February 6-14, 2010 was a nine-day trip to south Texas and Northern Mexico in which I was able to re-connect with my cousin, Roger Tomlinson and his ministry (Dayspring Outreach) and my brother Marty Bogart and his family. I flew to Mc Allen, Texas, where my cousin picked me up and took me to his US base in Edinburg, Texas. After spending a couple of nights, Roger and I, along with Roger’s wife Carolyn, packed up and drove the four hour trip into Mexico, where Dayspring has a center at La Haciendita, Nuevo Leon. Since I was in training for a 10K race the next month, I spend nearly every morning running along the roads of the orange orchard surrounding the Dayspring property (I had done the same in Edinburg during the couple of days we spent there before entering Mexico).
During the next five days, I met the 2010 students at the Dayspring Center where I was a guest teacher. This session I taught a quick overview of Church History. There was plenty of time to interact with the students and staff. The visit included a trip for Roger and Carolyn and I into Cadereyta for what are affectionately referred to as “sliders”—probably the best street tacos I have ever eaten.
We drove out of Mexico at week’s end and connected for the weekend with my brother Marty, his wife Circe and girls Circe and Audrey. One of the main events in this segment of the trip was Marty’s ceremony of dedication of his new office building owned by himself and his partner Bill Hudson. I enjoyed talking with Circe’s father Jorge Zarinana, who was visiting from Queretaro. Then it was back home to Fresno to resume ministry and family life there.
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.
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,
Report on Grace Baptist Church’s Mexican Border Mission. Spring, 1999.
A group of fourteen of us from Grace Baptist Church of Lemoore, California set aside Holy Week (March 26 through April 2) 1999 to embark on the first ever short term-missions experience for the church. Team members included Tom, Andrew and Ben Baker, Mike, Melinda, Andrea, Hannah, Joe and Danny Bogart, Amy Gaussoin, Robin and Synthia Pruitt and Paul and David Stanfield.
The group made a commitment to attend three lengthy training sessions during the early spring to prepare for this cross-cultural experience. The training included an introduction to Mexican culture, familiarity with the goals, procedures and rules of the Conservative Baptist Association of Northern California (the group sponsoring the trip), some Spanish words and phrases, evangelism training, as well as learning the specific games and ministries we were scheduled to do.
After gathering for prayer early on the morning of March 26, the group drove the approximately four hundred miles in personal vehicles from Lemoore, California to Yuma, Arizona where we crossed the border and met up with several other U.S. church teams in a make-shift camp a few miles into the Mexican state of Baja California, Norte.
Meals were cooked communally and the group members slept in tents. We awoke each morning to roosters crowing and the smell of breakfast cooking. After devotions and breakfast, we received our assignments and drove into the nearby Mexican state of Sonora to the city of San Luis Colorado.
Our assignment was to work with the Iglesia Bautista Conservadora. The teams spend five days holding a vacation Bible school-type of program. This involved games, Bible stories, crafts, snacks and prizes. During the afternoons, the men in the group repaired or improved various facilities of the church.
After working each day the group drove back to base camp and shared stories of the day around dinner. A thank you service was held at the church the last day of the trip. Many new friends were made and the farewells were a bit hard at the end of the week.
The results: a Mexican church was assisted, kids and adults were exposed to Christ and the message of the Bible, Americans were trained in cross-cultural ministry and the Mexican culture was appreciated.
Thanks for your prayers while we were engaged in this ministry!
Pastor Mike for the Team
Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico. January 9-18, 2009.
This trip was a continuation of the JARON Bible Institute Extension in southeastern Mexico. It was a special bonus that Melinda was able to go with me this time to mentor, counsel and teach women. Accompanying us were Steve and Carla Belmont, friends from our home church, Campus Bible in Fresno. Carla went to work with women as well and to be the speaker for a women’s event the Tehuacan churches were sponsoring. Steve went as team organizer, photographer and general evangelist.
We arrived after a long trip (3:00 am to 11:00 pm). Drive to Los Angeles; fly to Mexico City; bus trip to Puebla and then a ride in a personal van to Tehuacan. Needless to say we were pretty tired. Our hosts, Memo and Betty Lagunes gave us the next day to unwind and solrt things out. Here is how the rest of the 10 day trip unfolded:
Sunday evening the combined churches met at Oasis 1 Church for a time of questions and answers about ministry and Christian living. The four of us participated in this and the occasion broke the ice a bit for the three who had not met these people before. Monday began five days of teaching at the JBI extension.
As before there were both morning and evening classes (6:30-8:30 am and 7:30-9:30 pm). I taught Old Testament Survey. You can imagine that we moved along pretty briskly in that short amount of time.
Sunday morning we had preached in the nearby community of Coapan before participating in worship at Manada Pequena Church later in the morning. On Tuesday, we visited the large local jail, where Melinda and Carla spoke to a group of maybe 15 women about new life in Christ. The time in the jail was part of the ministry of by Enrique and Carmen Gutierrez, some of the key Christian leaders who host our ministry in that city.
Thursday was the women’s conference on Spiritual Maturity. Carla spoke to the approximately 50 women and girls assembled and Melinda led a craft session afterward in which women made a set of note cards. Other activities included sharing our personal faith stories with various groups, counseling various people and just enjoying the gracious people in that place.
On the second Saturday our hosts took us to see Cholula, which is the largest pyramid in the world (the base of the ruined structure is larger that the pyramids of Egypt). We enjoyed seeing that city and walking around the great Zolcalo in nearby Puebla. I was astounded when we visited the baroque-style cathedral in Puebla and we had a fun last evening in Mexico enjoying the festival atmosphere, which we were told is a common occurrence in central Puebla.
The next day we took the bus to Mexico City and after seemingly unending delays, flew to Los Angeles and then drove on home arriving around 2:00 am. Though we were exhausted, it was a fabulous and very memorable trip.
Thanks for your prayers, Mike and Melinda Bogart
Here are a few of the friends we made during this memorable and strategic trip:
It is with fullness of heart that we write to report on our first short-term missions project under JARON Ministries. We believe that our trip as a couple to Haiti (May 14-24) accomplished more than we dared hope for. We honestly don’t know how to be brief in summarizing what was accomplished, so please be patient as we try to boil it all down:
May 15-17: We were the featured speakers at a pastors and pastors’ wives retreat, in the Port au Prince suburb of Delmas. Mike’s subject was Purity in Ministry. These men had not looked at biblical teaching on the subject of sexual purity in this type of package before and responded very well. Melinda taught a women in ministry workshop, in which she led a Bible study centered around the challenges, joys and issues related to pastoral families and ministry within the local church. Approximately ten pastoral couples were involved.
May 18-20. Mike was priviledged to be the guest preacher on Sunday at Amitie Christian Church of Delmas. The text was Acts 1:8 “The Local Church and World Missions.” The following Monday through Wednesday: he taught a Bible Survey mini-course for pastors and Christian leaders at the Center for Integrated Development in Delmas. The class averaged about 25 students over three nights.
May 21-23. Mike presented the same Bible Survey mini-course for the leaders of a recently established church in Petit Goave, 40 miles southwest of Port au Prince. Class size averaged around 20 and provided training for the leadership of this church which has the potential of being a very effective witness in this rural area.
As always, the seminars and workshops served as springboards into other related issues and a chance to connect with dear fellow servants of the Lord for encouragement, fellowship and mentoring.
Our goal is to work with local groups who will be able to follow up and expand on ministry after we are gone. Our hosts were Robert and Jean Vilmenay of Mission to the Americas, and Gillomettre Herode of the Center for Integrated Development. We have a standing invitation to return to continue ministry through these organizations in years to come.
1) Enjoying the very tasty Haitian cuisine, such as delicious fruit, spicy chicken and papitas (fried plantain chips).
2) Trapping a huge tarantula in the “wee” hours of the morning on a trip to the restroom.
3) People and tap-taps (like taxis) everywhere on the streets from early morning until late night. Haitian driving is not for the faint of heart!
4) The poverty and yet general cheerfulness of most of the people we met, along with the serious commitment of the Christian leadership we worked with.
5) The experience of being 50 yards ahead of President Aristide’s motorcade with helicopters zooming overhead, while he was stuck in traffic on Delmas Route 1. The Haitians were not particularly concerned about getting out of his way.
6) Melinda’s dugout canoe ride to a beach near Petit Goave, skimming over coral reefs, but unable to lean out to really see them for fear of the canoe tipping over.
7) The chance to get better acquainted with our friends, the Vilmenays, and hopefully encourage them as they continue ministry in that needy country.
Thanks for praying, Mike and Melinda Bogart
Mission to the Americas Honduras Ministry Survey, January 16-22, 2001
Travel Itinerary: Lemoore to Fresno, California (car). Flights to Los Angeles, Mexico City, Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa (Honduras), San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba
I arrived in La Ceiba in late evening after a very long flight on Taca Airlines. I noticed some earthquake damage in the airport in El Salvador, and encountered my first “transit fee” ($20.00) as I walked from one part of the airport in Tegucigalpa to another. My role on this trip is to assess the ministry of Mission to the Americas in Honduras and other countries in Central America as a member of the Board of Directors.
The country of Honduras is very “third world”, with the second-poorest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere (followed by Haiti). Only 13% of the country’s roads are paved. Honduras is one of the great banana producing countries in the world and the inspiration for the term “banana republic”.
The following three days were spent meeting in session with the rest of the board and administrative staff. With breaks for meals, we met from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Some of the highlights included opening two new countries as fields of ministry for MTA (Nicaragua and Panama) and the appointing of Luis Matute as the first MTA missionary to Panama. We were encouraged to learn that among the ministries of MTA, a new church is formed on the average every 11 days in Central America and Southern Mexico. The methodology is called TEE (Theological Education by Extension), and was developed in the 1960s by pioneer missionary George Patterson.
Wednesday through Friday the Board visited ministry sites in various parts of the Northern coastal area of the country:
Wednesday: we traveled by bus to Songaguera, where mission funds had helped rebuild homes as well as a church and school after the devastations of the recent hurricane. The people greeted us warmly and thanked us for the mission’s assistance. We brought greetings from the churches in the U.S. At a lull in the service a little boy of about 6 looked directly at me and said in Spanish, “Hey Gringo!” (Everyone laughed.) The ice was definitely broken.
Thursday evening we attended an evening church celebration of the ethnicities of Honduras. Featured were churches from the coast and from the mountain areas. Meskita Indians, blacks of the Garifuna language people (from near Belize) and English speaking black people from Roatan Island were represented and presented their worship music. More than 200 people were packed into an upper floor about 20’ by 50’ with walls open at the top for air circulation for a two-hour service. The Directors of Honduras Extension Bible Institute, Hector and Carmen del Arca were honored for their contribution to training Christian leaders.
Friday we traveled by bus to the coastal settlement of Belfate, where MTA has sent medical personnel to staff a hospital serving that area of the country. Part of the way there I sat beside a Garifuna pastor who, as a young man, had lost both thumbs in the fishing trade. His despair at losing his livelihood had been the catalyst to bring him to Christian faith and then, through the TEE program, to Christian leadership. It was a very inspiring conversation.
Saturday and Sunday the Board split up into teams to visit various fields in Central America. I was assigned to travel with a small group to the mountain areas of Honduras. Missionary Patrick O’Connor picked us up and drove us by car to the town of Gracias, where we met Pastor Victor Almendarez and his wife Virgilia. This couple has started 15 churches in the area over the past five years, focusing on the remote towns and villages. I was able to present them with some non-English specific Sunday School materials from my church, Grace Baptist of Lemoore, California.
On Saturday evening, we drove over very rugged and stream-filled roads to the mountain village of Zarzal for a “youth service” in a newly established church. On the road to Zarzal, our jeep’s headlights revealed many small groups of people (there were dozens of them) walking in the pitch dark with machetes. I asked what they were doing out in the darkness and was told they were walking to church. The machetes were for protection against snakes and other dangerous creatures.
The service was led by youth, but really everyone comes to these things. The building was maybe a year or two old and was approximately 20’ by 40’. The sound system and instruments were powered by two truck batteries. The room was lit by kerosene lantern. Nearly 50 people were packed on benches, singing hymns and reciting verses of scripture. I greeted the mainly indigenous believers on behalf of their American brothers.
On Sunday, we traveled to Copan on the border with Guatemala, where the O’Connors work among the Chorti-Mayan people. We visited a village of some very poor folks, bought some items at their little store and prayed with a small group of the people there. We managed to visit the ruins of the Mayan city of Copan later that day. What an amazing archeological site! I estimate that only about half of the ruins are excavated.
Monday, Patrick drove me the couple of hours to the airport in San Pedro Sula, where I flew home via Houston.
Items of cultural interest:
Delicious black beans and incredible fried plantains (little sliced bananas). Very strong coffee and sweet bread. I had a conch for dinner one evening in La Ceiba (it tasted like a huge clam). The most colorful parrots I have ever seen in were at the Copan Ruins. The ugliest birds in the world have got to be the vultures you see periodically along the roadsides. Overall the people were very friendly.
My heart was energized for cross-cultural ministry. I would love to return with a team from my home church to assist these people in what they are doing!
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?
Let me give you a quick report on our recent missions project in Haiti, March 18-28, 2005. Our team of seven (Mike, Melinda and Dan Bogart, our daughter Andrea Cole, Patrick Mitchell, Glenda Farrer, Carl Camp) arrived in Port au Prince on Saturday. The weather throughout our time there was hot and humid.
It was startling, and yet reassuring, to see U.N. troops in full battle gear in various places throughout the country during our time there. Upon arrival, the team met our missionary hosts, Robert and Jean Vilmenay of Mission to the Americas, and prepared for the week.
Monday through Wednesday the team worked at the Center for Integrated Development (in Delmas) featuring various training sessions, designed to equip Haitians to do ministry more effectively. All of this had to be translated into French and Kreyol. The rest of the time we spent visiting local pastors and assisting the full time missionaries. So, what did we accomplish?
We brought much-needed items for Haitian leaders to use in ministry (two full computer / printer sets, medical supplies, used eye-glasses, which the people appreciated very much).
We brought greetings and encouragement to three Haitian congregations (Victoire, Amitie, Cabaret).
We encouraged pastors to continue the ministry under difficult circumstances.
We trained 30-40 Haitian church leaders in various practical issues.
The use of the Wordless Book materials for children.
A missions seminar aimed at mobilizing Haitians to go where others cannot.
We addressed various issues related to women in ministry.
We taught the use of computers in music ministry.
We instructed leaders in the use of various types of games as a ministry tool.
We trained and exposed Americans to cross-cultural ministry.
We encouraged and supplied the missionaries.
We brought the Body of Christ together a bit more.
It was touching that many of the Haitian leaders we had known from our trip in 2003 were so appreciative that we had returned. It means a lot to them because their impression is that few people want to come to Haiti at all, let alone return—and you helped make that happen. Thanks for your prayers and support. Be encouraged!
Mike and Melinda Bogart