Wednesday, March 01, 2017

January/February 2017 - Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony…They said to the woman, “…we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.

January/February 2017            
Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony…They said to the woman, “…we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39, 42)
Jesus cared about the unbelieving Samaritans even though He was Jewish and Samaritans didn’t like Jews. Jesus shared with one needy Samaritan woman who believed, and He sent her back to her village to share with her people the Truth that had set her free. The Truth she shared set them free, too.
That’s how God’s plan works. Emilia knows that well. She celebrated her 32nd birthday, Friday, giving of herself to the Huichol village of Guamuchilillo. That’s not quite like showing up at Starbuck’s and ordering an on-the-house Venti Chai Latte with extra whip in your honor. Emilia’s birthday trip to Guamuchilillo started the day before with a trek from her village to the river, hopping on the first launch that happens to come by to take her downriver to the Agua Milpa reservoir, then catching a rural transport on to Tepic. 

She rounded up a large pack full of supplies including pan dulce (sweet bread) to share with her friends, and she made copies of Bible lessons she had prepared to share with them and the village kids for the next 2-3 weeks. Emilia spent the night at my house, then she caught a pre-dawn ride to the airport on the outskirts of town where our willing UIM-Aviation friends loaded Emilia and her supplies into their Cessna. Her 30-minute flight to the airstrip at Tierra Blanca (TB) saves many hours of riding a rural transport then hiking through the mountains. 

The UIM-A crew had already arranged flights to pick up the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) teachers who just spent this past week teaching students in a couple of other mountain villages. They made the trade-off at TB (the shortest and scariest, most uninviting airstrip ever with constant, crazy, random air currents) dropping off Emilia and picking up teachers, Zacarías and José Luis, for the return to their village, La Bendición. From TB, Emilia hiked with her heavy load still another 4 hours deeper into the Sierra Madre. Emilia thrives on sharing the Truth that has set her free with the villagers of Guamuchilillo, and she joyfully makes the sacrifices necessary for the privilege. 
When a friend asked her, “Why does a single lady like you do all this stuff?” “God’s Word tells me to,” she replied without missing a beat.

Emilia graduated with the very first group of Theological Education by Extension (TEE) students after 5 years of studies. She is a faithful and diligent student and teacher.

Emilia is also a vital member of the team of mother-tongue-translators (MTT) working to finish up the assignment of converting the Old Testament into the heart-language of her people.  The task was once humanly impossible, but we expect the job will be complete by the end of 2018. Each MTT left the 34th 2-week workshop last week with the completed version of 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Samuel, Amos and Ecclesiastes in hand. Emilia really liked Amos 8:11: Days are coming—affirms the all-powerful Lord—in which I will send hunger to the land; it won't be hunger for bread or thirst for water, but hunger to hear the words of the Lord. And she asserts: “In Ezekiel 3:1-10, I learned that God told the prophet first to eat the scroll that He was going to give him, and afterwards he was to speak to the Israelites. He obeyed and was satisfied; it was sweet like honey. Likewise, I will read the word of God until I’m satisfied, then I’ll share it with others who need it.”
So, what convinced Emilia and her family in their remote mountain village of their need for the Savior? More than 35 years ago, José López heard and believed the Truth, Way and Life and was set free, indeed. Just like the Samaritan, he couldn’t wait to share the Good News and his changed life with others like him who had never heard and believed. On one of José’s many mission trips hiking through the Sierra Madre, he stopped off in the remote mountain village where Emilia’s parents lived. The villagers soundly rejected the Gospel, and José continued on his way. A few months later, Emilia’s older brother, Salomón, became very ill. The family spent everything they had getting “help” from the local shamans and appeasing their powerless gods, but Salomón was dying. Emilia’s father, Faustino, desperately set out on foot with the baby and his mother, trekking through the mountains in search of José with the hope that Jose’s “God” might save their son. They found José; José brought them to Tepic, we got Salomón to the hospital, and he lived. His parents returned to José’s village convinced that Jesus alone, is mighty to save. Weeks later, they returned to their own village, healed of their own deadly condition, and they shared their new-found faith. Emilia was born the following year. She has heard the Gospel since she was born, and she, personally, gave her life to Christ as a young teenager.
What if José had never heard?  What if José had never shared? What if Emilia had never heard? Just like the villagers of Samaria, the people of Guamuchilillo have found someone “like them” whom they know and trust, and who, regardless of the cost, has taken it upon herself to share what it is that has changed her and motivates her to make such sacrifices -- the greatest love and power in the universe, that of Jesus Christ the Savior. How blessed we are to be able to participate with Emilia and her friends. May we follow her example in our own villages.

They said to the woman, “…we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42)


Saturday, December 31, 2016

November/December 2016 - Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands

            November/December 2016

Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!  (Psalm 90:16, 17)

Based on His omnipotent God’s unfailing promises, in this unique Psalm Moses dared to make bold and confident requests of Him! And it is exhilarating to reflect on the fulfillment of our omnipotent God’s promises during the past two months in Tepic, as well.
The favor of the Lord our God has been upon us in answer to our bold and confident requests regarding the translation of the Old Testament into Huichol. It was once a daunting, seemingly insurmountable task, but the progress being made with the diligent and persistent process of drafting, revision and checking each book by the now-experienced Huichol translation team is nothing less than a display of His glorious power to His children. After the 33rd two-week workshop in Tepic, the complete manuscript is 95% revised, 60% consultant approved, and much is being community tested.  We have two years left to finish what is still an enormous undertaking, and we pray that He will establish the work of our hands for its timely completion.
Timely completion of the translation is not an end in itself.  The goal is that the Word of God in the heart-language of the Huichol people will become widely used for effective evangelism, discipleship and church-planting. Already, Huichol believers have accepted their commission to go, proclaim, baptize, and teach others to do the same. Translator Venancio and a small team of missionaries from the village La Quemada where the shaman, Asunción, believed in June  (, traveled to the community of Jesús María to share the Good News with Asunción’s shaman brother, Ramiro. 

Ramiro also believed, repented, and burned his traditional relics in a public display that now He is a follower of Jesus Christ. It's quite amazing that so many shamans are turning in their relics and sinful beliefs from the dark side as they realize their need for the one, true Savior. The team understands that the shamans are no more important in God's eyes than any other person, but historically, they have had a powerful influence on the Huichol community. Now we must pray that they may have the same zeal for learning, growing and sharing the Truth with their Huichol brothers. God’s work is being shown to His servants, and His glorious power to their children as this is the 6th shaman to believe in 2 years.

The favor of the Lord our God has been upon IBBM-Tepic also as He has established the work of our hands this past month. We celebrated the greatest Gift ever given with the children at the OANSA club party where more than 80 children and young people observed the true reason for a merry Christmas.
Similarly, His work has been shown to His servants, and His glorious power to their children in the annual IBBM-Tepic community Christmas Celebration. Much of the program, Unto Us a Child is Born, was planned, elaborated and performed by the children. We adult leaders took on the role of “assistants” and supervisors, and it’s wonderful to see how the next generation of IBBM implements its God-given gifts and talent in His service. David used his talent to orchestrate and direct a musical potpourri of traditional Christmas carols played by the children of the church who have dedicated long hours and years to learning to play musical instruments for the church worship team. 

Mishna accepted the task of preparing the 
young children’s participation in proclaiming the prophecy that the “Child” would be called “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, and the Everlasting Father”. They memorized their parts well and shared with gusto the Truth of the Savior’s fulfillment of God’s promise to the world. They are following the example of their young leaders who worked together joyfully, realizing the importance of training the next generation. The church young people performed an amazing dramatic analogy of the Prince of Peace seeking “room” in the hearts of His people who are often too comfortable, too busy, too poor, or too fearful to make a place for Him. Pastor Martín summed up with the invitation to the community to make room for the perfect Gift of God who was born to save His people from their sin.

The work of the Lord our God has been shown to His servants, and His glorious power to their children. Now, may He teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Ps. 90:12, 16

Monday, October 31, 2016

September/October 2016 - “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” ~ Proverbs 13:22

September/October 2016
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”  ~ Proverbs 13:22
The degree to which King Hezekiah trusted God as his only hope in a time of intense national turmoil was the degree to which he was set apart from the other corrupt kings of Judah. He did a lot of things right; too bad he didn’t finish well; too bad that ultimately, he was unconcerned for the future of his nation and of his own children.
It is a blessing to reflect on multiple examples of men and women in Tepic during the past two months who have inherited and acted upon the outcomes of long-term investment and God’s sovereign plan for them.
OANSA began its 22nd year at IBBM-Tepic the first Saturday of September.  The kids are enthusiastic, and 30 leaders are revitalized and anxious to continue propagating the legacy with which they have been blessed.  Last Saturday, was María’s very first opportunity to teach the “council-time”.  Her excellent lesson was, “Our God is Out of This World!”  It has been 11 years since pint-sized, 4-year-old María first joined the OANSA Cubbies.  Systematically, she has passed every requirement for leadership, and now with vigor and consistent dedication, she is reproducing that investment made in her life in the lives of others.

The legacy of teaching children to hide God’s Word in their hearts with which God has blessed IBBM-Tepic is being passed on in other locations. This past month, 

a team of Huichol missionaries carried what they have been taught to the very remote village of Guamuchilillo. UIM-Aviation air-lifted the team from Tepic to Tierra Blanca; then they hiked hours to the village with the message they had prepared to share and the materials necessary to begin the club. Local leaders from the budding church have been trained and equipped, and the next generation of children is anxious to grab hold of their inheritance.

IBBM-Tepic celebrated her silver anniversary! It’s hard to believe that 25 years have been invested in building this legacy that is continuing to grow both in number and maturity, and that these “joint-heirs with Christ” have heartily answered the call to share their heritage at home and also to carry that Good News way beyond our community. This celebration kindles a heart filled with thankfulness for the enormous team of friends who have participated to make this miracle possible.

Pastor Manuel from Zapotede Picachos could not be more grateful today for the legacy of truth that has been passed on to him and his family for more than 15 years. His 21-year-old son, Emanuel, was admitted to the hospital three weeks ago with a tumor on his neck. Actually, the doctors found multiple tumors, and in surgery they discovered that the very aggressive cancer had metastasized throughout his body. Five days later, Emanuel died, leaving behind his young wife, Elvira, and his 4-month-old son, Salem, as well as his parents and a village full of friends who are reeling at their loss. As painful as it is to say good-bye, praise God for the hope that Emanuel is an heir of salvation, purchased of God, and their separation is only temporary. What if no one had invested in Emanuel as a young boy, and he never had heard and believed in the Savior who paid the debt for his sin?

And speaking of a good man leaving an inheritance to his children’s children, just two weeks ago, Kirt’s and my first grandson, Anders Kirt, was baptized at the IBBM-Tepic church by Pastor Martín. Anders made the wise choice to place his trust exclusively in Jesus for his salvation, and then he chose to follow His example and declare that decision publicly, in Mexico. That he asked Pastor Martín to celebrate this act of obedience with him in Tepic is evidence of God’s promise to comfort, assure and empower His commissioned, obedient heirs always, to the end of the age. What ever could bring greater joy than to know that Kirt’s children and grandchildren, both biological and spiritual, are walking in the truth.  Don’t miss this 90-second video, produced byJonatán García, of the thrilling moment.

Few disciples finish well; actually, only about 1 in 3 Bible leaders did. Future legacy has always required a present investment, and it’s not cheap. Finishing well is only guaranteed by today’s choice to remember that the purpose of this life is not this life, living so that convictions and God’s promises are seen to be authentic in a vibrant, personal relationship with Him right up to the end. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.  ~Proverbs 13:22


Friday, July 01, 2016

May/June 2016 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.

May/June 2016
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. Ex. 1:12
These have been two months of crazy physical and emotional affliction for my family. My mom was hospitalized with a heart attack the first week of May. The following week, my dad had surgery to insert a g-tube to alleviate his chronic swallowing difficulties. A week later, my grandson, David, now 4 years old, was diagnosed with relapsed leukemia, this time in the central nervous system, after completing 3 ½ long years of chemo and having been declared cancer-free just weeks prior. I had oral surgery including a bone graft in Guadalajara last week. This stuff is not easy, nevertheless, we know well that it, too, is a good gift from our Father, and He has a perfect and sovereign purpose in it.
My last lesson before summer recess for the IBBM-Tepic Women of Excellence was about God’s provision of a liberator/redeemer for Israel in the very most intense times of affliction. The children of promise found that in spite of conditions much worse than we can imagine, in a world full of the vilest of infidels making multiple unacceptable, unbearable and ungodly demands upon them, God was faithful; and surprisingly, at that moment at least, they were faithful to Him. He provided through His providence exactly what He had promised.  I love Exodus 1:7. They “were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” We learned that the word Moses (actually, God) uses for “filled” specifically denotes “swarmed” with them!
This recent personal affliction of ours doesn’t really hold a candle to the suffering that the Hebrews endured at the culmination of their 400 years of bondage in the hands of Egyptian despots. But it does put into perspective the immense joy that comes with witnessing fruitfulness, great increase, multiplication, excessive strength, and the filling of the land with faithful followers that God delivers in the face of simultaneous suffering. And the following are a few examples of the swarms of fruitful increase in and around Tepic these past two months!

IBBM-Tepic celebrated its mothers the first week of May. The church platform was swarming with its beautiful ladies who are striving to follow God’s direction for loving Him and their families well.

The IBBM-Tepic OANSA club has been fruitful and increased greatly; it too was swarming with OANSA kids and leaders receiving their awards for a year of fulfilling requirements for unashamed, approved workers. María and Lynethe began coming to OANSA when they were 4 and 6 years old (along with their parents). They have passed through the ranks of Cubbies, Sparkies, Flames, Torches, and Leaders-in-Training and are now sporting their official OANSA leaders’ uniforms. The following week, the church was filled to the brim with happy clubbers as they spent their hard-earned OANSA-pesos at the annual OANSA fair organized and operated by their generous, hard-working leaders.

Juan José and David also are growing exceeding strong as they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation and have obeyed His mandate to follow Him and be baptized.

There has been fruitful increase in the Huichol village churches, as well.

In 2003, Pastor José led a little group of Huichol missionaries on a long trek through the mountains to the very remote village of Mojarras. A few who heard the Gospel believed. Since then, Pastor Hilario from Los Aires has stepped up to the challenge of continuing steadily to disciple and evangelize, and the little body of believers there has multiplied and grown exceeding strong. They have worked together under the leadership of their very own Pastor Felix, along with Pastor Hilario, to build a little church building from handmade adobes. In the previous prayer update, I shared some of the affliction they suffered in getting the roofing material to the village that is totally inaccessible by vehicle. The job has been done, and our faithful brothers and sisters there are filled with gratitude to their beloved Redeemer.

In the village of Zoquipan, yet another shaman has made the decision to trust Jesus as his Savior. For lots of years Asunción was a passionate persecutor of the believers at Zoquipan and the neighboring village of La Quemada. After he inherited the religious relics and position of shaman from his father, he grew even more antagonistic. Recently lots of personal afflictions stirred Asunción to begin to question his life-long trust in his false gods. While Pastor Manuel from Zapote and José Luis from La Bendición were visiting, teaching the book of Acts segment (When the Church was Young and Bold -- Ha! How ironic, right?) to the TEE (Theological Education by Extension) students at La Quemada, Asuncion put aside his pride and hiked to the neighboring village to hear the truth. He asked Manuel and José how much it would cost for him to become a believer. Manuel wisely answered, “Everything you have.”  The shaman made the wise choice to place his trust in the One, True Savior.  A day later, he burned all of his powerless charms and religious trappings making a public statement that he, Asunción the shaman, was now a follower of Jesus. And the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew.

None of this multiplication and growth and fruit just happens. Many of you who are reading this have had a vital part, for a lot of years, in answering the call to participate in the logistics of the increase that God only gives in Tepic. For that I sincerely thank you; it has not been in vain. My sending church, NVBC (North Village Baptist), has stood valiantly alongside this Tepic team for more than 40 years. This past month, they sent another crew to help out. It was a daunting and humanly impossible task for the little band of hard-working servants, but as a result of literal blood, sweat and tears and national collaboration, the village church at La Bendición now has a fabulous OANSA game court! Our prayer is that the outcome of some momentary affliction will be a generation of Huichol children who will know that we love them, that God loves them more, and will believe and offer their lives to multiply and spread abroad the Good News of the Liberator/Redeemer.