Coaching: the need for coaches in missional leadership

March 7, 2018 |

“We’ve all been there. We’ve been working so hard to take our ministry to the next level and it is just not going. The frustration we feel at that time can lead to discouragement, and if it’s not dealt with, it will lead to a missionary leaving the field because they feel like they have nothing to offer.”

This is Susan Querfeld, speaking in front of South America Mission’s leadership team and TEAM’s Latin American leadership. She brings up a diagram of roadways and GPS scenarios.

“When the situation on the mission field changes, the goal of the missionary does not need to change. A coach can help a missionary navigate particular pains or hardships to help them figure out a new route to their goal.”

Heads nod throughout the room; there’s an unspoken shared experience. A calling to ministry overseas is often strong and definitive, but there comes a point where what you felt called to do, or the original intention of the ministry, faces an obstacle. Do you climb over it and continue in the same direction? Do you go around it? Do you divert to a new path? Do you succumb to the feeling of insurmountable futility?

Changes in ministry are never easy. They often involve a sense of loss, or an actual loss of partners and fellow coworkers.

Even abrupt or stark differences in expectations upon arrival to a ministry area can leave cross-cultural missions workers in long periods of doubt and frustration.

But what about when ministry becomes “too much”?

“There are often too many good options, too many different ways to get to where we want to go and how do we choose the right route?” Susan asks. “You came to do church planting, but you wound up spending 80% of your time counseling others. The after-school tutoring, the prison ministry, the discipleship–they’re all good things, but no one person can do them all. How do you decide which one you choose?”

This is why, she argues, we need people with coaching mindsets in missions leadership. It is impossible for ministry area leaders to mentor all of the missionaries who report to them.

Learning how to be a coach can lighten the load for leadership by helping their missionaries problem solve and take ownership of their own goals.

“A coach asks questions based on your gifts, passions, or talents. Or a coach helps you discover those things. They will guide you through determining your angle.”

She differentiates a coach from a mentor in that mentors focus on the present; they talk you through what you’re currently experiencing and either reproduce their own habits and mindsets in you, or they give you advice. Susan defines coaching as an effort to help someone self-discover their path. A series of pertinent, critical questions can lead someone directly out of doubt and into discovery.

If we enter the mission field rigidly, believing we have the answer and with a determination to follow our plan without flexibility, we set ourselves up for failure.

There is a need for humility when entering cross-cultural ministry—an acknowledgement that our own culture, customs, and preferences are not superior or perfect, and that the people we serve have their own rich culture. Likewise, there is a need for humility within ourselves, understanding that we don’t have all the answers and that our plans must adapt to remain viable.

This process of transitioning to a new culture contains many unique challenges, but those challenges don’t inherently mean that it’s an impossible task. A coaching mindset in missional leadership could just be the answer to missionary longevity.

March Prayer Focus: Discipleship Ministries

March 1, 2018 |

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out…”

From the start of his ministry, Christ set the example that we are first called to abide in him and then sent to go and make disciples. These precedents directly complement what Christ regarded as the “greatest commandments”: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

At the heart of discipleship is the intentional act of walking alongside our brothers and sisters and bearing their burdens. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer described it: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God… thus the law of Christ is a law of bearing. The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother.”

The soul was designed for relationship, first with God and then with others.

Whether it’s on the dusty streets of the countryside or the busy neighborhoods of cities, we actively engage in discipleship to share our hope with the nations. The indigenous church in eastern Bolivia is currently laying foundations and building roofs for what will become a discipleship center. Believers gather in homes throughout Bogotá, Colombia, to witness to each other and refine one another’s walk with Christ. SAM’s team and partners help mentor students to explore their creative nature through music and point them to the Lord through art in Recife, Brazil. Missionaries and Bolivian volunteers disciple local churches in Bolivia to broaden their understanding of the role of the local church within the Great Commission in their own communities and around the world.

Throughout South America, we see communities coming together in the name of Christ, seeking his redemptive grace in their lives and leading one another to abide in his presence. Pray with us this month over these relationships and communities of believers.


1. PROCLAMA, founded in Bolivia, exists to see Latin American churches contributing toward the completion of the Great Commission by being a strong gospel witness in their communities and beyond. Pray for Dona, a Bolivian woman hoping to leave in March to serve in the Middle East. Ask God to provide funding to sustain her in ministry as she is sent. Pray for the PROCLAMA team as they disciple Dona’s sending church (Iglesia Cristiana Misionera) towards God’s heart for the nations, infusing a vision within the congregation for the church’s agency in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

2. Jorge and Ginny Enciso’s (SAM Colombia) 24-year-old adopted son, Juan, took a step of faith by agreeing to attend a 6-month training program in Guadalajara, Mexico. The program grounds students in scripture while teaching how to work and serve the church cross-culturally. Pray for Juan as he discerns a call for missionary service. Pray for his growth in the spiritual disciplines as a means for Christ to disciple Juan’s heart. Pray for the Fundación Comunidad Viva team that Jorge and Ginny lead, as they look to develop relationships with programs (like the one Juan is attending) where they can direct young people from their community to be discipled into future leaders for Colombia.

3. SAM Bolivia and Fundación Raphá are collaborating together to build an indigenous discipleship center in eastern Bolivia. During these early stages of the center’s development as many indigenous volunteers and an international missionary team work side-by-side, pray for many discipling moments for the entire community as they make sacrifices to serve and as God builds unity in pursuit of the vision of the center.

4. The Recife Redemptive Ministries team in Brazil uses the arts and sports, music and soccer, to point young people to a Creator God who has given the good and perfect gifts of artistic expression, athleticism and good health. Pray for the ministry of the Touch of the Master Music School that elicits human creativity from its students and points them to the Father of Christ as the source of all creative expression. Pray for the young soccer players whom Chris Himes has been coaching for a few years, for them to grow in wisdom and knowledge of Christ and to participate in the dedicated discipleships groups that Chris is forming.

5. The Ayacucho (Peru) Initiative Team works among university students and professionals, communicating the gospel of grace and pointing people to Christ as the team builds the foundation of a church-planting movement in the city. Pray for the SAM team in Ayacucho as they discern the people God is directing them to this year to form relationships that mutually point to Christ. Ask God to give the team the impulse to create space and occasions where the gospel can be shared and discipleship initiated, whether its through English language instruction, special meals and gatherings around holidays, or through introductions to friends’ places of work or businesses.

6. The Semiraitá Discipleship Center team in Iranduba, Brazil, asks for prayer as a new term begins and students come from isolated areas, eager to learn God’s Word but with limited knowledge of Portuguese. Pray for knowledge to reach hearts, that the Holy Spirit will translate what is important and that the teachers will know how to guide the young students into maturity in Christ. Pray for Alcerís Dias, the young Director of the Center. Pray for his faith, courage and stamina to see the project through.


1. Pray for Chris Himes in Recife, Brazil. Pray for his leadership and wise discernment as he develops a plan to begin a discipleship group with boys he has coached for years through the Redemptive Ministries team’s Soccer ministry.

2. Pray for Dina Condori of the PROCLAMA team in Bolivia. Pray for stamina to finish her master’s degree and for financial resources for the PROCLAMA team to hire her as the ministry’s Member Care coordinator.

3. Pray for the Lord to introduce Donna Martin of the Ayacucho Initiative team to one or two women this year with whom she can form long-term, discipling relationships that lead to soul renewal and desires to serve the community.

4. Pray for Wes and Trudy Seng at the Semiraitá Center in Iranduba, Brazil. Pray for the Sengs as they discern how to support well the Center’s new Director, Alcerís Dias. Pray for wisdom, for the Sengs to be able to encourage Alcerís’s flourishing in his role.

5. Pray for Jason Weigner’s ministry alongside the indigenous community to develop agricultural and infrastructure systems for the new discipleship center in eastern Bolivia that promote long-term, sustainable growth.

Spotlight: Jenna Weigner

February 27, 2018 |

Jason and Jenna committed to a two-year term with South America Mission back in 2007, not realizing that God had a different timetable in mind, one that would extend a full decade later and include a stint in the US to obtain additional training to enable their longer-term effectiveness as missionaries. As the Weigners served with SAM’s Indigenous Rural Outreach team during their initial term, Jason began to see his existing dreams for sustainable agriculture merging with the vision of forming a discipleship center for the indigenous peoples of eastern Bolivia. Jenna, however, discovered her passion during that two-year term. She was a sociology major in college and had begun to imagine what her involvement at the center could look like someday, when she became aware of the deep need for holistic maternity care and childbirth education in Bolivia.

“I made friends with a Canadian woman when we were living out in Pailón. She was pregnant with her third child and decided she did not want to have a C-section, which is most commonly endorsed by doctors in Bolivia. She traveled into the city to receive better care for a more natural birth… I went with her and watched the doctors. Even though I wasn’t formally trained, I knew something wasn’t right,” Jenna reflects. Seeing the great need within the professional community for childbirth education and midwifery practice, Jenna returned with her family to the US with the purpose of her completing a master’s degree.

“We saw that the need was enormous and decided to return to Bolivia equipped. We moved to Seattle, a city and region we’d never been to before, without jobs or a home and I had not even been accepted yet into a program. God provided every step of the way and made it clear to us that this was our path.”

Since returning to Bolivia in 2015, Jenna, now a certified professional midwife, is seeing the fruit of God’s call so many years ago. Six months after the Weigners’ return, Jenna was invited to speak at conferences for medical students in three different cities across Bolivia, specifically speaking about natural childbirth. She has been on daytime Bolivian television, has been invited to speak about lactation at multiple hospitals and teaches a continuing education course for medical professionals.

The Weigners faithfully envision how God will use Jenna’s training for his glory through the ministry at the discipleship center. Though she cannot legally practice as a midwife in Bolivia yet, her passions and training are apt for the needs of the rural and indigenous community in eastern Bolivia.

The discipleship center will allow me to continue educating the community. Women’s health, prenatal care, childbirth, lactation and postpartum care are universal issues. Ultimately, working with the moms is why I got into this and, while I have loved the doors God has opened for me to educate and support doctors, I’m excited to get back to supporting the moms and families in rural areas.” It has been a long road for the Weigners since they joined SAM in 2007, but their experiences and current ministry are a testament to God’s faithfulness and his heart for the Bolivian people.

Learn more about the Weigners’ ministry and how you can partner with them financially to contribute to God’s work in Bolivia: Jason and Jenna Weigner

The Raphá Discipleship Center: for Bolivians, by Bolivians

February 26, 2018 |

A bricklayer volunteered his time to help clear the land and lay the foundation for a home in rural eastern Bolivia. Working alongside other rural and indigenous volunteers, he told his story of being turned away from seminaries because he lacked a high school diploma.

The home he was building will house the directors of a new discipleship center being built in rural Bolivia for the indigenous and rural communities of the region. He was overjoyed to learn that this center would not require its applicants to have completed high school and enthusiastically stated he would be the first student.

With tears in his eyes, he said, “Finally there’s going to be a place where I’m accepted—there’s going to be a place for people like me!”

Eastern Bolivia is a bustling region of industry and agriculture, housing 34 of Bolivia’s people groups and Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. For decades, missionaries, local pastors, indigenous community leaders and rural laborers have yearned for a strategic ministry to provide educational and theological resources. As Bolivia’s indigenous church continues to grow, its people look to seminaries which often close their doors to students without high school diplomas.

This vision for a discipleship center grew over many years through joint initiatives of Fundación Raphá, South America Mission’s (SAM) Indigenous Rural Outreach team (IRO), and other key local partners. Raphá is a Bolivian organization for the flourishing of indigenous communities founded by indigenous pastors with help from a group of SAM missionaries. Their president is a Bolivian doctor who has served with his wife in medical ministry for more than 20 years. Raphá’s partnership with SAM missionaries and with local indigenous leaders, César and Mirtha Surubí, exemplify the heart of this project: for Bolivians, by Bolivians.

The discipleship center will serve as a safe space for mentorship, life skills training, agricultural sustainability practices and medical aid. The indigenous and rural communities of eastern Bolivia currently lack financial stability, education, and adequate training to develop into vibrant communities transformed by the gospel. Raphá and SAM’s IRO team have seen what they describe as a “vacuum” in church leadership despite the evident hunger for growth in the indigenous church.

In February 2017, the IRO team traveled with Raphá members to the Semiraitá indigenous center in Brazil to gain excitement for their vision and learn from the ministry there. The witness of Semiraitá and solidarity built among the team proved to be the ultimate catalysts towards the realization of the dream. Two months after their return from Brazil, Raphá purchased the land for this discipleship center, and in late 2017 Raphá members and indigenous leaders broke ground together and set the foundation for the first building. Now, Raphá members and SAM missionaries are working in tandem to oversee the center’s development.

As the Surubís and SAM missionaries relocate to live near the property, the excitement continues to grow.

When asked about the hope and anticipation that they feel, SAM missionaries enthusiastically declared “It’s not just a North American thing. The church is in dire need of discipleship and while the North American church is helping, we are truly serving in supportive roles. We have seen plenty of projects over the years where the locals don’t see the purpose or the project doesn’t suit the culture, even though the projects sound good on paper. This center is truly an initiative being pushed by the local community, which means that it will last in the long term because of that shared vision!

César Surubí echoes this enthusiasm for local community involvement: “Theological centers, seminaries, and universities do not allow the entry of people who have not finished high school, which is difficult for many indigenous leaders. The indigenous church is now taking responsibility for this project and carrying the work forward.”

César and his wife Mirtha will be living at the center full-time to oversee the daily operations. Their decision to serve in this capacity only enhances the discipleship center’s purpose, as they both share indigenous backgrounds, César himself being of Chiquitano heritage. Even as indigenous and rural volunteers gathered to help clear the land last autumn and set the foundation for what will be César and Mirtha’s home, there was evidence of God’s hand in this work. César watched young Ayoré men work diligently, many of whom he mentored and discipled when they were raucous teenagers. To see these young men work together to set up a space for theological education was a testament of God’s faithfulness to this ministry.

“It is a privilege to serve my brothers in this area,” César declares. “I do not doubt that it is a responsibility for which we need the wisdom of God… The indigenous church will act like a bridge between the communities and organizations that will become its ally.

Sustainability is what excites the team most about this discipleship center.

Though it will serve as a place for theological education and deep mentorship, the team will intentionally teach life skills to help the indigenous and rural communities sustain their families. Classes and sessions on finance, agriculture, and carpentry will give vital skills alongside Biblical discipleship to holistically minister to the students.

Even in the construction of the center, they see community involvement growing.

Raphá’s president has frequently visited the land and brought Ayoré friends with him to participate in the preparation of the land. By doing this, the Ayoré are investing in the project and taking ownership of its future. While laboring to clear the land, the young Ayoré men would ask deep theological questions. This desire to know more is the direct fruit of the Surubís’ and Raphá’s ministry to the Ayoré for so many years.

“There’s just this momentum that’s been building for so long,” one SAM missionary reflects. “Even in our tenure in the past 8 years that we’ve been connected to the indigenous church movement, seeing it from the outside, we’ve noticed a growth and development from apathy to discovering how to “do church” in their communities. Once they found their own way of “doing church”, it began to take off… The community is growing; it’s not perfect, but that hunger is growing and they want to know more. They want to be able to go deep.”

The process of developing the center will take time and exist in multiple phases, but even once César and Mirtha have a home to live in, the team foresees an immediate impact to the surrounding indigenous and rural towns. Some of the local communities’ more serious struggles are alcoholism, drug abuse, and prostitution, which indicates that a safe space away from those influences, where people could come and seek intentional discipleship, will provide aid to these communities from day one.

To learn more about Fundación Raphá and to financially support their efforts, visit their page: Fundación Raphá.

All photos were taken by Jason Weigner.

‘I am invisible’: the need for increased diversity in missional leadership


“I’m not malcontent. I am chronically discontent.”

These words still echo from Marti Williams’ presentation to SAM and TEAM Latin American leadership in November.

“This is the definition of a leader. You always see where we can go and you’re not satisfied with the status quo—you’re trying to get us there. So, I’m not malcontent, I’m not that dripping faucet. I’m just chronically discontent with the fact that the church is not availing itself to women and those who do not identify themselves as ‘white’.

Though it sounds harsh, missions in Latin America has historically been primarily white, and leadership within missions as been predominantly male. Marti addressed that this pattern is not inherently ‘wrong’ but that in the process of maintaining a majority white missionary corps or male leadership structures, we are missing out on the opportunity of reflecting in our community the real and beautiful diverse makeup of God’s kingdom.

“I’ve also struggled with the conundrum of the fact that I raise up these women and convince them that they can have leadership roles and skills, but then they go out and are not offered, or allowed, or empowered to serve.”

She then exhorted our leadership observe the women around them and invite them to use their gifts: “as a woman I will not necessarily put my hand up for something. But if someone taps me on the shoulder and says ‘Marti would you be willing to do this?’ Yes, I would. I won’t naturally step forward, though, because I don’t want to be that woman who’s always advocating.”

Most congregations in Western churches are at least 65%-75% women. When pastors tell Marti that they don’t understand where she finds these statistics, she counters with why they aren’t able to see the amount of women in their communities.

“It’s like when you have someone riding a motorcycle,” she says, “and they get into an accident. Most drivers of cars say ‘I didn’t see them’, but that’s because they weren’t looking for a motorcycle on the road. They were only looking for other cars or trucks. We do the same thing within leadership when we are only looking for men or people of our own ethnicity.”

One example of this was when Marti attended a committee meeting and she was the only female among the 6 attendees. A pastor who had said “I don’t know where you get these statistics from” at one point in the committee meeting stated that “there are 5 of us here”. 

Marti reflected, I sat there and thought ‘I am invisible.’”

When we have rigid concepts of leadership based on our own genders, ethnicities, and cultures, we overlook the complex beauty and contributions people of differing backgrounds have to offer. “God created man and humankind in his own image, male and female,” Marti posits. “He intended for both of us to be image bearers because His image cannot be borne by just one. And it takes all colors as well.”

“That’s not my ministry”: why loving your neighbor is everyone’s ministry


“The poverty is jarring, painful, unjust, overwhelming and very nearly hope-depleting.”

This is SAM missionary Laurie Bremer’s reflection on poverty after living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with her family for their first 2 years of ministry.

“It causes me to feel guilt, shame, compassion, empathy, and so many other emotions all at once,” she continues, “every time I am reminded that I am in the car and they are on the streets. Just like the last time we drove through this intersection.”

According to Bolivia’s National Institute of Statistics, the portion of Bolivia’s population living in poverty has dropped 20% in the past 15 years, but it still rests near 40%. This reality is the context for many of SAM’s missionaries who have to wrestle daily with how to engage with this poverty as compassionate Christ followers.

“There are some things I imagine one never gets used to,” Laurie states. “Abject poverty is one of those things.”

“Is this just a fool’s errand?” she asks. “From every earthly perspective, it is. This mess is far too big. I want to throw my hands up in despair. I want to run away to where poverty isn’t so confrontational. What an ugly truth to realize in one’s self: I prefer poverty in avoidable pockets that don’t encroach into everyday suburban life.”

While Laurie may be particularly outspoken or self-aware in this realization, she certainly is not alone. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates, the United State’s poverty rate hovers around 12.7%, or 43.1 million people. Despite this fact, though there was a rise in charitable donations last year, only 25% of the US adult population volunteered their time to a charitable organization.

It’s simply more comfortable to click “donate”.

Eradicating poverty, ending homelessness or solving world hunger requires action and effort. Even if our calling is to a specific career or ministry that feels disconnected from these issues, we must still avoid isolating ourselves from the “least of these”.

“We know many hardworking, long-suffering missionaries who are involved in street ministry. They work with addicts. They work with children living on the streets… I know that I am not called to this ministry,” Laurie declares. “But that does not negate the question, ‘What am I doing here that makes a difference in the life of the impoverished people in Bolivia?’ Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’. I can’t just say ‘Well, that’s not my ministry’… I truly believe that the ministry in which we are engaged will bear fruit and [that] some day it will rain blessings upon the least of these.”

Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’.

Laurie and her husband serve in professional class ministry, interacting daily with pilots, lawyers, doctors, dentists, academic and civic leaders in Santa Cruz. Though her ministry focuses mostly on the middle and upper classes, she sees the direct connection to the impoverished communities around her: “As overwhelming as the depth of poverty reaches here, what if there was revival at all levels in Bolivia? What if professionals with the ability to make a change were awakened to how God has called us all to care for the least of these?”

It’s not an excuse to avoid the homeless. She will see them every day. They will ask for money at her car door and she will continually feel the overwhelming burden of the impoverished in her city.

But Laurie does not despair: “Without Christ, it would feel overwhelming and hopeless. It would BE overwhelming and hopeless. But we know that He cares greatly for those who have so many desperate needs, just as He cares for those who have so much affluence that they feel no need for Him at all.”

The call to love our neighbor extends beyond all socioeconomic boundaries. We do not have the right to limit the command to love your neighbor as yourself based on personal preference or comfort.

“Do we know that we will live to see the eradication of such terrible poverty in Bolivia?” Laurie asks. “No, we do not. But I know this for certain: Because of the faith and the hope that we have, fools or not, we will go down fighting on this errand, if that’s what we’ve been called to do.”

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