Monday, August 01, 2022

June-July 2022 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope



Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 

Search as they may, joy and peace are scarce commodities for today’s world full of strivers. Yet the offer is plain and clear, there for the asking, for believing in our all-powerful God of hope. Though adverse circumstances and problems swarm, He alone offers all joy, peace, and hope that's humanly unexplainable, not by relying on feelings, people, governments, or anything we can see, but instead, by solely trusting God’s power. And that sustaining God-given hope has one distinct purpose: giving it away, sharing it with the hopeless. 

The past two months in Tepic and surrounding villages have been filled to capacity with examples of the sharing of that abundant hope
Members of Pueblo Nuevo (meaning “New Town”) left their village of Guásima de Caimán insisting that they had had enough of the Gospel and the growing group of villagers who are believers. They moved to a new village where they could continue following their traditional ways with NO Christians allowed! …until Eugenio took a nasty fall that left him bedridden. The brothers from Guásima came and prayed for his healing. He was twice-healed and began to share his joy, peace, and hope through the power of the Holy Spirit with his neighbors who believed, too. Now Pueblo Nuevo is truly a NEW town; half of the adults there have believed and been baptized! 










Huichol pastors and leaders from village churches throughout the Sierra Madre met together in Zapote de Picachos for their second annual pastors’ conference. The theme this year was Suffering in the Ministry, based on the life of Moses. These guys know the key to finding and sharing joy and peace and hope in the midst of difficulty. Pastors Manuel and Joaquín were officially ordained at this conference. 






After two long years of not being allowed to host our OANSA club at IBBM-Tepic, we finally got the “go-ahead” in January. Our OANSA year was shortened, but joy and peace and the reason for the hope that is in us thrive as we hide God’s Word in our hearts and systematically train the next generation of IBBM leaders. 

Then followed the annual ladies’ retreat with our sister church in Ixtlán del Rio, “How Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” the Source of our joy, peace, and hope. 







 




As soon as that retreat was over, we organized a youth camp for our IBBM students, inviting high schoolers from sister churches in Durango (Mexico), Compostela, and Ixtlán. The theme was “Run the Race,” a reminder that joy, peace, and hope come from God alone, but sharing it requires making a choice, discipline, and active personal participation. 
The baby church in Huichol village of Vizcarra is in the process of clearing land and working on a building for them to meet in. They have so little, but they were determined to get started with what they have. They pooled their resources to buy land from a coffee plantation owner and buy cement, and they used their strength to start leveling the land, digging the trenches, and scouring the mountains for rocks that they have hauled in gunny sacks for the footings. Unexpected gifts from friends all over the place, some who are reading this, have paid for the bricks they need, provided for the roof when the walls are up and ready, and donated a 1,100-liter water storage tank and its connections, a graphic reminder that God miraculously provides Living Water to those who least expect it, when they need it most. That Living Water is the source of joy, peace, and hope for the people of one of the most beautiful villages ever. 




















IBBM-Tepic celebrated the completion of the final details of Phase One (the lower level) of our 2-year classroom construction project, and this phase has been dedicated to God’s service. It is beautiful and extremely functional, and we are thankful for many who have had a part in making this dream a reality, especially for the power of God that sustains us with joy and peace and hope, gives us a place to prepare students to give an answer to everyone who asks for the reason for their hope, and leaves us with more than enough of that hope to give away to others.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

April/May 2022 Make known his deeds among the people! Tell of all his wondrous works!

April/May 2022 

Oh give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:1, 2


We children of God have “our Father Who is in Heaven…” the Creator of all that exists, the Controller of every historic event, the Contriver behind the plan of redemption, and the Champion of its completion. That Commander in Chief is our Father. How can we not sing praises to Him and tell of all His wondrous works
The ninth annual Huichol youth camp is history, but His wondrous works will last forever. After having to cancel camp for the past two years, both the Huichol campers and leaders and the IBBM-Tepic church staff and student leaders were raring to go. This year 113 campers along with their respective pastors and youth leaders from nine mountain villages attended. Though it was chosen for 2020, Lead Me to the Cross could not have been a better or timelier theme as it reinforced our focus on “Ground Zero” for the reason we have the hope we cherish. Huichol pastors and teachers taught dynamic Gospel-message lessons like: The Significance of the Cross, From Creation to the Cross, The Glory of the Cross, The Theology of the Cross, Living at the Foot of the Cross, His Cross-My Cross, and finished up the day before Good Friday with The Crucifixion of Jesus
Seventeen hard-working, joyful, and non-complaining Huichol ladies came along with their campers to do the cooking and make hand-flapped tortillas every day for the entire camp. The cooks prepared over 2,300 meals during the week for over 200 happy eaters. 

In addition, several members of the Tepic church donated their time and skills to teach specialty workshops. Every camper (their pastors, too) registered for electricity, hair-cutting, first aid, or music theory, to learn basics from professionals in their fields. That was a huge success! What a blessing for some pastors who, until recently, didn’t even have electricity in their villages, but now they can install electrical outlets, switches, and light sockets safely and effectively in their homes and churches! 
Twenty-six student-leaders from the Tepic church gave up their Spring break to serve God and their “neighbors” with their whole hearts. This camp would be impossible without their creativity and hard work. They are learning to serve well! The rented campground is very rustic; it’s a converted brick “factory.” Everything we use has to be hauled from Tepic and set up: the canopy, tables, chairs, kitchen supplies, refrigerator, stoves and gas tanks, blankets for the campers, tents, musical instruments and audio/video equipment, stage and scenery, everything. Then when it’s over, everything is returned, cleaned, and stored for next year. The student leaders from Tepic know that the job isn’t done until everything is back in storage. It’s nothing short of a miracle to watch them joyfully in action and to witness their hearts of love and service for their Huichol brothers and sisters. 
In all, for starters, there were a lot of mouths to feed, transportation costs to underwrite, campground fees to pay, games to organize, scripts to compose, and lessons to prepare. It was a marvelous opportunity for the Mexican young people to learn to minister to Huichol campers and for Huichol campers to hear the Gospel and be discipled in a very out-of-the-ordinary setting. Several, at least six, recognized their need for the Savior, and the campers left begging for camp next year. Though IBBM-Tepic hosts and does the legwork, this project certainly is not the work of a single person or church. It requires collaboration from God’s people all over the world who sincerely love Him and His plan and faithfully give Him the glory as His Word is proclaimed, and many are led to the Cross. 

Making known His deeds among the people didn’t end with camp. The campers and their leaders returned to their respective villages, and several celebrated Resurrection Day with baptisms. In La Bendición, 14 new believers, five of them from camp, were baptized giving thanks to the Lord and telling of His wondrous works. Could we “with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made” it would not be enough to tell the stories behind these new followers of Jesus. Sing praises to Him! 

Watch Huichol Camp video recaps here (by Caleb González): 

Friday, April 01, 2022

February/March 2022 A Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken

February/March 2022 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28 What? A kingdom that cannot be shaken. Really?! That’s hard to imagine right now. A kingdom like that would be made possible only by a Sovereign Who is worthy of grateful, acceptable, reverent, and awe-inspired worship. Praise goes to the Founder and Perfecter of our faith for a diverse community of committed compatriots who have been about the task of working together to share the Good News and grow where He has placed them in this world that is not our home. There has been a lot of diligent proclaiming of the Good News about that unshakeable kingdom and the King Himself, Who gave His life to pay the price of forgiveness and admission to the place He has gone to prepare for its citizens. Here are a few recent examples:
Although the pandemic is still causing hiccups and requiring painstaking effort in the operations of the ministries here in Tepic, we are grateful that it can never prevail against God’s plan for His kingdom. Services are completely in person now, though we’re still live streaming for those who are unable to attend because of disabilities. That’s an unexpected blessing that has come out of this awful time of lockdown! OANSA (AWANA) on Saturday afternoons is back in full force, and the kids and leaders are thrilled. We kicked off our return with a 4-week OANSATLÓN game time. David, this year’s game director, planned the challenging citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger) competitions with team-building activities focused on winning the prize honestly and in unity. Jonatán, the OANSA commander, rigged up a professionally-narrated “live-recording studio” broadcast from atop the neighbor’s roof to some of the uttermost parts of the earth. Kingdom unshaken! 

At last, we got the “go-ahead” for Huichol Youth Camp 2022. We had already written the scripts, prepared the teaching sessions, and coordinated activities for 2020 -- even had the t-shirts printed! Huichol young people and their local pastors from villages all throughout the mountains can hardly wait for April 10! This year’s theme is Lead Me to the Cross. I know that God is going to use this camp to change lots of lives and encourage believers to keep our focus clear. May this reminder of Jesus’s unmerited grace and the price he paid for our redemption bring about acceptable worship, with reverence and awe

Just last week, a group of 15 young volunteers from the IBBM-Tepic church headed to Durango (a state in Mexico) for a mission outreach at a little church there. These cream-of-the-crop kids ooze with God’s love and encouragement everywhere they go. The trip was laced with multiple mechanical difficulties, but the team is learning well to be grateful for the kingdom as they experience God’s provision in places beyond our borders. 



Grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken
, Huichol believers are constantly looking for ways to offer themselves as living sacrifices and their gifts for the service of the King and His subjects. After 12 years of diligent work as mother-tongue translators of the Huichol Bible, pastors Refugio and Hilario have stepped up to the new challenge of using their polished skills to translate the 16-lesson Biblical Discipleship curriculum into their heart language, as well. A Mexican family from the Tepic church couldn’t wait to share in the kingdom work and gave them each a tent and sleeping bags to use on their trips to teach new followers of Jesus in more remote mountain villages. This kind of stuff leads to nothing short of reverent acceptable worship of an awe-inspiring God Who makes these things happen.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

December 2021/January 2022 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book..." Psalm 139:16

 December 2021/January 2022

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; all the days ordained for me were written in your book when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:16

One thing is sure, our Father’s purpose transcends the dates that we humans have established; His plans never have been subject to them. First, the uncertainty of 2019 spilled over into 2020, then 2021 emerged, and now we have hurdled into 2022. Still, the “normalcy” we had expected is out of reach. We most certainly are not in control, nevertheless, these days were recorded in His book before days even existed. By faith, we can be confident that regardless of the circumstances, this year is just what He ordered. Despite the constant roller coaster of government restrictions and unexpected changes in plans, the past two months in Tepic are proof positive that we can trust that His thoughts and ways are not ours. They are positively higher than ours. 


After such a long time of government prohibition, what a treat it was for the ladies from IBBM-Tepic to get together to celebrate Christmas. As I prepared the lesson for our study time, I found myself jumping straight to Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was…” I had to question, “Wait! Since all Scripture is inspired, why did I automatically skip over the first 17 verses?” Genealogies! That’s why! No thanks! Oh, but Matthew takes us to the Hope of Christmas in Jesus’s family tree. 

The wonder of Christmas is that Jesus, the redeeming Son of God, left His perfect place in Heaven to enter this broken and wounded world as a human baby. Even more amazing is that the hurting and broken are found right there in Jesus’s very own family tree — the real Christmas tree. And five of those hurting and broken ancestors of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary, are women…and not all those girls are Jewish, and every single one lugged heavy “baggage.” That scandalous baggage required scandalous grace! Not one of us had control over the family we were born into…but every one of us is invited to belong to a new family, His family, and a new identity in Him.” 

The following Sunday, Huichol Pastor José López stopped in for a visit at IBBM-Tepic. The family at the Tepic church loves him and his Huichol brothers and sisters. We love sharing with them and hearing his testimony of how God has been blessing faithful efforts in multiple villages in the Sierra Madre during these “abnormal” days that the Omnipotent has ordained and recorded in His book before the beginning of time. The pandemic has had little effect on the resilient Huichol community, mostly the bother of using face masks whenever they come to town! José asked for prayer for the Christmastime mission outreaches that he and leaders from other village churches would be combining efforts to perform. In his group, José and nine others traveled those treacherous roads in the back of a pickup truck to Codorniz and San Andrés, more remote villages in the mountains, to disciple and share the Good News of the rescue mission of the Greatest Christmas Gift ever.

At long last, the government gave the green light to begin our OANSA club meetings on January 15.  The cheers the kids gave in church when they heard the announcement were exhilarating! No sooner did we make the announcement, and yet another wave of contagion hit suspending all public classes for children. A few of the leaders were infected, including Jonatán and Pau, our new OANSA commanders, and we were forced to postpone again.  Finally, last week, we had our first meeting after nearly two years. We weren’t allowed to transport kids from other neighborhoods, and our game time had to be in the church yard, but at least it’s a start. 
Please pray with us that we will be able to continue the IBBM-Tepic church children’s outreach. Every young teacher, musician, and leader we have has gone through the ranks of OANSA before they became Leaders in Training then graduated to the positions they fill with such excellence. 
These days also have been ordained and written in His book. We trust our Omniscient Father for wisdom for carrying out His plan, and we thank you for praying with us

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

October/November 2021 Glorify God at what great things He has done one by one.

After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. Acts 21:19-20


In the adult Sunday school class at IBBM-Tepic, Pastor Nacho and Armando are co-teaching a series from the book of Acts, called, When the Church Was Young and Bold. Last Sunday’s lesson highlighted Paul’s arrival and reception at the church of Jerusalem following his third missionary journey. Luke chronicles in chapter 21 that the brothers received them gladly, and after they greeted each other, Paul gave a report of the work among the gentiles. There was no jealousy. Instead, they received the news, one by one, with joy, and they glorified God. A “month of Sundays” would not be enough to relate one by one the things that God has done in Tepic and the surrounding Huichol villages these past two months. The following are just a few that are great cause for glorifying God!


   Valentín died of a heart attack last month. He could never be more grateful for the decision he made three years ago when he bowed his heart to trust Jesus to save him. Valentín had insisted that there was no way God could forgive him of all his previous sin. The Holy Spirit convinced him that God certainly could, and He did. Please pray for his wife, Lupita. She has had multiple opportunities to believe, but she continues to reject. We will never regret the effort that was made to present him personally to Jesus; neither will Valentín. 


Román, a Huichol believer from the village of Zoquipan and a vital member of the Huichol Bible translation team, came to my house last week. He’s in the process of accepting God’s miraculous call to pastor the baby church in his village. That’s so easy to say, but it comes with much commitment and will undoubtedly come with much persecution. No person has asked Román to take on this responsibility. He knows that God has given it to him. He has had much training, and he is prepared to share His Word and shepherd the believers of his village. He is and will continue to be in the enemy’s target along with his wife, Bernarda, and their sweet family. If I hadn’t seen it in action, I would never believe the sequence of God’s plan for Román’s life for loving him, choosing him, and saving him as a young boy in the most hostile and unlikely of environments in the heart of the Sierra Madre. You can read more about Román’s story here. Please pray for Román, and rejoice and glorify God with me for this miracle. 


And speaking of things God has done one by one,

just last week, the church at Zapote de Picachos, celebrated their 17th anniversary. The month before Kirt graduated to Heaven, they were expelled by the government from their beautiful village home and church building at the crest of the Picachos in the Sierra Madre. It was literally heart-wrenching. 

      A friend told Kirt that he would like to help the Zapote believers rebuild their auditorium giving an offering to purchase materials for the new location. The believers dug the trenches and hauled huge rocks from the river by hand for the new foundation. With that promised offering the week after Kirt’s funeral, the bricks were transported by truck to the lake then by boatloads upriver to the rocky landing that is nearly a mile-long hike from the village. Every member from the Zapote church handled every single brick that is now in the walls of their church as they stationed themselves from the river’s edge to the village, and bricks were passed in bundles from one person to the next and on to the construction site. Then they dismantled the roof of their deserted church, and the Zapote brothers carefully carried the “repurposed” trusses and galvanized roofing on their backs, nine kilometers down the mountain to their new village. Friends from the IBBM-Tepic church welded and assembled the trusses for the additional section of the new church (which was 1/3 larger than the original, and now, has been enlarged to more than double that!). 


When they built the first church, Kirt told pastor Manuel that he dreamed of the day that beautiful auditorium would be filled with believers. This past week, the new version, more than twice the original size, was filled beyond capacity with joyful brothers and sisters gladly greeting each other and glorifying the God of miracles! 


Another one-by-one event for which to glorify God is the celebration of the 30th anniversary this past month of IBBM-Tepic. Pastor Martín’s son, Jonatán, crafted a video documentary of this miracle. It’s subtitled; don’t miss it! 
Be glad at what great things He has done one by one, and glorify God with me.


Rejoice at these pictures from the Tepic October/November 2021 activities here. 


Friday, October 01, 2021

August/September 2021 He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6 

This life is just the dot, not the line; and the purpose of it is not this life. English Puritan, Richard Baxter in Dying Thoughts understood that “Heaven is won or lost on earth; the possession is there, but the preparation is here.” He maintained that this life was not intended to be the place of our perfection, but the preparation for it. It’s sad how preoccupation with this world distracts from the goal of diligently seeking Him, demoting Heaven to little more than the “inevitable next stage in man’s existence.” 


The year after we arrived in Tepic, 1979, José López and José Carrillo, young Huichols who believed and were discipled, gave their lives to diligently share the Gospel with their people. They were admonished and ordained by their leaders, Román and Kirt, in a simple ceremony in Atonalisco. That was over four decades ago. José López has trekked relentlessly and devotedly through the Sierra Madre mountains sharing the Gospel, leading many to Christ, and teaching them. José Carrillo pastored his church at Cortes. When things got tough and discouraging for him, he abandoned his calling, his church, and his village for a 10-year interval. José López never ceased to pray for his friend. At long last, José Carrillo made his way back to a Good-Friday gathering of believers from villages throughout the mountains at José Lopez’s church. He confessed his sin of deceitfulness, and he was marvelously restored to fellowship with his God and his Huichol brothers. Years have passed, and he has not wavered since that day. José Carrillo died a couple of days ago. Pastor Martín gave a stunning challenge at his burial in the rustic graveyard on the outskirts of José’s village. He reminded the grievers that God says that better than going to a banquet is going to a funeral where distractions are eliminated, and we confront our mortality alongside the gaping hole. One-by-one, tearful testimonies were shared of biblical counsel that José had given, and of resultant changed lives. Three days prior, in Zapote de Picachos, José López also buried his biological brother whom he will never regret leading to Jesus. Within a short week, four friends have been buried, two who “diligently sought him” with their lives and two who up to the very end, refused to believe by faith that “God is.” For them, the “dot” is over; for others, the urgency remains. 

The message is the same, the methods have evolved, the faithful who diligently seek His will and serve, persist. The brothers and sisters at the village of Zapote are determined to use every option at their disposal to reach the next generation of Huichols for Jesus. They have expanded their auditorium, they have built a ramada structure for outside activities, and they have classes and activities every single day in their much-appreciated church building. 

Zapote de Picachos now has electricity, and of course, that leads to the desire to use technology like never before! They have worked hard planting, picking, fishing, and whatever else they can find to earn wages, and they pooled their resources with ours to buy a video projector for the church. There is a group of about a half-dozen sharpies from the village who asked Jonatán Garcia, the most sacrificial, tech-savvy guy around, to purchase the appropriate equipment and travel upriver to Zapote with it and the pile of accessories necessary for set-up. Not only does Jonatán know that God IS, and have the faith to please Him, but also, he recognizes the need to diligently seek and serve Him, dropping what he is doing to work alongside his neighbor. He and his wife, Paulina, and Martín, his dad, and Christian, a young disciple from the Tepic church, took the day to get the system up and running and train the Huichol brand-new-chomping-at-the-bit techs to use it. Jonatán and Pau were both ill, but they had made the commitment for the much-awaited day, and they followed through. It’s marvelous to watch them in action serving God and the much-loved family from Zapote. God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. The Zapote OANSA kids, back in session, 88 of them, were the very first to benefit from the new equipment.














Saturday, July 31, 2021

June/July 2021 Citizens of Heaven and Ambassadors in this Foreign Land

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a 


This world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven and ambassadors in this foreign land. Why are we so easily coaxed into placing our hope on things like governments, bank accounts, education, and people from this place that’s spinning out of control? The Lord of hosts exclaims that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” His work will be accomplished through His grace alone. Oswald Chambers maintains that the goal of “a perfect heart toward Him, (faithfulness) is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.” He is not our last option. He calls us to be faithful; He will do the job.


Despite the obvious physical limitations brought about by current world affairs, the past two months in Tepic have been filled with numerous opportunities to choose to put His faith in action and be faithful; as J. Hampton Keathley calls it, “the root and the fruit,” and true to promise, He has shown Himself strong.  





















After a very long “quarantine,” I arrived back in Tepic the first week of June. I pray that this past year’s investment will help make a difference in the lives of some precious grandkids. Our oldest grandson, Anders, who will be 16 this month, came back with me. He spent three weeks getting a handle on Spanish, renewing friendships, loving, and being loved by the “fellow citizens” whose faith we share. His grandpa must be ecstatic! Anders’ little sister, Tenley, came along with their family for the last few days. She followed Jesus’ example and was baptized by Pastor Martín at IBBM-Tepic…the root and the fruit.


























Thankfully, there was a little more “normalcy” in Mexico than there had been, and though there were still strict Covid-based restrictions in place, the local government was beginning to lighten up some of them. With a new wave of contagion, businesses and government offices are closed, and masks are required everywhere (except in the Huichol villages). We celebrated the 9th anniversary of the dedication of the beautiful church building at La Bendición and 15 years since the salvation of the first believers there. It's ironic, not one single person from that village has contracted Covid. It’s that survivor blood running in those Huichol veins! Again, God has shown Himself strong. 





At least for now, we are allowed limited public occupancy at church including ladies’ ministry, music ministry, men’s prayer meeting, and discipleship classes with masks, hand and foot sanitizer, and electronic thermometers at all entrances, of course¬¬. We hosted an amazing ladies’ retreat, Teachers of Good - Titus 2, at the IBBM-Tepic with about 70 ladies a few weeks ago. Previous restrictions made us super-grateful for our “freedom.”

The men followed with a retreat of their own. The theme was Men of Valor. In Spanish “valor” has a double meaning: courage and value. Perfect! Yet again, God has shown Himself strong…faith and faithfulness -- the root and the fruit.




Sadly, things have taken a sharp turn for the worse this past week. Several IBBM members are battling the virus. The government has changed our state “safety signal” from green to yellow, to orange, and it’s likely heading to red. Hospitals are beyond capacity again. All of that brings with it renewed government-imposed restrictions. Ministry methods are still different and most likely will be, but praise God for creativity and daily options. Please pray with us for more.

  

Despite the crazy changes to our methods of ministry (temporary, I hope!) due to the pandemic, there have been many answers to prayer, for which we can be thankful. We all are recognizing our need for gratitude for the blessings we have had all these years. We know that the Church is not a place to come and sit; instead, it’s a movement to help people know and follow Jesus. No pandemic can stop the advancement of God’s Kingdom!


For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a