From the Executive Director

It was 60 years ago that an intrepid group of graduates, most of them from Abilene Christian University, set sail on a ship from the port of Houston to begin their mission work in São Paulo, Brazil. This group formed the São Paulo Mission Team with an audacious goal of establishing a new church in the heart of that great city.

 

The team was dedicated and extremely motivated to share the Good News of Jesus to the people of São Paulo. Their desire did not stop there as they began to seek out opportunities to plant churches in other large cities of Brazil as well. Out of this desire to reach the other great cities of Brazil began the plan to create what has become Great Cities Missions.

The São Paulo Team selected one of their members, Ellis Long, to return to Abilene, Texas to recruit, train and send additional church planting mission teams to reach the enormous country of Brazil. (Brazil is larger than the continental United States, with a population of over 200,000,000.)

We are grateful to the vision that this team had to share God’s love to Brazil and the rest of Latin America.  Your donation helps keep that vision alive. Thank you for your confidence in the power of the Gospel and God’s love to transform lives. Thank you for being part of something GREAT!

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

Recently I was enjoying sitting on a floating dock on Lake Taneycomo watching the boats, fisherman and wildlife. I noticed a dad and his two boys skipping rocks across the Lake. The dad was getting his rocks to skip multiple times while the boys were struggling to get just one skip. By comparing several types of rocks in his hand, the dad began to explain to them why. I could not hear them, but drawing on my rock skipping days, I imagined he shared how you must pick the right stones – light, smooth and with rounded edges. To achieve multiple skips, it is fundamental to pick the perfect rock!

 

Jesus, the great teacher, was sharing the Sermon on the Mount with religious leaders, his apostles, many disciples and followers. He asked everyone, “Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say? It is like a wise man building his house, who dug down and laid his foundation on the rock. When the storms came his house stood. But another man was foolish. He was foolish because he built his house on the sand without a foundation. When the storm came his house fell with a great crash!” The difference between being wise or foolish was hearing Jesus’ words and following them. The message was build your life on the Rock Jesus Christ and His teachings! (Luke 6:46-49, Matthew 7:24-27).

This month Great Cities Missions is celebrating the 1961 São Paulo Mission Team’s 60-year anniversary. The São Paulo Team was one of the first group of missionaries to go as a team to large Latin cities, like São Paulo, Brazil. Imagine the impact of 60 years of ministry. How could a ministry last so long? In a recent video, team members David and Carolyn Mickey shared that even from the beginning the team hit the streets sharing the life and teachings of Jesus. Many people responded to the message of Jesus. Their long-term ministry was built on sharing Jesus the Rock and his foundational teachings.

Great Cities Missions was born out of the São Paulo Team’s desire to send more teams to large urban areas of the Latin World. That desire is still alive today, exemplified by GCM’s mission statement – Sharing Christ with the Latin World. 

Guest contributor Ron Freitas and his wife Georgia were missionaries on the 1986 Curitiba, Brazil Team and came back to the US to work for Great Cities Missions. Ron continues to serve missionaries as an advisor and as co-director of the Connections Men’s Renewal for missionary men.

 

“There it is, let’s stop,” we would shout from the backseat of our car. It was a favorite childhood treat anytime our family drove over the Sacramento Mountains.

 

We always recognized the approach by the sight of the tunnel carved through the rock mountain. Our anticipated refreshment awaited on the left, after our old car emerged from the dark mountain tunnel. A large pipe wedged into the rock released ice-cold water fed from a snowmelt spring. We could drink to our heart’s content. To drink from the rock was a childhood treat.

In Paul’s first letter to Jesus-followers from first century Corinth, he uses his own sense of integrity and purpose to describe his walk with Jesus. He then shines light on a lesson God taught his children Israel, an insight I often overlooked. He alludes to Israel’s desert journey when they ran out of water and blamed God. They were thirsty.  

There were two occasions. Both times Moses confronts God. He, God’s chosen leader, cannot meet the people’s expectation as they cry for thirst quenching water. In response, God provides cold water from a rock in a scorched desert. So, Paul adds the insight and provides a metaphor I often missed in my Exodus reading: And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, the rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). 

At Great Cities Missions, we are privileged to guide residents of Portuguese and Spanish-speaking cities to Christ the Rock who gushes refreshment for parched souls. What a joy to witness their childlike excitement when they first drink from The Holy’s spring water of forgiveness. 

We invite you to join us in the mission to introduce thirsty city dwellers to Christ the rock who is a spring of living water. The water that I will give, to never again be thirsty, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (John 4). 

Dr. Gary Sorrells – Executive Director Emeritus – Dr. Sorrells served on the São Paulo Mission Team from 1969-1977. He also served as Great Cities Missions Executive Director from 1990-2011. He remains an active Great Cities Missions board member and holds the title of director emeritus.

 

I am sure that you are familiar with Psalm 23 that begins with “The Lord is my shepherd….”

 

I recently heard an explanation about this psalm from Ray Vander Laan, an expert in Jewish history. A few years ago, on a trip to Israel, the group he was leading observed a shepherd guiding his flock to feed. The place they were visiting was most likely very similar to where David would have tended his sheep thousands of years ago. The interesting thing is that the area was not a green pasture, instead it was an arid, rocky wilderness where the sheep would have to search for grass.

The shepherd led the sheep to look for blades of grass growing in the shade of the rocks, which were plentiful on the hillside. The message was that the sheep had plenty to eat, but the shepherd had to help them find the food. The grass was abundant if you knew where to look.

As I think about the challenges that mission teams and national churches continue to face in Latin America due to the pandemic, I am grateful for how God has constantly provided exactly what has been needed. The same has happened for Great Cities Missions because of people like you.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

In March our staff had the pleasure of spending some time with Jim and Sharon Brickman in our weekly virtual staff meeting.

 

Jim spent his career in the Army and retired as a Brigadier General. After retirement, Jim and Sharon moved to Norman, Oklahoma where they have dedicated themselves to bless their community by working in their local church.

The Brickmans have also been wonderful champions and supporters of Great Cities Missions. In fact, Jim was a GCM Trustee from 2006-2018, serving as our Chairman from 2008-2014.

As Executive Director, I was blessed to work very closely with Jim and grew to appreciate how he used his talents and experience from his career in the Army to grow the Kingdom of God. Whether it was leading our board of trustees or helping to train and equip our mission teams with needed leadership and strategy skills, Jim was using his gifts to share Jesus so that others could have abundant life.

I am very grateful to supporters like the Brickmans who believe in the power of the Good News of Jesus to change lives. I know that you share this belief. Great Cities Missions would not exist and could not share Christ with the Latin World without supporters like you and Jim and Sharon.

May God richly bless you and your family.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

The 2012 Suba Team is an impressive mission team that works in the northern part of Bogota, Colombia.

 

They have the blessing of the church meeting in a great location on a main avenue in that city. One interesting thing about the Suba church is that their church building is a former discotech/bar and according to the team it had a bad reputation. The team had to undertake extensive repair work to the building to convert it from a discotech to a church building. A lot of time was spent repainting the multi-colored walls and pillars. There was also a disco ball that had to be removed as it is not standard equipment for most churches.

The strangest remodeling that had to be done was to scrape the floors. The team found out that the entire floor was covered in gum. This was something that they did not realize until they installed new lighting in the building.

The darkness has a way of hiding imperfections. That doesn’t mean that the imperfections are not there, it just means that we don’t see them until they are exposed to the light.

Jesus had this to say about the light in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the Light of Life.”

Every donation to Great Cities Missions helps shine the light of Jesus in the Latin World. And like you, we believe that the darkness will never overcome it.  That is GREAT news.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

As 2020 came to a close, I was hoping that the new year would be very different from the one before. Unfortunately, the date on a calendar does not change the circumstances of a pandemic, economic issues, or political divisions.

 

These issues are ones that we are facing in the United States, but also issues that mission teams and national Christians are dealing with in Latin America.  

Jesus says this in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” In the midst of all the uncertainty and anxiety is a message of hope. The hope that only God can provide through the Good News of Jesus.

When you give to Great Cities Missions, you share the hope and peace that only comes from Jesus. You are a valuable partner to this ministry and your donations are making an eternal difference in the Latin World.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

It has been a very interesting nine months for everyone. In fact, I would guess that none of us have lived through anything quite like this in our lifetimes. I am extremely impressed by the mission teams and national church leaders who have not just survived during this time but have thrived during extremely challenging times.  

 

As I read Colossians 1:6 recently, it made me think of how God’s power has been displayed in extremely powerful ways this year. “This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives…” Mission teams and churches throughout Latin America, but especially in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have reported increased numbers of Bible studies and baptisms.
Lives have been changed because of the Good News of Jesus. They are being changed in much the same way that Jesus changed lives during his ministry, by meeting people’s physical needs and showing God’s love, which in turn provides a great opportunity to share the Gospel.

Every donation we receive makes these good works possible. Thank you for your support and generosity.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

 

 

Because of you, we were able to recruit, train and provide ongoing coaching and care to missionaries and national churches throughout the Latin World during the pandemic.

 

Great Cities Missions, like most non-profit organizations, is dependent on generous donors like you.

Each year we receive more than 50% of our annual donations in the final quarter of the calendar year. In previous years we have used golf tournaments and dinners to help inform, encourage, and provide a forum for donors to give to this ministry.

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, we canceled our events this fall and created a fun but informative video that premiered October 13, to highlight the good work that God has been doing this year. If you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to watch “Some Great Cities News”. It is only 15 minutes long, but will warm your heart as you witness the GREAT NEWS being shared in Latin America. Click Here to watch Some Great Cities News.

Much has been shut-down due to the pandemic but thanks to your donation, the gospel has not been stopped!

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

September 2020

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of Hispanic ministers that work with Great Cities teams throughout the Latin World. 

It was an honor to share some words of encouragement from Scripture with these men. I was impressed with the camaraderie that they shared and with the way that they encouraged one another.

I was also reminded of the sacrifice that they have made to share the Good News of Jesus in the cities where they are working. They are doing this good work despite the challenges that they face. For example, one man was on the Zoom meeting while sitting on the sidewalk next to a store. That was the only place that he could get a good wireless connection. Another minister had just been released from the hospital after an emergency surgery.

We are blessed at Great Cities to work with such dedicated ministers. We are also blessed to have Chris and Vickie Fry and Calvin and Linda Henry as part of our staff. The Frys and the Henrys are doing a wonderful job of providing encouragement and advice to Hispanic missionary couples.

Please pray for our missionary families as they continue to serve God with commitment and dedication.

Kelley Grant – Executive Director

August 2020

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.

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