15

Mar

Thus Far Has The Lord Helped Us

Written by Steven Frey

Ministering among the tribal people in Chiapas, Mexico circa 2001

Ministering among the tribal people in Chiapas, Mexico circa 2001

A number of weeks ago I was asked by Pastor Fred Erb to address Listowel Community Church in Listowel, Ontario (via Zoom) and bring them a mission ministry update. Since Listowel Community Church (LCC) was my Canadian sending church during my years of ministry in Mexico they have been involved with me since the very inception of the work of Voice in the Wilderness Ministries (and indeed, long before the name VitW Ministries was used, and while I served under other names – specifically; Earthen Vessels and CornerStone International).

However, Pastor Erb warned me that since many (and perhaps most), in LCC are relatively new to the church they do not know Theresa or me personally and have no clue as to where the church’s continuing involvement with VitW Ministries and the ongoing work in Mexico fits into the broader picture, or perhaps even why LCC continues to work closely with this particular foreign ministry.

Because of this it seemed to be God’s leading for me to take a look backwards at history with them and to

A meal being prepared in the kitchen in a village home in Chiapas

A meal being prepared in the kitchen in a village home in Chiapas

bring the church forward through the years of time from 1998 to the present. I want to do the same with you in this blog, but with a severe caveat: this is not about people so that glory will come to man; but so that God will be glorified for his constant faithfulness – ALWAYS!

This blog will basically be in point form and will pretty much be from my notes for LCC. Also, since the address was to LCC specifically, there will be mention of this particular church throughout the outline.

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Why should we look at History and the Beginnings of VitW Ministries and its work?

1) – Many in the church are relatively new and have not lived through these beginnings so all will be new information to them. We cannot understand the place were events of the Present fit into the larger picture until we understand the Past.

Medical clinic in the early years of the ministry

A medical clinic in the early years of the ministry

2) – We won’t know how to move forward into the Future unless we have an understanding of the Past.

3) – More generally, we need to be continually reminded of our journey with God because we constantly lose focus of the big picture and His sustaining hand throughout our lives and we become narrow in our vision, focusing only on the present and the day-to-day.

4) – Most of all, so that God will be glorified!

– In the Old Testament the prophet Samuel used stones as a memorial to remind God’s people of His goodness and faithfulness to them.

– I Samuel 7:12 says that when God enabled the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, the Prophet Samuel “took a stone and … named it Ebenezer, saying,Thus far has the Lord helped us.’”

The pharmacy in our medical clinics

The pharmacy in one of our medical clinics

– Joshua used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him in the Future for what he had accomplished in the Past.

– Joshua 4:4-7: “Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites. (HCSB)

Patients being prayed for during a medical clinic

Patients being prayed for during a medical clinic

– I think God places a high value on remembering. In all aspects of our walk with God we need Reminders – Remembrances – calling to mind constantly God’s faithfulness and goodness when we are tempted to doubt that He is faithful. This is true in every area of our lives, personally, and perhaps even more importantly when we have children to constantly remind them of God’s faithfulness to us as a family, and then also corporately as a Body of Believers.

– It seems the longer we live, the more we need to look back and consider how God has faithfully walked with us on our journey with him.

– Today I want to look specifically at how God has been constantly faithful in the missionary work in Mexico, and I want to set up stones of remembrance for you as a Body of Believers – an Ebenezer – of His faithfulness over the past twenty plus years.

MOST OF ALL I desire that God will be glorified for his faithfulness and not that people will

This was the ministry during the early years of the work in Mexico

This was what the ministry looked like during the early years of the work in Mexico

receive honor!

I would also like to encourage you to look especially at the dropdown labeled “About VitW” at the top left of the blog page for a further overview of the history of the work.

 

– Early History:

– In 1998 I began in medical mission work with Dr. Carl Heinlein [I saw in Dr. Heinlein a seasoned missionary doctor with a passion for ministry, and he saw in me a younger man with the same desire. I was a trained nurse and wanted to serve internationally in missions].

– Dr. Heinlein committed to training me in “jungle medicine”.

– Cd. Valles became the center of our work due to Doc’s medical health issues.

Most of my time was spent in the far-flung villages ministering to the very poor

Most of my time during the medical clinic years was spent in the far-flung villages ministering to the very poor

– Our ministry involved working with national pastors and churches to assist them in evangelism and church planting through medical clinics. We brought people to be ministered to by providing for their felt need through medicine, and the national workers could use this opportunity to witness to them. Many gave their lives to the Lord through these medical clinics, and many churches were planted because of this work.

– Relationships were developed with local churches and pastors through working throughout the region over the years.

– My decision was to remain in Cd. Valles to assist the local national work in the Huasteca region.

 

– Beginning of involvement with Listowel Community Church:

– My father, Alvin Frey began a church plant in Atwood, and then in Listowel in the early 1980s.

Some of the beautiful children

Some of the beautiful children of Mexico

– When I began working in Mexico in 1998 Alvin approached Pastor Fred Erb (the pastor of LCC) to ask if his church would be willing to accept me as their missionary and provide my spiritual and legal cover for Canada, with Listowel Community Church in effect becoming my home base.

– I visited LCC (Fred and leadership) in 1998 and the acceptance legally took place in October 1998.

– Pastor Fred Erb and Rick Martin, one of the elders of LCC went to Cd. Valles for their first exploratory visit at the end of November 2000 and went with me on a medical outreach to a place called Tanlacut (remember this name in relation to the current Pame mission work)!

 

– End of Phase One (Medical) and Transition into Bible School / Training Season:

– My medical work came to a sudden end in the fall of 2003 when I was arrested and imprisoned in a Mexican Federal Penitentiary in Reynosa for three months under false charges of drug trafficking (see tab “Prison Experience” in the dropdowns above).

– Upon release from the Penitentiary it was not advisable for me to return to Mexico.

Ministering the Word of God to the villagers following a medical clinic

Ministering the Word of God to the villagers following a medical clinic

– The medical clinic ministry was 100% ended.

– However, the work in Mexico did not end, but continued through VitW Ministries with several short-term missionaries after I left at the end of 2003.

– In 2006 LCC through VitW Ministries began assisting an interdenominational Bible Institute in Cd. Valles called “Light of the Nations”. LCC provided some spiritual cover for school.

– Also in 2006 LCC through VitW Ministries was able to utilize the Project L.A.M.B.S. (Light Abroad Mobile Bible Schools) curriculum developed by Dr. James Humphries and Dr. Charles Nichols to supplement the Bible Institute in Cd. Valles.

From 2006 through to October 2012 several dedicated pastors from Canada and the United States gave of their time and resources to teach the Project LAMBS curriculum.

– In November of 2008 the first Project LAMBS graduating class of 35 students received their certificates, recognized by Providence College and Theological Seminary in Manitoba, Canada.

The Pame Missionary Center Church in Agua Nueva today

The Pame Missionary Center Church in Agua Nueva today

– In January 2009 the second cycle began with 50 students attending the Project LAMBS portion of the Bible Institute. On November 13, 2010 this second cycle of Project LAMBS students graduated.

– The final graduating class taught by expatriate teachers graduated October 20, 2012 and the ongoing work of this portion of the ministry was completely handed over to national leadership.

– The sacrificial leadership of Fred Erb, Winston Penner, Cleo Yoder and many other teachers throughout this time with Project LAMBS was very instrumental in the ongoing work and success of this leadership school.

 

– August 2003 – May 2009 (Penitentiary and Canada):

– Throughout these years [as already noted] the work in Mexico continued to thrive and grow, and LCC (VitW Ministries) continued to be very involved with the work – especially through Project LAMBS and financial assistance to the ongoing Mexican national ministry.

Working with Pame children in Milpas Viejas

Working with Pame children in Milpas Viejas

– I met my wife Theresa and we were married in 2004.

– In 2009 we felt lead to return to Cd. Valles in order to assist (we thought) in the purchase of a site and the overseeing of the construction of a building for the Bible Institute. Theresa and I returned to Mexico in May 2009 after an exploratory trip back earlier in the year in order to assist our local church in Landmark, Manitoba with a church construction project in Cd. Valles.

 

– Purchase of the Farm Property / Beginning of the Training Center Farm / Sewing School:

A 6.6 hectare property (about 16 acres) was purchased in February 2011 to accommodate the new vision for a vocational and biblical training school where students could live, work, receive Bible training, and be mentored by godly leaders.

– The work of developing the Training Center Farm was begun (buildings and sugarcane).

– In the fall of 2012 Theresa began sewing classes for women out of our living room.

Javier teaching the children

Javier teaching the children

– By 2013 this had developed into a school where women were being trained and discipled. The school was handed over to national leadership (Cristina) who continues to train and minister to women and girls.

 

– Focus on Training, Evangelism, and Church Planting through working in conjunction with National Leadership:

– In September 2010 a Mexican legal nonprofit was set up to cover the work of the Bible Institute, Project LAMBS, and the expanding vision of the work. The name Obreros Unidos para Cosechar [OUpC] (Laborers United to Harvest) was chosen for the nonprofit.

– In October 2012 the three distinct divisions of the work were formally recognized and placed under national directors [ie., the Bible Institute, Project LAMBS, and the Training Center Farm].  All three of these came under the umbrella of the Mexican non-profit, OUpC.

 

– End of April 2015: Handing Over Leadership to Nationals and Leaving Mexico:

– It was evident to me that it was time to hand over the leadership to Nationals and allow them to take over (read the blogs of this period of time to understand what God was saying to me).

– Immediately after leaving Mexico Theresa and I worked for one year in Texas in order to be able to financially assist the work in Mexico directly.

Ministering to Pame villagers

Ministering to Pame villagers

– We moved back to Manitoba, Canada in the summer (Theresa), and fall (me) of 2016.

– We continue to be very intimately involved with the work in Mexico (especially with Javier and        Cristina through phone calls and email).

 

– Present Day Ministries in Mexico (in which VitW Ministries continues to be involved):

– Children’s Feeding Program (Maná Esconido [Hidden Manna]

– Sewing School / Workshop

–  Pame ministry in Tanlacut and surrounding tribal region

– Training Center Farm (Casa del Obrero)

–  Bible Institute (Light of the Nations)

– Project LAMBS

– Local churches (many of the members of the Board of Directors are pastors)

The Church of Jesus Christ continues to grow and men and women are added to the Kingdom of God

The Church of Jesus Christ continues to grow and men and women are being added to the Kingdom of God

– House of the Potter Church in Solidaridad (Javier Santos is the pastor of this local church)

– Planting of Mission churches and outreaches (both local and outside of local region) [Javier and Cristina]

Hospital ministry (feeding and evangelistic outreaches) [Javier and Cristina]

Youth Drug Rehab ministry work locally in Cd. Valles [Javier and Cristina]

 

Children’s Feeding Program, Hidden Manna:

– Javier and Cristina had a vision to work with the extremely marginalized poor in the newly developing squatter’s settlement north of the city of Valles in 2000.

– In early 2000’s they also applied for a land allotment in it in order to accomplish this.

– In 2007 they began a children’s ministry in the village now called Buenos Aires.

The children's ministry, Hidden Manna in Buenos Aires today

The children’s ministry, Hidden Manna in Buenos Aires today

– Since its inception in 2007 this work has grown, and today there is a strong ongoing ministry to children where they continue to receive a wholesome breakfast and are taught the Word of God. There is now also a youth program and youth church, as well as an adult church which, to a large part, developed from among the parents who once accompanied their children to the breakfast feeding program.

Many of the godly young men and women who are going on in their walk with the Lord, and who are now a part of the youth ministry, have themselves grown up through the breakfast program, once attending as little children themselves. These godly young men and women are now able to minister to, and to share the gospel with the younger children and other youth who have yet to give their lives to Christ.

 

Missionary Work within the Pame Tribal Region / Church Planting and Evangelism of this Pame Zone:

In early 2000 medical clinics were utilized in the Pame tribal village of Tanlacut to begin a new church-plant. The medical team and I entered into this isolated village monthly for over six months in order to open the doors to enable a church-plant to begin.

Much of the ministry continues to be outside wherever people can meet

Much of the ministry continues to be outside wherever people can meet

– This first church plant did not endure, and lasted only approximately a year before the national missionary family left the community.

– In June 2017 Javier and his national missionary team made their first exploratory re-contact with Tanlacut and the surrounding Pame region.

– Javier and the missionary team now enter into this rugged region of the Eastern Sierra Madre Mountains to the west of the city of Valles every two weeks for a three-day missionary thrust.

– God is opening doors very quickly in the whole region and churches are being planted almost every trip that is made.

These are the little children that our Lord loves

These are the little children that our Lord loves

– A number of years ago a property and building in a tiny Pame village called Agua Nueva was donated for a headquarters for the Pame Missionary Ministry. Here the local church gathers and national missionary teams have a place to stay on their missionary trips. This church is growing, and the center is becoming a strategic point of contact for the Pame ministry.

 

Covid-19 has absolutely devastated this region of Mexico and has made every aspect of life very difficult for everyone. However, even in these difficult times the message of the Gospel continues to go forth, and the church continues to grow!

– Despite lockdowns, churches being closed, and lack of funds the Kingdom has advanced.

– Javier has been able to utilize technology to reach many more than he could do normally.

– Since churches were forced to close they utilized any opportunity during times when restrictions were slightly lifted to have small group meetings in homes. Many came to Christ during this time.

Remember the National leaders who are ministering faithfully in Mexico. This is Javier and Cristina

Remember the National leaders who are ministering faithfully in Mexico. This is Javier and Cristina at the Pame Missionary Center building in Agua Nueva

– The on-line Bible School and Missionary Training that Javier is heading up is reaching as far away as the U.S. / Mexican border.

– The missionary thrust among the Pame has exploded and doors there are being blown open.

But Cd. Valles and the surrounding region, as well as whole of Mexico continue to be a dangerous place:       

There was another fatal shoot-out in Cd. Valles last week were several were killed, vehicles were left riddled full of bullet holes, and the streets were filled with automatic machine gun fire.

– this happened just outside the door of the building which housed the Bible School and the Sewing School up to several months ago. This is also where the current sewing school was being rented up until last month, and just around the corner from where Dr. Mario and Alejandra and their family live (Mario and Jani are leaders of the Bible School and Project LAMBS).

– We must continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Mexico – especially those with whom we have been spiritually connected for so many years.

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I trust that this look back in time at God’s faithfulness will be encouraging and helpful, and that it will spur you on toward love and good deeds, as the writer of Hebrews admonishes us in chapter 10:24.

Thank you for your love and prayers for those who serve so faithfully in Mexico.

 

Your fellow servants in Jesus Christ,

 

Steven and Theresa






One Response to “Thus Far Has The Lord Helped Us”

  1. Cool to see those old photos!

    James commented on 1:12 pm on June 5th, 2021


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