“The Day I’ll Never Forget” – A Youth Pastor’s Account of the Earthquake in Mexico City

The earthquake in Mexico City was difficult to watch from afar. I love Mexico City. I have many loved ones there. It was an unforgettable experience watching the news from here.

But it was even more unforgettable for those directly involved. I asked one of my friends and students, Jonathan, to write down what he experienced during that day and in the aftermath.

Here are his thoughts.

It was 1:13 PM on September 19, a sunny day full of activity in the schools, offices, and streets of Mexico City. I was in Coyoacán just a little ways away from Ciudad Universitaria giving music classes as part of Punto de Encuentro (our student ministro) at Vida Nueva (New Life Baptist Church), when we felt it, without any warning, no alarm, no notification from the preventative applications, all of the earth began to move. It was a 7.1 earthquake with its epicenter in Morelos; it was short but very strong which caused a disaster in all of Mexico City, with around 3,000 buildings affected and uninhabitable, while Morelos and Puebla were also destroyed. Some minutes after the earthquake, there was terrified people running around trying to communicate with their families.

Many young people began to arrive at Punto de Encuentro, especially friends of mine from other student ministries at the University nearby because they were told to evacuate the University as a preventative measure, and in this moment we had put on the news and were communicating with our families since in Punto de Encuentro we still had internet and electricity. I took advantage of this moment and asked us to all join in prayer for what was happening. I think it was a good start because later we would need more than prayer—it would be time to participate and sacrifice for many of us.

It was impressive to see so many volunteers in the streets, volunteers in business suites or on bicycle—but there were many people participating—especially youth—youth who were more ready to help and prepared than ever.

After the earthquake a group of us started looking for the best way to help, communicating by WhatsApp. It was very difficult to move around in the city, so at the beginning each of the young people started looking for the best way in which we could help the places near where each one was, donating blood, taking food to the places where buildings had collapsed, looking for places where there were donation centers, or even one of my best friends who is an expert in social media strategies and creative editing was using her abilities to filter information on social media to be sure that the correct information was getting out (which was very necessary in that moment).

On September 20, I went to a donation center organized by the Baptist Convention, and 60-70% of the people who were there helping were young people from different churches, during this whole day the city was working to help, and this phrase went viral on social media: “Young people have taken the city, I hope they don’t give it up.” It was really inspiring and fascinating to see how the whole city began to help and see that young people, who had been criticized for being “millennials,” a selfish and superficial generation, was showing up; once again society was wrong about youth.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of that week, my pastor and others along with friends from the Seminary organized trips to help and take food to Tetela del Volcan in Morelos, one of the most affected areas. I had the opportunity to go on Friday with 4-5 other youth, and the place where we were helping clean up, they said there were more than 150 houses destroyed. Without a doubt this place needed help and many others, also.

These days were important for the church of Christ, because we needed to be light. We shouldn’t wait for more disasters to happen, but we need the grace that we live to be an daily attitude to love our neighbor.

Thanks of the youth of my church who not only that week but for years have been committed to demonstrate love and obey Christ, seeking the Kingdom of God here on earth.

I will not forget this day, not only because of the earthquake, but also because I saw thousands of young people offering help to others.

Please keep praying for Mexico City and the surrounding areas as they recover from this tragedy.

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Earthquake in Mexico City! My thoughts

Yesterday was the anniversary of the big 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. And then they experienced another one. It was 7.1 on the richter scale and many of my friends were impacted. I wrote this on Facebook, but I wanted to put it on here to remember in the future.

It’s hard to describe how I feel right now. After spending so much time in Mexico and having so many friends there, what happened today is surreal.

I’m grateful that I’ve been in contact with most of my friends and they are ok. However, I feel a tremendous weight on me as if this happened to me personally. I can’t stop watching the news on social media.

My experience is nothing compared to everyone there, but I can’t help thinking of the people who can’t find their loved ones or whose children didn’t come home from school today or are trapped in a building. Mexico still has a place in my heart and that place is hurting tonight.

Please join me in praying for Mexico. Que Dios bendiga México.

Since I wrote that, I have found out that one of my friend’s mom’s building collapsed. She is okay, but his childhood home is destroyed. Many others are still trying to find loved ones.

Mexico will always be in my heart.

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Compassion for the Lost

During my recent trip to Cuba, I conducted a research project about compassion for the lost in the lives of adolescents who participate in short-term mission trips. It was a quick study that yielded some interesting results.

One of the most important things that I learned in my research was this:

A mentor or pastor is important to help adolescents develop the compassion for the lost by helping them see people all around them who need to know Jesus. Compassion for the lost is not something that automatically happens in the lives of young people, but it can be influenced by the life of someone else and the prompting of a pastor or group of friends who will help them see what they are missing as they see others and interact with them.

When Jesus tells his disciples to pray for laborers (Matt 9:36), he is demonstrating his own compassion for the lost and helping them increase their compassion. Good mentors and youth pastors will help young people see the opportunities all around them, and their own compassion will deeply affect the adolescents to whom they are ministering.

Too often we overlook the fact that our job as pastors and mentors (and parents) is to help cultivate compassion for the lost in the lives of those around us.

As we walk and talk, teach and disciple, we need to include compassion for others in our conversations. We need to remind our children and our students that God loves the brokenhearted and is seeking to save the lost–and he wants to use us to introduce them to Him. Just putting them into a position to do something that is service or mission related is probably not enough. We need to use those experiences to launch into conversations that revolve around compassion and caring.

My hope is that as a parent I can have compassion for those around me and teach my children and others to see the world as God sees it–and to have compassion on it as He does.

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The Domino Effect of Discipleship and Training

Sometimes I don’t think I understand the domino effect and how the discipleship and training process actually works. It amazes me how it happens when God takes something small and moves it into the hearts and lives of others to the point where they tell someone else who is then equipped to teach it to others.

The little seed that gets planted keeps spreading, and most of the time, we don’t have any idea how far it goes.

This is happening in Africa. We started a youth ministry training program in Nigeria last December. Even this program has an origin story that goes back far beyond December. But the point of this post is to tell you where the program in Nigeria is taking youth ministry training. The short answer is that I don’t know because the students are taking training to the nations.

I saw this on my student Samuel’s Facebook page yesterday:

When these leaders leave this training, they will eventually go back to their six countries and train others. They will train others in Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Nigeria. Their ministry will continue on and on, and while we try to keep track, it often goes to places we don’t know. It’s so exciting! I’m looking forward to see how God continues to move in Africa.

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Alex and “The Protagonists”

I’ve been writing about my trip to Cuba since I went. It was an incredible experience, and I am still processing all of the stories from everyday. Here’s another story about an incredible guy I met–a story that speaks about 2 Timothy 2:2 in a powerful way.

I had the opportunity to meet Alex, the youth pastor of a church in a neighborhood that is very spiritually needy. Giancarlos, my former student, told me about how this area was a very spiritually dark place and that Alex’s ministry was vital to reach the youth there.

Alex uses sports ministry to draw the interest of young people in the area. Each week they meet together to play soccer, and the students in his church youth group invite their unbelieving friends to play with them, giving them an opportunity to build relationships with those who do not go to church.

This group usually has to borrow a soccer ball from someone in order to play, and a local school lends them the field to play on. When we were there, about 8-10 of the guys who were playing with our group were from Alex’s group. Their faces lit up when we gave them two soccer balls and a pump, and they now have more opportunities to reach their friends for Christ using sports.
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Indirect Influence: What You May Not Know about Your Leadership

At the end of my trip to Cuba I was approached by a guy at church who was so excited to see me. I couldn’t remember having met him before, but he definitely knew who I was and came up to me with a big smile on his face.

He said, “You came here eight years ago and spoke at a youth ministry training conference. You were here for a Seminary graduation and spoke about the heart of a youth leader at an event that same week. I was in the crowd and heard your message. Encouraged by you, I studied youth ministry at the Seminary.”

Dencil Robinson is now the youth pastor at the Third Baptist Church of Santiago. He studied at the Seminary under professors that were trained by Youth Ministry International (my students), and now his ministry is reaching and discipling young people in one of the most important cities in Eastern Cuba.

What a privilege to play a small part in the formation of this youth leader!

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Leader in Me at Home: Family Mission Statement

We were challenged this summer to create a family mission statement, so we followed up and finished it up this weekend.

Here it is:

You can watch the video below and check out Janell’s post about our tips for creating a family mission statement.

Do you have a family mission statement?

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Practical Ministry Application in West Africa

In December 2016, I taught a course in Nigeria called Youth Culture. That course is part of a larger program that YMI has started that is sure to impact the 13,000 churches in the Nigerian Baptist Convention.

One of my students, Samuel, recently wrote YMI to tell us about how the program is impacting the youth workers in Nigeria.

He writes, “The fire you kindle has started to burn in Nigeria. As you always emphasize in class that this is not meant for class or academic purpose; the wave is blowing beyond the four walls of classroom. Some of us are already applying the lessons beyond the demand of assignment. We are not really after class grades but how to impact our generation. The magic is that the more we venture into carrying out the class assignments, the more interest we develop for the ministry.”

I love hearing that they are applying what they have learned. I’ve always said that my desire is to see what is taught in the classroom put into practice in the local church.

Samuel continues, “The truth is that I have never seen and been passionate about youth ministry like this before. This is one of the most practical courses I have taken in all my theological trainings (about 10 years).”

The key to application of academic assignments is to teach in a practical manner. I pray that my teaching will always be practical and allow students to dream about what they can do in their ministries to impact the next generation.

You can read more about the program in West Africa by clicking here.

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Leadership

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How to Use Plotagraph

I’ve been obsessed with using Plotagraph, a new app that turns your still pictures into moving ones. In my opinion, the best uses for this app is to make a regular photo you took look like a time-lapse.

I use it along with inShot on my Spanish youth ministry site’s Instagram and Facebook to post moving clouds along with verses or quotes.

It’s great for social media.

Here’s one I took the other night at sunset:

If you’re interested in using it, I wrote up a tutorial on How to Use Plotagraph over on my other website.

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