Greetings from beautiful Morelia Mexico!
It's a cool but sunny morning. We have been busy with small groups of classes, staff Bible study and outreach to our community.
We continue to give away food bags every month in different areas in and around Morelia. And we continue to have our "Heart to Heart support a child program. We are also starting up a new ministry to give school scholarships to young people who have faithfully participated at the Victory Center. These young people would not be able to continue studying without some financial help. And we are opening up a short term loan ministry to families who have had to close or reduce their family business as a result of the pandemic.
This is Liz. She's been a participant of the Victory Center ministry since she was just a little girl. She's now going into 9th grade. She is compassionate, joyous and a gifted leader.
Yesterday as I drove her and another youth up to our leadership camp Liz shared some of her heart with me. She said, "Susan, can I tell you something? I'm scared that I don't know how to socialize anymore. I don't know what to say to people. I used to be outgoing but now I feel very stressed when I'm around people. I've been closed up in my house for so long." So many young people are overwhelmed with interacting with others after not having much contact with people during the pandemic. I thanked her and encouraged her for taking this step to be interactive even when it stresses her a bit.
A little while later Liz said, "Susan, can I ask you something? Why am I here and not some of the more "popular" girls. I expected to see so and so here or this other girl but they're not here and I am. Why is that?"
I was surprised to hear the insecurity in her voice and to realize that she was struggling to see her own potential. I shared with her that we had made a list of the people we thought might be invited to this training and then we began to pray and ask God who He would have come. I told her that she was chosen to come because of her loving heart and openness to God. And I told her that God knew what she needed, when she needed it. She was surprised that God would choose her.
Our leadership camp theme is: Who is God and who am I? Liz is one of six young people at camp this week learning just who God is as their creator, father, friend and savior. And learning who they are in Jesus. What a perfect topic for young people who are struggling with their Identity after being isolated for so many months. God knows what we need, He knows when we need it.
Dear Praying Friends,
We continue to be amazed at how God is working in spite of pandemic limitations. As you probably know, the coronavirus is still raging in many parts of Latin America and Brazil is no exception. Schools are mostly closed. Social distancing and mask wearing are still required. YET we continue to be blessed with many opportunities for ministry.
Building Relationships During Lockdown
Being stuck at home has had its advantages since we've been able to build friendships with several of the workers in our apartment building. Dan asked permission from our building manager, to meet with them for a weekly devotional and prayer time. Sidney not only gave permission, but gave us the use of the large, airy living room that is part of the building’s shared public space. He, himself, attends these weekly meetings along with three custodians and an elderly resident. It brings us great joy to introduce these friends to God’s Word, especially to those who have never read it before. Dan started a study on Ruth recently and Eliza is asking many questions. Her sister’s cleaning lady “just happens” to be a Christian and heard about Eliza’s new-found interest; she promptly gave her a book to help her understand what she is learning. We praise God for how He is drawing these dear friends to Himself.
FM Seminary Continues to Expand
We have written before about how our seminary enrollment has grown during the pandemic. Hope just completed another module of Theology of John Wesley and was thrilled with the number of students (over fifty of them) and their desire to grow in knowledge and faith. One student wrote at the end of the semester: “You’ll never know how gratifying it was to be in this class. Studying Wesley’s sermons drew me closer to Christ. Every assignment spoke to my heart.” Music to a teacher’s ears! Please click here to read more stories of our record-breaking year at the Free Methodist seminary.
One of the teachers is Free Methodist pastor, Marlon Marques, who is a gifted writer and speaker. He has published several books about Wesleyan theology and recently received a scholarship to study in a masters program at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. The classes will be online and in English so please pray for him to have good understanding. Ask the Lord to use Marlon to strengthen the Church through his speaking and writing.
So Much to Be Thankful For!
In addition to acting as academic coordinator at the FM seminary, Dan continues to teach and preach. Hope is thrilled to be teaching inductive Bible study and is also involved in developing a Sunday school curriculum that will be used in Free Methodist churches throughout Latin American.
Thank you for your prayers and sacrificial giving that make all this possible.
For His glory and our joy,
Hope & Dan
Click here to read the most recent from Sue Leak:
Each month we learn of more and more people with great need for a little extra help. We continue to give out food boxes in various ministry areas. Sometimes receiving food is a blessing and a challenge. So many people need the support but struggle with the idea of receiving "charity".
It has been our joy to remind these people that this food does not come from a person nor an organization but rather from our loving God who touched many hearts to send donations because He wants them to know that He is there for them. That He, the Lord God almighty loves them and sees their challenges.
As we share, many of them have opened up and shared with us their problems and heart heaviness. It is a privilege to be able to listen, share and pray.
For many years I had a very special woman support me in the ministry of the Victory Center. Fatima was the cook at the Victory Center during the time that we worked as a girls home for street girls.
After several years she had a chance to make the long trip to visit us. Some of the girls and their families came by to spend some time with us. It was so wonderful to see them all. (Shortly after visiting us, Fatima was diagnosed with breast cancer. Please keep her in your prayers)
My dear friends Miguel and Fabi have been called to the mission field right here in Mexico. They have moved to an area about five hours away where they are helping out in a country church leading praise and worship, youth group and helping out at an outlying church mission in an area overrun by drug traffickers.
We miss them so much but at the same time we are excited for them as they step out in faith to live a new life adventure.
Both Erika and I have started offering individual classes (in a socially distanced and safe way) to kids that are in one way or another struggling with online classes. As time goes by they're getting the hang of it but boy has it been difficult to learn all the ins and outs of studying online.
Many of our families do not have the finances to be able to pay for internet. That means that their child just receives a text message once a week with assignments for them to do before the end of the week. Without a clear explanation of these assignments, the kids are really lost, frustrated and overwhelmed. We are doing our best to help them advance in their classes. This is no small feat as we seem to be almost as confused as they are on how the system should work.
My dear friends, you are often in my prayers. I know that many of you have been strongly affected by the pandemic in one way or another. I pray for you to be encouraged in heart, to know God's provision in your lives and to experience the presence of the Lord in these difficult times.
** Continued financial provision for food for the poor.
(give here: https://uwm.org/projects/65498/ )
** Healing for Fatima and for the Doctors to have wisdom.
** That I would know how to best help the people we serve.
May your day be rich in the knowledge of God's tremendous love for you.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, I thought that it would last just a couple of weeks. But then our shelter in place time stretched on and as it stretched on, I talked to more and more people who were struggling just to have something to eat everyday.
My heart broke when one family connected to the Victory Center told me that they had been walking up the mountain to cut wild grass to boil so that they had something to fill their stomachs. I knew I had to do something. I started out small just picking up basic food items (when I could find them in the stores) and preparing food boxes to take to dear friends. These friends then directed me to other people who were in desperate need of rice, beans, milk, eggs, etc.
I prayerfully considered how we could get food to a larger group of people. And then I shared in a newsletter that we were taking donations for our benevolence fund. Through your generous donations we were able to give away hundreds of food boxes. Some to the families connected to the Victory Center, others to people connected to our local church Vida Eterna and still others in the Indigenous areas up the mountain from Morelia.
As we handed out food boxes, several people were so touched to experience God's loving care for them that they prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
How the Victory Center is affected by the pandemic:
Mexico has made the difficult decision to not return to classes this school year. As an educational support organization, the Victory Center will not have any school help or tutoring classes until next fall. But we are prayerfully considering how we can still have contact with our students and minister to them and their families.
Each year we do a summer vacation bible school the first week of August. Please pray with us for wisdom on whether it is something we should do this year and if we were to do it, how we can safely do so.
At the time of this mailing our state of Michoacan is just starting to open up after a long 2 and a half months of quarantine. Though we have not been a hot spot for the Corona virus, our number of cases has not yet stopped raising.
That we would know how to move forward in ministry during these changing times.
Please pray for our staff and their families.
For continued funding as people everywhere are faced with more limited income.
Good health and safety.
The amazing response to the Victory Center benevolence fund.
Several people who received food boxes also received Jesus as their Savior.
Donations: uwm.org and click on GIVE
This is my friend Jonathan. His story is one of perseverance and hope. Jonathan was unjustly accused of a crime and sent to prison. He was working on a special police force where he refused to take bribes or falsify reports. One day he was sent to a police outpost in a smaller city not too far from Morelia. It was just supposed to be for the weekend. In the middle of the night, as is common here, an army support group stopped by the outpost and dropped off a prisoner. Just a few minutes later a large patrol of drug traffickers surrounded the outpost and demanded the release of the prisoner. The army now gone and Jonathan there alone with just two other men, had to make a difficult decision. Release the prisoner or risk their own lives. They chose to release the prisoner to prevent a violent overtaking.
For this they were all arrested, sentence and jailed. Jonathan lived in the worst of conditions for almost eleven years. His faith was tested over and over again. And yet he stood firm trusting that God was at work even when it seem impossible that a loving God would allow such hardship in his life. His wife, Carol, stayed with him through the whole ordeal and is praising God to finally have him free and home. I had the privilege to be at their church wedding where they renewed their vows to one another. They have such an amazing testimony of love, joy and hope.
Praising God that Miguel who went to Spain where he spent almost three weeks ministering, evangelizing, teaching and encouraging. He is the worship leader at my church here in Mexico and he has dreamed of serving as a missionary. Over the years Miguel has served with all his heart. Though he couldn't imagine how it would come about Miguel persevered in his hope to minister in Spain. His faithfulness was rewarded. He and his traveling companions returned home to Mexico safe and healthy just days before Spain closed their borders. Miguel says that it was a "life changing experience".
In these difficult times of Covid-19 it is important for us to remember that there is hope. The virus is affecting us all--emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually. What a different world....freedoms limited, economy struggling, education closed down, jobs lost and many seeking the face of the One True God. My prayer for you is that you will stand firm and strong on the truths and promises of God. His word says "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
We have set up a special benevolence fund with United World Mission to help the families that we work with. Many of them live day to day and will not have money to feed their families. This fund will not have any administrative fee and 100% of the funds will go towards supporting these family’s needs. If you are able to give please click on the following link. We thank you so much for your generosity and prayers.
Victory Center COVID Relief - 65498.
Dear Praying Friends,
We arrived back in Brazil a month ago and have been getting settled little by little. It has been a joy to be involved in several conference-wide events and to reconnect with ministry colleagues. We praise Him that after several weeks of looking, we have finally moved into our apartment. Hope wrote about the stress (and benefit) of waiting here.
Mardi Gras Youth Camp
Last weekend we attended a camp with 85 pre-teens. We were asked to encourage and instruct the camp staff through daily Bible studies. It was a privilege to work with so many youth and adults who are pouring out their lives for the Lord.
Pray for the continued growth for the campers who gave their lives to Christ.
Seminary in the Spotlight
Two weekends ago Dan was invited to speak at the commencement of our Free Methodist seminary. We loved hearing student stories of how God used their classes to spur them on to deeper faith. Pray for the Lord's continued leading in their lives.
Dan and Hope are meeting with FM church leaders about upcoming changes in our seminary curriculum. Pray that we'll have godly wisdom in implementing these changes.
Thank you for partnering with us!
We are thrilled to be back in Brazil and look forward to all the Lord has in store for us. Thank you for your love, prayers and giving that keep us going. If you would like to contribute toward our missionary support, you can do so at this link.
For His glory and our joy,
Dan and Hope
Greetings my dear friends,
It has been a great couple of months. It seems like the Lord continues to open more and more doors for us to serve the community here at the Victory Center.
After several years of waiting and prayerful consideration we have started our adult English classes. We presently have three English classes. Two for High Schoolers who had aged out of our program. And one for parents of kids who are in our program. It has been one of the highlights of my fall semester. What a joy to get to know more about the families we serve and spend time with the parents of kids that I have known for years.
We also did our first VICTRIFEST which was a type of “school” carnival/fundraiser. It was a lot of work but we really enjoyed it and the kids seemed to have a great time too. (We plan to do this annually)
Praises: Adult classes are going well and that our sponsor a child program is growing.
Prayer: To know how many kids to accept in January classes and for continued financial support.
I thank you from the depths of my heart for your care and concern for my life.
Blessings, Sue Leak
Wishing you and yours a
Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Morelia, Mexico September 2019
I hope that this note finds you well. I have had a full summer with summer classes for the kids, VBS and short term teams. I also made a quick trip to Michigan to visit with family and friends.
But today I wanted to share with you about how the Victory Center has impacted the life of one of my former students. Fredi came to the Victory Center for English classes 8 or 9 years ago. He is bright and enjoyed learning a new language. He aged out of the program as he went on to High School to study a technical track for auto mechanics.
Later he worked as an apprentice learning from more experienced men while also buying his own tools in the hopes of starting his own mechanic shop some day. At the end of 2018 Fredi came to me frustrated with his present job but also very sad because someone had broken into his house and stolen most of the tools he had bought over time.
I felt led by the Lord to offer Fredi a loan to get what he needed to start up his own business. Though excited about the possibility he was also very nervous about stepping out in faith to open his own shop. But he did do just that, in the first week in June Fredi opened a mechanic shop not too far from the Victory Center.
One of the main conditions of the loan that I gave him was that he would in the future take a needy young man under his wing and teach him about auto mechanics. A month after opening his shop, Fredi took on Sergio (another former Victory Center student who had dropped out of school) as his apprentice.
Fredi recently took the time to buy Sergio proper steel toed boots and work gloves to ensure that he was better protected while working on cars. Fredi is learning how to show the love of God to someone who had almost given up on believing in the kindness of other. I love to see how both these young men are growing and maturing.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
Please continue to pray for our 2019-2020 school year. We have about 165 kids daily.
To donate search for Sue Leak on the United World Mission website and follow the instructions. UWM.ORG
In the past, Central sent a team to Brazil and worked with Dan Owsley in Petrolina. See their most recent email update here: The Owsley Chronicles.