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.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

March/April 2018 Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee... Acts 3:6

March/April 2018 

Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee… many of them which heard the word believed. Acts 3:6, 4:4 

No one looks intentionally at a beggar unless he or she intends to give. Peter and John deliberately fixed their gaze on the lame man who, at the temple gate for four decades, had begged ignoring passersby for alms. The disciples, personally, had nothing to offer, but they were chosen to be the conveyors of the Gift the broken man needed most. He had been a young boy when the Savior was born, and now, by faith in His power and His name, the invalid was doubly healed. His dramatic expression of gratitude and joy caused a snowball effect for the Kingdom.

This past couple of months in Tepic has involved a lot of intentional gaze-fixing on very needy destitutes like ourselves, a lot of compassionate, self-sacrificing conveyors, and a lot of leaping with joy and gratitude snowballing into further sharing of the Good News.

March started off with the 39th 2-week Huichol Old Testament translation workshop in Tepic. This team of mother-tongue-translators (MTTs) is nothing short of a miracle. They work in unity from early morning until late at night, never complaining about the long hours and time away from their families and villages. They are determined to fulfill the commitment they made 11 years ago to work alongside trained linguists in order to have the complete Bible in their heart language. At the close of the workshop, 2 Chronicles, Job, Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had been community tested; Isaiah, Ezekiel and Habakkuk, back-translated; and Jeremiah 23-52, Lamentations, Ezekiel 36-48 and Habakkuk were consultant checked. Job was corrected and printed for community testing. Only the book of Isaiah remains to be consultant checked along with a few other passages that need polishing. Before the project can go to print, the translators must make an audio recording that can be uploaded to the Internet. That alone is a major time-consuming and tedious task for which we will be making arrangements in the next few weeks. In addition to the Old Testament translation job, the MTTs have insisted that the Huichol language has evolved so much in the last 50+ years since the New Testament was completed that it is necessary to revise that text, as well. They have charged into that job, simultaneously. They are self-sacrificing conveyors of the Good News, hard-working, disciplined and persevering, and they are determined to have the complete Word of the one, true Kakaɨyari, in their heart language. Praise God! The 40th workshop begins May 14. Please join me in leaping with joy and gratitude and praying for the snowball effect of this gift of God for further sharing of the Good News with those who desperately need the healing it brings.

We made the plans, wrote the curriculum, discipled the leaders, and organized the logistics for the 7th annual Huichol youth camp held during Easter week, never knowing exactly how many would be able to attend until the first day of camp. We were hoping for around 200 Huichol teens and leaders, and we were not disappointed! All who came, clearly heard the Gospel message, and at least 15 Huichol teenagers who heard, understood the Gospel, asked to be forgiven and born into God’s family, and have chosen to commit their lives to the purpose He has for them to follow Him and serve others until Jesus returns. The campers have all safely returned to their villages, one way or another, and are beginning the lifelong process of becoming diligent disciples. Check out this cute UIM-A video of three girls who were airlifted by our pilot friends to their very remote village after camp…first time ever in an airplane, for sure! We did not have the silver and gold necessary for such a humanly impossible task, but again, as always, God used the generosity of the extended worldwide team, and many of them which heard the Word received the best Gift ever.

The day after the camp was over, 19 new believers were baptized at La Bendición, including a few of those who attended the youth camp. The following day, 7 were baptized at Loma Alta; and 17 at El Salate, a day later.

Enjoy some camp, baptism and discipleship pictures and videos here.

There is a constant network of intentional gaze-fixing, compassionate, self-sacrificing conveyors of the Good News trekking through the Sierra Madre to multiple villages (like Santa Bárbara, San Miguel de Huastita, Tutu Yecuamama, Guamuchilillo, El Salate, and Mojarras) to offer the Gift and follow-up with those who have heard the Word and believed.

Even imagining all of this Kingdom stuff is challenging, and the carrying out is humanly and personally impossible. It is designed and efficiently coordinated by God Himself Who has swung open the doors and provided the necessary strength, wisdom, and resources. Thank you for allowing Him to use you, too, as a vital part of the team. It’s cause for nothing short of leaps of joy and gratitude.

Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee… many of them which heard the word believed. Acts 3:6, 4:4 

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 01, 2018

January/February 2018 - Come, Follow, I'll Make you Fishers of Men

January/February 2018
 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
Román teaching José López and José Carrillo
He did not even know the divine mandate yet, but from the day José López believed, a still small voice within bore witness with his spirit that it is a privilege and the obligation of a son of God to come follow his Savior Who promises to make him a fisher of men. He learned early on that even in this world of much tribulation, he could have peace, be of good cheer, and place his total trust in the Overcomer Who has promised that He alone has authority in heaven and on earth, and He would be with him always as he went about making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them as he had been commanded.

Thirty-six years ago, when José believed, the Good News changed his purposeless life completely. He learned to read and study, so he would be able to share God’s Word with his people, the Huichols, who had never heard the Truth. He set out with a one-track, determined focus on carrying the message of salvation, true freedom, and eternal life to remote mountain villages in the Sierra Madre. Many rejected the Savior’s message, but many others believed. Regardless of the immediate outcome or intense trials, he was never distracted from the divine directive.
Last week 26 Huichol pastors from now-established village churches throughout the mountains of our state, gathered at the centrally-located church at La Bendición for the first-ever, week-long Huichol pastors’ conference. A dozen or so others were unable to attend. That “gathering” required all kinds of creative travel from hiking on foot through the mountains, speeding downriver in boats, UIM-A airlifts, urban buses, and hitching truck rides. Mexican pastors Martín and Nacho moderated the program.
 STOP and soak in the magnitude of meaning behind this remarkable picture. Do we realize what God has done to make this shot possible?  His orders are to “Come and Follow.” His promise is to bring in the fish. Román and Kirt brought and taught José who has been life-long faithful. Nacho was faithful to bring his “brother,” Martín to Jesus, both of whom have been life-long faithful to their callings. You, on the team behind all of this, have been life-long faithful. And God has faithfully fulfilled His promise, bringing in, one-at-a-time, and personally cleaning the fish with whom He has chosen to fill His brimming and overflowing nets.
The theme for the week:  Jeremiah 3:15 “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”   Pastors According to the Heart of God No more, no less.

The 39th two-week OT translation workshop begins this coming Monday. José and the rest of the translator team will begin arriving Saturday to be in place for the continued revision-work and text assessment they have been working on in their assorted villages. These hard-working friends have done an amazing job learning and applying principles of good translation, keeping their noses to the grindstone, and joyfully doing a task that began 11 years ago and seemed insurmountable. If all goes as expected, by the end of 2019, the Huichols will have a complete written and audio Bible in their heart language. Oh, and not the least of the things they have learned is the ability to systematically and neatly load their own dishes in the dishwasher after every meal...thank goodness! 
 Please pray diligently for this effort that the enemy obviously has been opposed to from the outset. Pray also for the 7th annual Huichol youth camp we will be hosting Easter week. The theme this year is Jesus is Coming. Though we never know how many will arrive until the first day of camp, we’re expecting at least 200 Huichol teens and their leaders, and around 20 IBBM-Tepic Mexican youth leaders this year. Pray that these efforts, and others, will continue the job of preparing the next generation of Mexican and Huichol leaders in the essential, future-focus of faithfully coming, following, and fishing for men.  
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind…”  Matthew 13:47

Monday, January 01, 2018

November/December 2017 - finishing well

November/December 2017

He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Paul echoes the Master/Teacher’s exemplary words: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) What a privilege it has been to be with my family this week as we have said, “good-bye” to another year and embark on a new one. Seventy-some immediate family members (of my parents’ 90 offspring) gathered at their house the day after Christmas to share, sing, praise, and celebrate our Savior and His provision for our tribe. What a privilege to hear my dad’s words of wisdom to his family, “I am so blessed … We will finish well.” Our patriarch will turn 86 this week. Life for him has not always been easy or painless, but it has always been in the perfect company of a sovereign and loving Lord. “Finishing well” is to set an example for the generations that follow and ultimately, to bring glory to Him Who began the good work.

Finishing well is a goal that also has been foremost in plans and activities lately in Tepic and the surrounding villages. The nine Mother-Tongue Translators (MTTs) who each had promised last October to pray all year for a pastor-partner from India were saddened to hear that Pastor Phil, from NVBC, was injured in a fall while teaching in India. When he returned to the US, he had a severe infection and a brain bleed requiring hospitalization, surgeries, and continued rehab. The MTTs are persisting with their prayer-commitment for the pastors in India, and every day of the 37th two-week Old Testament translation workshop, they prayed diligently for their convalescing friend. Not only are they committed to finishing well the enormous, laborious task of the translation project, but also, they are dedicated to putting into practice the application of its Truth.

Pastor Phil brought back a woolen Sherpa hat for Pastor José López. He was thrilled to have been remembered and to have a nice warm hat for the mission trip that he and 9 other Huichols planned for Christmas week. They agreed to leave their own villages and rendezvous in Tepic to travel together to the remote mountain village of Los Aires to share in teaching, discipling and encouraging the “family” this Christmas. This faithful Huichol pastor is determined to finish well, the good work that God has given him to do.

“Finishing well” is to set an example for the generations that follow and ultimately, to bring glory to Him, Who began the good work. This year’s IBBM-Tepic Christmas Celebration was designed, directed, and finished well exclusively by the “next generation” of young church leaders who did a wonderful job of working together on the task they accepted for community outreach: Celebrating Jesus.
We have made the plans, written the curriculum, and begun the preliminaries for the upcoming 7th annual Huichol youth camp during Easter week. Seven is the number of completion, and we will finish well with the theme: Jesus is Coming. This will be the last year that Martín, Erén, Nacho, Lorena, and I will select the theme, write the curriculum, organize the activities, and be “in charge.” Next year, the year of new beginnings, will see Huichol leadership taking over that task. Of course, we, along with the IBBM-Tepic youth staff, are working and will continue to work alongside them, hand-in-hand, as they go about the job of learning to lead. We held a 3-day workshop at the village church of La Bendición to teach key leaders who came from their various mountain villages how to dig out what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Millennium, the Judgement Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne, and at last, Eternity. The Huichol team is excited to have learned what God has shared with us in His Word for those who finish well. They are determined to make sure that every single Huichol teen who comes to camp hears, understands, and has the opportunity to make the choice to finish well. Preparing the next generation of leaders isn’t easy. It involves teamwork, sacrifice, and God’s grace. It involves a future-focus, essential to finishing well.

He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Enjoy more finishing well pix here

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