My JARON colleague, Kenton Rahn, and I arrived in Tehuacan on Friday, January 8 in the late afternoon after a 1:05 am departure time from Fresno. Tehuacan is a city of around 250,000 people in the southern part of the Mexican state of Puebla, located about four hours southeast of Mexico City or about an hour and a half southwest of the state capitol of Puebla. As you may remember, I have done ministry in this place with these people several times before.
Tired doesn’t describe how we felt after two flights (Fresno/Guadalajara and Guadalajara/Mexico City) then a bus ride to Puebla and a ride by car with friends to Tehuacan. While in Puebla, we were able to make a brief visit to a main hospital there where Betty Harris Lagunes is hospitalized with cancer. She is one of the key people on this end in instigating this JARON Bible Institute extension. It was very good for us to see her and to visit with her family.
Saturday was a settling-in and relaxing day for the most part. Even so, Kenton and I, along with Gil Hernandez, a former missionary in this city and one of our translator/interpreters, made a visit to a local radio station in order to announce the Institute classes for the next two weeks. We also had a counseling session with one of the students about some family issues he is working through. But, all-in-all, it was a day of recovery from the rigors of travel. In the evening we were part of a group, which went out for “tacos arabes” at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant very near the picturesque city square. It was a nice outing and time to be with good friends.
Most Mexican towns of any size have such a town center, or Zocalo, with the main Catholic church on one side, the city offices on another and shops of various types on the other two. Lots of people frequent the park which is in the middle and sometimes there are sellers of various food items such as tacos, churros, candies and ice cream, along with balloons and other trinkets for the kids. Once in awhile there is even music. It is kind of like a perpetual carnival—which is part of what gives Mexico its charm.
It was very cold while we were there: probably in the upper 40s or lower 50s–an unusual thing for that far south in Mexico. I am guessing that the outside temperatures were comparable to Fresno in January and it rained off and on. The problem is that almost no one has any heating system there since they would rarely use it. So, we were cold almost all the time. For example, one morning, I got up early to take a shower and waited maybe 15 minutes while the hot water tap was running for the water to warm up. It never did because the family we are staying with ran out of propane, so I took a very cold partial shower. However, I was really no worse for the experience.
After a rocky start, my Spanish rose to the occasion and even improved. I can usually converse at a very modest level with folks, which is nice since I don’t have to have an interpreter trailing me all the time. The food was delicious and, in some ways, very different from what many Americans would expect. Yes, we had tacos, but they were certainly not like Taco Bell. The tortillas are soft and the meat is either beef or pork with delicious condiments. Other dishes included lentil stew with large semi-sweet bananas (plantains) in it; a pounded chicken breast with a marvelous sauce over it, homemade cream of mushroom soup, and of course, the best fresh tortillas in the world. Locals boast that Tehuacan and its sister city, Coapan, are indeed the tortilla capitols of the world since experts claim that corn has been growing here longer than any other place on earth.
Sunday was a very full day. The morning began with a 15-minute drive to Coapan, where I preached a gospel message from Psalm 112. We broadcast the message from a loudspeaker located near the town center and the locals tell me that hundreds of people can hear what is said. On the drive back, we stopped off to visit and pray with a woman who is part of the translation team and who had surgery the day before. Then I was invited to speak at a church called Manada Pequena (Little Flock) on transformation from the life of Jacob in Genesis 31 and 32.
Monday we began the most recent series of JARON extension classes, including:
Church History—try covering 2,000 years of Christian history in five two-hour sessions through translation. Kenton and I taught identical sessions of each day’s material twice: first from 6:30-8:30 am in one church and then again from 7:30 to 9:30 pm in another location. I had been wondering whether the initial enthusiasm for this type of rigorous training would eventually subside, but so far it hasn’t. During the five days of teaching there were an average of more than 100 students spread out over the two daily sessions. Even though each day included the teaching sessions in the early morning and late evening, plus counseling, jail ministry and invitations to people’s homes— our health stayed good throughout. Thanks, Lord!
The next week our colleague, Gene Beck arrived with Wes Janca to teach five days on biblical anthropology (the study of human nature from the scriptures). The beauty of all this is that it is a group effort, including the team of Mexican believers who make this ministry possible and who carry it on all year round.
Some exciting things include the fact that our friend Enrique is using some of our JARON class materials in the jail each week to teach the prisoners theology. He reports that they are learning and looking forward to each lesson. Another student, Jose, has started a radio program in which some of what he is learning at the JBI extension is being passed on to the listeners. Others are taking what they are learning to the surrounding villages and towns to teach in churches and ministry centers throughout the region. These types of things assure us that what we are doing twice yearly in Tehuacan is worthwhile.
I need to say a word about the fabled Mexican hospitality. We were housed and fed by an amazing team of local believers. Over and over we were told by those who hosted us in their homes or for a meal that it was their pleasure to do so. If we mentioned anything that could be construed as a need, it was done without hesitation (which reminded us to be careful in mentioning anything casually for fear that it might be understood as a request). Maybe the best way to express my personal experience is to describe the contrast between our treatment going through security in Mexico, versus treatment upon our return to the United States. The entire tenor of addressing people in Mexico tends to be much more respectful. For example, the security official who inspected my luggage at the Mexico City airport and frisked me down did so with apologetic comments and great courtesy.
However, upon our arrival at LAX on the evening of January 16, we were spoken to very curtly on several occasions, the procedure for moving to where we needed to go was confusing and communicated in a way which I thought was unnecessarily rude. Even the restaurant personnel at the airport were apathetic and offered very poor customer service. I realize that this is LAX and that the security (and the nerves of people) are very tight these days. Yet I maintain that Americans are fast forgetting what they once knew about hospitality and courtesy. Mexico is still a wealthy country when it comes to such things.
Thanks for your prayers during the time we were there. Not once did we feel endangered in any way and we sensed the hand of the Lord upon us daily.
The New Testament Books by Category and Theme
The Synoptic Gospels
- Matthew: The gospel to the Jews
- Mark: The gospel to the Romans
- Luke: The gospel to the Greeks
The Supplementary Gospel. John: The gospel to the world
History. Acts of the Apostles: A record of the early Christian Church
- Paul’s Travel Epistles: Romans: Most comprehensive discussion of salvation; 1 Corinthians: Correction of Corinthian errors and divisions; 2 Corinthians: Paul defends his authority and concern for the Corinthians; Galatians: Salvation by grace apart from works; 1 Thessalonians: Clarification about the resurrection of believers; 2 Thessalonians: Clarification about the timing of Christ’s return
- Paul’s Prison Epistles: Ephesians: The Church as a united new people in Christ; Philippians: Joy at Christ’s presence through adversity; Colossians: Warnings against participation in heresy; Philemon: A personal letter to Paul’s friend about Onesimus
- Paul’s Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy: Instructions to Timothy about Christian leadership; Titus; Titus is instructed to set standards of sound doctrine and good works; 2 Timothy: Paul’s final words given to Timothy
- Miscellaneous Epistles: Hebrews: Christ is superior to the Torah (Mosaic Covenant); James: Practical issues for Christian living; Jude: God’s judgment on false teachers
- Petrine Epistles: 1 Peter: Courage under suffering; 2 Peter: False teaching is strongly condemned
- Johannine Epistles: 1 John: Warnings against Gnostic teachers; 2 John: Cooperation with false teachers is forbidden; 3 John: Cooperation with teachers of the gospel is commanded
Apocalypse: Revelation: Preparation for Christ’s return
(Written by Ken Johnson) I once received the compliment, “You are the best recruiter we have ever had.” I honestly was pretty surprised about that statement. I didn’t believe I did anything particularly revolutionary…or do I? As I thought about it, perhaps I do things a little differently. To begin, remember the three R’s of recruiting: Relationships, Right fit, and Rhythm.
Relationship. I always seek to recruit out of relationship. Truly, all of ministry is relationship, but recruiting especially so. I know that in order to have an effective ministry I need to be in relationship with every person who works directly under me. This will vary for each person and each ministry dependent upon size and structure. Large programs (over 200 volunteers) will require leaders to be in relationship with key leaders. Small programs (under 100 volunteers) will allow the leader to be in contact with every person.
In my current setting, my program is just the right size to be able to have an adequate relationship with each person who serves in my ministry. I know each person’s name, family background, and ministry area. For some I even know hobbies, joys, and past experiences. This is invaluable as I seek to either affirm what they are doing or recruit them to move into a new area of ministry. Without that relationship, I am either a voice on the phone or a face up front making an announcement. With that relationship, I am a person who cares about them and their real felt needs.
As my program expands, the direct relationships will be strained. My focus will have to shift from my direct volunteers (i.e. Sunday School teachers) to my immediate volunteers (i.e. service coordinators). These people will then pass on the relationship to those who serve under them. They will be required to know every person in the same capacity I currently do. The relationships that they develop will empower them in recruiting their current volunteers.
This works great for those who already work underneath you, but what do you do when you are seeking to recruit a new volunteer? The key again is relationship. The more you know about the person you are seeking to recruit, the more effective you’ll be. Getting to know that person’s dreams, excitements, joys, family, etc. will help you because then they feel like they are being recruited by a friend, rather than a position or an office. The closer the relationship, the easier it can be to recruit.
Right Fit. The second factor in recruiting is the “Right Fit.” As you recruit the person, always recruit to their strengths. Out of the relationship you have developed with this person, remember what their joys and excitements are. Find a spot that excites them. The more excited they are about what they are doing, the more they will fit into the right spot and the more they will stay for a long time.
One of the biggest fallacies of recruitment is recruiting to the wrong position. Wonderful Christ-like servants will volunteer because of a need but not because they are passionate about what they are doing. They become band-aids for a hole instead of a committed volunteer.
Whenever you recruit have clear expectations and job descriptions so that the volunteer will know what they are getting into prior to getting into it. This will also help to insure the right fit because they’ll know that they are getting into something designed for them that they’ll enjoy.
Rhythm. The final aspect of recruiting is to give the volunteers a good pace to work with as they move into this new ministry. Don’t throw the volunteers to the lions! Whenever I am trying to recruit a new volunteer, I will give them some time to try things out prior to putting them in leadership. This might consist of learning under someone for some time, it might consist of just visiting the program, or it might consist of spending time praying about becoming a volunteer prior to jumping in.
This slow process will help a volunteer to know that they have time to move into the role that they are assuming rather than just being thrown in the first week they say they are interested. This is a very respectful way of recruiting which will help the volunteers to know that they are loved and cared for. The easier the transition, the more likely they are to stick around in the long run and make a real commitment to long-term ministry.
Once you have recruited some key volunteers, do not forget to find ways to sustain their hearts and spirits. Encourage them constantly! Write notes, make phone calls, and remember birthdates. Anything you can do to continue to build the relationship you have with the volunteer will help them to want to stay. They’ll know that they are loved and cared for. The better the volunteer feels about what he or she is doing, the more that person will want to stick around (and even do recruiting for you).
I was once told I was a good recruiter, perhaps that is so. Truly, I am good at building relationships, finding the right spot for the volunteer, slowly working them into the program, and continue to encourage that person in what they are doing. It results in good recruiting because people will want to work in a place where they know that their leader knows them and wants to be with them.
Ken Johnson is currently Director of Children’s Ministries at Campus Bible Church of Fresno, California.
April, 15, 2009 Dear friends,
This has been a very full spring so far. I am involved in my two half-time ministry positions (Director of the JARON Bible Institute and Associate Pastor at Campus Bible Church of Fresno, California). Beyond these responsiblities I will have taught five college and university courses by the time June 1 rolls around. So you can see that it was a nice break (and a very fulfilling experience) to interrupt the schedule and travel to Texas and northern Mexico to engage in a week of intensive ministry (March 6-15) with my cousin, Roger Tomlinson of Dayspring Outreach.
One of the personal benefits of this trip is the chance to take an extra couple of days and visit my brother, Marty Bogart and his family in south Texas. Marty, Roger and I usually spend time catching up and reminiscing about our childhood days in the 60s. For us, at least, it is a lot of fun.
On Sunday, Roger and his wife Carolyn and I drove across the border into Mexico, crossing a narrow arm of the state of Tamaulipas and pushing on into Nuevo Leon. Our destination is the village of La Haciendita, about ten miles outside Cadereyta, which in turn is 20 miles or so from the third-largest city in the country: Monterrey.
With all of the news about drug-related killings along the Mexican border, we were extra-watchful on our journey. The only signs of tension we saw during this week were beefed-up checkpoints of the Mexican Army along the route. This time about half of the soldiers were wearing ski masks to hide their identities against possible reprisals by the bad guys. It was a bit sobering, but as far as we were concerned, perfectly routine.
The week of teaching began on Monday with classes in apologetics for the mixed class of about 15 Mexicans and Americans. Apologetics is the reasoned defense and explanation of the Christian faith in response to various questions and attacks. I had to brush a bit of dust off my notes from the last time I taught this course at JARON BIble Institute and then reformat them in the weeks before the trip. It was a pleasure to review this information and interact with the students –all of whom are very bright and eager to learn. I became friends with nearly all of them.
The Americans come mostly from widely-scattered parts of the Midwest. Likewise, the Mexicans are from several different regions of that country. Though they come from diverse backgrounds, they all share the passion for ministry in the unchurched cities, villages and rural areas of Mexico. It was my privilege to take part in their training.
Dayspring Outreach has several facilities in the country–two in Nuevo Leon, one in Oaxaca and one in Vera Cruz— and there may also be others I am unaware of (For more informatiuon on Dayspring, check out the link on the homepage of this website). I was very impressed by the work Roger has been doing these past twenty years or so. He is obviously very committed to the spread of the gospel in Mexico and shows a high degree of innovative ability and persistence to accomplish what he has.
After the return to yet another Dayspring base, this time in south Texas, my brother Marty scheduled a venue at his office for me to present a basic seminar on the background, teachings and goals of Islam. I developed this workshop out of my 17 years of teaching courses in world religion as an adjunct professor in various colleges and universities in central California. I have enjoyed presenting it dozens of times in a variety of formats and venues–sometimes presenting the basic facts of the subject and other times contrasting it with Christian faith.
This gathering turned out to be rather small–only a few of us around a conference table in my brother’s accounting office, but I found the more informal setting very refreshing. The next day, Marty dropped my off at the local airport and I flew home through Dallas to resume my spring schedule.
Let me describe one incident that really stuck out during that week of ministry. Imagine wanting to call your family from a rural area in a foreign country a couple of thousand miles away from home. So, after dinner, one evening I borrow one of Roger’s cell phones and take a stroll . It is dark and chilly and the rain is coming down in a fine mist. With flashlight in hand, I climb to the unfinished top floor of a small apartment block being built in the Dayspring compound for the permanent staff. No roof or walls have gone up yet on this upper storey, so I stand there savoring the damp darkness in this far-away corner of the world. I dial the access code for the US and then my home number. The call goes through and I am talking to Melinda as clearly as if I were next door. Then the signal is lost for a moment, so I dial again, this time standing in a different corner of the roof-top where the signal is stronger. The conversation continues, this time with no interruptions. After checking in and sharing about my day, I sign off, climb down and head for my room to prepare for the next day’s classes.
I know that in the Twenty-first Century, calling someone long distance sounds pretty normal. At home, I use a cell phone regularly to call all sorts of people. Yet it struck me, standing in the rain on that dark roof in rural Mexico, how interconnected the world has become and how relatively convenient it is to do business or missions work almost anywhere on the face of the globe. It is truly a pleasure to serve Jesus Christ and his coming kingdom in these very interesting times of ours.
Thanks for listening,
I am writing this brief letter to bring you up to speed on our most recent missions project. Several colleagues and I have made plans to establish a training center for Christian leaders in Tehuacan in the southern Mexican state of Puebla.
The first session is planned for June 25- July 7, 2008. During this time, we will offer a condensed Bible course and a practical seminar to a group of pastors and leaders from various churches in the area. Most of them are already serving Christ in some significant way, but they lack the in-depth training necessary in Bible and ministry skills to be as effective as they could be.
In February, my colleagues Jim Cecy, Gene Beck, Gil Hernandez and I made the same trip to survey this ministry possibility. We saw first-hand the impressive commitment of these believers. These men and women are, in some ways, the keys to their city of 200,000 people. To the degree that they are effective, certain types of change can happen to advance Christ’s Kingdom. In other words, we multiply our efforts by training those who have already shown their commitment to make a difference.
Publicizing our courses on radio station XHTE, Tehuacan, Puebla
I believe that what we can accomplish will bring dividends to the cause of Christ in that region of Mexico far beyond the investment. Our goal is to do only the things we believe are highly strategic and will have long-term beneficial effects for people and for God’s Kingdom.
Some of the organizers from the churches of Tehuacan.
Thanks for praying, Mike and Melinda Bogart
Melinda and I have had an amazing couple of weeks in South Africa. Our partners on this mission team, Howard and Debi Foreman have been a joy to work alongside. We arrived in the middle of a government workers strike in which hospitals, schools and other offices are closed. The government is negotiating with the workers who want more money. Yet, things appear to be much as normal.
We stayed at the Giyani-area Police Guest House on the outskirts of town. The local police officials have rolled out the red carpet for us. We were able to hire a cook and were allowed the use of the full accommodations. The police commander for crime prevention in Giyani lives at the guesthouse. He and his son and a friend gave us a large brie (BBQ) one night earlier this week. The seven of us had great discussion and fellowship.
One of the local African pastors, Pastor David, loaned us his Indian-made Tata car so we could get around on our own. What a sacrifice on his part! That kind gesture saved us from the sometimes complicated and expensive process foreigners must go through to rent one. Both Howard and I drove the car, which for me was a bit weird because in South Africa they drive British-style (on the left).
The week of ministry included pastoral training classes in theology, taught by Howard and a general church leadership seminar on Christian counseling, taught by me. The two wives presented a women’s seminar and craft session, as well as met privately with several wives of pastors for encouragement.
While in the city of Malamulele, about 40 minutes north of Giyani, the four of us were invited briefly to the home of a local pastor in the area and given a gift of fresh garden spinach, which we ate later that night. We were allowed to present a gospel-oriented devotional at three police station chapel services, where we given a profuse welcome.
Believe it or not, the week also gave us opportunities to hold youth meetings and speak in several other church services, where we presented a welcome from the churches in the US. A highlight was driving 25 miles to the NW and visiting with the chief of the five villages in the Diangheza area. Once again the chief rolled out the red carpet, inviting us to lunch and outfitting Melinda and Debi in Shangaani costume.
What we have seen here in this northeastern corner of the country is a wild mix of western and traditional cultures. Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants exist side-by-side with traditional food vendors. We have seen women in traditional costume with fruit baskets on their heads and people in business suits; serious poverty and affluence; Africaans, Tsonga and English all spoken simultaneously.
Each morning we awoke to vervet monkeys in the trees outside our window. Several afternoons we were guests of the local Spar grocery store, where the managers made their computers and internet available to us. Americans can learn much about hospitality from South Africans.
If you ever get the chance, you should experience this place. We are amazed at how people are open to the message of Christ and the Bible and the pervasiveness of at least a positive attitude toward Christianity. Please pray for our friends, pastors Rex, David and Jackson; for our police friend Peter; Betta (our cook) and many others. Though tired, we came though the week very well. Thanks for your interest in this very effective project. We pray for you and trust you are well.
Mike and Melinda
Here are some typical scenes from Limpopo Province in northeastern South Africa.
The large picture was taken at a wedding we attended. This is the bride’s family. Her dad has three wives. Can you pick them out?
December 1, 2006
Greetings! It is that special holiday time of year, which gives us the opportunity to report to those who have prayed, given and shown interest in the ministry we have with JARON. We trust all of you are well and finding fulfillment in serving where you have opportunity as well.
As I mentioned in June, JARON has been invited to begin a ministry training course for pastors who serve in the villages of Limpopo Province in the northeastern part of the country. The first phase of what we hope will become a multi-year Global Leadership Training Project took place July 21-August 12.
More than anything else, this trip confirmed the need (and renewed the invitation) for us to become involved in the training of Christian leaders in the region. In those eventful three weeks I was involved in the following:
One week was spent networking with Afrikaans leaders in the Pretoria area, discussing needs and touring existing ministry projects. There are multiple layers of ministry we can easily plug into and provide training and other things in north-central part of the country.
The final two weeks were spent working with Shangaan ethnic people in Limpopo Province. A brief summary of this training week follows:
I taught a Christian leadership seminar to fifty church leaders from two different churches.
I led a marriage seminar for pastors in the city of Giyani.
I met with key pastoral leaders to discuss the details of a JARON Bible Institute program to meet the academic and practical ministry needs in the area.
The JARON team put together a medical / relief project in several area villages.
I along with several others, participated in a discussion for future development of a Christian camp that would serve the entire northeastern region of South Africa.
We met and established good relationships with many wonderful people, whom I hope to see again in future trips.
Thanks for your prayers, Mike Bogart