Thursday, May 09, 2019

March/April 2019 “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.

 March/April 2019

“Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. Ezekiel 38:7 
The goal is everlasting life with God in His house. The Means is His Son. The destination and the only route are designed and prepared by the Savior, Himself, and offered freely to those who come through the True and Living Way. He says: …I go to prepare a place for you… and I am the way… John 14:1-6
The prophet Ezekiel, inspired by God nearly 600 years before Jesus birth, proclaimed this exhortation to God’s people to prepare themselves, and to prepare the companies all around. His words were applicable then, and they are today.
The children of all ages of the IBBM-Tepic OANSA club are learning day-by-day that our chief end is to glorify our Creator. Every year, each group prepares a segment to share on Praise Day with the companies that gather around. They are hiding God’s Word in their hearts, preparing the “what,” and learning the “what for,” which is to share it with others.

The super-dedicated team of Huichol mother-tongue-translators (MTTs) congregated again in Tepic for the 44th Old Testament translation workshop. The translation work has been completed, and they are working hard to fulfill the requirement of an audio-version prior to approval for printing. They spent three weeks this time reading and spot-checking entire books at a time, and the audio is now 72% complete. Not only does the audio requirement help polish possible remaining flaws for a final draft, but it also provides the Huichol community with God’s Word in their heart language for their cell phones. Yes, surprisingly, almost every family has a smartphone at their fingertips! 
Check out the picture of the La Bendición congregation witnessing the baptism of 24 new believers in their village! They may not have signal in their mountain communities, but they can listen constantly to the uploaded Huichol language Bible files. Prepared and ready!
The Huichol MTTs have not been satisfied just to complete the Old Testament translation, but they have insisted on reviewing and revising the New Testament, as well. Their language has evolved substantially since it first was reduced to writing just over 60 years ago, and now that they have translated the OT, the passages that appear in both correspond perfectly. Their commitment to excellence comes at great personal cost which they hardly even notice in preparing themselves and getting God’s Word ready to share in their heart language with the companies that are gathered. They stand on the shoulders of their Godly shepherd, Pastor José López, the “Apostle Paul” of the Sierra Madre, who celebrated his 74th birthday during this workshop. José is ready, prepared, and has spent his life as a believer in preparing companies for the Kingdom. 
The plan for the Huichol youth camp 2019, Jesus, Take the Reins of my Life, was ready, preparation was completed, and a gathered company of more than 140 young people heard God’s Word and learned how to apply it and live out turning over the reins of their life to Jesus. Sixteen of the attendees from various remote Huichol villages recognized their need to trust Jesus to forgive and save them. 
The getting ready and prepared for all of these blessed moments and changed lives is not something that happens only locally. It requires collaboration from God’s people all over the world who sincerely love Him and His plan and faithfully have a part in it. Thank you for caring, praying, and standing guard so generously with these, our brothers and sisters.

“Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. Ezekiel 38:7 

Friday, March 01, 2019

January/February 2019 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed… Mark 9:15

And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed… Mark 9:15
Last Sunday morning, Pastor Martín began his message at IBBM-Tepic from Mark 9 with a question: “When was the last time you were absolutely awestruck by God’s presence in your life?” He went on to share the story of the Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of the majestic presence of God incarnate. After this apex of God’s glorious unveiling, they reluctantly returned down the mountain to a conflict with Satanic oppression -- from a foretaste of millennial magnificence to a scene of pain and misery in the body of an agonizing young boy -- a vivid image of the life on earth into which Jesus willingly came for us. And when the crowd recognized Him, they were filled with amazement. Honestly, these past two months have been bursting with incidents in which it was impossible not to marvel at God’s absolute presence. The following samples of His display leave us nothing less than awestruck.
Pastor McKeown invited Martín, Erén, and me to be keynote speakers at the annual mission conference at my sending church, North Village Baptist. That’s easy to say, but it’s nothing short of astonishing to consider God’s marvelous presence in the mission effort that began over 43 years ago on the platform, from which Martín preached, of the very church that sent Kirt and me to Mexico to share the Good News to all who would hear. Using the AWANA motto, Pastor Martín’s Sunday-morning message, based on Matthew 19:13-15, was entitled: Because Kids Matter to God… only one young boy. Martín emphasized that there is nothing better than to bring children to Jesus. Bringing them to the AWANA club or to church is good, but we must bring them, first, to Jesus’ open arms that they may know Him personally. He used the illustration of David and Svea Flood who left for Africa in 1921. Svea brought to Jesus, “only a boy.” It seemed so fruitless. Later, God miraculously used that “only child” to bring his entire village to Jesus. Likewise, God chose to unveil His glory in bringing to Himself young Nacho, who invited his young friend, Martín, to “come and hear.”  The rest of the story is history … and future. Recognizing God’s presence does not stop with borders, timelines, or “one young boy.” 
It’s common knowledge that Jacob and Kiki’s son, my grandson, David, battled nearly six years of brutal treatments for his relapsed leukemia. In spite of the announcement that his final CAR-T cell experimental treatment had been a failure, David is miraculously “in remission!” In August, approaching his 7th birthday, he was ecstatic that at last, he would celebrate out of the hospital. That didn’t happen. Just days before, his dad, Jacob, was diagnosed with super-aggressive, B-cell Burkitt Lymphoma; David’s party consisted of a pineapple upside-down cake that he and his mom made to take to his dad’s room at the hospital. It was a celebration of counting it all joy, not having to understand the “why’s,” but instead, choosing not to abort the process of learning steadfastness, with renewed determination to thank Him for this, another gift, and being, once again, absolutely awestruck by God’s presence in our lives. On the third day of the NVBC mission conference, after seven months of horrifically intense chemotherapy and a not-too-favorable prognosis, we got the diagnosis resulting from Jake’s surgical biopsy: “No evidence of disease!” Absolutely awestruck!
Two days after returning from the NVBC 2019 mission conference, Becky, Pastor Nacho and Lorena’s third child, celebrated her 15th birthday. In Mexico, a quinceañera is a big deal. Nacho’s family determined that this celebration would not be to bring glory to them or to Becky, but would give testimony to all who could come, at their open invitation, to witness God’s amazing presence and mighty power in Becky’s life. Becky chose, Guard my Heart, as the theme of for her party. Javier (who, as a young boy came to Jesus in the IBBM OANSA club) and Libertad presented her with a Bible, complete with God’s instructions for guarding her heart. Sebastián and Ely presented Becky with a watch with the admonition to continue to use her time wisely, guarding her heart from the enemy as she embarks on the next stage of life. Fifteen of the young people from IBBM exhorted her one-by-one, each with a memorized passage of Scripture about guarding her heart (and theirs). Her father shared his blessing and words of caution from God’s Word to guard her heart. And the “Lady of the Rings” presented Becky with a heart-shaped promise ring to remind her to guard her heart as God has commanded her and she has learned through faithful teaching. We talked about Lidia, a lady who, like Becky, liked the color purple, one who worshipped God, heard His Word, and whose heart the Lord Himself opened that she might be the first follower of Jesus in Europe. Lydia resolved to guard her heart in a perverse and idolatrous society like Becky’s. Once again, we find ourselves absolutely awestruck by God’s presence as Becky, the beautiful daughter of Nacho (only “one young boy”), proposes and promises to guard her heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
One thing is sure, in mesmerizing moments of God’s action of unveiling His presence, we are never the main characters. When we, and those around us, behold Him, the contrast of His power and that of the enemy, leaves us greatly amazed, and we can do no less than bow our heads giving Him the glory for what great things He has done.
And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed…Mark 9:15


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 31, 2018

November/December 2018 "...a new heart and a new spirit..." Ezekiel 36:26, 27

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 

Nothing is ever the same after the very Spirit of God performs a divine transplant of the heart of one who in humble repentance accepts the Gift He offers. Life is never again the same, possessions are not the same, goals are not the same, and momentary affliction is certainly not as significant as preparation is made for an unseen, but very real, eternal weight of glory. Following is a small sample of multiplied dozens of transplants of once rock-hard, cold hearts that recently in Tepic have been converted miraculously to vibrant ones of flesh, now-inhabited by God’s Spirit, discipled by His obedient followers, and prepared to seek out and share the life-giving Gospel with other broken hearts of stone.

Julio was the shaman of the Huichol village of Guásima del Caimán a dozen years ago when José López and his team of five missionaries first made contact there with the Gospel, and 36 rebellious hearts were replaced with hearts of flesh. Instigated by Julio, the determined and relentless persecution of the new believers began, never once letting up, especially when Mauricio, Julio’s son and next in line to become the shaman, believed. Eventually, the persecuted believers relocated to La Bendición. Mauricio’s siblings, all but one (who is in the state penitentiary), and Julio’s wife, their mother, gave their hearts to the Savior, as well; but Julio refused to listen to the Gospel…until this past September. At long last, he was persuaded, repented, and invited the Spirit to inhabit his obstinate, hardened heart. Just two short months later, Julio died. Pastor Martín, Erén, and I traveled to La Bendición for Julio’s funeral. The same brothers and sisters whom Julio had so stubbornly persecuted made the arrangements, bought the burial plot, paid his medical and funeral costs, dug the 9-foot hole for the casket with picks and shovels, and sang songs of praise as his body was being lowered into the ground. And I will put My Spirit in you.

The children from the OANSA club in Zapote de Picachos have reason to celebrate! They have learned that God Himself sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin, live a perfect life, and give Himself as a ransom so that their disobedient, little hearts of stone, now hiding God’s Word, may be transformed to the dwelling place of His Spirit. Their lives, and those of their leaders, are fresh and meaningful.

The children from the OANSA club in Tepic also have reason to celebrate--lots of reasons to celebrate! Yeimi, a 9-year-old girl in my little group called “Flames,” came from a complex, dysfunctional, amalgamated family, with little hope. But Yeimi has been faithfully hiding God’s Word in the heart of stone with which she was born, and not long ago, she made the choice to invite the Savior to be her Lord. She has consistently asked her father to help her review her memory verses, and in time, Juan Antonio, along with the rest of her family, believed.

Yeimi told Pastor Martín that she wanted to prove her commitment to Jesus and be baptized like He was, even though the water is quite cold right now. Her father, as well as four other OANSA students, Rigo, Christian, Antonio, and Teresa, followed Yeimi’s example.

This year’s Christmas Celebration at IBBM-Tepic was the best ever. Every single actor was one whose heart of stone has been wondrously transformed into a Spirit-filled heart of flesh. See their 9-minute dramatic presentation here.

The little band of mother-tongue-translators, dedicated, persevering, and faithful servants, has been at work for 11 years on the laborious task of translating the Old Testament of the very Word of God into Huichol. That precise Word of God has penetrated their once stone-hard hearts with life-giving Truth to such a degree that they, along with some others from their villages, enthusiastically gave up their Christmastime at home this year to travel to various remote mountain villages to share the Good News with Huichols who are just now hearing and learning its Truth and experiencing the miracle of new birth, a saving relationship with its Author, and hearts of flesh inhabited by His Spirit.

May we not lose sight that it is only the living Word of God, Whose birth we have celebrated just this month, and the written Word He has left us that replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and accomplishes His miraculous work by means of His very own Spirit within. This is grounds for celebration today, and every day of this new year.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 

See more November/December Tepic activity pictures here.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 10, 2018

September/October 2018 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you ~Isaiah 43:2

September/October 2018
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you ~Isaiah 43:2  

Isaiah, the last of the Old Testament books to be drafted for final public reading in the Huichol communities, was edited, revised, printed, and transported to the respective villages in the hands of each of the mother-tongue translators (MTTs) who diligently have been persevering and fulfilling their commitment to translate the complete written Word of God into their heart language. Nearly three millenniums ago, God breathed the words of this book into the heart of the prophet Isaiah, who precisely proclaimed them to God’s people. They were applicable then, and His timely words of caution, counsel, and comfort are applicable now. They are brought to the forefront in the exact moment of need. The all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present Father declares, not “if,” but “when” you pass through the waters, I will be with you.

We agreed at the last two-week workshop in May that, for safety reasons in travel, we would hold off meeting again in Tepic until after the rainy season was over following the first week of October. Meanwhile, the translators (MTTs) were at home meticulously reviewing their drafts, reading them aloud to everyone in earshot, checking for understanding and naturalness, and anxious to get together to collaborate their notations. Four months of tropical rains had washed out large portions of the airstrips near the villages of La Quemada and Los Aires leaving dangerous deep ruts and exposed boulders. The MTTs worked along with other volunteers from their villages using picks and shovels for renovating them in order for the UIM-A pilots to make successful landings to transport them back to Tepic for the workshop. Praise God, everyone arrived safely in Tepic, and the long hours of revision, completion, and audio dictation continued full steam ahead. Then, the waters of Hurricane Willa threatened. Though she had been rated Category 5, evacuating was not an option for us, or necessary, and damage in Tepic was minimal. Outlying towns and villages, however, were hit hard. Román and Venancio from La Quemada and Hilario from Los Aires lost all communication with their families left behind in the villages. They were concerned that they may have lost their houses or parts of them especially because of their composition (thatched or laminated-roof, adobe), and there was no way to get to their families. The freshly repaired airstrips near their villages were likely washed out again with the storm, and all other rural ground transport was impassable...other than on foot, and that's a very LONG days. The MTTs, without missing a beat in the task they set out to accomplish, anchored their trust in God’s promise in Isaiah completing their final book for revision:  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.

And all the while, still not missing a beat, they enthusiastically applied God’s Word and cared and prayed diligently for their brother Jacob (my son-in-law being treated for Lymphoma cancer). Jake may not be passing through ravages of the waters of Hurricane Willa, but he is passing through other storms, and they care and are committed to praying for him. They wanted their 41st workshop memento picture taken this time with their #TeamHantla bands held high. The Huichol MTTs know all too well that it is not chiefly for healing we pray, but for this, and any storm, to bring glory to our Creator. We remembered that exactly two years ago this past week, Pastor Manuel (MTT from Zapote) and Dolores lost their son, Emanuel, to cancer. His young wife, Elvira, and his little 4-month-old son, Salem, discovered that it is not always God’s will to heal, but it is always His will that we acknowledge His promise along with Isaiah: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. Two-year-old little Salem now calls his Grandpa Manuel, “Papá.”  May Salem learn to trust God in life’s deep waters and determine to bring glory to Him alone, along with the next generation of Huichol children who will soon have a complete Bible in their heart language. 

As the workshop was coming to a close, still there was no communication with the villages back home. UIM-A pilots, Clif and David, flew over the villages and dropped out the window onto the airstrips some very creative “message bombs” Clif dreamed up, requesting that the villagers get them in shape in order for Román, Venancio, Hilario, and Emilia to land safely the following day. 

That would be the only way they would be able to make it home for a long time. Román’s sweet wife, Bernarda, took off on a three to four-hour trek on foot through the mountains to a higher village where she was able to get phone signal and call Román to let him know that the airstrips would be ready for landing. That’s an eight-hour round trip she made to get the message delivered! I can just imagine the leaping in her heart as she hears Román read from the hot-off-the-press Huichol version of Isaiah: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him [her] who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."  Isaiah 52:7  The MTTs are only a part of the team for sharing the Good News.

We all face storms in life. No one is exempt. The storms are countless, difficult, and wide-ranging, like illness, opposition, pressures, unemployment, relationships, disappointments, and death of loved ones. They serve to prove the strength of the Anchor Who promises: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. ~Isaiah 43:2                 

Saturday, September 01, 2018

July/August 2018 -- As for God, his way is perfect… 2 Samuel 22:31

July/August 2018
As for God, his way is perfect…   2 Samuel 22:31 
It’s no secret that Jacob and Kiki’s son, my grandson, David, has been battling with leukemia for over 5 ½ years. During this prolonged and grueling fight, the little warrior has undergone brutal chemo treatments, repeated relapses, and multiple experimental treatment failures. After each significant disappointment, his mom and dad’s blog always concludes that the sweet thing of cancer and these trials is that we don't understand how it is good, but we don't need to, and they bring us to the end of ourselves, which is right where our good and sovereign God wants us. As for God, his way is perfect…   

These past 2 months have been chock-full of opportunities to “try to figure things out” for ourselves. That’s a dead-end path; God’s way is perfect.
These past 2 months have been chock-full of opportunities to “try to figure things out” for ourselves. That’s a dead-end path; God’s way is perfect.
Román is a key member of the team of eight Mother-Tongue-Translators (MTTs) of the Huichol Old Testament. He has been faithful at this task for ten years, nearly from the outset of the project, in spite of a lot of difficult-to-understand circumstances. The laborious job of producing an audio version is a prerequisite to the actual printing of the completed text. Last Friday, Román, Refugio, and Joaquín finished the first two-week recording workshop for Genesis, Job, and 1 Kings. It takes about an hour per chapter, and with 929 chapters in the Old Testament, there are a lot of hours of work ahead!
For the 41 two-week translation workshops in Tepic, and various in-between trips to upload work to the project repository, Román has had to travel by any means possible from his village high in the Sierra Madre of Nayarit to my house in the capital. Sometimes he’s hiked on foot to the rural bus stop nearest his village, then on to Tepic; sometimes he hitches a ride on a local’s truck heading to town; and sometimes (since 2010, and when it’s not rainy season) he’s been able to ford the river, hike to a neighboring village where there is a rocky, sloped dirt airstrip, and make a UIM plane connection (25 minutes!) to Tepic. He has more stories than I have space, for of the narrating of some rather harrowing experiences. The following are a few examples:
Last year, near the end of the rainy season, Román was bitten by a dengue-carrying mosquito. He felt horrible with the disease, but he was not about to miss out on the scheduled Old Testament translation workshop in Tepic. He and Venancio hiked down to the river, loaded their well-wrapped, precious translation laptops into a large, plastic washtub, which they buoyed up in the water with several dried gourds, and they began to swim across the current, pushing the tub along as they went. In mid-river, Román simply didn’t have the strength to swim on and gave in to the indomitable turbulence that rushed him out of sight. Venancio made it across to the other side of the river, hid the tub with the laptops, and ran downstream in search of his teammate. Neither knows how it happened, but Román was washed up to the shore alongside the river, and Venancio helped him hobble back uphill to the hidden laptops. Before long, they continued on their journey to reach their transport to Tepic.
Román was headed to Tepic in his Uncle Emilio’s rattletrap old truck when they were assaulted. The masked robbers stopped their truck in the middle of nowhere and made them get out. When they discovered that they only had $200 pesos (roughly $10 US) and their 2 cell phones, the outlaws took that, beat them, and left them lying in the dust next to the truck. When Román reached out to retrieve his cap, he was surprised to discover that the bill had been perforated by a bullet.  He felt his head to see if he had been shot, too. Apparently, the thugs missed their mark.  His comment to me later was, “Thank God they didn’t find my laptop with my latest translation work!”

Actually, all of the trucks that make trips back and forth through the mountains from “near” where Roman’s village is to the city are in a horrible state of disrepair. The trucks scale slippery, rocky paths that wend their way alongside breath-taking drop-offs and often require that the passengers get down and push. A few months ago, Roman’s ride snapped its leaf springs under the extreme load, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Not to be discouraged, the resourceful passengers produced various ropes and chords, and “shortly” (That’s a relative term.), the suspension was “in order,” and they were back on the “road” (That’s also relative.) for the final few hours to Tepic. 
Thankfully, David is in remission from his leukemia, in spite of the announcement that his last CAR-T cell experimental treatment had been a failure. David was ecstatic that at last, he would celebrate his 7th birthday out of the hospital! Not so. This year, not David, but his dad, Jacob, would be taking his place in a hospital bed with the new diagnosis of high-grade (aggressive) B cell Burkitt Lymphoma for which he has begun high-dose chemotherapy and steroids. By whatever means, Román is determined to get the Huichol Old Testament job done. He and Jacob have both learned not to try to understand the reasons for trials, nor why they are for their “ultimate good.” That brings no peace. But instead, they have chosen to place their trust in what Román has translated from 2 Samuel, that God’s way is perfect.

Enjoy more July/August Tepic activity pictures and videos here.
Watch a video of Jake's sermon at his church regarding his most recent "gift" from God.