Saturday, August 26, 2006

July-August 2006

Lots of activities and their associated blessingsand complexities have filled the past 2 months. Thank you so much for joining me in prayer for God’s wisdom and provision in every aspect of this ministry. The following are highlights, some motives for praise and others for continued prayer.

The month of July began with a visit from Pastor Gregg Cantelmo and 5 members of his church and Tom Angstead, from Kiki and Jacob’s church in Phoenix. Pastor Gregg did an excellent job teaching a series on The Emotions: God’s Energizers, and Timmy did an excellent job serving as official interpreter for him.

In the previous prayer update, I mentioned the pressing need to remember the new Huichol believers in Guásima del Caimán as they are facing severe persecution from unbelieving villagers and the rural, government-appointed officials. Thank you for your prayers for them. Tim’s best childhood friend, Roberto, just graduated from the University of Nayarit with a degree in law. Roberto’s dad is a right-hand man to the state governor; and Roberto “just happened” to land a top administrative job at the State Department of Human Rights. We have submitted a formal written complaint regarding the Guásima situation, and Tim had an appointment with Roberto and his dad regarding the current misinterpretation of the Mexican Constitution that “guarantees” freedom of religion and the right to an education for all. In addition to relational persecution, the rainy season this year has been delayed by over a month and consequently, so has the planting of corn crops, the chief Huichol food source …and that’s another issue. If the believers insist on staying in the village, the municipal despots threatened to charge them $1000 pesos per family to plant their corn…on their own land! The believers have considered relocating, but one issue is finding another place to call “home,” and another issue is, “Who will serve as the carriers of ‘Light’ among those who remain in Guásima?” Baby Christians, but what maturity! Please continue to pray for God’s wisdom in resolving this ongoing dilemma.

The race to the finish in digitally recording the entire Huichol New Testament before Jacob and Kiki had to leave Mexico on July 18 was accomplished. In spite of lots of “technical” difficulties that slowed the process, including the “frying” of firewire ports on 2 laptops, the mission was completed on course, and the product is astoundingly clear. Jacob is equalizing, normalizing, and compressing files, whatever all that means, and the effort is underway to raise funds for the purchase of the Mega Voice Ambassador players. To cut costs and expedite the delivery, Jacob has elected to personally transfer the recorded text into each memory chip. The final estimate is $30 U.S. per device, and our goal is to raise the needed finances to place an order for 1000 by November 1. Several churches and friends have already had a part in contributing to this extraordinary project. We have set a ridiculously humanly-impossible goal, and we can hardly wait for God to make the dream a reality!

Benita came to Tepic the final week of recording to work on spot check editing. She was more excited than I've ever seen her, like being in Disneyland. She listened to CD after CD without stopping. In fact, one of my favorite pictures of the NT recording project is one of her sitting on my front porch, wearing a spare pair of Pastor José's glasses, reading every word and listening for glitches on the trial CDs. She isn't a very colorful member of the team, but she's quite significant. She's the one who got José started on learning to read...AFTER she convinced him to talk to Román about coming to Christ over 25 years ago!

Pastor Jeff Adams and a group from the Kansas City Baptist Temple, along with Greg Morris of The Seed Company, also came to Tepic. They were an enormous encouragement to our Huichol family, to our Mexican family, to my immediate family, and to me. Their visit marked the tangible commencement of God's miraculous way of answering prayers in which often we have had no earthly idea how our petitions could possibly be carried out. Honestly, in looking back over the details that have come together to initiate the team project of translating the Old Testament into Huichol, it is obvious that no human intellect could have orchestrated the plan. How awesome it is to be witnessing it before our very eyes! Dr. and Mrs. Joe Grimes (Wycliffe translation consultants for the Huichol New Testament) and Elizabeth Willet (Wycliffe translation consultant for the upcoming Old Testament project) will be in Tepic in late January to begin the translation tutorial. Dr. Grimes shared the following observations about the Huichol believers and this very labor-intense, but vital, project: “In reflecting on the conversation (his chat with Huichol pastors José and Manuel) …, I realized that the Huichol church is showcasing something that I hadn't quite put together. Most of the churches are intense about using the New Testament constantly. When I talk to some of the pastors, it sounds more like I'm talking to Peter and Paul because they're so soaked in Scripture. That's why they take seriously the instructions in the New Testament about using the Old. They've become accustomed to obeying the New Testament after 39 years, and that's behind their quest for Moses and the Prophets. Their attitude isn't colored by being around churches that are accustomed to giving short shrift to three quarters of the Word of God. They really want the whole thing.” Our Huichol brothers realize that when it comes to handling God’s Word, no effort that is worth performing comes easy, and only our very best is acceptable. Certainly their life is hard, and they have many physical needs; but they would tell you that their primary necessity is a genuine relationship with the one true God Who promises to supply all their needs according to His riches. For the Huichol believers, God's Word IS their life.

July 16 was a very significant date in the history of God’s work in the Tepic church. Jonatán García, the 10-year-old son of Pastor Martín and Erén, was among the seven believers who, in the horse trough on the lot adjacent to our church, followed Jesus’ example in baptism. Jonatán is the first to be baptized of the second generation of believers in Tepic. As a young person, his father accepted Christ in the early years of our ministry in Tepic, and he and his wife have now had the privilege of leading their son to Jesus. Pastor Martín baptized his son under the banner which reads, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 Please remember to pray that the first generation will continue to be faithful to commit themselves wholeheartedly to God’s commands, and not fail to repeat them again and again to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7

This month, I was privileged to present at North Village Baptist Church, the 1st annual Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship fund, donated by interested sponsors, is a living investment for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging students who have distinguished themselves as leaders, who exemplify the servant qualities of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who are actively preparing themselves for ministry in missions or in a local church vocation. The scholarship awarded in Kirt’s memory this year was granted to Michael Holtgrewe, a junior at Kirt's alma mater, Southwestern College. As God provides funding for this worthy cause, future scholarships will be offered to deserving students who meet the criteria. (See May 1, 2006 blog entry)

I am grateful for the opportunity God has given me to participate in His work surrounded by the most humble, generous, loving, caring, and hard-working brothers and sisters from both sides of the border, on the face of the earth! Thank you for your part in making it all possible.

Quick Reference Version of July-August Prayer Requests:

1. Guásima del Caimán persecution dilemma
2. Huichol corn crops
3. Funding for Huichol New Testament Mega Voice Ambassadors
4. Completion of New Testament Mega Voice Ambassador Project
5. Huichol Old Testament Translation Project
6. Faithfulness of 1st and 2nd generation believers in Tepic
7. Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship

Monday, August 14, 2006

At North Village Baptist Church this past Sunday, I had the honor of presenting the 1st annual Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship which was donated in Kirt’s memory for the upcoming school term for a very deserving Bible college student, Michael Holtgrewe, preparing at Kirt's alma mater, Southwestern College, for full-time Christian service. I never dreamed I would find myself on the motivational end of missions, especially not the "speaking" end. Writing is one thing, public speaking is quite another! …proof positive that God can do absolutely anything!

In Christian service, there is plenty of opportunity for personal, self-motivated, and self-exalting achievement. Kirt certainly had those options available. On various occasions, I’ve heard somebody who knew Kirt well say, “Kirt could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!” and that’s a pretty accurate statement of his innate abilities. Living and working with him for 35 years, there was never a feeling of the “impossible;” he could always figure out a way to get around, over, under, through or beyond an obstacle. He was dramatic, imaginative, practical, hard-working, risk-taking, creative, generous, compassionate, and self-sacrificing; but early on, he realized that all abilities are God-given, and only by God’s power are we able to excel in what we do best. He knew that a self-sufficient spirit that overlooks divine enabling and the contributions of others is no achievement at all. No Christians, Kirt included, have ever climbed the ladder of spiritual success alone. With them are friends and family members who pray, sacrifice, and contribute whatever they can to be supportive. And, that’s the purpose of this scholarship.

Kirt would not like the idea of being in the spotlight. He never wanted to be the “star” of the show. However, this scholarship, awarded in his memory, reflects a lifetime of friends and supporters and of what God can do if we choose to be faithful to God’s calling and allow God’s plan to be a priority in our earthly service.

No Reserves, No Retreats, No Regrets

During his 56 years on this earth, many people served as role models for Kirt, encouraging him, giving him confidence, and helping cultivate his distinct, God-given gifts. One of those models, who Kirt never met personally and with whom Kirt had nothing in common in areas of upbringing, social status or educational opportunities, was William Borden, millionaire heir to the Borden Dairy estate.

In the early 1900s, William’s parents gave him a high school graduation present, a trip around the world. During his travels through the finest Europe had to offer and then through the wonders of the Orient, he was convinced that “the purpose of this life is not this life.” He wanted to prepare to invest his life on the mission field. In spite of great opposition to his decision from his family, peers and professors, for him the decision was absolute. He penned in the back of his Bible, “No Reserves.” William’s purpose and determination continued during his years at Yale University, and after finishing his program of study, he was offered various high-paying jobs. Nevertheless, he had his sights firmly fixed on his target and passion. He recorded two more words in his Bible journal, “No Retreats.” After graduating from Yale, William went to graduate school at Princeton Seminary. When he had finished his studies there, he sailed off toward his goal of reaching the people of China. En route, William stopped over in Egypt to learn to communicate in Arabic. During his first month in Cairo, he came down with spinal meningitis from which he died. He gave away his wealth, his prestige and himself, but he never wavered from his passion nor lost sight of his goal. His final journal entry reads, “No Regrets.”

Like William Borden, Kirt realized that “the purpose of this life is not this life.” He was committed to doing something valuable that would make his life count so that after having lived, he would be able to say, "Yes, it was not cheap, but my life was worth the investment." “No reserves! No retreats! No regrets!”

Michael, we are not just arbitrary creatures placed somewhere in space by chance with the simple objective of living and dying. God has a specific job for you to carry out, and He crafted you expressly and individually as you are for that purpose. Your personality is made to order, and your aptitudes and gifts were pre-arranged exclusively for you by Him for a select goal. You are His creation, precisely shaped for His comprehensive plan.

It has been said that if you look at a task and determine that it is within your capability of achieving it, then you will not need to rely on God. He will know, you will know, and those around you will know that what you do is yours. They’ll say, “Good job! You did great!”

BUT if you take on a task that is outside of or beyond your capability to achieve, and God, and those around you say, “You’ll never be able to accomplish that by yourself!”; when you are faithful, and God performs the task through you, and people look and say, “Wow! That was impossible for you! It must have been God!”; then God gets the glory. He gets the glory when what is achieved is only achievable by Him working through a willing instrument.

If you and I, we, want God involved in our lives, and involved in what we do, then like Kirt, we will have to face challenges that we know we can’t possibly confront; and that’s scary! God knows we’re nervous, and we can’t do the job. That’s exactly what He wants; to do His job, through us.

Michael, none of us knows what tomorrow holds. You may not live to graduate. Like William, you may not live more than a month after graduation. Like Kirt, you may not live past 56 years. What Kirt, along with the Apostle Paul, would insist is: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
I Corinthians 4:2 There is no rewind or delete button in life. In order to live a life of service that produces no regrets, along with William Borden and with Kirt, determine to hold no reserves and to make no retreats.

I pray that the Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship you received in Kirt’s memory will serve to be the encouragement you need to continue your relentless pursuit of humble service and to be used of God, as you outlined in your essay of application, in ways you are incapable of imagining yourself, holding no reserves, making no retreats, and having no regrets.