Express Grace: Serving through community development
Sunday, January 15th, we will celebrate the expression of God’s grace through Community Development and missions. Paul Kooistra, Director for Mission to the World, will be preaching at all three services on grace as our motivation for missions.
From Genesis 3 forward, God has been about the work of restoring men and women to himself, and restoring creation to its rightful order. Mission to the World (MTW) seeks to participate in God’s work of restoration—equipping and sending missionaries to serve in countless capacities around the globe. These include (but are not limited to) church planting, indigenous leadership development, college campus ministry, street child ministry, and disaster relief. In the last few years, MTW has chosen to focus primarily on church planting.
Church planting naturally requires indigenous leadership development, and the inherent relationships within a local church usually lead to more effective, long-term evangelism and discipleship. As indigenous leaders come to know the love of Christ, they share this love with their friends and family, and so the church grows one relationship at a time. Believers, in these local churches, are uniquely aware of cultural expectations and history, and as such are uniquely equipped to address issues in their own community such as education reform, material poverty, or injustice with the love and compassion of Christ. This does not mean that MTW only supports church planting ministries. However, MTW is careful that all of her ministries support the local churches—ensuring that each ministry demonstrates and declares God’s love through Christ Jesus, and draws people into relationships with God and with God’s people in the local church. It is important to note that not all of the ministries represented at our conference are affiliated with MTW, in fact two are local ministries in Huntsville. However, each ministry shares a similar passion for God’s restorative work through the local church, whether their ministry is church planting directly, or supporting the local church through ministries of mercy and service.
We have asked a few partners to share with us what God is doing in and through their ministry. We encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunity to hear from them! Southwood has the privilege of supporting a number of ministries and missionaries, not all of which will be represented at our conference in January. Our hope is that this weekend encourages each of us to rejoice in what God is doing in a few, specific places and then consider how He might be uniquely calling each of us to participate in His work of restoration.
How can you participate in this special weekend? First, you can pray for God’s blessing on our missionaries as they travel, and ask that God would speak through them and soften our hearts to hear His message. Secondly, you can join us for brunch at 10:00am Saturday, January 14th at the Lodge. Paul Koistra will speak specifically on MTW’s work, and our missionary representatives are looking forward to sharing a meal with those who are able to come. RSVP to the Community Development Department for this event, as we want to make sure we have enough food! Thirdly, you can attend our Sunday Seminars to hear more in-depth from one ministry partner. In this session, you will hear more about what God is doing through a particular ministry, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions and interact on a more personal basis. Exact classroom information will be forthcoming.
Please read the following biographies sent from our missionaries and pray specifically for each ministry and family. Pray that God will bless them uniquely this Christmas as they share the love of our incarnate Savior with their communities. Ask that God would encourage and strengthen them as they are away from family and friends during this time. Thank God that He has sent these partners to the field, and ask Him to continue raising up laborers for the harvest!
Andres and Ruth Garza
(Northern Mexico Church Planting Network/ MTW - Monterrey, Mexico)
Andres is a ruling elder in the National Presbyterian Church in Mexico and is an architect with a master’s degree in Urban Planning. Andres worked as a city planner over 12 years, until God called him to work full time as the coordinator of the Church Planting Movement in Northern Mexico. As the church planting movement grew quickly, he and others realized that leaders and pastors needed better training. He and his family decided to come to RTS Charlotte to earn a masters degree of divinity. He is now back in Monterrey, Mexico serving as the team leader for MTW in the Church Planting Movement and the establishment of a new Theological and Church Planting Institute. He is leading the efforts of nationals and MTW missionaries to plant churches in the 27 largest cities in Northern Mexico. Ruth Garza is also an architect and city planner. Along side Andres, she participated as a part of the core group of a new church in Monterrey. During their time in the United States, Ruth received a diploma in Christian counseling for women, and upon their return to Monterrey she developed the “church planter’s wives” ministry in Northern Mexico. The Garzas have two daughters: Lissete and Priscila.
Keith and Ruth Powlison (MTW church planting - Cusco, Peru)
Keith and Ruth Powlison met at Columbia Bible College and were married in 1978. Ruth, a pastor’s daughter, had dreamed of joining her Aunt Josephine in Brazil to help with her orphanage. Keith, a missionary kid from Peru, planned on returning to Peru as a career missionary. After a short term stint in Mexico and 11 years in Ecuador with a church planting team, the Powlisons arrived in Cusco, Peru. There, the Lord has allowed them to see many of their plans and dreams realized. Keith has been involved primarily with church planting through leadership development among the Quechuas. Southwood is specifically involved in supporting the Santo Tomas church plant. Ruth has founded a home for abandoned and orphaned babies called the Josephine House. The Powlison’s have three children: Ellie, Brian, and Emma.
Rev. Saji and Moni Lukos (RIMI church planting - India and Chicago)
Rev. Saji Lukos was born in Kerala, South India. He grew up without any meaning or purpose in his life. After receiving Christ at age 20, he was persecuted and disowned by his family. However, God used Saji to bring all seven siblings and his parents to the faith. Today, all of them serve Christ in various places of India. In 1988 Saji taught business for eight years in India before immigrating to New York to live out the American dream and to support his family. However, God set Saji apart for full-time ministry. After receiving a Master of Divinity in Missions at Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, Saji founded Reaching Indians Ministries International in the USA and Mission India in India, to reach Indians in India and worldwide for Christ. Under his leadership, RIMI has grown to more than 1,300 church planters with over 5,600 house churches in 26 states, 27 Bible Training Centers in various languages, a leading seminary (Mission India Theological Seminary) in Nagpur which serves over 400 students per year and 18 Mercy Homes serving over 400 children. Saji and his wife Moni live in Round Lake Beach, IL with their only daughter, Maryann, who started her freshman year at Trinity International University in the fall.
Bill McDowell (Executive Director of Second Mile Development - Huntsville, AL)
Bill McDowell, a graduate of the University of Alabama, worked one year as a probation investigator for the state of Alabama before working with Youth for Christ in 1976. In 1986, Bill and a group of men began the ministry of Second Mile Development to the Terry Heights community. Second Mile Development’s mission is to bring about the reconciliation of people to God through Jesus Christ and of people to people through Jesus Christ. Second Mile Development involves churches, agencies, families and individuals in working together toward economic betterment, physical health, psychological wellbeing and spiritual commitment. Second Mile works toward this mission through the Second Mile Preschool, Pride for Parents (the Neighborhood Store), the Baby Thrift Store, Parent Parties, and support for the Terry Heights Neighborhood association. Bill is an active Elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church and Board Member for Neighborhood Concepts.
Bill was married to Mary over 33 years ago and they have two married children: Jonathan and Anna.
Mark Stearns (Director of Lincoln Village Ministries - Huntsville, AL)
The history of Lincoln Village begins by the railroad tracks, where in 2002 God began burdening Mark’s heart for the Lincoln Village community. At that time, every sound of the train whistle made Mark’s heart hurt. Since that time, Mark feels blessed to have seen the children of God come together and fight for the Kingdom with one mind and purpose so that we may “learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan and plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17). Mark and his wife Connie currently live in Huntsville, Alabama, their home for nearly 20 years of their 33 year marriage. They have 3 grown children (Anna, Nathanial and Daniel), a grandson and another on the way. Mark began working in the ministry with Young Life, in 1976. From there he worked with Harvest Ministries, and finally Lincoln Village. Today Lincoln Village Ministries has a staff of 13 people who work in the elementary school, the neighborhood and the after-school program known as the Linc. Much work remains to be done in the Village and the battle will be tough. But Mark says, with a certain peace, that “now, when I hear that train whistle blow at night from my house I get excited, because I know that there are people from different churches, cities and states working together for one purpose, and that is to love the people, making life a better place to live—living out the gospel in a way that makes Christ real and present.”
Seth and Jessica Lewis (Crossworld church planting - Youghal, Republic of Ireland)
Seth and Jessica Lewis work alongside churches in southern Ireland to see new communities of faith established in areas where there is no gospel witness. Currently, they work with a new church plant in the coastal town of Youghal (pronounced “y’all”), discipling new believers and assisting in outreach to the town and the many surrounding villages and towns. Seth grew up in Huntsville, at Southwood, and he had some of his first ministry opportunities here before going to seminary, meeting Jessica, and heading across the pond. Seth and Jessica have two young children: Daniel and David.