Stories of Lives Changed!
“When Ron and I first arrived at Bear Valley Bible Institute we were immersed into a missions atmosphere. Many teachers there had been missionaries and many students were forming teams to do mission work. I remember telling Ron, “Don’t get any crazy ideas about wanting to leave the U.S. and go to a foreign country to do mission work!””
Thirty-three years after landing on Brazilian soil, the Curitiba Mission Team that included Georgia and Ron Freitas and three other couples (John and Sherena Langley, Rod and Lind Nealeigh, Alan and Ree Nalley) got together in Edmond, OK to catch up and share memories of their 15+ years in Curitiba, Brazil where they fulfilled their mission to plant a church. Georgia Freitas, currently Director of Missionary Women and Children for Great Cities Missions, shares her story of how her life was changed by accepting God’s “crazy idea”!
“On August 13,1986, our team arrived in Curitiba, Brazil with the goal of planting a church. (Other families joined the team later and God worked through each one in amazing ways.) When we arrived we began to feel the impact of the overwhelming task that God had called us to! Learning to speak Portuguese, set up a home, an office and School of the Bible downtown was no small task. Learning to grocery shop, cook, clean house and drive in this foreign city was overwhelming at times. Each one of us had to learn to lean on the Lord and pray a lot! Team unity and working together in harmony was essential to longevity on the field.
God blessed us with an amazing church that grew to more than 250 members. Fourteen years after we landed, a beautiful new building was built and inaugurated and later three Brazilian elders, deacons and two evangelists were installed.
Working in the mission changed my life in many ways. First of all, learning to depend on God in great ways and seeing His faithfulness and answer to prayers increased my faith and love for the Lord. Second, learning to share the good news in Portuguese with Brazilians and seeing them come to know the Lord and seeing their lives completely transformed was life changing for me! Since moving to Brazil this Bible passage has become very meaningful to me. “Truly I tell you, Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31. God blessed our lives in many ways and gave us a new home, a new family with our Brazilian church family and many other blessings.
One of the best things about working in Brazil is the people. Brazilians are the most hospitable, compassionate, friendly, outgoing, loving and caring people that I’ve ever known. They are all about building relationships with all people. I continue to be encouraged by the Church in Curitiba that continues to share the good news, serve others and help plant other churches. I give God the glory for all he has done in Curitiba! And even though our team is no longer on mission together but spread out across two continents, we continue to stay connected through prayers, reunions, phone calls, emails and visiting each other.”
Where are they now? Alan and Ree Nalley continue to call Brazil home and serve in a new church plant a couple hours from Curitiba. Rod and Linda Nealeigh live and work in the DFW metroplex, each running successful businesses that help others. They enjoy opening their home to visiting missionaries. John and Sherena Langley live in Wichita, Kansas where John serves as the Outreach Minister at East Point Church of Christ. And Ron and Georgia Freitas call Edmond, OK home. Ron recently retired from Great Cities Missions and Georgia continues to serve as Director of Missionary Women and Children. Both are highly involved in all aspects of the Connections Renewals for Missionary Men and Women.
The unstoppable Yudiela López! A life of purpose.
“I was permitted to come and work as a missionary in Mexico via Great Cities Missions where I serve children, women, married couples, etc., an unmerited privilege that helps me maintain a burning spirit within me and be useful in the work of the Lord. This wonderful lifestyle has taught me how to prepare my daughters for a life of purpose and to love God in spite of all the changes that this life brings to us.”
This strong woman is no stranger to hardship but she doesn’t let it stop her from carrying out the work the Lord has given her to do. She serves alongside her husband Oscar and a strong missionary team in Alborada, Mexico. The team oversees two church plants in Mexico, taking on a second church a few years ago when they were needed the most.
Yudiela and the Alborada Team have been mentored by GCM’s Calvin and Linda Henry for years, going back to their training and education at Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Yudiela says that studying at Baxter was “my greatest change and blessing in my life because I learned to love God’s work.” Linda Henry offered insight into Yudiela’s fierce determination to not give up, sharing how determined she was to overcome her disability during those years at Baxter, “Yudiela was born in EL Salvador and was injured from birth, unable to walk. In younger years Yudiela used crutches, yet in recent years she’s confined to a wheelchair. She and her husband Oscar were living in El Salvador, where he was in medical school. They gave that up to study the Bible in Honduras at the Baxter Institute. Yudiela accepted many challenges willingly and cheerfully. The ritual at Baxter 5 days a week for 4 years was for Oscar to push her wheelchair up the 66 steps and carry her downstairs where their classes and devotional were conducted. At times their obligations didn’t match so she scooted until someone came along to help. She didn’t complain, was a happy student and a great influence for many.
When they graduated they formed a mission team in the outskirts of Mexico City and have been there for 7 years. She is an exceptional teacher of women as well as creative in children’s classes. Organizer par none! Yudiela, mom to 2 teen girls who are now teachers themselves of children and eager to assist their mom and other teachers in a growing congregation where there was none. Yudiela opens their home, hosting visitors and meetings—cheerfully—despite ever more challenging health issues, eager to participate and pull others into service. I admire her capacities and known full laugh as she faces difficulties most would consider impossible: cheerfully! Thank God for this exemplary woman.”
Yudiela doesn’t dwell on her circumstances but looks to the Lord to be her helper. “This wonderful lifestyle has taught me how to prepare my daughters for a life of purpose and love God in spite of all the changes that this life brings to us. Serving God is my whole life just as it is my husband’s! Already these 18 years of marriage have been a spiritual adventure.”
Yudiela attended the Women’s Spanish speaking Conexiones, held in Guatemala this past March. Fifty-three fellow Latina missionaries joined her for a week of spiritual renewal, hosted by Great Cities Missions. “Conexiones helped me take time to be with my Father, a marvelous time with lady friends that are also in Kingdom work and whose life stories have helped motivate my soul. Having time alone with God and being so loved by the Conexiones team is truly a touch from God’s own hand. What great love there is in this wonderful retreat for women! Thank you.”
Yudiela and team will celebrate the Inaugural Service of their new church building October 6, 2019. Calvin and Linda Henry will be there too. When you give to Great Cities Missions, you are supporting missionaries like Yudiela, who considers her work a great honor, her “whole life.” You get to join in the work that our unstoppable God is doing in places like Alborada, Mexico. You support needed spiritual mentors like Calvin and Linda Henry. You become part of someone’s “spiritual adventure.”
Two Venezuelan Christians with a heart to reach their new community. 4o+ Boys and Girls. A generous Donor who caught the vision. An Amazing God who brought them all together.
Who wants to play soccer?
Carlos Blanco and Nestor Correa are working hard to reach the Pan-American community for Christ through the avenue of soccer. The Cúcuta Soccer Ministry began August 2018. Enrollment continues to be over 40 kids, with most of them participating regularly.
This ministry is sponsored by a generous donor and is tasked with teaching kids soccer skills in a Christian environment. It is also proving to be an effective way to get into the community and meet neighbors who might not ever seek out a church on their own. Nestor and Carlos are members of Misión Cúcuta Iglesia De Cristo and lead this outreach ministry.
Coach Carlos teaches the kids for about two hours, 3-4 times per week. The kids pray before and after every practice–four times a week. They also have a devotional and Bible study in the middle of each practice. The only time these kids receive Biblical teaching in their daily lives is when they attend the soccer ministry. Carlos and Nestor report that some of the older kids are excited to teach the younger kids.
Nestor is tasked with visiting the families and setting up Bible studies. Nestor visits the community five days a week and has become known in the community. He is very evangelistic and a hard worker. On April 14, some of the kids from the soccer ministry were able to attend services at the Cúcuta church. They participated in classes, worship, and fellowship. The church prayed specifically over them for God’s blessing. Plans are being made to have special activities for them at the church.
Recently the younger and older teams got to play a soccer game against another local team. This is the first time the Cúcuta Soccer Ministry has been able to play other local teams and it’s something Coach Carlos is working hard to develop. The teams prayed before playing and were able to interact and spend time together afterwards. It was an opportunity for this ministry to show how soccer can be used to teach values and faith.
Coach Carlos and Nestor are passionate about reaching these kids and families for Christ. They represent many who have fled Venezuela recently because of political unrest, leaving everything behind and beginning a new life in Colombia. They have found work worth doing through their local church. The ministry gives them a small monthly stipend as they look for other jobs to support their families. Please keep them and their families in your prayers.
When you give to Great Cities Missions, you join in the work of Feeding the hungry, Clothing those in need. Sheltering the poor.
Story by Chris Fry, Director of Latin Teams
My name is Maribel Pineda. I was invited to the 2019 Conexiones Renovación de la Mujer (Connections Renewal for Women), to be a part of this marvelous week!
I knew nothing about Conexiones, but when other sisters learned that I had been invited they began to encourage me to go – that I should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity, that it was an incredible week! Even though I felt a close connection with God, sometimes it’s easy to lose our excitement & enthusiasm.
I work in a home for girls in Gualaco, Olancho, Honduras. Living Hope International sponsors this project with the purpose of rescuing girls that are socially at risk who are suffering extreme poverty or sexual/physical abuse or other dire situations. Our goal is to do God’s will in serving these girls, trying to change their lives & give them the opportunity for a better life.
Without a doubt many times we become so focused on our mission with these girls that we forget to take out time to just rest in God & lay all our burdens on Him. The week in Antigua helped me understand how important that is! I learned to take back that time & realize that God has always been with me & my family during these last 12 years that we’ve been serving children that need us!
Conexiones made me reflect on & be thankful for the wonderful blessings that God, in His great mercy, has given all His children. I loved the time I could spend in silence & solitude!
On several occasions tears rolled down my cheeks as I sensed so clearly God’s presence, which I hadn’t felt in quite some time because I was always so tired. The beautiful lessons on the Psalms made me realize that we aren’t alone, that many others through the centuries have experienced the same difficulties as I experience. But we need not worry because God is always right there beside us.
I am infinitely grateful to God, the Conexiones team & to the dear sisters that I met during the week – women of God who have become special examples for me to follow.
This last week in our youth group at my church we decided to wash each other’s feet, like we did at Conexiones, because that was such a meaningful act of humility. What a precious experience that was!
Thank you so much to every single person that made that week possible. May God continue to bless your lives richly & abundantly.
When you donate to Great Cities Missions, you become an honorary member of the Care Team and help missionaries like Maribel receive the renewal she needs to stay on mission.
Kate Hartman – Travel Advisor to a Beautiful World
Great Cities Missions values building strong relationships with people knowledgeable in fields that help us do what we do, Share Christ with the Latin World. Kate Millican Hartman is one of those special people. Kate manages KaliKosmos Travel and is a registered travel advisor with International Airlines Travel Agent Network. Kali Kosmos is Greek for “beautiful world” and it is to this beautiful world that Kate wants to help us “just go!”
Kate’s love of travel began early in life with parents that valued travel. She credits her dad, Don Millican, with setting a good example in fostering her love of exploration, “Plan your travel a year in advance. Otherwise it’s too easy to put it off.” Kate took advantage of as many study abroad programs in college as she could and thought she’d be a missionary someday but God had other plans for Kate. For the past 16 1/2 years, Kate has been working as a travel advisor. It started out as a way to get her husband Luke through school and then she realized how much she loved it. The greatest downside is that she is constantly bombarded with new places she wants to visit as she helps her clients.
Kate got involved helping Great Cities Missions navigate travel to South America about 12 years ago. Her knowledge and insight into current travel operations worldwide gives GCM peace of mind that we are making good travel decisions regarding time and money. She makes herself available 24 hours a day and no trip is too small or too big. It’s especially helpful for directors booking travel for a large group, like the GCM Connections Renewal Retreat, with travelers originating from multiple airports across the US. And it’s no wonder that Kate understands the travel needs of the Connections Team so well. She has served as a Women’s English Connection Team Member five times, serving in multiple roles such as Travel Coordinator, Group Facilitator, and Renewal Photographer. Perhaps her role of photographer is an easy one for her because it is an extension of her love of travel. Capturing a memory. Documenting our “beautiful world.” She says that she loves capturing “photos of women to give back to them. To capture the women’s faces as they come off the bus” hungry for the Renewal Retreat that lies ahead of them.
Kate shared some of her best travel tips. Who is ready to say Yes to travel?
Travel with children
- SLOW DOWN!
- Read books about your destination before you go
- Listen to your kid’s comments.
- Enjoy extraordinary moments – “I remember visiting Iceland with my kids and while we stopped for a coffee break, our kids began playing a game with some local children who spoke a different language.”
Travel Advice For Young Adults
- Put travel on your calendar. If you don’t plan for it you’ll hardly ever get around to taking the time off and going somewhere.
- Take the vacation time your job gives you- it’s part of your employment package, so you only short change yourself when you don’t take it.
- Say yes! Put in on the calendar. Make it happen. Work, Save, Travel, Repeat.
Travel Advice For Everyone
- Be an explorer wherever you are.
- Be ok to not have the money to travel big; travel small. Save money until you can travel big.
- Don’t be afraid to travel. Go! It’s always worth it. There will always be reasons to not go. Go anyway!
Central Church of Christ
For over 40 years, Great Cities Missions has had a healthy, thriving relationship with Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas. They are the reason we can do what we love, Share Christ with the Latin World, because their passion for this work existed long before we did. Believing their calling was to go beyond the walls of their church building, Central was key in supporting a missionary team who had a heart for planting a church in São Paulo, Brazil. In 1964, this team had a big ask for Central. They wanted to build a church but needed $250,000.
Central took the lead in overseeing the funding and building campaign and the new church building was inaugurated four years later. Working with the missionary team, the church elders set in order a plan for the new church to be turned over to the Brazilian nationals who attended the church. This model of establishing a church to successfully turn over to the oversight of its own people would be adopted by Great Cities Missions as the end goal of every missionary team.
In 1976, Ellis Long and the São Paulo team asked Central to be a co-sponsor of a full-time recruiting effort. And the rest is history. Dr. Gary Sorrells says this of Central in his book Make Your Vision Go Viral, “It was cutting-edge willingness on the part of the Amarillo Central church to organize GCM in January 1993 as a 501(c)3 entity with a national board of trustees. Their foresight in overseeing the ministry through a board of trustees has allowed the ministry to grow beyond the resources of the Amarillo church.” Today, six of the twenty-two board members are members of Central. The board continues to have a far-reaching presence with two trustees calling South America home.
Central continues to be a church inspired by sharing Jesus. In 1964 they said yes to fund a building for a people they didn’t know and most would never visit. Today they continue to say yes and seek new ways to serve their community and their world. Among the many outreach opportunities you’ll find them involved with, serving the children and staff at Bivins Elementary allows church members to get involved outside of the church walls. Senior Minister Allan Stanglin says “we believe our interaction with Bivins Elementary shows people that we believe in what our Lord Jesus believes, that we behave with others the way Jesus behaves. We are providing love and grace, encouragement and support, in the name and manner of Jesus to all these kids and their families. They know we’re from Central, they know we support their school and our community, they know we’re partnering with them for the betterment of everybody. And we tell them it’s because of Jesus.”
When you support Great Cities Missions, you can be sure that you are supporting a work with exceptional oversight from its supporting church, Central Church of Christ, and its board of trustees. We are thankful for the many ways that Central inspires us to be more like Jesus and to find creative ways to go beyond our walls and share Him with our friends in the Latin World.
Make Your Vision Go Viral Taking Christ to Great Cities – A Proven 5-Step Plan That Really Works by Dr. Gary Sorrells can be purchased through Great Cities Missions for $10.
This photo of Central Church of Christ volunteers at Bivins Elementary represents the many Central volunteers who help with programs like Snack Pak 4 Kids, the Bivins Bucks Store, the Crossing Guard program, cafeteria volunteers, and playground buddies volunteers. Central also provides school supplies and hosts a big Back To School dinner and party on the school campus every August to coincide with school registration as well as host teacher breakfasts for the beginning of school each fall. This year they plan to offer Financial Peace University and parenting classes in cooperation with Bivins Elementary.
“The church in Brazil needs to think big, understand the worldwide mission that God has given us.” That is Joao Victor’s dream for the future of the church plant in Boa Vista, Brazil. Joao (25) is part of a six person, Brazilian national team who will spend the next two years preparing for the missionary field while living in Campo Grande. The target date for the team to arrive in Boa Vista is January 2021. Bryan Gibbs, GCM Director of Church Development, recently sat down with Joao to talk to him about his dreams for Boa Vista.
Joao, raised in a Christian home Bauru, Brazil and baptized when he as 17 years old, realized as a young man that to be a truly effective leader he would need additional training. He decided that SerCris Christian Training School in Campo Grande was the best place to prepare himself for future ministry. After completing his studies in Theology at SerCris, he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, and has recently completed that goal as well.
Bryan asked Joao why he wanted to serve as a missionary. He said he saw a need for additional church plants in Brazil. He realized he would rather plant a church and help it grow to be healthy than wait for God to place him in the “perfect church”. When asked why the team decided to partner with Great Cities Missions, Joao talked about the first hand knowledge and experience that GCM offers new teams. “We didn’t see any group in Brazil that was offering the help you offer. We need to learn what you have to teach us. You have helped us discover our gifts, facilitated the development of deeper relationships among team members, taught us about conflict resolutions and helped us understand that mission work is complex and challenging. In a word, you helped us see our mission in a realistic light.”
“When I look at churches throughout Brazil – Niteroi, Campo Grande, Brasilia, Curitiba, and many other places, I can only be grateful for the work you have done in my country. Great Cities is greatly appreciated by Christians throughout Brazil. Without your help our team would not exist. Thank you!”
GCM is thankful to have a team of dedicated specialists in the field of missionary church planters who will pour into future missionaries willing to share Jesus in Latin America. Specialists like Becky Holton, a licensed therapist and GCM Director of Missionary Care, Scott Reynolds, former Brazilian missionary and GCM Associate Director, and Bryan Gibbs, also a former missionary to Brazil and GCM Director of Church Development.
When you donate to Great Cities Missions, you are supporting people like Becky, Scott, and Bryan who are the heart of our ministry. You are supporting new church planting teams like the Boa Vista Team. And you are supporting future missionaries like Joao. Check back often for updates about this team’s exciting journey.
Frey and Ingrid
The first time I visited our newest church plant in Cúcuta, Colombia, I met a couple named Frey and Ingrid. Frey and Ingrid are both professionals and had been living in Cúcuta for about 6 months. They discovered the church while walking by one day when members of the Cúcuta mission team were handing out food on the street. That started a relationship with the missionaries that eventually led to their baptisms and new lives in Christ.
Fred and Ingrid both lost their jobs as the economy in Venezuela began to deteriorate. Their biggest struggle after losing their jobs was finding enough food to eat. They said they would wait in line for hours and be told that there was no food left to purchase. Other times they would be in line and people would approach them with weapons and force them to give them their place in line. The final straw was the day they didn’t have any food left in the house and Frey decided to go to the food court at the mall to find some. He did not have any money so he would wait to see if people had any leftover food on their plates that they didn’t throw away.
Finally a person left a portion of their soup on the table and Frey was able to take that home to his wife. He told me that they ate a little bit of the soup each day and made it last for 3 days. Our group from the US heard their heartbreaking story and were brought to tears thinking about the abundance of food that we would have upon our return home.
Earlier this year, I returned to Cúcuta where I encountered Frey and Ingrid again. This time I was able to serve with them as we prepared the church for their 1st anniversary service. We painted the building together, prepared bags of food and medicine for the Venezuelan relief aid effort, the next morning Frey and I both participated in the worship service, and Ingrid helped teach the children. Both of them looked healthy and happy and found different ways to share God’s blessings they had received not too long before.
At Great Cities, our mission is to Share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Latin World. Frey and Ingrid’s story is just one example of why we do it. When people experience the love of God, their lives are transformed, their communities are transformed and their cities are transformed. We cannot do it without your help. We need your prayers. We need your support. And we need your financial gifts. Please make a year-end donation to Great Cities this year. You are making an eternal difference.
by Kelley Grant, Executive Director