Friday, October 28, 2011

New Paths...on a Common Journey

Dear Family, Friends and Partners in Ministry,

            We hope and pray that this letter finds you doing well.  We continue to transition from Monterrey to the US/Mexican border region where we are now living and serving.  The children are settling into their schooling and  lives here.  Jeanne and I settle into our new lives here as well, finding places through which we can minister and serve God and others with our gifts and graces.  As the future unfolds before us, we walk forward with great joy, anticipation and thanksgiving.

            We are writing this letter to again affirm our deep thanksgiving for your faithfulness through the days, months and years past.  We know that without your prayers, your financial gifts and your partnership this ministry could not have happened.  Without you, the many, many lives, families and communities would not have been touched, would not have experienced the Good News of God in Venezuela and Mexico.  So, we thank you again and again for all you have done.

            We also write to let you know that at the end of this year we will transition from being full-time Cross-Cultural Workers (missionaries) to being Mission Affiliates.  This means two things specifically: 1) We will maintain our connection to The Mission Society and will continue living and ministering among Latin Americans—both here in the US and abroad; and 2) because of this new classification and God’s provision, we will no longer receive our salary and support through The Mission Society after December of this year.  We will maintain our account with The Mission Society where will be able to receive tax-deductable gifts should you wish to help with a particular project we tell you about or a short term mission trip (we have invitations for 2012 to Mexico, Venezuela and Honduras to teach and train church leaders!); however, we will no longer depend on the generous giving you have bestowed upon us to provide for our day-to-day living over the last seven years.

            Our “tent-maker” ministry will continue…even though we do not know exactly what shape it will all take.  While I teach at a local college on this side, we will continue to work with the schools in Monterrey—El Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley and El Instituto Laurens.  We are also connecting with people and groups here in the Rio Grande Valley…and look forward to developing points of ministry here.  And, as always, no matter what we do, no matter where we are, we strive—as you do—to simply live out the Good News of God through acts of love and mercy towards those around us.   As we go forward in this new phase of life and ministry, we hope you will continue to pray for us and know that we will remain in touch for the years to come.

            We cannot say enough how grateful we are for all you have done with us, for us and through us in the last seven years.  We cannot know how many lives have been forever changed because YOU were faithful in giving as God moved you to give.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  And, may the Lord bless you—as much and many times over—as you have blessed the lives of so many others.  

God is good…all the time!

Jon and Jeanne Herrin…Jesse, Andrew and Megan (the J.A.M.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Books, Books and Books!!!

Back when we put out the request for books for El Instituto Laurens, the church-related school where both of us were teaching, we had no idea how things would turn out.  All we knew was that there were no reading books for the students in the elementary grades (in fact, still are none for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers!).  And, we knew from our own teaching experience that reading is so very important for both gaining knowledge and for school success.

Why did we ask you for books??  In Mexico (as in most Latin American countries), books are on average twice the price as books in the US...and children's books can be three to four times the price.  Basically, books are a luxury item that most Mexicans simply can't touch.  We figured that you all might be like many of us Americans with more than enough books to spare...or at least able to pick them up at yard-sales or on clearance sales. 

So, we sent out the word...and you responded.  Families--like the Koughs, the Chambliss, the Watkins, the Dillards--and churches in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas--like Coosa, Marietta First, St. Philips, Gainesville First, Antioch, Woodlawn, Bethel--all these and more responded by sending boxes of love deftly disguised as boxes of books.  The result??  Over 2,000 books for the Kindergarten through 6th grade students at El Instituto Laurens in Monterrey.  See for yourself:

Little ones with their first books!
Even the teacher is enthralled! 
Reading to the students...something that never happened before....
Mrs. Andrea Grimaldo, who coordinates this whole reading program.
Look!!  Books!!!
Ms. Rosalva, one of Jon's former students, reading to the children.

So, you can see that these books are already winning the hearts and minds of these young people.  Thankfully, you have sent ALL kinds of reading for these children--classics, new readers, Christian literature and Bibles.  We hope that as these young people grow in knowledge and academic skills that they will also find the faith woven into the fabric of the school curriculum.

None of this would not have happened without your giving--THANK YOU ALL for your gifts.  You are impacting more lives than you can imagine.  Also, none of this would have come about without the support and interest of the school administration, especially that of the school English coordinator, Mrs. Andrea Grimaldo.  She and the administration have asked us to pass on their greatest thanksgiving for all you have done to impact the school and the lives of these students.

If you would like to continue to send books, we will be happy to take them down.  Mrs. Grimaldo is talking now about actually having a library for students to come to for reading materials.  And, she hopes to see reading corners incorporated into all the classrooms--middle school and high school.  If you want to send books for any or all of this, just mail them our way!  (E-mail us or respond in the comments for more information.)

Again, thank you all...and may God bless you all as you bless the lives of others! 

The Herrins...
Living on the Edge
October 2011

Missions… or the Mission?

Recently, a good friend and I were chatting about church, missionaries and missional things, and she asked me, “Could you write something about missions for me? It seems that there’s a new “generation” of leadership at our church, and they just don’t get it.” So, I write this in part to fulfill my friend’s wish…and in part to remind myself what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

One of the great effects of our Western mind-set or way of thinking has been the “compartmentalization” of so many aspects of life including the life of faith, the Christian life, the life of the Church. We have effectively made “missions” one of the committees of the church, one of the things that’s included in our budget, or one of the annual emphases of the church calendar. I was about to write, “If one undertakes a careful study of Scripture…,” when I realized that all one really needs to do is to make a rather cursory review of Scripture to see the truth of the matter.

If we were ask regular church goers and Christians (they’re not the same, you know!) to list the most important Scripture passages, I can almost guarantee you that John 3:16 would top the list (and so it should since it captures the essence of God’s Good News—the Gospel—God’s amazing love for us), and another passage that would be on that top-10 list would probably be Matt.28:19, 20.

Matthew 28:19,20 (well, better if we throw in vs. 18 as well!) relates some of those last, most important words of Jesus: And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (NRSV).

Now, we need to recognize and recall that Jesus didn’t call the ‘missions sub-committee’ to the side to give them these words. He didn’t announce that this was ‘missions emphasis Sunday’. Rather, Jesus left these as His parting words with all the disciples gathered there. These words seem to set the direction for the newly formed Church. Therefore, we recognize that we don’t do missions as part of the Church; rather, God’s Church is called to join in God’s mission to the world! ‘Missions’ isn’t something we do or participate in from time to time—the Mission of God is our very reason for being.

We are called, as God’s Church, to “Go…and make disciples of all nations….” So, we can’t just focus on living the Good News at home. Luke also records some of Jesus’ final words in Acts 1:8: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (NRSV). The Scriptures here make it clear that we’re to be involved in God’s mission—here, there and everywhere.

So, missions is why we exist. Missions defines the church. In fact, Scripturally we can say that a church not involved in God’s mission is not being the Church! Does that mean that everyone in the church has to be a missionary?? Not in the traditional sense of packing it all up and running off to some dark corner of the earth, no. But in a very real sense, yes! One pastor I heard recently reminded me that everyone who is on a mission is a missionary. And, if we have bought into the Christian faith, if we have decided to follow Jesus, if we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we all have a mission…and that mission is to share and live out the Good News, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ.

Some will remain in Jerusalem and some are going to go from Jerusalem on to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. For the Church to be the Church, we must have those who are the feet that travel wherever God is leading; we must have those who are the hands that provide for those who are going; and, we must have the knees of those who are lifting up the mission of God in prayer. In one instance, I may be feet going…in another, I may be hands extended to support one who is going where I cannot…and in yet another, I may be the one on my knees praying for the one who has stepped out in faith.

‘Missions’ is really a misnomer for the Mission of God. God calls us to go, to share the Gospel, and we go because God calls us to it and because our own lives have been impacted and changed by that Gospel—that grace and love that God has imparted to us. A speaker I heard recently affirmed, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, changes lifestyles, changes communities, and changes cultures.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something so incredible, so impactful? Let us—the Church—renew our commitment to our gracious God, to Jesus who saves us, and to being a part of God’s Mission to the world through the power of God’s Spirit. Amen.