#CarryOnAdvent: ROYAL MISSION

During WWII, the British Crown created a royal image with the text “Keep Calm and Carry On” to encourage the people to press on through a dark time. Our Heavenly King is also calling us to persevere and carry on His mission.

Why #CarryOnAdvent? Advent is a season of past and present waiting – we remember how the Israelites waited for the Messiah and the Magi sought for a King who came as a baby, and we ourselves practice waiting with hope for the second coming of King Jesus. How is God teaching you to wait in joy or lament for Him to make all things new? How is He calling you to carry on His message of hope, whether through persevering yourself or raising up new disciples? Share in the comments below, or on social media with the hashtag #CarryOnAdvent!

Additionally, we have a request for you to prayerfully consider. Here at SAMS, we are answering God’s call to help missionaries “Carry On” in the mission to which God has called them. We forge ties that the global church may carry on the Good News of the coming Kingdom to all. Would you support us in this through a gift or pledge towards the Great Commission Fund?

Check out this video for more information on your Society’s role in the missionary sending process.

Type #CarryOnAdvent into our blog search bar or into social websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for stories of perseverance in Christian mission, and don’t forget to share your own!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV


#CarryOnAdvent : Hondurans Introduce Mountain Village to Christ

Honduran Christians from the town of La Ceiba recently carried on the hope of the gospel to a mountain village,
Las Flores, via mules

By Kate Ulrich, with Betty Kaszer

Mentors, parents, and teachers receive great pleasure when their mentees take what they are learning and share it with others. Missionaries experience the same joy when people in whom they have invested carry on the work of the Gospel to new communities, especially when they make an arduous journey on mules to do so!

Mike and Betty Kaszer have been bringing medical mission teams to La Ceiba, Honduras for many years, providing healthcare where it is scarce. Rev. Nery Yolanda Varela Zuniga is an Anglican priest in this community, at the church Iglesia Santisima Trinidad. They met her 12 years ago, shortly after she was ordained. In Betty’s words, “She’s smart, energetic and sold out to Jesus.  She’s amazing! She imitates everything we do in the medical clinic and in discipleship. She has picked up our training, even though we didn’t realize we were ‘training’ her. She is carrying on the work we started and building up the pharmacy at the clinic. She is only 36 years old. She loves the Lord so much! When you see her she radiates love and gives you a big hug.”

Recently, the Diocese of Honduras informed Rev. Nery that people of a small mountain village, Las Flores, needed food and clothes.  She figured that they also needed to hear the gospel, so she went prepared with a team of people from La Ceiba to minister to this village of about 25 families. However, this day-trip was not a simple drive to a local destination. The team drove 3 hours to the base of the mountain, followed by a 45-50 km (28-36 mile) trek up a mountain with the help of mules. This village is multi-cultural with various people groups from within Honduras, and the chief of the village, Don Pedro Ramirez, is a descendant of Maya Shortis Natives. As they ministered, 10 people responded to the Gospel message, and Rev. Nery baptized them. The team from La Ceiba returned home the same day- spiritually encouraged by the Lord’s work in Flores and quite tired, no doubt!

Rev. Nery leads an evangelistic service in Las Flores

Mike and Betty have been leading medical mission teams from America in Honduras since 2007. Rev. Nery is “carrying the torch” with her own mission team to a remote village

Rev. Nery plans to return to the village with a small medical brigade.  The Kaszers have started an operating clinic in La Ceiba, from which Rev. Nery will take the doctor and nurse on the next trip (date to be determined).  Rev. Nery will use the medical ministry skills she has learned from the Kaszers in this effort.

Raising up leaders in mission reaps joyful fruit. Betty shares her joy, “If you go and build a building, it can be lost in an earthquake, but when you teach people to disciple other people, it goes on forever.” Whether missionaries train locals in evangelism, healthcare, or construction skills, investment in local leaders is a gift that keeps on giving in the mission field. How will you #CarryOnAdvent this season, empowering others to share the hope of our King’s first advent (coming), as we wait in hope for His second advent?

See the video below of Rev. Nery’s team ministering in Las Flores. You may hear an unexpected voice join in the singing!

Contagious Gospel Joy Pitches a Tent

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and there are the people!
Have you heard that children’s rhyme and finger game before?
Or how about-
Here is the ground, here is the tent, the family of God says, come and join in!
The latter would be a more accurate description of a little community of God that meets in a shantytown, under a tent on a small property lovingly tended by Maty. Maty is a Peruvian woman whom God reached through the ministry of our SAMS missionaries Juan and María Marentes. As María shared the Gospel with members of a shantytown south of Lima, Peru, Maty began shadowing her and helping her tell people the Good News, even before she had clearly confessed Christ. In the Marentes’ words:

“In 2005 we met Maty when she came to be a volunteer at the weekly breakfast for the children in the “pueblo joven” (shantytown) of San Francisco, south of Lima. She was a woman without any schooling, she had suffered a lot in her life. She looked about 10 years older than her real age. She had prodigious hands to knit by hand.

Once the weekly women’s ministry was started by María Isabel, Maty never missed a gathering. She was always attentive and willing to help. Little by little she began to join the evangelistic visits to the surrounding homes. She gave her very simple testimony, but always coming from her soul: ‘Although I don’t know how to read or write, I tell you that the most wonderful thing in my life has been accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. That has made me a new and a happy person.’”

María, with funds from supporters, found an opportunity to give a small piece of property to the Diocese of Peru for the purpose of hosting a Christian community. Years after the Marentes left Peru to do ministry elsewhere, the Bishop of Peru reported that Maty faithfully defended from “invaders” that piece of land, and now she and a youth group tend the property and draw people into this small church in the San Francisco shantytown, Peru.

Visiting the SAMS home office for a retirement commemoration luncheon, Juan and María point to their home country, Colombia, on the world map.

We at SAMS are deeply grateful for Juan and María’s faithful service to God’s call in 33 years on the mission field. Originally from Colombia, they retire in Jacksonvile, FL this year after decades of service in Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Belize, and California. Yet, we know that God’s servants don’t truly retire as much as they take on a different shape of ministry, encouraging us as we all press on toward the goal of knowing Christ and making him known.


“From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 6:14 NIV

October Update and Funny Things

First, if you haven’t checked out Evan’s last blogpost which features Annabelle as a “Pom Pom Girl” in her school parade – go check it out! Being here in September, a month filled with national pride and festivities, was fun and interesting. I have never lived anywhere that has so many parades. In our town alone there must have been at least six separate parades. We caught bits of at least three and heard many of them. We got to see a wonderful array of cultural traditions and it was grand.

We are currently in the season of Harvest. It is a beautiful time of thanksgiving and is celebrated in the churches and schools. In the services, the children present poems, songs, dances, and process up to the altar with gifts of fruits, vegetables, and sweet baked goods. Even the children who do not normally care for church or chapel services seem to love Harvest time. There are quite a number of children who have to literally fight to have food in their homes and who are hungry frequently – many of whom are developmentally behind and physically stunted due to lack of nutrition. It is a joyful remembrance and a reminder for all of us that God is the One who provides from His bounty and that we must be grateful for what we have. Even with the drought this year the altars were overflowing.

Annabelle and I got to travel on a bus to Diocesan Day (a day for the entire Anglican Church of Belize) in Dangriga. It was a very long day and by the end we were both unbelievably dirty. But it was so much fun too! We got to participate in a huge church service in an outdoor basketball court. We also got to meet the Bishop of Belize, the second topmost politician, and Annabelle got to play some games and we spent a lot of time with our dear friends who go to the village church and have two children about Annabelle’s age. I’m so glad we got to be here for that event.

There are truly countless stories of tragedy, and hope, and beauty, and laughter, from my counseling, from conversations with people in the street, from all around. There are many reasons we came here but the rhythm of life we have here is slower and simpler and we are still relishing being able to be present here. We are going to soak up what we can over the next two months before we head back.

Another Installment of Funny Things

If you say, “Hey Babe” or “Good afternoon Beautiful” to me when I pass you on the street, I have resolved to be rude (which goes against every grain of manners I possess). I do not look. I do not respond. I pretend as though you have said nothing. If you call to me a couple of times and when I ignore you, you say, “My friend likes you and wants your number,” I will respond, “Oh, ok, my husband will be interested to hear that.” And I continue on my merry way with a smile on my face. When I arrive home, I will inform said ‘husband’ that such an interaction just occurred. Honestly though, I don’t relish these moments, but they are far better than the 4.5 months I spent in Sierra Leone back in my early twenties. I had wondered how it would be here in Belize and it is much better. Back then I easily got dozens of marriage proposals every day from strangers on the streets of Freetown and I found it exhausting and frustrating by the end of the day.

We have all been dewormed. In the Fall and the Spring at St. Andrews School they deworm all the children. Evan and I have been meaning to get dewormed for months now… and we finally did it this week. They are some intense pills for adults – six different doses. Anyway, it was overdue! I feel a bit like a dog or a cat but that’s just life here. We’ve been told this particular medication is not available in the U.S. so we’ll be buying some to bring back with us for a session after we return. More deworming to look forward to.

Speaking of worms… one of the things I miss a lot from the U.S. is our compost pit. Ever since we moved to Charlottesville we have had compost piles. The one when we had pet bunnies was a particularly good one, but I liked not having all that vegetable and fruit and eggshell waste going to waste. 😊 It’s been difficult for me in a place with significantly depleted soil to be throwing all our good vegetation scraps into the rubbish. So, several months ago I started a compost bucket. However, since where we are renting, I didn’t have a good spot to dump the compost and eventually it got maggots (an unbelievable amount of creepy, crawly, slimy pale buddies) and it started to smell awful. After Evan disposed of it and we still smelled it for days he put his foot down. Alas, that was the end of composting here. If we lived on our own land or even just had more space around our house, I’d be a crazy compost lady. Maybe one day my dream will come true…

Last, but certainly not least for funny things, Evan had to go back to the States for a funeral last week. He did a video chat with us from the Atlanta airport. He flipped the camera around and said to Annabelle, “Look where I am!” (meaning the airport). Annabelle immediately said, “Woah, look at all those white people!”

And so dear ones, it is going to be an interesting few months. With each passing day our minds turn more and more to the winding down of things here, making an international move, and readjusting to life back in the U.S.A. For Annabelle, of course, a year is a seventh of her life and this has been no small adventure. While she is anxious to get back to the U.S. and especially anxious to see all those she loves, we know she will miss things about life and people here. We had another rough patch with school a couple of weeks ago. However, after processing what happened and working through it, I think she seems to be better and happier at school than she was previously, and I think there are little friends she will miss quite a lot. Please continue to pray on the school-front for her.

Please also continue to pray for us as there are so many things that will be happening here. Starting tomorrow, over the next five weeks there will be two different priests visiting from the States and the Bishop of Belize will also be joining us one Sunday. We are so glad they are coming and it will certainly be a change of pace!

We continue to be so grateful for each of you. I’ve heard from so many who continue to read these writings and who continue to pray for us. Thank you!

Spiritual Warfare in Madagascar

Patsy McGregor (left) and Jacky Lowe (right) have had similar experiences with spiritual warfare in Madagascar.

Jacky Lowe woke up in terror. Never before had she experienced a nightmare like this one. She had just returned to Madagascar from a visit to the United States. In this dark Thursday night, deeply disturbed in her spirit, she struggled to find the peace she needed to return to sleep. She got up from her bed and paced her home in prayer for two hours before returning to her bed. She continued to pray to the Lord as she fell back asleep.

Jacky is not the only Christian in her Madagascar community to experience such a disturbing dream this past year. Her fellow SAMS missionary Patsy McGregor has also suffered from a nightmare the first night returning from a trip – on a Thursday as well. This is hardly a coincidence: Jacky and Patsy have received reports that a local group of witch doctors prays against Christians, marriages, and families every Thursday night. “Why would witches pray against marriages?” I asked Patsy. “Because marriages are strong,” she replied. In the words of last week’s New Wineskins for Global Mission Conference theme (September 26-29), God’s people are #BetterTogether. 

The Anglican Diocese of Toliara, of which Patsy’s husband, Todd, is the bishop, ordained and commissioned ten leaders on August 25: one priest, three deacons, and six evangelists. With such growth, I am not surprised that the devil is nervous. “Spiritual attack is ongoing on a daily and weekly basis. It’s very heavy,” says Patsy. “We have done a lot of ‘spiritual sweeping’ to get the darkness away. God is stronger and breaking through!”

Here in the West we rarely encounter such obvious spiritual warfare. One could say this is because our senses are dulled by entertainment and comfort, and the devil has an easier time distracting us from God. Whatever the reason, we can respond in two ways to this story. First, we can pray for spiritual protection over Jacky Lowe, Patsy and Todd McGregor, and their community near Toliara on Thursday afternoons Eastern Standard Time (Thursday night in Madagascar). We can pray in Jesus’ name that the witch doctors would be freed from the forces of evil. Second, we can live daily with deeper assurance that the spiritual world is real and the material world is not all there is. St. Paul’s words are true: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12 – 13 NIV)

Stand firm and pray, friends.

Kate Ulrich, SAMS Home Office

Photos and Video from the Hansen’s Fall Term

Hi everyone! I have some photos and video for you.

First a quick update:

I have been leading chapels at three different schools this term. It has been fantastic. We sing and pray and I teach through the Fruit of the Spirit. Basically we’re talking about character formation. God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to live well. And God wants us to live well so 1) Our lives will be good and joyful, 2) Our lives will be evidence of God’s character and power, and 3) so we will live as natives and not foreigners in the world to come.

I’m teaching 6 chapels every other week. I have a time lapse of the St. Andrews students. Each school is a different experience. I’ll try to grab some video of the different schools and elements of the service. Below is also one of the songs I’ve taught them.

 

Independence Day (Month!)

September is full of celebrations and parades for Independence Day. There were so many holiday days, half school days, and parades that it was amazing we were able to get anything else done. Every school has a parade. There are town parades, church parades, etc… I have some video of Annabelle’s parade and a late night church parade. The church parade was super fun and the video is of a new friend of mine singing on the back of a flatbed semi trailer with a full band and sound system. It was crazy!

Caye Caulker

Missy mentioned our trip to Caye Caulker for Annabelle’s 7th Birthday. Here are some photos from that trip!

Annabelles First Day of School