James & Christel Neuendorf – Central America – August 2019 Update


A few notes from LCMS Missionaries, James & Christel

Christ on Every Page

“Every page points to Christ” said one of the participants in a recent Bible study, “why aren’t more people coming here to listen to this? Why are we the only people in Ponce who are learning all of this!?”

This month I want to focus on one of the central activities that we do in the Ponce Church Plant, our weekly intensive Bible Study. We are on a three-year track to study the entire Bible based on an hour and a half course every week. In August we studied the book of Leviticus and showed how each element of Israel’s worship points to the Savior and is reflected in our own worship today. We even built a scale model of the tabernacle! These Bible studies have been consistently attended by a small number of our core congregation members, and they are an important part of our overall mission strategy.

As a church planter, it might seem like doing intensive studies with those who are already a part of the church wouldn’t be central to our efforts to reach out to the community. Wouldn’t our time be better spent by doing evangelistic events with new people? Nothing could be farther from the truth! Certainly, we are engaged in evangelistic events as part of church planting but strengthening the Biblical core of our congregation is a crucial part of that effort!

I enjoy camping (although Christel doesn’t), so I like to think of church planting like building a fire. You don’t start out with big logs, but with a spark and a few very small shavings of wood or leaves, what we call “tinder”. Nurturing that tinder into a tiny fire, you start to add “kindling” to the center, not too much but just enough to let the center of the fire really start to get hot. At this stage it is all about balance, if you overload the little fire you smother it, but if you don’t provide enough fuel it burns itself out. Gradually you add more and more kindling to the center until you move up to big sticks and branches. When the fire really gets crackling, you can toss in a log that will burn for hours, and which brings a fire that can consume even a wet branch! 

The weekly Bible study is the kindling of our church plant, substantial study of the Bible that demonstrates that Lutheran theology is Biblical theology, and that our every activity and teaching is grounded in that Biblical truth. As those core members of the church come to know the riches and the depth of the scriptures, and that as one of them so beautifully put it, “every page points to Christ,” the whole congregation is ignited to spread and to be sustained. His question also shows the natural fruit of studying God’s word, and the very engine that drives evangelism forward, a desire for others to experience the riches of Christ in the Word of God! A congregation that is dedicated to a close study of the Word is a congregation that grows, and this is precisely the habit we hope to instill in Fuente de Vida Lutheran Church! There are many activities we do which are “tinder”, some which are “sparks” and eventually we hope to be able to throw some branches and even logs into the center, but all of it contributes to a roaring fire that spreads on its own! Praise God that the Word does the work!

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Makhaela Mariela Ardith Maita (Rev. Gustavo and Ruth Maita) as born on August 15 and baptized at Principe de Paz on the 18th! We praise God for all his blessings!

We were invited to a different government housing community this month host a soap making workshop. We learned last month from Yaritza (CPTLN) how the process works and had the opportunity to share with a whole different group of women. James begins with a short devotion on Who makes us clean and who Jesus is and then we start the actual soap making part. It’s been really fun to dive into different arts and crafts here in Ponce and connecting them as opportunities to share the Gospel or to be a way that the community can get to know the church. 

Sometimes these types of crafts can be a source of income for people to supplement what they receive, for others it’s a simple a way to relax from the stresses of their life and come together in a safe place where they can talk and be with others in community. 

Roofs continue to be needed even after almost two years since Maria hit. In mid-August we met a man who lives fairly close to Fuente de Vida whose house is on a steep hill going up to the Cruceta. He has lived in this house since 1952. In order to get to his front porch you have to go down the hill and walk up a set of side stairs. 

Normally when we (LCMS Disaster Response) purchase the materials from ACE, they deliver them and drop them off in the side yard of a house or inside so they are not stolen. They will not go up stairs for the deliveries. So this house required some teamwork. James and I met up with the ENDEAVORS case managers and helped bring in the materials. We have been so blessed as a team to work with ENDEAVORS. This man who received the zinc and wood had been “in la lucha (struggle)” with FEMA for the last two years trying to get help. Endeavors helped him with the process, which included us. We now are able to follow up on visits and see how he is doing and how the church can continue to show mercy. 

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The first week of August we had our annual missionary conference. It was great to reconnect again with our missionary family and be in the Word together. Dr. Reed Lessing led our main Bible study and Deaconess Heidi Goehmann led our women’s time in the afternoon. One of my dearest and long time friends, Liz Garcia, volunteered a week of her time leading the short term team that led the missionary kid’s time together.
A super thank you to those of you who wrote cards, made special hand made items for us, or donated funds for our craft time or gift bags. The ladies appreciated everything so much and we very much by your prayers and words of encouragement!

Our time at the Elderly Tower continues with devotions and an art time. We are giving a devotion on a Psalm each week with a corresponding art piece made by Missionary Lizz Warren. You can find them on the Visual Faith website free for download! 

Pictured here: William Torres and James Krey, purchasing items for food relief bags before Dorian passed by. 

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support as we anticipated a hit from Dorian. That truly means so much to us as team!  Here is a link to a short video we made on our team’s preparations. 

We pray for those in her path now as a category five hurricane! Lord have mercy.

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A quick video recap of August 2019.


  • For Rev. Anthony DiLiberto and his family as they mourn the death of Anthony’s youngest sister, Carissa. 
  • Thanksgiving for the birth and baptism of Makhaela Maita!
  • Negotiations on the building purchase in Ponce, as well as wisdom for all of the subsequent plans and renovations required.
  • Visits and outreach plans for the month of September.

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