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 

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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

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

September/October 2017 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

September/October 2017

        The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.   Proverbs 11:30
King Solomon shared that there’s a permanent legacy awaiting those who make the wise choice to obey God’s instructions for building His Kingdom. There’s been a lot of fruitful, legacy-building, tree of life branch-expanding, and wise activity going on lately in Tepic, the surrounding villages, and worldwide.
I received a phone call from Pastor Phil from NVBC during the 36th Huichol OT translation workshop. He and Steve Evers from ITMI were headed to India for a teaching conference for 100 indigenous pastors in Madras; he wanted to know if there would be any Mexico volunteers who would commit to praying, one-on-one, for a specific national pastor, daily, for an entire year (With only 18 spots available). The Huichol mother-tongue-translators jumped at the opportunity to participate. Only one problem; they didn’t know where India is. And they wanted to know what language they speak--Tamil (Funny they should ask!). All of them left with a poster-sized world map in hand (India highlighted) and a firm promise that each one’s village church would pray for the trip, for the pastors’ conference, and specifically, for one pastor-partner from India for one year, at least. There were lots more ladies than available pastors left over to pray for, but 11 sisters from the ladies’ ministry that evening accepted the challenge for the same. Our worldwide vision and the tree of life grows by caring, sharing, and praying.
An observable result of winning souls and making disciples is the next step of obedience. Pastor Nacho baptized his beautiful daughter, Rebecca, adding even more branches to our bountiful tree of life and to his legacy. I wish I could take the space to tell the stories of each one. Our choices, whether wise or foolish, lead to ultimate consequences. Not only is the winner of souls wise, but he or she who chooses to receive the Truth, also, is wise.
That tree-of-life-legacy does not come easy, it’s not cost-free, and it often requires careful and tedious pruning along the way, but the fruit is a trail of real people whose souls, by God’s grace, have moved from death to life. IBBM-Tepic celebrated her 26th anniversary since she was first planted. New Life-Scottsdale sent Pastor Luis and Carrie to share in the wisdom-getting process this year. They did an excellent job of watering, adding nutrients, and a little expert pruning of undergrowth. Twenty-six years…and counting!
Huichol pastor, José López, came from his village to join in the 26th celebration. He’s doing a little celebrating of his own. He’s been praying for several years that God would send a companion to accompany him in his ministry. It’s been nine years since Benita graduated to heaven; Juanita from La Bendición (who has been widowed for 4 years) is the answer to those prayers. They will be married as soon as they can get their legal documents in order. This is the closest you’ll get to smiles.  J
Juanita went along on her first mission trip last week accompanying José and a team from Loma Alta to the fledgling village work in Paso de Álica. Lídia was born in Paso de Álica, and her life is a shining testimony to God’s grace. Before Lídia heard of the one true God Who sent His Son to pay for her sin, she lived with a man who constantly and violently abused her. The last she saw of him, she was expecting their first child, but he beat her so severely that she lost the baby. Meanwhile, God’s grace was extended to Casimiro, a Huichol man who spent most of his young life, drunk. That’s another long story, but both, Lídia and Casimiro, heard the Gospel message, and their lives were transformed from that day forward. They were married, and they have determined not to waste their lives. Lídia’s father, from the village of Paso de Álica, recently divided his property among his children. Lídia chose to donate her inheritance to the baby church they are planting in the village. Because of Lídia’s injuries, she never has been able to have children of her own. That problem, short of a miracle, never will be resolved, and that’s very sad; but her biggest problem, her separation by sin from her holy Creator, has been completely resolved, and she and Casimiro are committed to sharing that remedy with every person within their reach. They have “children” throughout the mountains and the best legacy ever, a fruitful tree of life that God gives to His special servants who wisely share His Truth.  
Neither foolishness nor wisdom is predetermined. Either is the result of an intentional choice. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.   Proverbs 11:30


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Friday, September 01, 2017

July/August 2017 Connections and Destination

July/August 2017
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. John 10:27–28

The life of every believer is a journey for which God has designed a unique and sovereign purpose. Regardless the means of transport, the itinerary, and unexpected layovers, making the right connection on this most important trip determines secure arrival at the destination.

This “travel business” has been obvious during the past two months in Tepic. More than two years ago, a Mexican missionary friend who works on the Manawan reserve with the Attikamekw people of Canada observed the passion and excellence with which the young people from IBBM Tepic minister annually in the Huichol indigenous youth camp. He proposed that they prepare themselves to carry out a similar activity with the Attikamekw near Quebec. David, Jonatán, Luis, and Josué took the challenge and began preparing and making appropriate connections to be the first ever foreign missionary team sent out from IBBM Tepic. They kept foremost in mind the concept that if a “sower goes out to sow” he must first have the seed in hand. They went about preparing the seed, taking French classes, translating verses and music, and raising finances for such an expensive and demanding mission project. 
They made and sold frozen treats, took over the church custodial work, played their musical instruments for hire everywhere they were invited that didn’t conflict with church activities, taught classes -- anything they could think of to earn the money for trip expenses and the OANSA equipment they donated to the little Attikamekw church so they could begin their own children’s Bible club. Offerings the team didn’t expect came in to help offset expenses. A friend, who loves them, underwrote the cost of their flights from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Montreal. Another paid the fee for their grueling and time-consuming US visa interviews ($160 US each). Since the flight to Montreal had a layover in Houston, they would be landing on US soil, so they were forced to be approved and pay for expensive US visas. It’s a miracle in itself that 4 single, formally unemployed young men were individually granted US visas! From the moment they landed in Guadalajara, the travel was a disaster. One team member discovered that despite scrupulous preparation, he had left his expense money back home four hours away! 
That resolved, they boarded the flight from Guadalajara to Houston where they were obligated to deplane and pass through US Customs. The lines were enormous as the Immigration computer system was down. The very generous 3 hours they had allowed for Customs, Immigration and re-boarding the flight to Montreal where they would meet their hosts ran out, and they missed the connection. They were re-routed and finally ended up in Montreal well after midnight, 3 hours from Quebec…without their luggage. Determined to continue their calling with “Brave Hearts,” at long last they made it to their destination. Their efforts paid off with 10 days of hard work, faithful service, and a mission well-accomplished. They made the right connections; they arrived securely at their destination. 

Sofía, Pastor Martín’s mother, is a well-worn traveler who has had innumerable layovers and obstacles on her life’s journey. She was born in a remote mountain village in Oaxaca. Her father abandoned his family leaving her mother and siblings penniless. They worked hard in the fields barely eking out enough to eat. Sofía was unable to study beyond 2nd grade. Her mother sent her off to work as a maid in Mexico City where she was severely mistreated. She met Fidencio, escaped with him when she was 15, and they were married. There were lots of unimaginable twists and turns in their journey before they were sent by the military to Tepic the year Kirt and I landed here, 1977. Shortly thereafter is when we met their young son, Martín. That’s altogether another journey. Martín chose to believe in Jesus as His Savior, but his family remained devoted to tradition and rejected the Gospel, and him, and us for sure. For years, Sofía resented us, refusing to listen. Then came the day, only by God’s grace; she heard, repented, and placed her faith in Him alone. She made the connection by faith, now her imperishable destination is eternal life. A year ago, Sofía signed up to study a basic one-on-one discipleship course with me (How ironic!). It’s only 16 lessons, but it took us a year as she struggled with reading, writing and memorizing Bible texts. 
We celebrated her discipline, passion, and perseverance to learn with a “graduation” breakfast at a rustic, ranch-style restaurant. Every time we got together to study, we prayed together, begging God to move in her husband and Martin’s father’s heart, that Fidencio also might make the “connection” that leads to eternal life. We determined that her graduation celebration would be an intentional exercise in discipleship, inviting Fidencio to join us, and putting into practice specifically sharing the Gospel and inviting him to believe. He heard and agreed that his faith is placed in something other than Jesus, but like Agrippa, though persuaded, he still rejects the connection destined to eternal life. Please pray with Sofía and me that Fidencio will hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him.

Jesus is the one-and-only connection whose destination is eternal life. Getting to heaven is not up to us, but making the choice to connect by faith and follow the Shepherd is.

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

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