Guatemala Outreach

John and Rita Pappa

One of the greatest joys of working in Guatemala was reconnecting with our dear friends John and Rita Pappa of Teams Commissioned For Christ International. We first met John and Rita over 30 years ago when we were brand new Christians, trying to rebuild a life together. With generous hearts they welcomed, loved, nurtured and discipled us. The Lord used this wonderful couple to lay the foundation that He has built upon all these years. As you can tell, we love the Pappa’s. They have been serving in Guatemala for the last 18 years with amazing zeal and passion. To actually work together all these years later was a blessing that words cannot capture.

Pastors and Leaders at Joyobaj

Guatemala is a beautiful yet rugged country. The crime rate causes the need for continual vigilance. John and Rita do have some stories to tell! But our work with them was far out of the City and up in the mountains. We were at elevations of around 8000 feet. The Pappa’s work with the indigenous mountain people of Mayan descent. We were invited to teach village pastors on the topic: The Father Heart of God. Due to the culture, training and a number of factors the idea of a personal, intimate and loving relationship with our Father is a very foreign thought to the pastors and village churches. The result causes a gospel that is pretty dry, heavy on legalism and with little depth or maturity. Our goal was that the pastors would not only learn something new – but experience something new! And for the pastors to take their new insights and experiences to their village churches. We believe that indeed the Lord opened a number of hearts to know and experience the Lord in a new way. The first stop was in the village of Joyobaj. We spent two days teaching 18 pastors and church leaders. The nights were spent sleeping on the church floor, there were no showers and one “toilet” for all of us. But the joy of spending time with these wonderful and humble servants far outweighed any discomfort. It was a privilege to learn from one another.

Tuk Tuk Taxi

We also ministered in Nabaj, situated in the mountains 8,200 feet above sea level. There were many similarities between these beautiful mountain people and the Hill Tribe people of Thailand. In many ways it felt familiar. As in Thailand they even use the three wheel motor cycle taxi known as Tuk Tuk’s. Also, the indigenous women wear tribal clothing and men and women sit on opposite sides of the church.

Nabaj Pastors

Pastors, representing 16 different churches attended the conference, traveling by motorcycles and buses, sometimes for hours. In the final photo you see Edgar, our amazing 14 year old translator. Edgar was a great sport and in the photo he is tied to me in a demonstration of the heart embittering effect of carrying “unforgiveness”.

The Lord genuinely blessed our time with the pastors. We believe that the Holy Spirit opened their eyes to see the Heart of the Father like never before. We also believe, because of the feedback we received, that many pastors were able to forgive those who had wounded their souls. We believe that a number were set free from bitterness that was poisoning their hearts and casting a shadow over their lives and ministry. Our hearts were deeply moved when the Presbyter, responsible for the pastors who were attending, said “what you have heard is truth, it is good, take this message to your churches!”

Breaking Free From Unforgiveness

Only the Lord knows what actually occurs in the heart of a person. We believe He was faithful to reveal Himself to the heart of His servants.

Rita and Patty with Indigenous Woman

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The Italian Job and The French Connection

The Italian Job Update

Ah Italy!  The very name awakens ideas of travel, wonderful food and beautiful people.  And I totally agree that Italy is a place of beauty, rich history, amazing foods and interesting people.  BUT, it is also wrapped in spiritual darkness and is a very tough mission field.

Belgium Family, Missionaries to Italy along with Luke and Dawn of ACCI

Italy is steeped in both; an often-empty traditional religion as well as the occult. Only about 0.4% to 1.2% of the population consider themselves as ‘born again’ Christians.  In addition to that, one Italian mission’s leader, with sad humor, told us the Christian church in Italy is small and well divided!”  We are told that most missionaries do not return after their first term.  Italy has been dubbed “the missionary graveyard”.

Why so tough? First, as mentioned above, most hold to religious traditions versus a life changing personal relationship with the Lord.The need for a genuine, intimate relationship with God, that we are all born with, has been replaced by a mediocre attachment to empty rituals and traditions.

Operations Mobilization Unfinished Outreach Center

Italy is also a hot-bed for the occult and dark spiritual practices. This occurs primarily in the northern regions where we were. Added to that; the Christian church is small and divided.  Pride, jealousy and divisive factions keep the church inward, weak, ineffective and a poor representation of heart of the Savior.  This is not all churches of course, there are some wonderful churches doing a great job, but the local missionaries tell me they are few.

Patty worshiping in a cave where early Christians were martyred

I also can’t help but wonder, if another factor might be, that the missionaries in Italy and other European nations are less supported.  I heard no complaints from the missionaries by the way, but the truth is prayer support, financial support and encouraging words are often the result of hearts being touched by visual needs. Photographs of needy children and rustic villages awaken our compassion, while thoughts of European nations are less apt to do so.   Yet the heart of the Father longs to make Himself known to the hearts and souls of those who live in spiritual and relational poverty.  Something to think about, eh?

Over the mountains lies France

Those on the front line. We had the privilege of connecting with a number of missionaries and the leaders of a healthy local church.  Operations Mobilization (OM) and Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives (ACCI) are two mission’s organizations that we connected with.  Both are doing a wonderful work in Italy.  We were able to teach, brainstorm with leaders, provide some counseling and pastoral care and get a good taste of the heart and direction of the ministry.  Both groups based in Italy are relatively small in numbers but big in heart and vision.  We are talking with both organizations about the possibility of S2S connecting with them in the area of staff training and development, pastoral care and more.  This would require more travel and ongoing periods of time in Italy.  We shall see how the Lord leads.

The French Connection

Right: Missionaries to France. Center is Pierrette, our kind host and prayer warrior

Our time in France was quick and full.  It involved ministry to the hurting, encouraging some missionaries as well as meeting some wonderful stout-hearted believers.  France is truly secular and hardened to the Gospel.  Those who share the truth there need our prayers!

A Thought about America? I could not help but wonder, as Iexperienced post-Christian Europe, if I was seeing the future of America?

 

A special blessing was meeting with Patty Wolf, our good friend and a fellow missionary to Thailand.

The trends and pressures of our culture seem to be driving our country in the same direction: Secular, morally bankrupt and spiritually dark and empty. I am aware of no greater time for the believers in America to lovingly let their Light shine and their Salt bring flavor.

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The Aussie Outreach


Bathurst, Australia Our work first took us to the city of Bathurst.  We connected with our good friends and former S2S staff Jeff and Rowena Lloyd.  Jeff and Rowena planted a C3 Church in Bathurst a few years ago.  Their vision is to reach this rural community for the Lord and see lives transformed.  Our ministry activities in Bathurst included leading at a marriage group, providing leadership training, pastoral care, teaching and more.

Unity!  Jeff’s vision is a citywide vision for the people of Bathurst.  Jeff and some local pastors have been meeting in order to build relationships and find mutual encouragement.  We all know that the prayer of Jesus for unity among His bride is one that has not been fully answered, but the desire is growing.

The pastors invited us to provide a mini-retreat for themselves and their wives.  The goal was to bless marriages and build relationships between the families.  Pastors and their wives from several denominations attended.  Around the evening meal, following the questions we provided, fun stories from the marriages and families were shared.  Laughter was lively, guards were dropped and common ground was discovered.

During the course of the retreat a greater measure of trust was established.  Both the joys and the hardships of ministry were shared.  Tears began to flow and hearts were exposed.  Something changed, something shifted.  It was a step, a small step perhaps, but through the prayers of Jeff and others the Lord’s grace connected brothers and sisters at a deeper level.

Tasmania!  The beautiful island of Tasmaniawas formally our home for four years.  And in many ways, it still feels like home.

Phil's Shortcut

Again, we had the privilege of providing ministry in a number of settings; from ministering in a prison to pastoral care for those going through difficult seasons, formal times of teaching and informal ministry encounters that were clearly ordained by the Lord.

Directions Tasmania

Phil and Anne Harback

We also had the privilege of working with my good friend Phil Harback.  Phil’s passion is that Aussie men to be encouraged, empowered and enabled to fulfill their vital roles as husbands and fathers, as well as impact their communities.  His organization, Directions Tasmania is doing just that.  We were able to teach and encourage the men as well as speak to a special gathering of the men and the wives.  It was a joy to contribute to the good work that Phil and his staff are providing for the men and ultimately the families of Tasmania.

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Our New Look!

Shoulder to Shoulder Ministries Webpage has changed addresses and has a new look! We will be able to keep you updated with our current activities and whereabouts as we travel and minister in various places.

S2S provides training, development and encouragement to a growing number of missionaries and ministries worldwide. Through the vehicles of Training Seminars, Retreats, Small Groups, Pastoral Care and Counseling, missionaries, pastors and others are encouraged and prepared to meet the weighty demands of their work.  The goal is that marriages are strengthened, family priorities are clarified, and skills are sharpened, all lending to the longevity, health, and success of the missionary or ministry calling.

Karen Pastor's Conference Near Burma Border

Recently Ray taught a group of Karen Pastors near the Thai/Burma border. Four of the pastors live and minister in a sprawling  camp of 50,000 refugees. Many of the refugees have lived in the camp for 20+ years. It is an environment with little hope but hearts are open to find new life in Jesus.

Ray and Hsar Moo Paw Teaching Karen Pastors

We are heading to Australia in one week for an exciting time of ministry and we will keep you posted!

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