Stories of Lives Changed!
Walking the streets in Salado, a barrio on the outskirts of Cucuta, Colombia, a woman of humble means approached us to ask for monetary help. We offered something more. We shared a message from God and extended the invitation to share the scriptures with her.
Praise God, she accepted.
Her name is Diana Yanes and she is a native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. She has seven children; one of the two currently living with her is unable to walk.
Diana has been in Cucuta for approximately one year. Upon her arrival she began to live the harsh reality that many migrants face—no family, very little work, little food, and dangers everywhere. With so little hope for a better life, she became very depressed. She began to drink, then entered the world of drugs and prostitution. She expressed her shame through tears to us as we read about God’s love in His word. We assured her that God has not abandoned her.
While she has left the world of prostitution, she still fights her drug problem. Her husband, Franklin, has always been attentive to her and has never lost faith that she can recover. “He would always tell me not to go get high when he sleeps at night, but I usually would escape through the window.” He works wherever he can find work. It is barely enough to provide subsistence. But, he continues to hope for a better life.
Diana has already expressed that she wants to change and she has been very open to God’s word. Sometimes, the process can be slow, but we are confident that God will work in her life and bring her to complete salvation.
by Carlos Blanco, Evangelist in the Cucuta Church of Christ
Please pray for Carlos and the Cucuta mission team, for the church, and especially for Diana, Franklin and their family.
This is Great Cities Missions.
Feeding the hungry. Clothing those in need. Sheltering the poor.
Preaching the gospel in harsh realities.
By planting churches in the Latin World.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and author coined the term “wounded healer.” According to Nouwen, God uses the wounds life inflicts to equip us to be His instruments for healing others.
Since 2013, almost five million Venezuelans have fled poverty, violence and social chaos, scattering throughout Latin America. Boa Vista, Brazil, located only 150 miles from the Venezuelan border, shelters 35,000 refugees.
Such suffering requires a response from God’s people. Great Cities Missions has recruited, and is now training, a team of four families to move to Boa Vista to plant a church that will be God’s instrument to meet this need. Abraham and Carla Isaza, and their children Diego, Avril and Camila, Venezuelan immigrants themselves, are part of that team. It is my pleasure and joy to work with these wounded healers who will share both the Good News and material aid to their needy countrymen.
by Bryan Gibbs, Director of Recruiting and Brazilian Church Development
When you support Great Cities Missions, you become part of a team that is sharing the gospel of Jesus everyday.
3am Prayertime with Ronald and Monica
“On my bed, I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” Psalm 63:6
by Vickie Fry, Latin Teams Consultant
GCM missionaries, Ronald and Monica Sabino (Cucuta, Colombia), claim Psalm 63:1-6 as an inspiration for much of their ministry. They have a deep desire to thirst and long for God. One of the ways that they have found to maintain that thirsting and longing for God is to set their alarm clocks for 3am daily. Just as Psalm 63:6 says, “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”, they truly take a watch each night. They get up as a couple and spend time together in prayer. This has been their habit since 2017. Ronald says he began this discipline when he was much younger because he had always heard about the “dead hour” or “devil’s hour” being between 3-4am. He felt like that was when Satan and all things related to darkness were most active; therefore, he wanted to be awake to fight against the enemy through prayer.
Their foremost prayer is for strength for their spiritual lives, that they will continue to grow spiritually. They also pray daily for their home, children, families in Colombia and Venezuela, financial supporters, Great Cities Missions, the church, the needs of their church members and unity on their mission team. Then they go to God on behalf of any specific prayers that their members have.
They say they can tell a huge difference from when they keep to this habit verses when they do not. Over the years, when they were exhausted from ministering in the church or from their kids being sick, there have been times they decided not to set their alarm clocks, so they could catch up on rest. They both agree that on these occasions they feel restless and they feel Satan’s darts hitting them.
Ronald and Monica crave the blessings that they feel come directly from this time of prayer. When there is a problem, a difficulty, or an illness and they begin to pray, they see God’s glory and how He works in a special way. This encourages them and reminds them of His presence and that His ear is attentive to their cries. They say that this time of prayer has grown into a necessity for their lives.
The work in Cucuta, in the midst of a pandemic, has grown tremendously. May God continue to bless this discipline of prayer, from this devoted couple, that plays a great part in the strength of this family, the team and the rapid growth of this congregation.
When you support Great Cities Missions, you become part of a team that is sharing the gospel of Jesus everyday. And part of a team that believes in the power of prayer.
The power of the gospel to change lives.
This is the story of the Joao and Ana Oliveira Family.
told by their grandson, Cristiano Oliveira
My name is Cristiano. I am married to Andreia and we have 2 kids, Gabriel and Rafael. We are originally from Brazil; we moved from São Paulo, Brazil to Frisco, TX about 6 years ago and about 5 years ago we chose Shawnee Trail Church of Christ as our church home.
Since the 1960’s, some American churches of Christ have been sending missionaries to work in Brazil and the results are great – thousands and thousands of families have been transformed because of the love of Jesus and the work of missions. It’s incredible to see that the results remain for the long term. Let me share a little about my family story as an example…
Gabriel, our oldest son (pictured top left), was given the privilege of being born into Christ’s family 6 months ago (Jun/2/2021) when he accepted Jesus as his Savior and was baptized. Thank God that Andreia and I, with support of the church, are being able to walk him on the path of Lord.
In the second photo is my family. Like Gabriel, I was given the privilege of being born into Christ’s family. I was baptized in August 1991 and Andreia in January 2002. I am thankful for my parents who taught me based on bible and God’s principles.
My parents, Cornelio and Ana Oliveira are in the third photo. They had their lives transformed when the gospel of Christ was presented to them by my grandfather Joao Oliveira in the early 70’s; my father was baptized in July 1973 and my mother Ana in June 1975. They live in São Paulo, Brazil and are still very active in the local church. I am thankful for my parents who taught me based on the bible and God’s principles.
And last are my grandparents, Ana and Joao Oliveira. (I am on the left, my uncle stands between my grandparents and my younger brother is on the right.) Like most people in Brazil, they were Catholic but in the 60’s they got to know the gospel of Christ through the missionary work in Brazil led by the churches of Christ from the US. In the late 60’s my grandparents accepted Jesus, were baptized and sometime later their 4 children (including my father) also accepted Jesus and were baptized. My grandparents passed away a few years ago, but my parents and my 3 uncles and their families are still servants of God and continue to be very active in their churches in Brazil. I am thankful for my grandparents who have presented Jesus to my parents.
I am also thankful for the missionaries. Because of their work and the generosity of churches of Christ, not only 4 generations of my family have been transformed by the love of Jesus, but thousands and thousands of families got to know the gospel and have been transformed.
When you support Great Cities Missions, you become part of a team that is sharing the gospel of Jesus and changing the trajectory of families for generations.
The power of the gospel to change lives.
This is the story of the Francisco Lira Family.
by Bryan Gibbs, Director of Church Development
In 1981, Great Cities Missions helped a team of five families settle in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil. An early convert begged them to go to her hometown of Itarema, about an eight-hour drive from Fortaleza, to share the gospel with her friends and family.
One of those who heard the message and became a disciple of Jesus was Francisco Lira. He worked as a salesman and shared his faith with everyone with whom he came into contact. Shortly after his conversion financial necessity caused Francisco to move his family to São Paulo in search of greater economic opportunity.
In his new home, Francisco continued to evangelize, strengthening existing churches and planting others. Eventually, his giftedness as an evangelist was recognized and he was hired as a full-time evangelist, a ministry he pursued for more than 20 years.
Francisco’s son, Junior, is also a full-time evangelist. After 12 years working on a GCM-sponsored team in Brazil’s federal capital of Brasilia, Junior and his wife Patricia have recently been asked to help plant a church in the Miami metropolitan area. With GCM as a partner, their team will target the region’s large and growing Brazilian immigrant population.
Less than a year ago, Francisco was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. His health rapidly deteriorated. Aware he was gravely ill, he summoned his four children to receive a blessing. Junior recounts the scene in the following words: “Last Sunday, after our family worship service, my father blessed us. He reminded me and Patricia that we have been appointed for God’s work. He put his hands on our heads and told us, ‘Go, take the banner of Christ to Miami. Settle in that country and conquer that territory for our most high God.’”
Aware that Junior and Patricia were reluctant to leave Brazil while he was so critically ill, Francisco gave them the following exhortation, “Don’t look back, go forward! If we don’t meet again on this earth we will meet in heaven. Let the dead bury the dead.”
Junior recounts his reaction to his father’s words, “It was difficult to hear and obey my father’s command, ‘Go my son, and don’t look back.’ I couldn’t stop crying. I was on my knees, feeling the pain of the moment and of this goodbye. After my earthly father blessed us we got off our knees, convinced of the mission to which our heavenly Father has called us.”
Courage and hope in the face of death. Purpose so meaningful that it provides direction to the grave and beyond. Generations transformed. All examples of the transformative power of the Gospel.
To know our efforts are used by God to accomplish all that and more, that is why we do what we do at Great Cities Missions!
Woven Together in Latin America
by Chris Fry, Director of Latin Teams, for Abundant Living Magazine
After a week of visiting house churches and church workers in the Cuban countryside, I sat in the lobby of the Hotel Comodoro in Havana and came across a shocking headline: “European flights to the USA Cancelled.” It was March 11, 2020. As my family and I stepped through the half-empty Miami airport a few days later, we felt extremely blessed to have avoided the nightmare that others would soon face as international travel came to a screeching halt.
The last 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but for our Latin American brothers and sisters, they have been quite dreadful. Lockdowns in most Latin countries were much more severe than in the states. While that may be expected in countries like Cuba or Venezuela, democracies like Colombia, Paraguay and Peru also put strict rules in place. I talked with missionary families in Colombia who could only leave their apartment for one hour per day. In Paraguay, a missionary family reported that most women and children were supposed to remain at home while men went out to buy only necessities.
However, with all that time indoors, Latin Christians connected more and more through online chats, calls and virtual studies. Missionary churches began daily prayer, devotionals and worship using apps like WhatsApp and Zoom. The 200-member Tultepec Church of Christ in Mexico began praying together every day at 8am, 4pm and 8pm. With virtual services and Bible studies, churches could invite anyone to speak. Preachers in other countries gave lessons not only on Sundays but nearly every day of the week. Churches worked together to organize large online conferences and Great Cities Missions moved the Conexiones spirtual renewal retreats online to encourage and bless missionaries while they experienced extended lockdowns.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the Latin church rose to the occasion. Many across the Latin world lost incomes and did not have a government who helped them, so churches like the Zona Sur Church of Christ in La Paz, Bolivia, distributed bags of food to needy members and friends. The Sao Luis Church of Christ in Brazil is helping 80 families with food every two weeks throughout the pandemic. As the community returns to some sense of normalcy, the help continues. Missionary Mark Dye reports, “This [help] has led to strenghtened relationships amongst our group members and a wider network of connection with family members and friends who have received the food and are now interested in participating with us.” Literally, hundreds of churches repeated this same activity across the Latin world.
Churches across the United States sent aid as well. The Pegram and Brentwood Hills churches in Nashville, along with the Eastridge Church in Dallas, have sent hundreds of boxes of food and medicine to more than 100 churches of Christ throughout Venezuela.
Some places like Cucuta, Colombia experienced incredible growth and many baptisms in 2020. While being in lockdown, the Cucuta church baptized someone every week for the first 10 weeks of quarantine. During a challenging and unique year, almost 50 were baptized into Christ in this border town, resulting in a unique situation: almost 50 new Christians experienced only online worship before they ever experienced the joy of in-person worship. When they began meeting again this year, the missionaries reported pure joy as these new Christians enjoyed the worship and fellowship of being together. Now, as they continue to meet together, there is great enthusiasm for the work of the Lord.
One of my favorite stories to come out of Cucuta, was the discovery of God’s talents in Carlos Blanco, a member of the Cucuta church. Carlos was involved as the coach of a soccer ministry that began in 2019. He taught the kids to play soccer while also giving devotionals, and praying before and after practices. In March of 2020, when the lockdown in Colombia caused the halt of the soccer ministry, Carlos was asked to keep reaching out to the families of the soccer players. He soon discovered that God had blessed him with the gift of evangelism. He loved sharing his faith and the wonderful news of Jesus Christ. Many of the almost 50 baptisms in Cucuta were a result of his efforts. He told me, “I didn’t know I had this ability inside me until I was asked to seriously share my faith with these families. I thank God that I can use my passion for Christ to help others have a relationship with Him.”
Our Savior told us that His kingdom would never be destroyed. It seemed that pandemic would hurt the church, but across the Latin world it has done the opposite. Churches have strengthened their outreach, helped their needy and lived out the gospel. On July 25, 2021, a mission team of four Hispanic families launched a new, active church in the heart of Medellin, Colombia. Great Cities Missions was blessed to secure funding for each of these families in 2020, without physically meeting with any churches or supporters. The Lord opened the door for this team to form and arrive in Medellin during a very challenging time. More than 75 souls came to worship, still wearing masks, and I was blessed to be physically present in this new church.
As we reflect on the challenges of this pandemic, I continue to receive firsthand acounts of the mighty ways God has worked when it seemed nearly impossible. While I pray for a return to some normalcy, my faith in our Lord to accomplish His plans and will through the unforeseen challenges in the future remains strong. May we continue to seek Him through the adversities that await. May our faith be woven together with the faith of so many strong brothers and sisters in the Latin world.
Chris Fry spent several years as part of a mission team to Asuncion, Paraguay. For the last seven years, he has worked at Great Cities Missions as the Director of Latin Mission Teams. Chris and his wife, Vickie, have three children.
Over the next 5 years, we will recruit, train and send 5 teams to cities in Colombia: Medellín, Bucaramanga, Pereira, Valledupar, and Villavicencio. This will bring the total number of Great Cities’ church planting mission teams in the country to 12. We are confident this will become a network of national churches and church leaders who can collaborate with one another and reach the rest of the country to have an impact on the regions in and around Colombia.
Based on our 18 years of experience in Colombia, we believe this country is open and receptive to respond to the Good News of Jesus. Additionally, the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has created a remarkable opportunity for churches in Colombia. Hundreds of thousands of refugees enter Colombia every year desperately seeking help. Great Cities’ mission teams are uniquely qualified to minister to their physical and Spiritual health needs. Nothing is more important than giving someone the gift of Jesus Christ and we see extraordinary opportunity in Colombia to do exactly that. Colombia is strategically positioned both economically and geographically to have a positive impact on Central America and the rest of South America. This vision has led us to commit more of our resources to send even more church planting mission teams to Colombia.
A Strategic Place to Evangelize
The location of the Iglesia de Cristo (Medellín, Colombia) is a strategic place to carry out evangelizing work; it is a very busy avenue, with several hotels nearby that are being used as shelters for people who have been displaced because their life is at risk or because they have drug problems. There are also families from Venezuela.
The Colombian government supports them by allowing them to live in the these hotels for a specific time. However, they must go out and find a way to provide for their daily food. Most of them usually go out and stand at the traffic lights with a bag of candy in their hand and wait for the people in the cars to give them a coin in exchange for the candy. It is surprising how many people, mostly Venezuelans, do this on a daily basis and thus provide for the daily sustenance of their family.
Last month, two families were baptized; one from Colombia and one from Venezuela. Both families rely on assitance from the Colombian government for housing. (You can see them pictured in the group photo.)
Anderson (in the solid blue shirt) along with his wife and three children are a Colombian family who have been displaced. They passed in front of the premises, saw the church sign and asked us if they could attend the service on Sunday. Since then, they have been with us, thanks to the Lord, and are already part of the family in Christ.
The second family in the photo is from Venezuela. They are in the same situation as Anderson and his family, and must go out and ask for money. As a church we are making every effort to support them within our means, but it is still difficult to do so.
The young man who appears in the middle of the photo is the grandson of our sister Consuelo, a faithful member of the congregation. He also decided to be baptized.
There is another family from Venezuela who have been consistenly visiting the church. Unfortunately, a family member has serious problems with drug use. We are doing everything in our power to provide guidance and counseling and spiritual support. – José Sarabia – Medellín, Colombia Missionary
When you give to Great Cities Missions, you are supporting missionaries like José, part of a missionary team combining strategy with passion to Share Christ. You get to join in the work that our unstoppable God is doing in places like Medellín, Colombia. You become part of someone’s changed life forever.
In Latin America sometimes you will hear the phrase, “La verdad no mata, pero incomoda.” Truth doesn’t kill, but it makes you uncomfortable. That is certainly the case when it comes to the truth of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that he came not to bring peace, but a sword, and that following him would sometimes cost relationships as dear as father and mother.
In 1977, Martha was a nineteen-year-old girl who had just found Jesus. She had been brought up in a semi-religious home in Cartago, the location of the basilica of La Virgen de Los Angeles, the patron saint of Costa Rica. After studying the Bible with a group of friends for several weeks, she, along with six others, decided to be baptized into Christ. That week she called our house crying and distraught. Her father, though not religious himself, was horrified that she had turned her back on the way she had been raised. He kicked her out of the house, and she had no place to go.
We brought Martha to stay with us for a while, then found her a job working in the home of Christian friends. She became active in church and in time married a wonderful Christian man who became a preacher of the gospel. Martha’s daughter also married a preacher. Martha has been a faithful Christian for over forty years now. Materially she still has very little, and her husband has been waiting for two years to get the surgery he needs. Yet, when we talk to Martha, we hear the grateful voice of one who has family in Jesus and is on her way to her eternal home.
Jesus doesn’t promise that following him will be easy. It is sometimes quite painful. Great Cities Missions understands that, and yet we encourage and seek to prepare young missionaries to be faithful to his call. They, in turn, will be calling on others to follow the truth of Jesus. That truth will frequently be uncomfortable, calling on people to repent, confess, and start a new life without promises of health and wealth.
Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) May God help us to stay faithful to Jesus and his mission, even when it hurts.
Calvin Henry – Director of Latin Team Care
We live in a world where truth seems not to matter. Satan, whom Jesus called the father of lies, seems to inspire the thoughts, words, and actions of the majority. Satan’s lies blind people to sin and its consequences, destroying their own lives as well as their relationship with God and others, driving them to utter lostness. It happened to Adam and Eve. It still happens.
God has always condemned those who twist the truth: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 ESV). Yet in much of Latin America, where Great Cities Missions focuses its ministry, truth appears to be an endangered species. Corrupt governments, power-hungry politicians full of false promises, hypocritical religious leaders, oligarchies with little regard for the poor, unethical businessmen, human traffickers, abusers of women and children, and promoters of all kinds of immorality spread their lies; and the people suffer for it. Satan has a strong grip.
But Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life,” came to rescue. He came to seek and save the lost. He saw humanity as a scattered flock of sheep without a shepherd, and he had compassion on us all. He offers not only to forgive those deceived by Satan’s lies, but also to get us all back on the right path – a path of truth and light, not lies and darkness. In him, humanity has true hope and purpose and direction. Without him, the devil has his way with us.
Great Cities Missions believes in the absolute truth of Jesus and that he is the only way out of the darkness. We take his mission seriously and commit ourselves to helping spread his compassionate truth among a lost, wandering, and shepherd-less people. That’s the truth. And it matters.
Calvin Henry – Director of Latin Team Care
I’m so thankful for our Wonderful Counselor who taught us to serve others and put them first. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about the Connections Renewals is that we can serve and honor missionaries just as Jesus would do. Our goal is to gift these precious servants with 5 days of rest so that the Lord can strengthen and renew them.
Isaiah calls the coming Messiah the Wonderful Counselor in Isaiah 9:6. This indicates the kind of character this coming King has. The word wonderful in this passage literally means incomprehensible. His counsel is much more meaningful than the way we use wonderful today. It indicates a phenomenon outside the realm of human understanding. The same word is used in Psalm 139:6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” It describes the Counselor’s miraculous insights!
We take a Care Team that is ready to lavish missionary women with love and encourage them. We include licensed counselors on the team so the women can discuss any problems they might be facing. They are showered with two gifts a day and given time each morning to sit in God’s presence. They also meet in small groups every day with a team leader. For our closing day, each team leader washes the feet of the women in her Connection Group; another example set for us by our Wonderful Counselor (John 13:15). After washing His disciples’ feet — an act of love, humility, and service — Jesus encouraged his disciples and us to follow His lead and serve one another.
It is such a blessing to model our Wonderful Counselor in a small way by serving missionaries who sacrifice so much to serve others!
Georgia Freitas – Director of Missionary Women and Children
Home is Where the Lord Is
As the Venezuelan government became more and more dysfunctional, education, health and security systems collapsed. Accompanying economic chaos eroded Ernesto and Ruth Marin’s buying power making it difficult to find and purchase basic food necessities.
Ernesto was a mechanical engineer working for the Venezuelan government. Ruth was a music teacher. With two of their four children having special needs, the family’s dependence on government-provided services was especially strong. Seeing a bleak future for themselves, and none for their children, they began to consider what had previously been unthinkable, leave behind family, friends, church, careers and home to begin life again in another country. All hesitation was swept away when the growing violence directly impacted their lives.
One evening two well-armed young men burst into their home. They tied Ernesto up and forced Ruth and the children into a bedroom. They rifled through the house scooping up valuables, all the while threatening to shoot any family member who resisted. Terrified, yet relying on their faith for strength, the Marins began to sing hymns. Calmed by the music and reassured that the family posed no threat, the young men took all the goods they could carry and left the family unharmed.
Resolved to immigrate, Ernesto and Ruth centered their attention on Brazil. Ruth’s sister suggested they look at southern Brazil and Ernesto’s work colleague suggested the city of Curitiba. The family began to pray asking God, “Is this your will?”
Here the Marin family’s story differs from that of many immigrants. As faithful members of the church of Christ, they were part of a global community. Ernesto was baptized and became a disciple of Christ at 25. Ruth did the same when she was 17. Reaching out to their faith network they contacted former missionary to Venezuela, Gary Green. Gary put them in touch with Ron Freitas, at the time Associate Director of Great Cities Missions, and a former missionary to Curitiba. Ron put them in touch with Mauro Francisco, José Carlos Sottomaior and other leaders of the Central congregation in Curitiba.
When the six members of the Marin family arrived in Curitiba on January 25th, 2019 they were greeted by a group of Christians who took them directly from the airport to a reception at the church building. Members and church leaders embraced them warmly and welcomed them to their new home. Backing up their words with action, the Marins were invited to live rent-free in the small apartment at the rear of the church property. When the Marins entered the apartment they found it fully furnished with a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry.
In the Marin’s own words, “They have met all our needs. Even now, after living in their apartment for two years, no one has pressured us to leave. They have always made us feel welcome. Even our two special-needs boys know this is a good and generous church. They pray and thank God for this church’s love and generosity. We are not here just to receive. The Kingdom needs workers.” Eager to become contributing members, the Marin’s reached out to other Venezuelan refugees. They met Samuel and Elizabeth Badejo and their three-year-old son, Matias, previously unknown to them, but also members of the church of Christ in Venezuela.
Encouraged by the elders, the Marins and Badejos began a Spanish-language service in the church building. The group soon grew to more than 30. Using her gifts as a musician, Ruth formed a praise team to lead worship. Ernesto teaches both online and in-person Bible studies. He also began a leadership training program. To date there have been five baptisms with more to come.
The Brentwood Hills church in Nashville recently provided the Curitiba church with additional funding for their outreach to Venezuelan immigrants. Led by the Marins and Badejos, the church purchased food, medicine, clothing and Bibles and distributed them to the immigrant community.
Mauro Francisco, senior minister and elder at the Central congregation is quick to point out that the blessings flow both ways. Just as the church welcomed and assisted the Marins, Badejos and others so too have these new brothers and sisters served and blessed the Central congregation. When asked why the Curitiba church so readily opened their hearts and arms to the Marin family and others Mauro referred to Ephesians 2:19. He said, “We don’t see them as foreigners and aliens. They are fellow citizens and members of God’s household. Home is where the Lord is.”
Bryan Gibbs – Director of Church Development
I love sleeping in totally black darkness. Yet, that is not where I want to live. We are called, in every way, to live in the light.
Our Creator has endowed us with amazing abilities to adapt. Perhaps this past year has demonstrated that to you in many new ways! He has made us resilient and I am thankful. Our relationship with light and darkness is one of those highly adaptable areas of our lives. I love sleeping in totally black darkness. Yet, that is not where I want to live. We are called, in every way, to live in the light.
So often when I think about light, I am drawn to a conversation from 35 years ago. It was a lecture in a physics course I took one summer, and it taught me some important things about faith. The message has stayed with me through the decades. The professor said light has some unique characteristics. Light can travel great distances without being changed. Light can only be seen in that in which it is reflected. Prior to nuclear energy, light was the sole source of all our power. Finally, she said that at the speed of light, all time is now. She then simply concluded her lecture by saying “God is light” and walked out of the room.
My professor’s lecture changed my view of the world. She allowed me to unite my faith and my pursuit of science. What an incredible way for God to describe himself! Jesus is the light of the world. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can trust him and rely on him. Being in Christian community helps us to see facets of his nature in ways that we cannot when we are alone. I can see Christ reflected in those around me. One day, we will join him to no longer be constrained by the bounds of time.
Being part of Great Cities Missions allows us to join in spreading the good news that the light of the world has come; that he has joined us. Incredibly, not only has he joined us, he longs for relationship with us. What could be better?
Please join us as we seek to spread that good news into the dark places of the world. Places where darkness is persistent, overwhelming. Where people have become used to the dark. We are called to live in the light and to be people of the light. Won’t you join us in that pursuit?
One more thing about my professor. Her first name is Treasure – certainly one befitting the gift she gave to our class so long ago. May God be merciful and gracious to us all as we seek to be the light of the world.
– John Todd Cornett, OD, PA
Dr. Cornett is Board Certified by the American Board of Optometry and the Texas Optometry Board recognizes him as an Optometric Glaucoma Specialist. He helps patients see more clearly in Amarillo, Texas. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Great Cities Missions.
“Twice a month I have the great privilege of mentoring Peter via Skype.
Peter is a professor at a university in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil with his PhD in Biology. He is married to Vanessa and they have two beautiful daughters, Alice and Olivia.
More than 30 years ago, when Peter was a small boy, his parents were converted by a mission team that Great Cities Missions sent to Curitiba, Brazil. What a joy it is to walk alongside Peter as God works in his life to grow him into the husband, father and Christian professor He wants him to be.” – GCM Director of Church Development Bryan Gibbs
When you give to Great Cities Missions, you are investing in future generations like Peter and his family.
“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