Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Noé and Caty were 100% sincere the night of August 18, 2004, when in their living room Kirt and I shared in their tears of rejoicing as they accepted Jesus’ forgiveness of their sins and turned their everything over to Him. From that day to this, they have systematically gone about restoring past wrongs and seeking avenues of service. In the 6 months following their conversion and before Kirt was promoted to heaven, Noé rarely left his side in sharing in tangible opportunities for ministering with his skillful hands. He was among the 5 who journeyed 16 hours by truck and 6 hours on foot to the Huichol village of Los Aires , 3 weeks after Kirt's graduation, to put the roof on that little rural church building. He and Caty immediately got involved in being personally discipled by Nacho and Lorena. Several months after coming to Christ, they acknowledged that though they had been together for 8 years, they had never been married, and the following day they headed to the government office of public records to officially tie the knot. They tirelessly have been involved in AWANA, visitation, prayer meetings, Bible studies and evangelism.

It occurred to Noé that having moved in with Caty years ago without marrying her was an offense against her family, and he determined to make that right. Noé went to Caty’s father to ask forgiveness, explaining to him that since he and Caty are now members of God’s family, He expects them to live according to Bible standards. They completed a 6-month course on principles of biblical marriage with Martín and Erén then planned a beautiful consecration service with the goal in mind of setting an example for the young people in the church and of getting Caty’s parents and extended family to come to church to witness their commitment to Christ and to each other and to hear the clear presentation of the Gospel. Her parents are extremely antagonistic toward anything but their own traditional religion, and they have rejected Caty’s choice to become a Christian, but they agreed to attend the ceremony. It was a beautiful testimony to God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness; and Caty’s family was positively impacted by the love, unity, and supportiveness of the Tepic church “family.”

I felt honored that they asked me to present them with the Bible in keeping of that meaningful tradition in Christian weddings at the Tepic church. The following is a translation of a little note that I read to them during the presentation:

Noé and Caty,

This happy celebration is motive for much rejoicing, for many reasons. Among them is the fact that this is one more step in your development as our maturing brother and sister in this, God’s great big family. Kirt and I were present the night the two of you were born into the family of God, when you surrendered your hearts to Him, and deposited your faith in Jesus Christ, the only One who is worthy of our complete confidence for the forgiveness of sins.

Just like the Apostle John in III John 1:4, Kirt would say, and I do say: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

The Bible is Truth, the living Word of God. It is where Christ’s followers go to learn what God has done, what He is doing, and what He has yet to do. It gives testimony of God’s grace in our world and of His faithfulness to His people throughout the course of time. It demonstrates that God loves us, and it helps us see our great need for Him. There is no greater authority on earth. As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we recognize that the Bible is our source of truth and life. It opens for us and lays bare the mysteries and heart of God. We must go to the Word of God to know the God of the Word.

Noé and Caty, with all my love, I present you with this Bible. Listen to the Word of God. Learn and share its truth. Discover its mysteries; honor its commandments; and rejoice in its good news. My prayer is that this Word that gives life, will motivate you, encourage you and make you wise in your life of service together as His followers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Missionary, Frank Arrellanes, and 8 young people from the Gracia y Paz Church in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, arrived in Tepic Saturday afternoon. They have been preparing themselves and the tools necessary for their first mission trip to share God’s love and provide clean water for Huichol families in 4 Huichol villages, Puga, La Bendición (the believers who have moved from Guásima del Caimán), Zapote de Picachos, and La Mesa (the central hub for the Zapote de Picachos community). The filters are specially designed to strain out 100% of the parasites and 90% of harmful bacteria from impure water that the villages currently receive. The addition of a few calibrated drops of chlorine to the filtered water destroys the remaining 10% of bacteria. Each filter that Frank and his youth group fabricated themselves, weighs over 250 lbs. Our friends from Puerto Vallarta spent the afternoon and evening in Tepic fellowshipping and ministering with the Iglesia Bíblica Bautista de Tepic youth group. Sunday, right after church, a busload from IBBT caravanned along with them to the first two villages, Puga and La Bendición, to install the first 2 of 4 water filters they fabricated and transported.

The logistics for transportation, transfer, and delivery of the units because of their weight and the inaccessibility by vehicle to various villages is nearly inconceivable.
The first 3 ½ hours from Puerto Vallarta to Tepic and then to the nearest point accessible by vehicle to each village were made in the back of Frank’s pickup truck. Then delivery to each village presented its own unique challenge. Frank engineered a clever system of 3-meter-long, 4-inch tubes complete with foam padding, straps, and wooden pallets used to lug the horrendously heavy filters, one-at-a-time on the shoulders of 8-10 strong volunteer carriers. The first filter, delivered to Puga, had to be heaved up the mountain, around the obstacle course of several tight corners, between several low-hanging obstructing huts, and into the common area where the village believers, led by pastor Valentín, meet. Delivery of the second filter met with fewer physical barriers but a much longer hike down a long, rocky slope into the brand new village of La Bendición (The Blessing, the name given the new village of the newly relocated believers from Guásima del Caimán), where Refugio is pastor. When Pastor Refugio realized that in order to get the job done before dark on Sunday after church, we all left without lunch, he mobilized the ladies in his wonderful little flock, and they prepared us a delicious banquet of hand-flapped tortillas, beans, eggs and potatoes. As usual, the sacrifice and effort made to reach out and be a blessing to our Huichol brothers and sisters, was dimmed by their love and generosity toward us. Click here to see some shots of the filter deliveries to Puga and La Bendición.

We left early Monday morning to drive to the Agua Milpa hydro-electric plant where the remaining 500+ lbs. of filters and 18 volunteer delivery people from Gracia y Paz and the Iglesia Bíblica Bautista de Tepic were loaded onto 2 motor boats for the 25-minute trip up river. The final 40-minute hike to the village was not for novices. Thankfully, 10 of us, our friends from Gracia y Paz, must not have believed that the final 40-minute hike to the villages was as rigorous as we had told them, especially with a 250 lb. filter hoisted on their shoulders! After the 3rd of the filters was delivered, installed, and instructions for its operation were given clearly by Frank, the last filter was destined for delivery to a central family in the village of La Mesa which is actually a part of the Zapote de Picachos community. La Mesa, a 20-minute hike from Zapote, is populated by all unbelievers. The goal of the installation of this filter is to show underserved and unconditional love to a prominent family of the village in hopes of earning the privilege of sharing the truth of the greatest gift of all. Pastor Manuel will be making periodic trips to share the Good News while maintaining and checking the purity of the water from the filter they received unexpectedly and “with no strings attached.” The missionary team from Puerto Vallarta brought care packages of basic staples such as beans, rice, and corn flour to leave as an added gift in each of the 4 villages where they installed filters. They headed back to Puerto Vallarta, exhausted after 2 days of backbreaking service, but exhilarated by the opportunity to serve as God led them. Click here to see some shots of Monday’s delivery to Zapote and La Mesa.

This weekend is proof-positive, again, of God’s incredible plan for each doing his or her share individually, for the purpose of combining efforts as a team and producing an effect for the Kingdom far greater than the sum of all the parts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another significant reason for which I’m thankful:

In the center of our living room is the cedar coffee table Kirt bought for $25 the first month we were in Tepic from an American English teacher who was returning to the States. By hand, Kirt routed out a rectangle in the center of the table to insert the hand-painted tile inlay he bought for me in a little village outside of Guadalajara; the same coffee table is marked with undeniable evidence that it has served as a fort, a game table, a dance floor, a school desk, a work bench, a boat, a diving board and a stretcher for our kids and their friends for 30 years. It now supports one of my prized possessions, a bronze statue of Jesus embracing a faithful servant dressed in jeans and a work shirt as He welcomes him home.

The engraved plaque on the base of the sculpture says:

Here Is the Hope of Every Believer
To Be Welcomed Into Eternal Glory
By Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
and Hear Him Say These Words:

For the third year since Kirt was promoted to Jesus’ open arms, Pastor McKeown led a group from North Village Baptist Church to Tepic for the annual anniversary celebration of the Iglesia Biblica Bautista de Tepic. He graphically illustrated his message and this year’s theme, God’s Gift, when he presented me with the powerful reminder of the open arms of Jesus that wait with anticipation for His children to come into His presence. What a profound hope. The "Welcome Home" sculpture is a treasured gift for which I will be forever grateful.

I will also be forever grateful for Pastor McKeown’s transparency, supportiveness, bringing of hope, and willingness to accept the office of "shepherd-at-large" to this remarkable flock of spotted sheep.

"...Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Matthew 25:21


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One year ago last July...How could that possibly be? Nearly a year-and-a-half ago, the Tri-City Baptist Temple of Oregon invited me to be the “resident” missionary for the week of Vacation Bible School. The theme of VBS was “FIESTA,” and what a breathtaking party it was! We considered the truth that Jesus is our Friend, our Life, our Leader, our Savior, and Jesus is our Helper; and because of that, we want to serve Him with everything He has given us.

It’s no secret that the world is full of millions of people who cannot meet basic needs for survival; we also know that we can’t do everything, but we can do something! And how much better if by giving of our selves we can earn the privilege of sharing with those who may not know what God’s Word says about God’s greatest gift of all.That’s the premise behind the massive effort that was exerted to make, store, transport, and deliver 65 soft, warm and meaningful blankets to Huichol children in the Mexican mountain village of Zapote de Picachos.

The Tri-City VBS children all participated in assembling and tying together the colorful, orange fleece sheets that brightly proclaim, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesús Me Ama.” To avoid exorbitant international shipping fees and possible "loss," a family from the Tri-City Baptist Temple transported them from Oregon, in their motor home, to Phoenix en route to their vacation destination. North Village Baptist Church stored them in the missions office until willing “smugglers” heading to Tepic could bring them along in extra suitcases. Members of the Bridgeway Community Church and of North Village Baptist worked their way through customs inspections as they brought ridiculous amounts of luggage for their short visits to Tepic. And at long last, Friday, in celebration of the 3rd anniversary of the completion of the church building in the village of Zapote de Picachos, an energetic band of believers from the Tepic church conveyed the precious cargo to the Agua Milpa dam, loaded it on the boat, and thankfully, were met by strong Huichol couriers at the landing, a healthy 40-minute hike from the village.

After all, Pastor Manuel asked me to share with his growing congregation the long story behind the gifts made and delivered in love; but best of all, the story of the greatest gift ever given, the same Jesus whose name appears on the soft, warm blankets, God’s very own Son who lovingly gave everything that we might receive eternal life.

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink…naked, and ye clothed me…Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?...or naked, and clothed thee?…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:35-40