Skip to main content
AmericasMember Care

Encouraging the hearts of leaders in Mexico

Currently, Steve and Janice Griswell are OC’s only mission workers in Mexico, but 20 years in the country (plus four years in Argentina, and periodic ministry in other parts of Latin America) has given them great impact on the lives of Latino mission worker candidates, pastors and wives in a very dangerous and spiritually diverse country.

steve_janice300x200Steve and Janice’s ministry focuses on: 1) training Latinos for cross-cultural service around the world, 2) consulting for pastors on how to grow a healthy church, and 3) pastoral care for Christian leaders. The lack of a resident team in Mexico makes the Griswells’ situation somewhat unique within OC. Since OC strongly values team, the Griswells are seconded to WEC International for spiritual support and local accountability. “We wanted to have fellowship with a local mission team, and we are in a formal contractual relationship with WEC Mexico,” says Steve. “We are still 100 percent OC, but we share similar core values and some overlapping ministry objectives with the WEC Mexico team.” In addition, the Griswells’ years of leadership experience have enabled them to serve as coaches and consultants to the WEC team on some key organizational and relational issues.

Serving Latino mission candidates
The main area of overlap in ministry with WEC is the Cross-cultural Training Center (CCT) at the El Monte Multi-Ministry Center. Steve and Janice, members of the original developmental team for the CCT, now serve as adjunct faculty, supervise the student mentoring program, and are part of the ongoing guidance team. “We only accept students who already have theological, biblical training from their own denomination, as well as some significant church ministry experience and the direct support of their pastor. We put the icing on the cake, with cross-cultural training,” says Steve.

“Our 30 modular courses are taught by Latin American professors as well as mission workers from the U.S. and other nations.” Courses include: anthropology, family life on the mission field, specialized studies on different ethnic groups and religions around the world, cross-cultural implications for communication, conflict resolution, leadership development, teamwork, church planting, etc. The CCT has a strong focus on life in community and character development, not just on theory and academics. Graduates are now serving successfully around the world among ethnic groups least reached with the gospel. They are sent out by a diversity of local churches, denominational and independent mission agencies.

“Finishing Well” Pastors and Wives Retreat, Morelos

“Finishing Well” Pastors and Wives Retreat, Morelos

Serving pastors with training, consulting and personal care
Steve still assists pastors in dynamics of healthy church growth and developing leaders within Mexico. But an increasing burden and focus has to do with pastoral care for Christian leaders. This involves some counseling, but primarily is preventative in nature, coaching leaders in their own “self-leadership” practices. “Through workshops and retreats for pastors and wives, we focus on the soft side of leadership,” says Steve.

“When we do a pastoral retreat, we don’t talk as much about the mechanics of leading a church. We talk more about a leader’s marriage, spiritual rhythms and disciplines, growing through adversity, laying aside one’s masks to be more authentic and real with God and with our followers, obstacles to finishing well and habits for finishing well, and other overlooked areas of emotional and relational maturity.”

Serving as a couple
Steve says that partnering with his wife Janice at these retreats is a very integral part of the ministry. “Since marriage is such an important part of leadership, you have to be working through your own stuff to model that…”, Steve smilingly adds, “…and we’ve had a lot of stuff to work through. You can’t be on the platform teaching and exhorting other leaders to be a certain way, especially in the marriage area, and NOT be living it at home. So we share our personal testimonies, both the failures and the successes, which encourages other leaders.”

Steve and Janice feel their gifts complement each other, maximizing their efforts. “We have very different temperaments, personalities, gifts… I’ve learned over the years to appreciate Jan’s unique contributions in a training or counseling session. She often picks up on things at a deeper level that go right over my head, or she sees different pieces of the pie that absolutely enrich what we do. And vice versa.” Each one has personal areas of ministry, but they find it’s fruitful to share some ministries together, and to keep growing in that. They find that pastors, as well as their wives, appreciate having a woman’s voice in the teaching and counseling.

Purepecha Indian Pastors and Wives Retreat, Michoacan

Purepecha Indian Pastors and Wives Retreat, Michoacan

Serving the needs of women
Although Janice is committed to ministering to both men and women, she does have a special burden for pastors’ wives in Mexico. “Wives often did not choose to enter the ministry, received little training or guidance, have the pressure, often singlehandedly, to raise model children, keep a good home, supplement their meager income, meet the expectations of their spouse and church-attendees, and somehow nurture their own walk with God. These stresses are not unique to Mexico, but a macho culture and leadership style adds to the pressure.” Janice envisions pastors’ wives receiving care and training, then working together to meet the needs of their city in new ways.

Serving in a context of violence
Mexico is a tumultuous environment because of the conflict between drug cartels and the government’s attempts to control it. “Mexico ranks very high among countries known for kidnappings for ransom, and our city, Cuernavaca, is the kidnapping capital of Mexico. We regularly know of friends who are victims of kidnapping or armed assaults,” says Steve. “In 2011, Cuernavaca experienced a collective paranoia due to the intensity of violent crime… decapitated bodies in parking lots or hanging from bridges, police checks or neighborhood searches at any moment. People avoided being out at night, so church attendance dropped.”

“Pastors started preaching against that fear. The statewide, interdenominational evangelical pastors’ alliance in which we are very active held a series of large, outdoor prayer meetings. Believers from many churches met together on Sunday afternoons, in different zones around the city. Several thousand Christians prayed and worshipped together in public plazas – praying for justice, for the youth being enticed to work for the drug cartels, for social issues, for government leaders and against spiritual forces behind the violence. We did see a marked decrease in the violence in our city, but the challenges continue.”

Praying for Mexico
Mexico needs prayer. “Mexico is a cultural and spiritual mosaic. Eight percent of Mexicans would call themselves evangelical Christians; 84 percent are Roman Catholic (this latter percentage is decreasing for the first time in Mexico’s history). The expression of Catholicism in Latin America is very different from the United States, where despite significant theological differences, there is amicable dialogue and collaboration on many common ground social fronts. Mexican Catholics, on the other hand, tend to be quite militant about their religion, even when their own practice and biblical understanding is nominal and/or syncretistic (blended with animistic or other beliefs). The evangelical church is growing steadily, even rapidly in many places in Mexico. On the other hand, in eight states across central Mexico evangelical Protestants are less than two percent, and there’s a lot of resistance to the gospel. We consider it our ‘mini 10/40 Window’,” says Steve. “In Chiapas and Oaxaca large numbers of indigenous Indian populations have come to Christ, but often at the price of persecution for their faith.”

  • Pray for social justice and peace in a country traumatized by criminal violence and systemic corruption. Pray for elected leaders to wisely and appropriately exercise the authority God has delegated to them.
  • Pray for Steve and Janice as they “serve those who serve” — Christian leaders. Steve says leaders are very receptive to OC’s partnership style of equipping ministry. They ask prayer for wisdom to listen to God’s Spirit, to be culturally sensitive and to be fruitful in ministry.
  • Pray for teachers and students as the CCT’s intense, 10-month program kicks off late August. Pray for the growth of strong, missions-minded Mexican churches that will faithfully support mission worker candidates through both this pre-field training as well as their eventual deployment serving in difficult places around the world.

One Comment

Leave a Reply