m so excited about finally finishing!!!  The journey through God’s Word has been amazing and it has so enhanced my love for and knowledge of my Savior. Please pray for good health and great time management over the next couple of months.
            The ministry itself is growing and there is an excitement in the congregation for all that the Lord is doing.  We recently began cell groups and have guests every week.  We’ve seen new guests at church every week as a result and are seeing hearts begin to turn to the Lord as they are hearing the Gospel.  We are also seeing many in our congregation that are getting involved in the ministry.  It’s an exciting time.  Pray for wisdom for our pastor as we look for a new place to meet...we have so outgrown our current space.
One very important prayer request, my passport was JUST renewed and I’m beginning the Visa process again (done yearly), normally it takes 6-8 weeks for the Visa process.  My current Visa expires March 25th.  Please pray that the process goes through quickly or I will be without transportation until the Visa process is done.  Being without a car right now because of everything going on would be really difficult.  I covet your prayers during this process.
Thank you for your continued love and prayers, our Lord answers them in ways I could NEVER have imagined.

Love and prayers,
Cynthia Castillo

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good-byes and changes can be difficult

Oct-Dec 2010

Dear Prayer Partners,

              The last couple of months have been a whirlwind.  After returning from a missions conference  in TN where I was totally refreshed and encouraged I headed back to Mexico to a jam packed schedule.  While I was gone I was scheduled by my team to begin Teacher Training.  I had two weeks to  observe the current Sunday School staff, familiarize myself with  the  ministry, assess the existing children’s ministry and curriculum as well as put together a plan of action. 
              We  began the teacher training with lots of anticipation and excitement and maintained it through the next 8 weeks.  We began with 14 teachers and had 11 that completed the entire course.  It was hectic but fun.  Two weeks ago we finished our last class and what a difference we have seen already in the Children’s ministry.  The ministry had a couple of teachers who had experience but lacked some fundamentals.  
              We implemented a curriculum  that is intended to give  children a foundational knowledge of God’s Word along with including a very clear presentation of God’s plan for their salvation.  Where once stories were told (often without a Bible being opened), now the teachers are excited about the lessons, studying the lessons and delving into God’s Word.  The kids are enjoying the curriculum as well. The children’s ministry is now organized and includes teachers who teach with a purpose.  We’re looking forward to great things from this ministry.
               A little bit off topic but not so much as you’ll that the very most difficult thing about being a missionary is the constant good-byes.  A year ago when I returned from furlough, the couple I’ve worked with for the past 6 years informed me that they were praying about returning to the US, they were experiencing God’s nudging and wanted to be sure before they made any plans.  I felt a little out of breath for a little bit because the idea of not working with them anymore was not one I relished, they weren’t just my team they were/are very dear friends.  We had began a work together and shared in the joys and at times sorrows through the growth process.  We were in awe together as we watched the Lord work in the lives of the people of our church.  If they were going to be leaving what would become of the work we had begun?  There were lots of things to consider and pray about.  
               Over the past year we have done LOTS of praying and depending on the Lord to lead us.  In regards to the congregation, the Lord moved as only he could.  We met a young pastor (Hugo) about 15 min from us that had started a work about 3 years ago, they like us thought we were the only ones where we were.  We shared several fellowship and ministry opportunities over the year and again as only the Lord could orchestrate it, a situation came up that required our pastor to go home for 6 weeks.  During that time our
congregation was invited to attend his church and they all went.  
               Our pastor and Hugo prayed together often and for quite a while before the idea of rolling the two congregations together became an idea.  It has been such a seamless joining that it can only be attributed to the hand of God.  When entering the church no one would ever know this was a church made up of two congregations because in fact they have become one.  
               The vote to combine the two congregations took place during the time I was Stateside for the mission conference.  Prior to going to the missions conference I had been on loan to another church to do a children’s discipleship program so I had not attended the church with the combined congregations but was kept abreast of the ongoing process.  I was excited for our people because for the first time they didn’t feel so isolated thinking they were the only believers in the area.  The combining of the two congregations has done much to grow them and encourage them.
               While all this was going on I was still wondering what was going to happen to me, who would I work with next?  I was little freaked out at the prospect of starting all over again but also knew and trusted that whatever plan the Lord had for me would be the right plan.  It truly is amazing how the Lord works everything out and without a doubt with HIS time table in mind...not mine.   There are many things that have been working to get me to where I am tonight as I write this, I’m finishing up my Masters finally in May, I’m continuing my Instructor Certification through CEF, and most of all I have a growing passion and desire to dedicate myself to training others to teach and reach others with the gospel effectively.  For quite some time now I have seen the need for effective training programs for churches to develop their teaching staff.
              Because I was involved in a church plant, I had quite a few responsibilities that prohibited me from being gone for any length of time to train teachers in other churches, yet in 2010 alone I had the privilege of training 80+ teachers. Only in eternity will we know the full impact of those 80 teachers.  
             God is SO good.  While at the time I did not see what He was doing and was a little nervous about the future, he had things under control.  Doesn’t he always?
             So let me share what I get to do now for this next phase of ministry, I still get to be involved in a church plant but with the flexibility of being away to do teacher training in and around Mexico City and wherever the Lord leads.  In our church plant for the most part it was the missionaries that were still carrying the load of teaching.  With this church plant where I will be working (where I just completed the 8 week teacher training) there are now 11 trained teachers.  They now have someone in place as the Director of Children’s Ministries and a full program developed for the next year (I was working to get everything in place because I thought I would be somewhere else).  The great need right now for the church is with the women of the church, in their discipleship (which is something I love to do as well), which can be done during the week. I have requests from several churches in the area to come and train their teachers...I can’t wait to get started.               
            I’d ask that you pray as I make the adjustment from working with my previous team (whom I will miss so very much) to working under the leadership of a national pastor.  Working under a national pastor does not mean I’ll be on my own here. Jorge and Aimee Rodriguez fellow BIMI missionaries live within walking distance of my apt so I’ll still have the support and care of my fellow missionaries. I’m looking forward to what the Lord has in store for the ministry here.  I get to continue with the kids I’ve ministered to over the last few years. 
            Pray as the Lord provides opportunities to train teachers throughout the City and even Mexico.  In February 2011 I head back to Tlalpa, Guererro for additional training with the group of 65 teachers we trained in Jan 2010.  I’m joining with a group of CEF instructors (part of my certification) to do a more intensive training, you can pray for safety during this trip.  Pray also as I juggle the last two classes for my Masters and the Capstone Project I must complete for graduation.  Another matter of prayer, I’m in the process of translating a brochure I designed about the teacher training program, it will be available for missionaries and national pastors alike.  I’m also in the process of converting my training program (something separate from CEF) into a full Power Point presentation to insure a professionalpresentation.

There are several needs as a result of this new phase of ministry:
*Printing costs for 1000 full-color brochures in both languages
*A Projector for the training presentation
*Large format printer (13 x 19)—the one I’ve used for the past 6 years no longer has drivers to support the
current operating system of my laptop.  The large format printer has been invaluable as it has allowed me to
create and provide visuals for churches, as well as provide them visualized songs.
              I was still wondering even up to just a week ago what the Lord was going to do with me next and wow when he plans, he plans good.  I’m so very excited about what is in store for the cause of Christ here in Mexico City.
              I pray you have a blessed Christmas Season and a New Year that will challenge you to love him more.  It has been a privilege to have served on your behalf this past year.  Thank you for your faithful sacrifice.

Because He Lives, 
Cynthia Castillo

Discipleship for Children

July-August 2010

                  The last few months have been equally busy as every other month.  My home church sent me to a retreat for missionaries in July, the retreat took place in Colorado Springs and wow was  it ever so refreshing.  It was a blessing to be in the company of so many other missionaries and hear their stories of ministry in their respective fields.  I arrived back home refreshed, which was a good thing because there were 7 girls in my apt when I got home.  My down stairs neighbors and fellow missionaries the Metzes hosted 3 different groups and I usually keeps the girls of the group.  I was here for one  group and gone for the second and came in the middle of the 3rd.  My house was wall -to-wall air mattresses.  Thankfully there was enough room for everyone, although an extra bathroom might have been nice, they were a great group so they worked really well together the whole week. 
                After returning from the retreat I jumped right back into the swing of things.  Prior to leaving for the retreat another missionary couple (Mark & Donna Whiffen) had asked me about the possibility of spending some time with their ministry to help them disciple their children who are saved and just help with some ideas for their children’s ministry.  I spent two weeks visiting with the Whiffen’s ministry to get to know the kids before beginning the discipleship program. 
               The first day of the program was a pretty amazing day.  The class started out with a couple of the kids looking like they weren’t sure if they were going to like the program.  As the class progressed it was so cool watching the transformation as it took place.  Their attention was piqued when we began to discuss security of the believer and briefly baptism, suddenly everyone was sitting up listening intently with hands raised to get their questions answered.  The tide had turned and I had the kids attention.
               The parents had been told about the discipleship program and the devotions that came with it, so not only were the kids engaged, so were the parents.  On Monday Donna called the different kids to remind them about their devotions, what she found out from the parents was that the kids were eagerly doing their devotions.  The following Sunday they all had their devotional book done for the week AND they had ALL learned their memory verse.  
              This past week one of the parents mentioned to Donna that she had seen a difference in her sons’  interest in the things of the Lord, so much so that now they were concerned and witnessing to their dad who is an unbeliever.  Isn’t it amazing what a difference having security of salvation can make in a believer’s life?  Pray as we continue our discipleship.  I’m in the process of helping this church work on a plan for their children’s ministry.
              I did want to update you on some of the results of the teacher training I did back in June.  I met with Ruth last week and she shared that her teacher is SO excited about teaching as she now sees how God’s plan for salvation is intertwined throughout the Bible not just in the Gospels.  She’s been so excited and as a result has shared that wonder with her husband, he recently told the Pastor that he’d like to be come more involved as well.  Yay!!!  I’ve also been invited to two more churches to do the teacher training, as well as  a follow-up training at the Hornbrooks' church. 
             The Lord is opening more and more doors for me to realize my passion of Teaching Them to Reach Them.  I can’t wait to share with you some other upcoming opportunities.  In the meantime please pray that I will be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and not get ahead of Him.  I truly love what I do and could not imagine doing anything else.  Thank you for partnering with me to see the Gospel spread to the littlest of Mexico City.

Cynthia Castillo

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cracker Barrel, The Lord's Supper and Discipleship

May-June 2010

             One of my favoritest (I know not really a word) Bible stories ever is that of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  When trying to decide on the next series to teach the children of Bible Club, Elijah was it hands down.  I couldn’t wait to get to that story.  While that may have been my favorite for all it’s excitement, it turns out the kids’ favorite story was the story of Elijah being taken away in a chariot of fire.  Another story they enjoyed was Naboth’s Vineyard.
             Bible Club has been consistent in its growth and excitement each week because of the kids.  In a culture where the concept of time tends to be “fluid” and punctuality is optional the kids show up  20-30 minutes EARLY.  We put out a couple of games and puzzles for them to play with until time to start.  It has given us an opportunity to catch up with them about school and home and also settle them down for club. The games are simple games, like the Cracker Barrel triangle with golf tees in it or one called Rush Hour that requires moving plastic cars around a grid to get the key car out of the grid. While the games and puzzles seemed inconsequential, in fact it proved to be key to getting kids to club on time and settled down...who knew!?!
             I posted on Facebook sometime ago that we had seen 5 children saved,  I know we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens but we still are in awe each NEVER gets old.  Three girls (ages 9-10) came just as we were sitting down for dinner on a Sunday afternoon and told us they wanted to know how they could come to Christ, they were dealt with and each of the three made a profession for Christ as their Savior that day.  Two days later one of the girls brought two of her cousins she had witnessed to, who now wanted to be saved as well.
             For some time we had wanted to do a discipleship class but hadn’t yet.  With 5 new converts plus the few others that had been saved previously we decided the time was right.  I taught the class during SS and wow it was so cool.  The course is 4 weeks but very comprehensive.  We learned terms that are commonly used; that we take for granted children know and understand; like ordinance , perish, and testimony.  We discussed security of salvation, baptism, the Lord’s Supper,  how to share your testimony, with whom and even places that it can be shared.  We also learned what makes up a church.  When the course was done each child shared their testimony with the congregation.  There were tears from children and adults alike.  It truly was a precious time.
             In between Bible Club, Discipleship on Sunday mornings and our Ladies’ Bible study I took on a teacher training opportunity.  Ruth Hornbrook, one of my fellow missionaries asked if I could give a basic course.  Ruth and her husband have a church here that is young and growing.  She was doing most if not all the teaching of the children but was expecting their 5th child and really needed to get someone trained to be able to be in place before she gave birth.
             We opened the teacher training up to the other missionaries as well and ended up with 8 teachers from 3 churches.  We met every other Saturday for 3 weeks and crammed in a whole lot of learning.  Most of the ladies that came had little or no experience in teaching so they were a little scared.  They soon were excited about getting started in the children’s ministry.  Ruth now has her teacher in place who is so excited by all that she is discovering as she teaches.
             The gospel is getting into the hearts of children because of the sacrifices you make, thank you for all that you do to see these precious ones hear His Word.

Cynthia Castillo

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No car, no electricity but plenty of ministry opportunities.

March—April 2010

           I spent the better part of March with no car due to having to wait on car parts to be ordered.  The rotors on my differential were going out so I didn’t want to wait until it did go out and did major damage.  The original estimate was about $900 USD, but thankfully I have an honest and very competent mechanic and the price was no where near that amount after all.

During the time I was car “less” I made great use of public transportation.  The first week I did Bible Club sans the car I called up my co-workers who were Stateside at the time to find out what buses to take.  I knew how to get from my apt to church but not how to get from my apt to the house of the kids I pick up for club and then onto church (via public transportation).  With instructions, money, comfortable shoes and my bag of goodies for Bible Club in hand, I set out.  It was quite the adventure.  I took a taxi from my apt to the bus stop, a bus to the first stop where I got off and then caught a VW Van; otherwise known as a combi to the next stop, from there I had a choice of a taxi or walking.  I didn’t see a taxi and didn’t want to be late so I hoofed it (it’s only about a mile), picked up the kids, flagged a taxi down and on we went to Bible Club.  Bible Club went really well!

The trip home was a little more challenging, again I knew how to get home but not how to make the trek to drop off kids (I’m familiar driving it but knowing when to get off and change buses is something else completely).  Oh yeah and knowing which combi  to get on is half the battle.  I asked the kids and they gave me a few options so I finally just asked one of the drivers telling him where we wanted to go.  I was depending on 3 kids ages 9-10 to know how to get us home, it was fun.  After some debate amongst the kids they finally decided where to get off, we walked through a market, which brought us out to the bicitaxi stop.  I hired 2 bicycle taxis to get us to our next stop and from there we walked to the kids’ homes.  Next I caught a taxi to my bus stop, caught a bus, and finally the last taxi.  I think at some point I posted to Facebook that the only thing lacking was the donkey ride.  It really is possible to live without a car. you just have to be really patient and not be afraid of being out of your comfort zone.  The subsequent weeks the kids’ mom brought them up and I stayed the weekends with my co-workers’ to save some money.

The no electricity incident lasted 3 days, there was a problem with our connection at the pole.  Me and my cold stuff packed up and spent the time at my co-workers’ home.  I got to go back home on Sunday with my cold things.  I have to laugh as I write this because while it can be a little stressful, you just HAVE to find the humor in dragging your cold things, teaching materials and clothes for the weekend back and forth.  I’ve actually gotten quite good at packing for the weekend!

So about the opportunities for ministry, that’s been great.  Bible Club is growing so much, we’ve had to split up the kids (by age) to best be able to minister to them.  We’ve been averaging 30 kids on Saturdays.  On Sundays our kids attendance had dropped but two things happened, 1. I got to do some discipleship of our church kids and 2. One Sunday a group of about 6 kids walked in the front door and have been coming faithfully ever since.  Johann and I both looked at each other wondering where they’d come from (neither of us knew) but we were excited.  Last week we worked on Mothers’ Day Crafts in Bible Club and Sunday School (we have many who come to Bible Club but aren’t allowed to come to SS), even the teen boys got in on the craft making.

We’ve also begun our Ladies Bible Studies again which is always such a blessing.  Johann and I rotate in teaching on Tuesdays, we’re currently studying the women of the Bible.  I have the privilege of picking up three ladies for the Bible Study.  One attends our church, the other two do not attend.  Pray please for all the ladies that come several still are not saved, one in particular has come to Bible Studies off and on for the past 3+ years, has heard the clear presentation of the Gospel but still has not received the Lord as her Savior.  Please Pray for Mari she desperately needs the Lord but resists him.

As a prayer request, I’ve been asked to do a basic teacher training for some of the ladies who attend churches of my fellow missionaries in the area.  The training will be on May 15th and will be for 3 Saturdays.  Most of these ladies have never taught and usually are a little intimidated by the prospect.  Pray that I present exactly what they need and that they will be excited by the opportunity to serve.

The Lord is blessing and working in the lives of the people here in Mexico City, I thank Him daily for the continued opportunities to serve and the many like you who have a part in those lives that are changed.  

Monday, February 1, 2010

Teaching Opportunity

Jan 2010

Dear Friends,

My time on furlough was a refreshing time.  I arrived back in Mexico on November 30th and spent the next couple of weeks getting caught up with the requirement for two classes.  Just about the time I was done with all things seminary...the holidays were upon us.  I spent the two weeks with my co-workers Dave and Johann Hyde; it was some great fellowship, not to mention catch-up time on what’s going on with the ministry and what’s coming up next.

Before the holidays were barely over I was on the road again.  I’d been invited by some fellow missionaries to help with a teacher training project.  The project would include 2 weeks of intensive training for 65 teachers.  Yes you read that right 65 teachers!  There would be 7 instructors including myself that would carry out the project.  The intent of the project was to train these teachers how to organize and run a weekly Bible Club.  The teachers would include teenagers and adults alike.

My friends were coming down from Saltillo (about 3 hrs from the border) and we would be meeting up in Toluca (about an hour from me) and then travel on to Tlapa, Guererro (another 6-8 hours down the road).  We all made it and met up in Toluca just fine (finding a place to meet in a strange city is always fun), we ate lunch and proceeded on, only thing is no matter how good your driver and navigator are if you’re in a city where the street signs are confusing and ill-placed you’re looking at an adventure!  We were in a 15 passenger van hauling a utility trailer full of materials AND all of our luggage.  Well we ended up getting lost trying to get out of Toluca and about 5 hours later ended up only about 2 hours down the road.  We spent an unscheduled night in a place named Cuatla; we couldn’t travel any further or we would have entered the mountains in the dark which is definitely not something you want to do on a narrow winding road.

The next day we headed out early as we had a 5 hour drive and were scheduled to begin classes that same evening.  After driving through the mountains to get to Tlapa we were VERY thankful for the decision NOT to drive on in the dark the night before...those roads are really winding and narrow.  Watching as semis passed us and us them really helped to keep our prayer lives up to date!!  If you’re subject to motion sickness this would not have been the trip for you.  We made it with about 2 hours to unpack everything and get organized for our first classes.  It was crazy, we were tired from the trip but we were ready to go!!  And boy did we go!!

So, the ministry where we stayed and did the classes, Wow what a blessing!  We were staying at a children’s home that was established by missionaries.  The purpose of the homes (there is one for girls and one for boys) is to provide a home for children who are from the surrounding mountain regions but don’t have the opportunity for school as there are none in their areas.  The children come to live in the home from as young as the age of 6 until they graduate.  While the homes operate in some sense as a boarding home while they attend school, the greater purpose is the opportunity to share the gospel with children they might not normally be able to reach AND raise them in a Christian environment.  During summers and holidays the children return to their homes but otherwise live there.  The staffs of the homes are so very loving and caring of all the children.  Not only do they house and feed them they are very literally raising these children.  They help with the homework, do the laundry, discipline when needed, and play with them all that you would do when raising children.  There are some who have gone onto to Bible School to prepare for ministry.

The reason for us being in Tlapa was that currently the teens of the homes and the adults of the local church (both of the same ministry) were visiting regularly in the surrounding areas but didn’t have any organized way of ministering to the local children they encountered weekly, they were wanting to reach those that were unchurched, to go to them.  That’s where we came in…we came to show them and train them in all the facets involved in carrying out an effective weekly Bible Club.

The classes were intensive classes as we were only there for two weeks.  The classes included a philosophy of why we should reach children, how to reach children, why and how to use music, how to teach a memory verse effectively, how to maintain discipline in club, the challenges in doing a club in the open air (because that’s where most of them would be held) how to teach the Bible lesson and applying the Gospel throughout the lesson.  We also taught them clown skits and puppet sketches, review games and a host of other fun tips and techniques.

The modules to be taught were divided amongst the 7 instructors and we were off.  The class time was organized like clockwork as one instructor finished, the next was ready to go with their module.  There were also times for workshops with the students so they could practice what they’d been taught and there was also a time of presentation by each student when they were evaluated.

The evaluations usually had the students on pins and needles but once they got going they found that they were catching on and doing a really great job.  You could feel the excitement and ok even some of the fear but the place was hopping and buzzing!

The younger children of the home who were not involved in the classes would come in during the evening demonstrations.  During the evening demos we essentially did everything that would be done in a day of club; songs, memory verse, clowns, puppets, Bible lesson with a presentation of the gospel and an invitation.  Every night during the demos an invitation was given and every night a child or two would come forward and we dealt with them individually, most came for assurance of salvation, but there were 2 or 3 during the two weeks that made a decision for salvation for the first time!  How awesome is that?

The last Saturday we were there the teams (we’d been divided into teams to work together throughout the training) we went out into the surrounding neighborhoods and invited children to come to the Bible Club.  The clubs were held impromptu and conducted wherever there was a spot available, be it indoors or outdoors, on a curb, under a tree, in a room of a house, out in the open with just rocks to sit on…literally anywhere.

For the team I went with we found a little store that was closed so we met in front and sat the children on the curb while we conducted the Club from the middle of the street (not a busy street).  The team went around inviting children door to door, at first we weren’t sure we’d find children to come but slowly but surely we had a group of children…we ended up with 16 not including all of us in the team.  While the children sat on the curb we did our thing.  I got to teach the Bible lesson which was about Cain and Abel (one of my favorites to teach).  I stood in the middle of the street which was basically just one lane (two if you forced it) and just moved out of the road if a car came by.  We sang, we learned our memory verse, we did the clown skit and puppet sketch right there in the middle of the road.  People occasionally passed by and watch but they left us alone.  In the end we had 3 children who made decisions for salvation.

In our own Bible club here I usually only know how many we had because of refreshments.  I do what I do and let the Holy Spirit take care of who, where, when and how many.  In the Bible clubs we established that Saturday we had 335 children in attendance and 103 (I think) make decisions for salvation.

The day finally came that it was ready to pack up everything and say our goodbyes.  The goodbyes were bittersweet as we’d spent two entire weeks with all these people and had formed bonds with different ones.  We left impacted by what we saw in the overall ministry and prayed that we’d made an impact in a small town in the state of Guererro.  We left behind 14 teams in place which is 14 clubs that go on weekly now where there once were none and we left teachers trained.  We’ve been invited to come back next year to give the next level of classes.

I heard yesterday from one of my fellow instructors that the director’s wife of the homes had written her and told her the clubs are growing and the teams are improving each week, they’re excited about what they get to be a part of weekly.  The local church and the teens of the homes are having a greater impact in their area.

I do have one prayer request; we left them with all the materials needed to run a club for 5 weeks.  Soon they’ll need more materials but the expense for outfitting 14 teams is costly.  They asked that we would help them pray the Lord would provide the funds so they can continue with the current program as it is so effective.  The class next year involves how to actually make all the visuals and prepare the lessons themselves but until then they’ll have to rely on materials that are ready made.

The two weeks were a huge investment in something we on the team are all truly passionate about…preparing and equipping as many teachers as possible so that we can reach more children.  I had a wonderful time working with this team…I’ve had an opportunity to learn from them and work with them now for about 5 years and I look forward to more opportunities to travel with them to other areas around Mexico and conduct these training courses.

Teaching Them to Reach Them,
Cynthia Castillo

PS I have posted over 100 pictures of the time there in Tlapa on my Facebook page (Cynthia Castillo).  If you’re not currently on my friend list but would like to see them just drop me an invitation with a note letting me know you saw my prayer letter and would like to see the pics.  I update Facebook regularly if you want to know what is going on here in Mexico City.