Wednesday, 26 March 2014

When Cultures Collide!
We lived in Chihuahua for 5 wonderful years.  I would say that we 'acculturated' during that time - to the extent that I found myself reacting negatively to my own culture.  I'm just gonna throw it out there, get it on the table, but there are things that Latin American just does bettter! Whew!  Let me explain before you get all hot and bothered!

On any given day in Chihuahua I would be kissed by upwards of a dozen people.  Do I mean we Canadians need to kiss more!?  No!  Some of you may remember me talking to you about my friend Julian Reyes?  After I told him about Canadian culture and our personal space factor - his goal became to break mine down completely.  He didn't understand our 'distance', but he sure did a good job of shrinking mine.  

See, it is the significance of the kiss, not the kissing itself.  The men don't kiss each other.  The part, that is something we Canadians and Americans can learn from, is the importance of greeting.  In Latin America the greeeting is HUGE.  You always greet - how you greet depends on the relationship somewhat.  For instance, when you enter the doctor's office waiting room, you greet everyone else already in the room, and would be viewed as rude were you not to so. When you pass someone in the street or park, if eye contact is made, you greet them.

If you are being introduced to someone for the first time, the minimal greeting is a handshake, male or female.  If you have met the person for the second time - a kiss on the cheek.  Men to men greeting is not done by kissing but a half hug with a slap on the back - the closer the relationship the more energetic the hug/slap.  

The 'greeting' has huge significance. When you arrive at a gathering, you greet EVERYONE!  It would be seen as offensive to  exclude someone.  When you leave this is repeated.  You will not 'wave to the group' but go arround individually and say good bye to everyone - even if you have to interrupt a conversation.

So why does this clash with my culture?  Well, after 5 years of being hugged and kissed, repeatedly and on a daily basis (this coming from a 'minimum 2 feet personal space person'), I  found my own culture somewhat cold, distant and at times even rude.  

Does this mean that they all just love each other and are all warm and friendly? No, this can also be done 'politely', but is a cultural norm with consequences.  Just watch a group discuss the one who forgot to greet. I have come to love it and found sliding back into this custom very easy.  I believe it is Biblical: "Greet one another with a holy kiss."  


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Urban Church Planting?
      Traditionally when one considers missions, the mind pictures mud huts, thatched roofs, dirt floors, and very poor people.  When we think of missionaries headed over seas to serve, we imagine sacrificing all creature comforts to live amongst the very poor.  This thought has been enforced because early missionaries did exactly those things.  Much of pioneer missionary work was rural in its origins, and often done amongst the very poor and needy.
     But is that the extent of missions?  Is there some command in scripture that says to 'go only to the poor'?  Did Christ come to save the poor only?  We all know this is not the case.  So what is my point?  That will be what this blog post will seek to explain.
     We were sent out as urban church planters.  We were sent to Guadalajara, not to look for the poor and needy, but to look beyond that group, to the middle and upper middle class. It's always been easier to go to the poor. 
      In terms of Evangelical witness Guadalajara has been called the 'zone of silence'. This is a city of 4 to 7 million people.  A very modern city. But, they need the Lord.  So we live in a very modern city, with all the amenities.  We live in a gated community with middle class people.   We see affluence all around us.  Our desire is to bring light into the darkness, to be a witness for Christ.  
       How does one do this?  Door to door worked well when we were working with blue collar people in Chihuahua, and was used very successfully by Fred Friesen in Nicaragua.  This approach however would not work in a middle class urban setting. One needs to gain trust and build a relationship.  How does one do that?  How does one enter into a new culture, meet people, understand them, gain their confidence and move the relationship to a life changing one?  You need to enter their world and listen to them... build trust. Initial stages require 'putting many hooks in the water'. In Canada you might 'connect' by joining a hockey team in the local rec league (or some other sporting interest), join a book club, scrapbook, or some such thing. Or, what would you say - where would YOU go, how would you be intentional about meeting others with the purpose of sharing your faith? In Guadalajara we continue to look for these 'connectors',  seeking to join the folks here on 'their turf'. Please pray that we will have wisdom and courage to do this well.
urban middle class interests

Friday, 14 March 2014

We trust you are doing well in spite of a the weather.  From all accounts it has been a long and cold winter.  We almost, in all honestly, feel sorry that we enjoy such glorious days here. We have settled into life here in Guadalajara and have begun to feel at home. 
        Some of you asked us before we left if we needed support, and if there was a way you could help. While we don’t want any of you to feel obligated, we do have an opportunity available whereby you could help us reach our target group. The project is called:

Project Fit

Allow me to explain a little bit better.  One of the challenges of doing urban middle-class church planting is finding areas where one can connect and begin to build relationships within this group.  We have found that one of the things that seems to be a high priority among the middle class in Guadalajara is physical fitness. We believe that joining a fitness club, and participating in fitness classes, such as Aerobics, Pilates, Cycling, etc. will give us informal opportunities to get to know people and to build those connections. Joining an aerobics class affords the opportunity to get to know 15 other people in the class, that you wouldn’t get to know otherwise. 
      We have looked into various options, like Country Clubs where our neighbours have memberships.  This was just too far out of reach. The fitness club idea seemed to be a possibility and so we began to investigate.  Although expensive, comparing with what people at home pay, it is still the most reasonable.  The Club that we investigated has several pluses for us:  it is close to our place, has good hours of operation, has lots of members within our target group and has a variety of options for group interaction.
This Project is a pilot project, meaning that it is something we want to use to try to make connections.  Diane has been able to get into the group of ladies that meets regularly in our gated community.  Ernie has the bigger challenge, as the men work long hours, often leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 8 p.m.  However, many men go to the gym during their lunch.  When I say pilot project, I mean that we are prepared to discontinue it after a year if it doesn’t produce the desired results.  We will also be giving our partners regular updates.
Here are the nuts and bolts of the project. The initial membership fee is just under $500 (lifetime) plus the monthly maintenance fees of just under $240 a month. Although we feel we could manage the initial membership fee we can’t afford the monthly fees without help. The EMC Board of Missions has given approval to our finding supporters who would be able to help us cover these monthly fees. Any monies donated to “Ernie & Diane Koop Personal Ministry Funds” via the Evangelical Mennonite Conference office can be receipted and can be used for this purpose.  
If you have questions or would like to partner with us in this way feel free to drop us an email ( or, call us: 204-272-0408, or you can also Skype us: Ernesto24177  
The EMC office is located at: 440 Main Street, Steinbach, Manitoba R5G 1Z5 and they can be reached at: 204-326-6401 ( 

Ernie & Diane

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

So we have been here in Guadalajara for 62 days! WOW! How time flies. Some of you may be wondering what exactly we are doing here, or what fills our days. I thought I would try to enlighten those of you who have no idea why we are here, and help clarify things for those of you who know we came to "church plant".  

Let me start this explanation by answering the part about what fills our days. If you have been following this blog you know that Ernie was away for quite a bit of it. So, some of that time felt a whole lot longer than it actually was. Being alone with few friends or contacts makes the hours drag by.

That said, what have we filled the time with? Well, a lot of the time has been spent on getting settled into a new home, a new culture and a new city. That has taken a bit of time, as this city is huge; you can drive for what seems like forever and you are still in the city. We have to admit we spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out where we are and how to get back home! No matter what we are doing, whether it is grocery shopping, getting the car washed, going to the mall, going for a walk in the park, whatever, we are always trying to meet people and keep an open posture for relationships.

"Church planting" a cell church or house church, is not as simple as planting a seed.  It means hoping to meet people and develop relationships, in the hope that we can share the gospel, which will lead to a Bible study, which will lead to a group that makes a cell.  I, Diane, had the opportunity to meet my neighbor ladies at a birthday party one of them hosted; and will go for a birthday breakfast with several this very morning. Those are the things that lead to developing the friendships that hopefully will continue to move us forward. It is harder for Ernie, as the men work long days and are often not around. He is trying to find ways to connect with the men and to meet on a social level. We are presently looking into fitness clubs.

Pray that God would lead us to the people He wants us to meet. That we would hear His voice and be obedient to what He wants us to do, where He wants us to do it, and how. 

Here are some of the people we have met (just names):
Adriana & Fernando, Alejandra & Mario, Laura (haven't met her husband), Sandra, Marissa, Fabiano, Raul & Liliana, and Jorge and Hugo.  These are all neighbours.  Pray that God would develop these relationships according to His plan.
My Favourite place to spend time with God, my backyard

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Nicaragua - February 2014
Ofelia, Francisco, Ernesto, y Arnulfo
     Having left Nicaragua 22 years ago it was a huge blessing to be able to go back and see how the church has continued to grow and expand. Most of the churches have one or more church plants that they're working on and many have other ministries as well (Christian private schools, Children at Risk Outreach, social assistance to the poor, etc). 
      After teaching a 'How to Serve in Other Cultures' course in Seminole, Texas (for Berean Schools) I was able to lead a team of 12 students, from 3 diff. participating churches, for a 10 day ministry trip to Nicaragua (Feb 17-28). Highlights included painting and fixing student desks at CIVEM (a private Christian school in Ciudad Sandino), painting and repairs at CINAG (Children at Risk ministry in Diriamba), visiting church services (Morazán, La Paz, Llano Grande, and Las Lajas), and of course meeting the people. Pictured above are Francisco and Ofelia Cano, pastoral couple in Granada, and Arnulfo Vado, pastor in Santa Teresa. Both of these men were pastors and leaders long before I arrived in Nicaragua in the mid 80's, and have provided significant leadership and stability to the Fraternity of churches in Nicaragua. 
     Another personal blessing for me was our impromptu visit to San José, and Doña Deborah's house. Many of her kids were home and they were going to celebrate her 70th birthday the next day! We were able to sing happy birthday to her, and share a wonderful time together with her and her family. Another pillar in the church. 
     The trip to Llano Grande and Las Lajas had to be the most memorable. It used to be a 3 1/2 hr hike over the mountain into this remote village. Today you can drive (with a 4 x 4) right into Llano Grande. After a service there we did a 2 hr. early morning hike over the mountain and into the next valley - Las Lajas. Another service and back we went to Llano Grande to begin our trip back to Managua. Seeing the steadfast believers here, having youth come forward with special numbers, and hearing their testimonies brought tears of joy to my eyes. These churches are also growing, producing pastors and leaders, and are reaching out to neighbouring valleys. 
     Finally, a word about the 'team'. What a marvellous group to work with! They ate everything... heartily. They worked hard, they embraced the people, they were open to learning, and they were extremely giving. Yes, all in all, this was a tremendous blessing, to our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, to me personally, and I believe to my fellow team members.    
     Well, I am now finished my Berean involvements for the year and will be focusing on our outreach here in Guadalajara. Diane and I covet your prayers as we strategize, and prayerfully seek to be faithful to the call God has on our lives.