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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