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“Channels Only”

27 September 2020

Channels to Latin America

How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
That Thy love laid hold of me!
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.
Channels only, blessèd Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

Dear Friend,

Graphic showing the opening lines of the chorus of the hymn 'Channels Only'It’s not just a song; it’s an evangelistic lifestyle!1

Praise God for His wonderful supply! This month He presented us with an unexpected opportunity to send COVID-19 relief funds to five Latin American countries. A few of you became “channels of blessing” to make this possible. My heart has been singing Mary Maxwell’s lovely hymn Channels Only all month. “Channels” is a song Denise and I have come to sing together when we prepare to minister at a certain location here in Virginia. Now it seems we’re to apply the song and its message to Central and South America!

How the “Channel-ful” Came About

Image of bulk food items purchased for distribution in Ocotál, Nicaragua
A hint of what’s already in motion:
Food purchases by Bro. Zeledón in Ocotál, Nicaragua…2
Food and household supply purchases being sorted for distribution
…already sorted (and probably
already delivered by the time you read this)3
A pile of food and household supply purchases in Tegucigalpa, HondurasDitto in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
with Pastor Alvarez4

Just a channel full of blessing
To the thirsty hearts around,
To tell out Thy full salvation,
All Thy loving message sound.

In last month’s newsletter (Praying for Friends in “Heavy Gravity”) I shared about the need in Latin America. The Lord didn’t give me a release to ask for funds, but He had that all taken care of!

Less than one hour after I hit the “send” button on the newsletter, a brother contacted me about making a large contribution. About an hour after that, he texted me again, asking if he could augment that gift with another contribution toward a particular pastora’s upcoming back-surgery expenses.

As a Fellowship, we had already designated a “tithe” for missions from a memorial gift given over the summer.

And just last week, a contractor who was doing some external repairs on our home heard about our efforts to send relief monies to the needy in Latin America, and he and his business contributed even more. That brought our total to $3,200. Compared with large Christian benevolence ministries, that might be “chicken feed,” but we were very blessed and thankful to have this opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in need, and our desire has been to steward — to channel — this blessing in the most effective, Spirit-led way possible.

Careful, Prayerful “Channel Checking”

Pastor Francisco Zeledón of Ocotál, Nicaragua, flanked by twin brothers in Trojes, HondurasPastor Francisco Zeledón5
Pastor Norlan Ávila of Quilalí, NicaraguaPastor Norlan Ávila of Quilalí, Nicaragua6
Photo of superintendent Pedro Pablo RojasNicaraguan AD Superintendente
Pedro Pablo Rojas7

So I spent quite a bit of time early in the month making discreet inquiries about the situation and needs in the various places where we minister. In addition to what I shared with you last month, I learned that Nicaragua (from which I had no report in August) was very hard hit:

  • From Pastor Francisco Zeledón, I learned that among the Baptists based in Ocotál, a town of about 40,000 people, 8 members fell ill with COVID, but recovered, and 250 of the town’s citizens died (at last count). Within the entire Nicaraguan Baptist Convention 8 Baptist pastors died from COVID.
  • Pastor Norlan Avila told me that among our Pentecostal friends in Quilalí, a fair number fell ill, but only 5 people in town died. (Quilalí is very remote from the capital.) However, for the entire Asambleas de Dios (Assemblies of God) in Nicaragua, 23 out of 40 pastors died — almost 60% — as I learned from corresponding with the national superintendent, Pedro Pablo Rojas. That’s 23 churches without pastors; 23 widows, most of whom will have to vacate their “parsonage” (humble though that may be) once a replacement pastor can be found; and who knows how many children are bereft of their papa.

The update from Pastor Francisco Olivo in El Salvador was encouraging:

Gloria a Dios. Estamos bien, gracias. Los líderes [son] atentos a sus miembros. Siempre en victoria . Todo ha obrado para bien. Muchos convertidos y un nuevo grupo de crecimiento para el inicio de una nueva Iglesia. ¡GLORIA A DIOS!

Glory to God. We are well, thanks. The leaders are attentive to [the needs of] their members. Always in victory. All has worked for good. Many new converts and a new growth group for the start of a new church [plant]. GLORY TO GOD!

Photo of Pastor Francisco Olivo of El SalvadorSalvadorean IPS Superintendente
Francisco Olivo8

But in a later message, when he mentioned el golpe económico (“the economic blow”) the churches have suffered, I knew that we should include that group of churches, too.

As for all of the recipient leaders and their integrity: I have personally known all of them (except one) for 4-12 years. I have lived in their homes, eaten at their tables, ministered in their churches, and taken many a long ride with them. They are utterly trustworthy and live more sacrificially than most people I know. They care deeply for their pastors, their churches, and their unsaved neighbors.

The Flow to Various Channels

Elderly woman on a hospital bed in HondurasHere’s a perfect example of why we trust these brothers and give them Spirit-led latitude about how to distribute the funds. This sister from the Tegucigalpa church needed the equivalent of US-$122 for gallstone tests, so Pastor Alvarez supplied it through your gifts.9

Life and mindset are a bit different in Latin America, and as a result, the majority of my contacts don’t think to give their local “postal address.” Without such exact details, Western Union (WU) won’t transfer funds. And if something doesn’t match the ID presented, WU won’t turn over the money. So it’s been a painstaking process of teasing out what for most of our North American readers are matter-of-fact pieces of information.

The amounts we have sent to each country are based on information gathering, experience in each country, communicated need, and mostly on seeking the Lord’s mind. Here’s the country breakdown of the distribution:

  • Perú (Western Union transfer completion scheduled for Monday 28 September)
    Guatemala (WU funds already received)
  • Nicaragua:
    • The Baptists of Ocotál (WU funds already received and in play)
    • The Assemblies of God in Nicaragua by way of their Springfield, Missouri headquarters. This developed as the fastest way to send monies to the PAMAD [benevolence for pastors’ widows and orphans] fund. Missionary Bonnie Hernández was a big help in this regard, and she and Superintendente Pedro Pablo Rojas will see that the funds are distributed where most needed. (Funds are not yet available in Nicaragua as of this writing, but should be shortly.)
  • Honduras:
    • North (Yoro): Funds sent and received Friday
    • South (Tegucigalpa/“Téguz”): Funds sent and received Friday and already having an impact: see photos in this section and the next!
  • El Salvador: Funds sent and acknowledged Friday

Man on a hospital bed in HondurasHere’s a brother from Pastor Alvarez’ Colonia Cuesta congregation who needed US-$81 for lung-problem treatments.10

That represents $2,700 shared. (Western Union transfer fees totaled an additional $45, but we absorbed those using our General Fund, so that the full amount can be sent for relief.) Another $500, designated for the above-mentioned surgery, will be sent to Perú once we’re certain that the first Western Union transfer for relief purposes was completed and received. (The other countries’ WU transfers took 60 minutes or less. Why Perú takes 5+ days, I don’t know!)

More “in the Channel” Next Month!

Honduran pastor distribution foodPastor Alvarez wasted no time in starting food distribution, passing out food in the area surrounding his second church in Colonia Cuesta, a poor hillside-clinging neighborhood in the greater Tegucigalpa area.11

In the next few days we’ll be learning more about how all the monies will be used, but, as you can see from some of our photos, we already have received some feedback. I know the Baptists in Nicaragua are using their gift for food distribution, and the Pentecostals there will be meeting the needs of pastors’ widows and orphans — all blessèd, Scriptural expressions of God’s love. But how will these other faithful ministers interpret “where most needed” and “follow the leading of the Holy Spirit”? I can’t wait to find out, and to share country-by-country reports and photos with you in next month’s newsletter!

Thank you all for being “channels only” — of blessing, of prayer, of support, and of this special, merciful benevolence — for this ministry and these Latin American pastors and leaders. May the Lord’s blessing and “wondrous power” continue to flow through YOU “every day and every hour!”

Much love in Jesus,


Channels only, blessèd Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

(Savor all the stanzas of “Channels Only” by clicking this link.)

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  1. “Channels Only” graphic by Jim Kerwin created using a photo by Photo by Alexa on Unsplash
  2. Photo by Pastor Francisco Zeledón
  3. Another photo by Bro. Zeledón
  4. Photo by Pastor Angel Alvarez
  5. Photo by Jim Kerwin
  6. Another by by Jim
  7. Photo from Bro. Rojas’ Facebook page
  8. The last photo in this newsletter by Jim
  9. Photo by or from Pastor Angel Alvarez
  10. Another photo supplied by Pastor Angel
  11. A final photo from Pastor Angel
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