Newsletters and Posts

One Loaf

When Paul wrote about the diversity that exists in the body of Christ, he used several illustrations of physical body parts to make his point. Is the foot not a part of the body because it is not a hand? The ear because it is not an eye? What if the whole body were an eye or an ear? God has placed the various parts of the body, just as He wanted. No part can say to another I don’t need you.

Here is where it gets interesting. Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…and God has put the body together, giving greater honor to those who lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1Co. 12:22-25).

This is a beautiful picture of the various members of the body working in harmony. But the question remains, who among us reading this passage considers him or herself the weaker, as the less honorable member? It is easy to interpret this passage to mean that I, as the more honorable, more presentable member of the body need to care for the weaker, less presentable. But what if I am the weaker member?

In every place where I have lived, the majority culture has by default defined what is the honorable, more presentable part of society and the church has been tainted by this secular reasoning. Certainly, we need to care for those who are in need. And I affirm that the body of Christ must care for the weaker members. What I am struggling with is how to identify, who are the weak? It cannot be a self-designation, nor an imposed one. However, in general, the “presentables” set the standard, which in reality is not a biblical standard at all. Less melanin, more testosterone, fewer physical challenges do not make one more presentable.

Recent events and the mono-cultural status of most churches require that those of us in majority settings must be careful. When we think about expanding our circle of friends to include people of other ethnic and racial groups, remember your new friends are NOT the less honorable.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers.” 1Co. 11:20, 21

There is only one loaf (1Co. 10:17). We divide the body at our own peril.

Clean and Renewed (Ps. 51)

Create in me a clean heart Oh God, and RENEW a right spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10-19)

I read a blog by the eloquent author and Cuban Assemblies of God church historian, Octavio Ríos,  (you can click on his blog in Spanish here:  https://octavioriosblog.blogspot.com/2020/05/crea-en-mi-oh-dios-un-corazon-limpio.html) He writes about the effects of conscious and subconscious memories on our behavior as adults, and how one of the most invasive subconscious effects on our behavior is sin.  He ties that thought carefully into Psalm 51. 

The psalmist asks God to create, to renew, to restore, to uphold and to deliver.  Notice the results of all of that: transgressors will learn God’s ways, sinners will be converted, with our mouths we will sing praises about God’s righteousness, we will have a broken spirit and a contrite heart, and we will do good for His good pleasure.

In this time of sickness and death and significant loss of economic income, it would be easy to let those things overtake our hearts and have them be etched in our memories in such a way that we are left paralyzed, unable to move or speak.  The grief of watching the losses people are experiencing around the world is overwhelming. 

And yet the Psalmist wanted to remind us that we can ask God to put new memories in our heart, to renew a right spirit, so that we end up teaching and doing good works for the benefit of others and in turn, for the pleasure of God.  Isn’t that what the Kingdom is about? 

Missionaries and people of God all around the world are doing what they can to meet the needs of others.  Sometimes that means teaching a class in Zoom.  Sometimes it involves purchasing, organizing and dropping off food and supplies for people in need.  Sometimes it means preaching to a screen and praying that all who need to hear the message will do so. Sometimes it means spending more time on the phone or giving generously. It definitely means increased prayer and study of the Word. 

The Kazims are tutoring kids at a disadvantage over Zoom, meeting with pastors over Zoom, teaching classes over Zoom, participating in preaching and other ministries online, and organizing relief supplies for pastors who are doctors and nurses in Mexico. They are on the front lines of Covid treatment.  Continue to pray for all of our front line workers. The above picture is of Doctor Suárez in full protective gear, made possible by your giving.

God designed us to work together in community, to produce clean hearts, to be renewed, and to sing praises about who He is and what He has done for us.  Today I look at this Chiapaneco purse, a gift from dear friends, who let me know with this gift that they know and walk with us in our love for Mexico.

We have been reminded time and time again by the messages, emails, letters and generosity of others that God is in the business of creating and renewing, restoring and upholding, and delivering.  Despite the destruction from Covid, in the end, God’s righteousness wins. We are reminded in so many ways about that, and yes, we will sing about that very thing.  

The Greatest of These…

How about some good ol’ fashioned love?

You know—not the mushy gushy stuff, but the eternal kind

Several years back I put together this video after attending a camp where I watched how the Spirit changed hearts and lives in women who had been broken by the world. 

What I witnessed there compelled me to get involved and make sure that this ministry continues in Mexico and in other parts of the world. 

Some of us might come from healthy homes, and have spouses who love us the way the apostle Paul describes in I Corinthians.

APV 2018 with Amy Farley

Others of us might come from brokenness, from betrayal, from disappointment, from violence. 

All of us together can know and enjoy the only true God who is always patient, kind, not rude, not easily angered and who keeps no record of wrongs.  He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  He is the God who perseveres, who doesn’t fail. (I Cor. 13:4-8)

May we all continue to work together to provide others with the opportunity to experience this, the only true God.

Please take a moment to watch one of the following videos.

English:   https://vimeo.com/391396687

Español:  https://vimeo.com/391312284

Divine Encounters

They happen when we least expect.   Little reminders of God with us.  

Twenty–five years ago, when we were first starting out on the missionary path, we had hit rock bottom as we tried to raise the necessary funds to get us to another country. There seemed to be little response as that bottom line budget loomed over our heads.

We were at a small church, our kids were little, and we were physically and emotionally exhausted.  

Then it happened: A Divine Encounter.  We got a call from a single mom who had spent all night interceding for us.  She felt God was telling her to give us a large offering. A kind of offering that single moms aren’t supposed to give. 

It was the encouragement we needed.  It launched us down a path of renewed fervor and focus.  It helped us finally get to Peru, where Paul would become a seasoned teacher to pastors needing a theological foundation for their personal and ministerial lives.  Peru was also where I began to learn what medical outreaches can do to promote Kingdom growth. These were some of our most formative years in ministry.

And this mom was one of those flash moments in time that are forever etched in our memories.  

Yesterday, 25 years later, I ran into her at a pastor’s meeting, in a church far from our temporary home here in southern California.  She recognized me immediately. I recognized her as well. Hugs and tears ensued. Her life has taken her through many open doors of opportunity, and a while back, brought her a new family.  God reminded me once again that He is with us.

What a privilege that He uses you and me to bless others in this way.  We might get to provide that individual, that family, or that people group, with the one thing that launches them into a life of fulfilling God’s purpose for them. 

So let’s get busy this year and do just that.  

–Sandy

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?

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