Thanksgiving

To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The apostle Paul didn’t count his losses.  But that doesn’t mean he didn’t recognize them. 

We notice our losses.  We count our gains. 

I read something written by Michele Cushatt in I Am that caused me to reflect on the following. This Thanksgiving week we empathize with all of you who have lost something important—whether it be the loss of your home in a fire, the unexpected loss of income, the surprise diagnosis and loss of health, or the loss of a loved one. 

And we do count our gains.  We thank God for His indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15).  We thank God for the churches and individuals who have our back, and who do unexpected things to show their love and support.   Sometimes it’s a letter of encouragement.  Sometimes it’s a birthday gift for our kids.  Sometimes it’s an offering towards a project.  This year we are also grateful for our wonderful apartment at a reduced rate (thank you Doreen). Lastly, the faithful monthly and prayer support are always gains.

We found these cards at our front door in Mexico.  They are “thank you” greetings from Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa.   This holiday season, these cards are one reminder that Emmanuel is with us; present in the losses, and a never-ending reminder of what we have gained. 

So thank you to all of you who do all those things that remind us of gains.  It is because of what Emmanuel has done and what you do that we too can remind others. 

If you would like to come alongside us as a financial supporter, you can click here. If you’d like to receive email notifications when we post or send updates, click the button below. Find us on all social media @paulandsandykazim

Paul and Sandy

Terrific Tacos and Trust

The Mercado de Portales (Portales Market) is located three blocks from our apartment in Mexico City. On one particular corner in the market there is almost always a large group of people standing around with a plate in one hand a taco in the other. Welcome to Tacos Don Mario. I have always thought that with a great salsa and a fresh tortilla any taco would taste amazing. Don Mario’s salsas are all that and more, but he then adds fabulously tasty carnes (meats). Carne asada, bistec, chuleta, chorizo, or more exotic flavors like nana, tripas, higado, o machito.

Andrew and Dad eating a taco…or two.

Don Mario founded his taco stand 37 years ago. Today all the employees are family members. Uncles, aunts, cousins and grandchildren work hard to prepare all the delicious food and make sure that customers are served quickly.

When it comes time to pay they ask the customer, “cuántos comiste?” “How many did you eat?” First, you note that they take your word for it. Second, when the person says that they are a bit short and don’t have enough cash, the response is “don’t worry about, you’ll get me next time.” They are sure you will be back (the flavor removes all doubt), but they are more concerned with the customer leaving full and satisfied than they are about being taken advantage of.

Ministry is similar. If our biggest concern is never being taken advantage of we will lose all opportunity to help people in need. There’s no question we will, at some point, be deceived by people who know how to play the system. But if our primary motivation is never wanting to lose that which is not ours to begins with we will never be a blessing to anyone. That would be the greatest loss.

We hope to be back in Mexico City by the end of summer 2020. If you find yourself in Mexico City, let’s have some tacos. Don Mario will be waiting.

If you would like to come alongside us as a financial supporter, you can click here. If you’d like to receive email notifications when we post or send updates, click the button below. Find us on all social media @paulandsandykazim

Paul and Sandy Kazim

The Good, The Road, and the People of God

The good, the bad, … and the ugly?

Yup—there’s a Western in there somewhere, but today we’re hanging up our Stetsons and talking about the wild frontier of “itineration.”

Missionaries itinerate every few years—the dictionary defines this as “going from place to place”.

Returning to the U.S. for a year after being away for so long has good benefits:

–We get to reconnect with people who have had our backs.

–We get to see our kids, our family, and celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.  Woot woot!

–We get to say thank you in person to all those who pray faithfully and give sacrificially.

–We get to make new friends. 

And yes, here’s the bad of itineration:

–Our ministry and life in another country come to a screeching halt—a year-long interruption.

–What do we do with our stuff?? The furniture, the dishes, Paul’s bazillion books and notes, the little tchotchkes collected as we go about our life—that we hold on to as reminder of where and with whom we have just spent years and how they blessed our life.

–Having to set up a temporary residence for the time in the U.S.

–Having to learn how the U.S. culture, lingo, and people have changed during our absence and how to communicate our call all over again.

BUT—we realize we can’t return to Mexico without adjusting yet again to life in the U.S., and then once the challenge of adjusting is met, we recognize that the bad is not so bad after all. 

We might be tempted to focus on this bad, and even to call it ugly.  But the reality is, this is part of a holistically good process, that enables us to participate in the mission and purpose God has for His people here in the U.S., and in Mexico.

We have good, and we have some bad, but praise the Lord, we have no ugly (unless you count the guy below).

We have a beautiful and loving tribe made up of His good people.

So, we are reframing the wild Western of this year of our lives from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, to The Good, the Road, and the People of God

Thank you for being our people, and for walking with us on this road.

If you would like to come alongside us as a financial supporter, you can click here. If you’d like to receive email notifications when we post or send updates, click the button below. Find us on all social media @paulandsandykazim

Empowerment or Encouragement?

What is our “What”?

Paul and I often wrestle with the word “empowerment.”  Though usually well intended, it can signify that someone in a greater position or status is helping someone in an inferior position feel stronger or more confident.  

The apostle Paul says it well in I Cor. 3:9—We are co-workers, and God is our boss.  We are no more superior to our Mexican brethren than we are to each other.  We labor together under God’s direction.  

In church yesterday, Pastor Jordon Hansen at Newport Mesa Church reminded us that we are called to be encouragers. Paul and I resonated deeply with this great concept.  Our desire is to see Latino leaders be used by God to reach others —even across cultural, geographical and linguistic boundaries.  Our “what” is encouraging them by every means possible to do just that. 

Whether it is in the classroom setting, or from the church pulpit; whether it is around our dinner table or through a medical outreach, in activities or retreats for teenagers and young adults—

We want to see people become confident in their own ability to witness and disciple. 

We are eager to return to Mexico.  We are eager to find university graduates who can start a church amongst university students.

We are eager to see the medical ministry be self-sustaining and self-governing.

Two doctors, two dentists and three pastors all part of the medical ministry

We are eager to see opportunities spring up all round the country to teach about sex abuse prevention.

And we are eager to read the theology textbooks our Mexican brethren write from their own cultural and ministerial lenses.

We can go to encourage only because you encourage us with your prayers, your offerings. and your monthly support.  What a privilege it is to labor together.

Thank you.

Sandy and Paul

El Grito (The Shout)

At exactly midnight last night, all over Mexico, calls and responses of “¡Viva la Independencia!” “¡Viva la Libertad!” and “¡Viva Mexico!” were shouted from balconies, rooftops, and through neighborhoods, as people celebrated the historic events of September 16, 1810. The President of Mexico leads thousands of people in The Grito from the Palacio Nacional in our home of Mexico City.

Yes, today, September 16th, is Mexico’s 209th birthday as a free country; independent, no longer ruled by Spain.

That Grito was given all over Mexico last night in Spanish, but did you know that Spanish is only one of the official languages recognized by the Mexican government?  As a matter of fact, there are sixty-eight recognized official languages in Mexico, with over three-hundred variants.

T
This map illustrates where you might most easily find each indigenous language.

God loves every one of those peoples and language groups, every tribe, and every nation (Rev. 7:9). He knows them each by name. Each of them must be included in worshiping the Lamb of God who sits on the Throne.

In the state of Durango, one way Huichol men celebrate their Mexican heritage is by wearing this decorative headgear.

As we shout and proclaim the freedom we find in Jesus, we must invite every one of our Mexican brothers and sisters to join.

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more workers amongst all peoples of Mexico. 

What is our “why”?

Psalm 96:1-3 and 7-10

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”

Sandy and I spent eight years as the Area Directors for Mexico. It was a fulfilling and important ministry. However, lately we had begun to notice that that this role was taking us away from the specific ministries which God has called us to.

There are enormous needs in Mexico. Living there, what we see is often quite different from what visitors see. Many churches in the US often consider Mexico a “reached” country. People think they know Mexico. They make regular missions trips to the border. They might vacation at Mexico’s beaches.

What people don’t see is that Mexico City is the most populated metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere.  But while it is home to between 25 and 30 million people, it has less than 50 Assemblies of God churches.

The UNAM, in Mexico City, is the largest university in Latin America—a quarter of a million students are enrolled.  But it has almost no evangelical presence. Pray with us that God will raise up campus ministry in this academic “city.”

The library at the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

In the Central region of Mexico there four states where less than 2% of the population identifies as Evangelical. That percentage is less than in the United Arab Emirates.

Mexico is not the only place where there are pressing, enormous, life-threatening needs. Everywhere in every country we see needs and needy people. If we focus on needs, emotional paralysis can take over.

So, it can’t be just these needs that answer our “why” questions. 

Why are we anxious to return to Mexico? What motivates must be more than the need.

Why do we work hard to return to the work? Even claiming that God called us is not enough.

We go to declare His glory among the nations. So that the nations may join us in chorus to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. So that people from every nation, tribe people and language can join us around the throne saying

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13b)

Amen

Next week we tackle the question of what?

Why?

Why?

Genesis 3: 8-13

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

After the first couple broke the one commandment that God had given them, they hid, perhaps thinking that God would not see them. God enters the scene with a series of questions, all of which would be obvious to Him, an all-knowing deity. With His final question He asks, have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?

His question resembles the question of a parent, frustrated with a child who has spilled a glass of milk for the umpteenth time, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” Clearly Mom or Dad knows what the child has done. What they really want to know is “why did you do that?” God knew the answer to His questions. Seems that what God wanted to know is why they had done what they did.

The couple had perfect living conditions, a great job, the best Boss and lived together in perfect harmony.

Why would you risk that by not obeying?

Did God not know why they did it? Hard to say. The question why hardly ever has a simple answer.

In this ministry, we are often asked why questions. Why would you leave your family and friends? Why would you move to another country? More recently, why would you resign the Area Director position?

Over the next few weeks this blog will consider its own series of questions:

Why we are anxious to return to Mexico?  What we will be doing once we get there? Where we will work and with whom?

We will be back with some answers.

Paul

About Paul and Sandy

Paul Kazim was born and raised in a nominally Muslim family in New York City. He was the first in his family to come to Christ, when he met God in His word, just as he finished High School. He studied Chemistry at Queens College of the City of New York, before spending three years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the East Coast. He later received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, in Boston. He earned a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2017.

Sandy (formerly Woodworth) was born in Santa Clara de las Villas, Cuba, and was raised by two giants in the faith, who themselves served in Latin America for all of Sandy’s childhood. She has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in family medicine.

Paul and Sandy married in 1987. Both are ordained AG ministers, with credentials from the Southern California Network. The Kazims have been with Assemblies of God World Missions in Latin America for the past 25 years, first in Peru, and in Mexico since 2000.

Paul with his first Hebrew Diploma cohort

Recently, Paul resigned as the Mexico field’s Area Director after eight years in order to dedicate more time to his teaching ministry. He is involved in pastoral education in local Bible institutes, and bachelor’s (ISUM) and master’s (Facultad) level TEE (Theological Education by Extension) programs. His goal is to develop hermeneutical communities with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds which will produce indigenous reflections on the Scriptures.

The bulk of Sandy’s time is spent discipling Mexican health care providers to participate in medical outreaches to new and developing churches, and be self-sustaining and self-propagating. She helps organize and carry out several medical outreaches each year, particularly to isolated or disaster-impacted areas. Sandy also teaches on issues regarding identity, family dynamics, and the prevention of sexual abuse, and helps coordinate pastoral counseling seminars on these topics for church leaders.

Sandy on a recent medical outreach with the phenomenal MISAD team (Ministerio Integral de Salud de las Asambleas de Dios)

Paul and Sandy have three adult children who grew up on the field with them. Hannah, Stephen, Stephen’s terrific wife Emily, and Andrew now live in Long Beach, CA.

From left- Stephen, Emily, Paul, Sandy, Hannah, and Andrew Kazim

Paul and Sandy love living in Mexico City, and getting to enjoy its vibrant culture, food, and community. They can’t wait to get back, and pick up where they left off!

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