A Pichi Pellahuen Christmas Story

Russ and Heidi Smith Mission in Chile Russ and Heidi Smith Theological and Children’s Ministries in Chile Russ and Heidi have served since 1985 in the Diocese of Chile. Currently, Russ is involved in the Rural Bible Institute providing theological education. Read more…

It was December 8th when my cellphone rang. Yanett Toro from the Pichi Pellahuen church—a sleepy, little congregation 2 ½ hours up into the mountains from where we live in Temuco, Chile. A number of years ago, they had had a vibrant congregation and a strong Sunday school of about 40. Now there were around 10 adults in the congregation—about 1/3 of them members of the Toro family—and no children. But when Katia, my Evangelism Explosion (EE) for Kids colleague, Russ and I went up there to do a workshop to train people in reaching out to children and provide them with a method and materials to do it effectively, seven adults participated. That is 70% of the tiny congregation! Not bad for a sleepy, little church. When EE got off the ground in early November, 17 neighborhood children attended the Saturday afternoon kick-off. And they asked if they could come to church Sunday mornings as well! Now, by early December, 26 children were coming each week.

Yanett spoke softly and with concern. “Sister Heidi,” she addressed me in the common evangelical fashion, “we have a problem. We want to do something special for these children for Christmas. They are all from low-income families, you know. They most likely won’t receive presents in their homes. We want to get each child a present but we need help. If we had known we would end 2016 with 26 children, the congregation would have been setting aside money each month for this purpose, but until a month ago,” she explained, “we had no children. Now we have 26. Could you find brothers and sisters to help us? Just this once? Next year we will do it on our own.”

 What should I say? I wanted to help but Christmas was just two weeks away! How could I go to the churches in Temuco just two weeks before Christmas and ask for help? All the churches were already committed to helping somewhere, I was sure: a home for the elderly, a children’s hospital, etc. Where could I find help for the children in Pichi Pellahuen—children who six weeks ago didn’t even attend church!

  “Let your love not be only in word but in deed and in action,” admonishes the apostle John (1 John 3:18) I told Yanett we would pray and see what we could do. How much did they need?

  “Whatever,” was her answer, “whatever people can help with.” We worked out that she would send us a list of the names of the children and their ages, and then she would come down with a van to pick up whatever we could come up with—in 13 days!

  Russ and I prayed. We didn’t have a lot of money available. Suddenly I thought of Rosmarie. Rosmarie is a beautiful woman with a very generous spirit. She owns an exclusive, little clothing boutique in town and she loves Jesus with all her heart. She hosts a weekly prayer group at her dining room table, mostly for women who are just coming to faith, who are not yet part of a church. She invited me to be part of this group when it began in early 2016. Those women are coming into a relationship with Jesus as they experience Him and His answers to their prayers. I called Rosmarie and shared Yanet’s dilemma. Rosmarie was immediately on board. She volunteered not only to talk to the ladies in the Monday night prayer group, but also to make the need known among the customers who frequent her clothing shop. 

Rosmarie was on the move—and the Holy Spirit was too! Within five days gifts—beautiful gifts—began arriving. I shared the need with a few more people as well. A recently separated mom I visit and her little daughter chose some special things to give. I shared it on our EE group chat, and a gal out in the country whom I’d only met once donated $30. By Monday, December 19th, Rosmarie informed me that more than 30 gifts had come in. Now we needed to get together to wrap them and, armed with the list of names and ages of the children, our Monday night prayer group met to play Santa Claus! We were overwhelmed by the variety and quality of the gifts—the thought and money that had gone into each one. But how were we to decide which gift would be for which child? We didn’t know these children. We had never even met them. How could we possibly know…? “We need to pray,” I told them. So before we began wrapping and placing gift cards on the packages, we just prayed a simple prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide us in deciding which gift should go to which child. The Lord knows those precious ones even though we don’t. Then we began wrapping and labeling: remote control cars, trains with tracks, beautiful dolls, purses, backpacks…lovely gifts! And the extra money donated served in part to buy the needed batteries for some of the toys as well as a goodie bag for each child, and food for a special Christmas tea for the children and their parents. “Santa’s workshop” closed around midnight! Two days later Yanett came for the gifts. Everything was in readiness and we were thrilled with how it had all come together. We had done our part, but we didn’t know the end of the story; we didn’t know all that God had been doing and would do behind the scenes—until after Christmas. Yanett sent pictures after the celebration and when it was all over called me a couple of days later to share this story. It seems that a few days before Christmas two of the boys, Carlos and Pablo, had confided in her that what each most wanted for Christmas was a remote-control car. And little Maritza said that her Christmas wish was a backpack. Yanett listened but told the children that she had no idea whether they would receive those gifts. Of course they didn’t even know that gifts were coming!


But the Lord knows the hearts of His children—and He knew that these little ones, so recently coming to know Jesus, needed a touch from Him—a special reassurance that He knows them intimately. We had prayed about which child would receive which gift; that the Holy Spirit would guide us as we put the names on the gift cards. Can you guess the rest? It “just happened” that the gifts we had put Carlos’ and Pablo’s names on were the two remote-control cars that had been given! And on the beautiful Peppo Pig backpack we had put the name “Maritza.” If even the hairs of our head are numbered, our loving Lord knows the heart’s desire of each of His little lambs. This Christmas He had done what only He could do. May those precious little ones come to know Him as Savior and Lord in this new year. I think they are already well on the way!

by Russ and Heidi Smith. The Smiths are long-term Missionaries in Temuco, Chile. Support them here. 

But the Lord knows the hearts of His children—and He knew that these little ones, so recently coming to know Jesus, needed a touch from Him—a special reassurance that He knows them intimately.

Russ and Heidi Smith

SAMS Missionaries to Chile

Welcome to the New SAMS-USA Website: What to Explore

Welcome to the New SAMS-USA Website: What to Explore

SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) is pleased to announce the re-launching of our website. As part of Anglican Global Mission Partners, SAMS’ mission is to raise up, send, and support Episcopal/Anglican missionaries to be witnesses and make disciples for Jesus Christ in fellowship with the global Anglican Church.

This new website will be a tool for you to get more fully involved in what is happening around the world through our Missionaries and Senders. Once solely serving in South America, SAMS-USA now supports and sends over 95 missionaries to over 25 countries around the globe including Europe, Africa, South East Asia, and the Solomon Islands.

Explore the new website and new ways to get involved, whether you are discerning the call to serve as a missionary, or have a heart for sending missionaries.

SAMS News Blog: Keep up with the latest with what is happening in the SAMS community with news blogs about SAMS Missionaries, the ministries they are connected with, and news from where they serve.

Interactive Map: Are you looking to get connected to a particular country, but want to know more? Maybe you have a heart for a certain place in the world. By using the SAMS interactive map you can learn more about the missionaries, the particular country they serve in, and how you may be able to get connected as a Sender or a Missionary.

Send Prayer Requests:  The SAMS Home Office Staff prays every day for our Missionaries and Senders. If you have a prayer need or praise, please feel free to share with us so that we can partner with you in prayer. Send a prayer request with this new online feature.

Watch this video tutorial to discover more!

5 Ways to Celebrate World Mission Sunday

5 Ways to Celebrate World Mission Sunday

Partner with SAMS this World Mission Sunday. Discover the different ways you can celebrate mission and raise awareness in your own community.

World Mission Sunday is a day for churches to come together to reflect on the importance of global mission and how they can get involved as a congregation. It is tradition in the Episcopal and Anglican Church to celebrate around Epiphany, which is February 27th this year. As an Anglican Global Mission Partner, SAMS-USA seeks to raise awareness of the importance of global missions and the support of missionaries. In Acts 1:8 Jesus calls us to participate in world-wide mission, “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” Here are five ways you and your church or diocese can participate in World Mission Sunday this year:

  1. Hold a dedicated service: Celebrate and raise awareness as a church by using this Litany for World Mission. Here are some resources for you to use.
  2. Educate: Invite a missionary to speak during or after church, and educate your congregation about what is happening overseas. Want to learn more about missions, Five Talentshas listed their favorite mission books here.
  3. Be stewards of mission: Mission does not just have to be overseas. Encourage your congregation to participate in mission right where they live. Organize a mission day by serving a ministry that your church has a heart for.
  4. Take up a special offering: On the day you celebrate World Mission Sunday, consider collecting a special gift for the missionaries or ministries you support.
  5. Pray: Pray for how God is calling your congregation to participate in global mission. Pray for the missionaries in your church. Pray for those who are discerning the call as a missionary.

We encourage you to be a witness of mission this year. Observe World Mission Sunday right where you are by sharing testimony, prayer, stewardship, and education about missions in your church.

If you are interested in receiving printed material to promote missions in congregation, contact the SAMS-USA office today at 724-266-0669.

Prayerfully consider partnering with SAMS this year for World Mission Sunday by giving to the Great Commission Fund through this Virtual Care Package that will raise up, support, and send missionaries in the name of Jesus Christ:

$100 provides a retreat for a missionary

$50 equips 5 missionaries with a day of cross-cultural training

$25 provides a home staff member with a one-day staff retreat

Discovering “uncommon grace” at the Uncommon Grounds Cafe

2017-01-06 00:00:00


Uncommon Grounds is a café in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. In the heart of the former steel town, the café is a place of sanctuary and Christian outreach and care. People come in to find a warm meal and a listening ear and sometimes, hope and a fresh start.

One day a man came into Uncommon Grounds looking for someone to listen, and to understand “his side” of the story.  Frustrated with his ex-girlfriend, he had chosen to be more forceful than he knew was right and had been put on probation. Part of his probation was to go to 12 step meetings and anger management classes, some of which are hosted at Uncommon Grounds Cafe.  In talking to me, he seemed at first to be agitated, but then eventually calmed down. We are all sinners, I assured him. I thought of Romans 3:23. I didn’t quote the scripture, but it did begin to play in the back of my mind, as I fought the desire to judge him unworthy.

The more I listened to him, the more I heard his true heart. He had a deep love for his children. He wanted to be a good father. He didn’t have a great role model growing up, but he wanted to do better for them.

He and I met weekly for a couple of months, and at one point, he asked if he could borrow some money to keep his lights from being turned off.  It is my policy not to give out money to people, but to refer them to other agencies in the city that. This time it was different. I heard the Lord say “Yes”. So I said, “Yes”.

What happened next shocked me, too.  He offered to pay me back! Instead, I asked him to do a service project for the neighbor with his kids on Saturday and send me a picture. That would be payment enough.

A month later, I was driving down the street and I saw my friend, sharply dressed, working for the local funeral home, with a huge smile on his face.  He is now taking his children to church, spending time with them, and showing them the value of an honest career. He offered his life to the Lord, and offered his children what he had received by God’s grace: hope. 

Impacting peoples’ lives in this way through Christ is what the ministry of the Uncommon Grounds Café and Church Army USA is all about.  To God be the glory!

Uncommon Grounds Café is part of the Matthew 25 Ministry initiative of The Anglican Church in North America.

By Herb Bailey, Ministry Directory of Uncommon Grounds Café

Original post from Anglican Church in North America.

Meet SAMS-USA: Missionaries Roberto and Cameron Vivanco

Meet SAMS-USA: Missionaries Roberto and Cameron Vivanco

Robert is from Quito, Ecuador and Cameron is from Durham, NC. Their sending church is St. Matthew’s Spartanburg, SC. They are serving in Quito, Ecuador.

Our Ministry:
Cameron serves as the Director of the Short Term Ministry Department at Youth World. On average there are 300 people a year that come through this interdenominational para church organization to serve and to learn. She also teaches youth ministry and short-term mission classes with a youth ministry training and resourcing branch of Youth World.

Roberto serves as the Worship leader at an English speaking church, as well as a music ministry/ band called Gedeon. He also runs a Christian recording studio. Roberto has is degree in Pastrol theology from seminary school at SEMISUD in Ecuador.

They serve, intentionally forming relationships and discipling almost every socio-economic level in Ecuador from the poverty class (where the majority of the short-term teams and individuals minister) to middle class (training and resourcing youth ministries as well as local church bands that want to record worship music) to upper English speaking class (at the English speaking church).

They feel their ministry is to promote empowerment, discipleship, training, leadership development, opportunities to record music and song to further the gospel. They help support fellow NGO’s with video and music production so that they may further their ministries as well.

A special ministry program they have is a scholarship program called Education = Hope, which exists to provide for the education on children in desperate and difficult places.

Our Calling:
God started calling me (Cameron) to the mission field in the fall of 1998. I was working as a full-time youth minister in SC and had a very skewed perception of what a missionary was (I thought they were doctors, teachers or Bible beating freaks) and the last thing I would ever want to be was a missionary! I was at a national youth worker’s convention when God, being much bigger and wiser than I am, began to change my perception of missionaries and the reality that someone with my gifts and passion could and perhaps even should go into mission. God opened the door to work with Youth World in Ecuador which exists to address the reality that 95% of the world’s trained youth leaders live in N. America working with roughly 5% of the world’s youth population. Our mission statement reads Youth World exists to identify, train and equip leaders to impact young people and their families to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

So my call was to continue in youth ministry, but in a different context. I was elated when I felt like God was calling me to Ecuador, for about three seconds, and then I was terrified. I did not speak Spanish, or even know where Ecuador was on a map! I spoke with my rector and he help set up a discernment committee, and then began conversations with SAMS about how to work with a multidenominational organization (like Youth World) but still stay linked to my Episcopal church and background.

If you are being called to support the Vivancos, visit their giving page.

Pray for Ecuador and the vision God has given us for ministry here

Roberto and Cameron Vivanco

Striving for Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.

2016-12-19 00:00:00

The Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar has recently opened a Women’s Center, where they are teaching women skills like sewing, jewelry making, and culinary arts skills. Patsy McGregor a SAMS Missionary in Toliara is excited to announce that at the Women’s Center they will be making sanitary napkins for the Days for Girls organization. Jacky Lowe will also be serving in Madagascar at the Women’s Center. Learn more about Days for Girls from the Program Director, Libby Daghlian :

With over 600 Chapters and Teams, 167 emerging Micro-Enterprises, 3 Centers, and 100+ countries reached, it’s fair to say that we have a lot of diversity here at Days for Girls! But we are all exactly the same in one respect: our drive to reach Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.  We know it might sound like an insurmountable goal, but anyone who is part of Days for Girls knows that the dignity of girls and women to understand their bodies and choose products they trust and love is worth fighting for! That’s what keeps us bent over sewing machines for hours on end. It’s what keeps us clipping coupons looking for the best fabric deals. It’s what keeps us on our emails coordinating last minute details late at night. Because dignity can’t wait!

If you’ve ever been part of a Days for Girls distribution, then you probably know that that feeling you get when you see what you’ve been working towards. The unbridled smile of a girl who can attend school now without fear of embarrassment. The relief of a mother who won’t have to worry about spending money she doesn’t have on something as simple as a pad. The song and laughter that erupts as girls hold onto something beautiful and unique, made just for them. That’s why we do what we do!

And yet, if you’ve been part of a Days for Girls distribution, you probably also know that feeling of nagging disappointment and discontent when you see the faces of the girls who did not receive DfG Kits. She might be the little sister who stopped by to see what was happening. She might be the mother who dropped by to check on her daughter. She might be the teacher who watches over the students. Whether we see them or not, they’re there – the girls and women who did not receive a DfG Kit during a distribution.

We can plan as much as possible. We can try to keep the sessions closed off from the rest of the community. We can make plans to come back again next year.  But this is the constant reality we face within the world of donations. Our supply is pretty impressive, but the need is even greater. That is why we are investing in sustainable sales points within the communities that we reach to complement our donated DfG Kits. Because we know that we won’t be able to reach every single girl with a free, donated DfG Kit. But we can reach her with access, education, and awareness. We can empower her to take charge of her menstrual hygiene and invest in her very own DfG Kit, whether that’s through making her own or purchasing one through the Enterprise Model.

Now, this might seem difficult, if not impossible, in some of the communities that we work in. But we have seen the impossible happen!

We have seen this in Democratic Republic of Congo. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, our Micro-Enterprise is selling – yes, selling – DfG Kits to local women. This area faces recurring conflict from rebels, is troubled by drastic rainy seasons, and works with a depressed economy. Yet, through education and creative marketing of kit components, women are actually saving their small income and investing their money in DfG Kits!

We have seen this in Karamoja. Karamoja is one of the most economically depressed areas of Uganda and a high percentage of boys and girls have never attended school. We were funded to train girls to make their own DfG Kits, but we did not have funding for underwear. Initially we feared the girls would not be able to use the DfG Kits because we assumed they could never afford underwear. To our amazement, when we returned six months later, we talked to girls who had saved up small amounts of money to purchase their own underwear. Boy, were they proud! Not only that, they had taught their other friends to hand sew their own kits! We were floored.

We have seen the impossible become possible all around the world through education, investment in sustainable solutions, and valuing the voices of the girls and women we serve. We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged by the disappointed faces, but rather motivated for new ways to include and empower those individuals!

So, how can we do this? Here are a few tips:

  • Connect with a Center or Micro-Enterprise in the area where you will be distributing so that you can pass along their contact information to anyone who does not get a DfG Kit

  • Emphasize the value of the DfG Kit, so that women will be encouraged to purchase them in the future, rather than always viewing them as free goods 

  • Be intentional with your demographic: if you only have 25 Kits to distribute, try to find a natural group of 25. Maybe there are 25 nurses in a particular Center, or 25 girls in a certain club at school. People will understand when the parameters for donation are made clear in the first place.

  • Encourage resourcefulness and don’t shy away from those sad faces. If girls approach you wanting free DfG Kits but you have totally run out, encourage her to make her own. It might not be as fun as a free item, but it can help to meet her needs.

We didn’t say it would be easy to reach Every Girl, Everywhere. But we know it will be worth it!

Original story and photos from the Days for Girls Website here.