September Heartbeat

Obedient to the Call

By Eric Casteel

 

When forced to leave their home in the Congo, many Free Methodists landed in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. The Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania has a population of more than 300,000. In the camp, there are more than 50 FMC churches. When communities were forced to leave Congo, the church held them together. The worship location had changed, but keeping the church at the center of their lives is what helped them persevere.

 

In 2020, Valentin Sikitika, an elder in the Free Methodist Church of the Democratic Republic of Congo, relocated with his family from the refugee camp in Tanzania to Stockholm. Sweden. He chose Sweden as a place to live because, as he said, “We were always taught that Europe was a Christian continent.” In Congo, the church was the center of the community. Valentin says, “When we got here, we realized there weren’t any churches, so we began to pray about how to start a church in the Stockholm area.”

 

Valentin and other leaders began to pray. By 2021 they decided they should start a church and form the Free Methodist Church in Sweden. The FMC of Sweden was launched in the summer of 2021 during the COVID crisis. Area Director Josúe Fajardo and I attended a service that summer in Stockholm where about 50 were in attendance. We spoke with and prayed with their leaders as they shared a five-year plan to plant churches in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

 

In a recent call with the leadership team in Sweden, I learned they recently baptized six people and dedicated eight children in Stockholm and four in Linköping. The church in Stockholm now has more than 90 in regular attendance. Their church-planting efforts have also been blessed, and in the fall of 2021, they launched a second church at Linköping with more than 70 regularly attending.

 

Now they are praying about moving forward with a third church. Leaders continue to step up and follow the call of God. Europe is beginning to reawaken to the gospel’s message through godly people like Valentin Sikitoka, people obedient to the call of kingdom work regardless of their life situation or where God has placed them.

 

Please pray for wisdom as these leaders continue to follow the call to build God’s kingdom.

 

 

 

Bitterness to Forgiveness

By Magaly Mora

 

Can you imagine immigrating from Central America to Europe? Because of growing violence among youth in El Salvador, immigrating to Spain is exactly what Shelvi did. A young woman from El Salvador, Shelvi came to Spain to start a new life and find a safe place for her two children. She came alone, started to work and planned to save money to bring her children from El Salvador as soon as possible. Her beautiful daughter was finishing high school and preparing to go to college, and her son was starting high school.

 

By January 2019, Shelvi had nearly reached the savings she needed for her children to join her in Spain. But on January 21, she received the tragic news that her daughter had been assaulted by a young gang member and had died. The perpetrator was arrested by the police and put in prison. But Shelvi’s pain was unbearable, and she grew bitter toward God.

 

My husband, Camilo, and I met Shelvi at the park in Mar de Cristal – Madrid/ Spain, where we started to plant a new church. We could sense the pain and bitterness in her heart. Still, week after week she  came to listen to the Word of God and receive our love and prayers. Slowly we saw that God was transforming her heart. The process of forgiveness was beginning. One day Shelvi said, “I must forgive him (the young man who killed my daughter) because God forgave me of all my sins.”

 

Shelvi went back to El Salvador in 2021. She visited her daughter’s grave and decided to write a letter to the young man who killed her. The letter was posted in a local newspaper. She wrote to him about the pain he had inflicted on her and told him how she could forgive him because Christ had forgiven her. Shelvi explained that even though the man was in jail, he could experience spiritual freedom and peace in his heart. She asked him to seek the Lord because He is the only One Who can redeem our lives. She explained that only Jesus could give him hope and peace. Shelvi ended her letter with Psalms 139:23-24:

 

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

We know God is working in Shelvi’s life and has a beautiful future for her and her family. Even though she misses her daughter immensely, her face is now full of joy and peace, and her heart is filled with forgiveness that only comes through Jesus.

 

 

 

God’s Plan and Provision

By Gerry McNamara

 

God’s plans and provisions are often like connecting the dots. It begins with me, an international missionary from Ireland serving the Free Methodist Church in Hungary. It was March 2022; a young American woman contacted me. She explained that she had loved ones in Odesa, Ukraine, and they were running out of food because of the war. I followed up by contacting Valera, one of our Free Methodist leaders in Rivne, Ukraine, and asked him for assistance. Valera then contacted his friend Anton, a pastor in Odessa. Valera and Anton met years ago in an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. Both men have been clean for many years and are now serving God. Anton set to work gathering food. During a break from the shelling, he took the food to the family and prayed with them.

 

Anton had arranged for his own family to go to western Ukraine for safety. But Anton stayed on in Odessa to serve.

 

While preparing for my second trip to Ukraine with humanitarian aid, I contacted Anton to see if he needed anything. In the conversation, I discovered that I would be only four miles from where his family was staying. I then learned of some specific needs Anton’s family had.

 

A week later, I went to Ukraine and brought the family medicines, food, money and soft toys for the children. Anton and I have yet to meet, but God used an American woman to contact an Irishman in Hungary to travel with his Australian and Italian team members through Romania into Ukraine to bring help to Anton’s family. Only God can plan and provide in such amazing ways! What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ!

 

World Missions Prayer Calendar: September

01 Thursday | Zimbabwe

Pray for Bishop Isaiah Masiya as he leads the FM Church in Zimbabwe. Ask the Father to give pastors and members continued zeal for evangelism.

02 Friday | Belgium

Pray for affiliate missionary Eric Casteel and his wife, Amy, as they meet weekly with Ukrainian youth now living in Belgium. Ask God to help them provide these youth opportunities for friendship, stability and hope.

03 Saturday | Thailand

Seth and Hlawn Hlawn Van Tifflin returned to Thailand in July. Ask God to expand their influence as they reengage in the local community and with the Thai church.

Birthday: Seth Van Tifflin

04 Sunday | Mexico

Pray for God’s guidance for leaders as Mexico holds its general conference this month.

05 Monday | Egypt

Praise the Lord! In the first five months of 2022, there were nearly 2,000 new believers. Pray for these growing believers.

06 Tuesday | Southeast Asia

Pray for Jason and Wendi’s family as they settle into a new culture, learn a new language and establish new relationships. Ask the Lord to give them grace for the difficult days and encouragement through healthy friendships.

Birthday: Jason

07 Wednesday | Guinea-Conakry

The FM Church in Coyah (Conakry) is renting a space, but they are not allowed to use musical instruments for praise and worship. Pray God will soften the landlord’s heart to allow them more freedom in worship.

08 Thursday | Sweden

Thank the Lord there are now two growing FM churches in Sweden. Join them in prayer as they move forward toward launching a third church.

09 Friday | São Tomé and Príncipe

Praise the Lord for the discipleship and training of national leaders. Pray particularly for Aylton and Fabiela Santos who are being developed for pastoral ministry.

Birthday: Moisés Souza (International Missionary)

10 Saturday | Peru

Pray for wisdom and encouragement as churches engage in ministries to transform individuals, families and communities.

11 Sunday | Jordan

Pray for a growing house church movement among those of the majority religion.

12 Monday | South Africa

Pray the Holy Spirit will give renewed strength, unity and vision to the Free Methodist Church in South Africa. Ask God to expand their territory.

13 Tuesday | Brazil

Praise the Lord for the growth of the FM seminary during the last two years. Hope Owsley has especially enjoyed teaching Theology of John Wesley to students from all over Brazil. Pray these students will continue to grow in godliness and wisdom and will be used to strengthen the church and win lost people to Christ.

Birthday: Hope Owsley

14 Wednesday | Republic of Ireland

Work in the Republic of Ireland is under the U.K. Annual Conference. Pray for the church in Monaghan and Pastor Abwe as they try to reach their community for Christ.

15 Thursday | Creative Access Asia-VN

Give thanks to the Lord for five new elders ordained at the first meeting of this new annual conference. Pray for the continued expansion of God’s kingdom in this country.

16 Friday | ICCM

ICCM ministry in Kenya began in July 1996. Today ICCM has schools serving more than 1,000 children from preschool through grade 8 and the Dr. Buconyori Free Methodist Boys’ High School with 80 boys enrolled. Pray for all the ICCM students in Kenya.

17 Saturday | Nigeria

Praise the Lord for His provision for church construction projects. Two churches have completed roofing projects. Pray for the completion of new work on two more churches.

18 Sunday | Romania

Pray for spiritual receptiveness in the hearts of Romanian people and for new churches to be established.

19 Monday | Creative Access Asia-IA

FMWM-Asia is exploring new partnerships and connections in this country to reestablish work. Ask the Father to give wisdom and discernment to leaders as they find a path forward.

20 Tuesday | Argentina

Pray for missionary Tanya Rosado as she develops a team to assist with the formation of transformational ministries throughout Latin America.

Birthday: Tanya Rosado

21 Wednesday | Middle East

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34). Give thanks today for all God is doing in the Middle East.

22 Thursday | Cameroon

Praise the Lord! The Free Methodist English nursery and primary school scored 100% in the government review of standards. Pray for the schools as they seek to share the love of God by serving children of internally displaced families.

23 Friday | Philippines

The Philippine General Conference has 26 crosscultural workers scattered throughout Asia. Pray for David Clemente as he and Dr. Darrell Whiteman teach Filipino missionaries this month.

24 Saturday | Haiti

Pray for the physical, emotional and spiritual health of church members in Haiti as severe gang violence continues and resources, including food, are often limited.

Birthday: Dee Ann Snyder (VISA)

25 Sunday | Hungary

Pray for the FM fellowships in Hungary as they continue regular ministries and also serve the ongoing influx of Ukrainian refugees into their communities.

26 Monday | Set Free Movement

Freedom Sunday offerings this year include support for church planting and ICCM work in Cambodia and a national Set Free leader to serve Southeast Asia. Ask God to provide abundant resources for these initiatives.

27 Tuesday | FMWM

Ask the Father to give abundant wisdom to Gerry Coates as he seeks to connect the global FMC and the FMC-USA in partnerships for kingdom expansion.

Birthday: Gerry Coates (Director of Global Engagement)

28 Wednesday | Antigua

The Puerto Rico conference opened four new community churches in Antigua at the end of 2021. Pray for the maturity of faith among the believers.

29 Thursday | Asia

Pray for connections and new workers in several additional countries, including Creative Access-BH, Creative Access-MY, Creative Access-TB, New Zealand, Samoa and South Korea.

30 Friday | Creative Access Europe

Michael and Tanya Mendakoff had to leave behind friends, family and ministry when the war in Eastern Europe began earlier this year. Pray for them as they continue to seek the Lord for their next steps.

Birthday: Michael Mendakoff