Thank you to everyone who sent encourageing notes this past month! We've been able to read them regularly, but because of computer complications haven't been able to respond as often as we would like. When are computers not complicated? The notes, letters and forwards are an encouragement to us and also remind us to pray for our friends in the States and around the world, as well. You are such a blessing to us!
Life and ministry have been abundant! Doug continues in school, the kids continue in school and I continue, well, in school, too! We feel so blessed to be here and continue to connect with the people. Along with weekly church meetings, women's prayer and Bible study, youth group (which has been well attended -- more on that later) and classes at the school in Boca, we are continuing to build relationships with the people here in Las Glorias and surrounding areas.
We were able to visit with some friends in Alomito last week. Sister Alejandra, an elderly lady with great "spunk", is praising God that He has taken the pain away from her elbow. She had fallen a few months ago and broken her elbow and it was taking a long time to heal. She went forward for prayer at a meeting a month ago, and the pain has been taken away! Praise God with us for this blessing in her life!
The reason that we had gone to Alomito in the first place, although just to visit would have been enough reason, was to find Sarah's new horse. Since her first horse died in December, Sarah has been saving money from her job here to purchase a horse from her friend, Hannah. She was finally able to buy the horse a couple of weeks ago. This horse, like Shasta before her, knows where the good grass is. She broke free and headed for the greener pastures of Alomito.
Fortunately, she was MUCH easier to find and catch than Sarah's last horse. It was a bummer having to spend the time hunting through the corn fields, but we were grateful for the time to fellowship with our friends. Mango season is coming, and they told us to come back soon. And bring buckets!!! We assured them we would!
As I mentioned before, youth group has been well-attended. We've had about 10 kids each week for the teaching time. Closer to 20 come for the volleyball and soccer games before the teaching, but most disappear when it's time to do the study. Pray for Abimael, Esteban, Abel and Dulce. They are the most faithful of the kids and have been coming every week. It is difficult for the youth to come to the study. They face ridicule for their decision, and the temptation to do "other things" during that time is huge. This Saturday, we're taking the kids to the river for our meeting. There is a beautiful swimming hole, and we hope to have a good time away from distractions. Pray for this time with the youth as Ricardo prepares to share his heart with them.
In mid-July, Lord willing, Doug will be heading out on a "practicum" for about 3 weeks to Puebla (near Mexico City). The school is splitting in to 2 teams of about ten members each. One team will be ministering to an indigenous tribe in the sierras and conducting a pastors' conference at a church near there. The other team is going to assist a church in Guadalajara. This will be the last practicum of the school year. Since we were busy building a house during the last practicum, it is good that Doug will be able to join in on this one. We are also praying about allowing one of our kids to go along. Pray that God would give us wisdom in that.
When the students return from Puebla, a team will begin preparing to leave for Africa. Pastor Tom and Naomi and 3 students will be leaving the first week of August for a 2 month mission trip to Uganda. They will be looking into the possibility of long-term ministry and training in that area. This trip will be a learning and growing time for all of them. Pray for this team!
The other day, Doug was asked to describe the School of Ministry in Boca del Rio in one word. He chose the word "unpredictable". I agreed that that was a good choice! So often and so easily our life can fall into a rut. We get up and go to work or to school or, for us moms, we get the kids up and start our routine of meals, chores, meals, school and...meals. It can become very predictable. We develop strategies and formulas to get us through our days.
I don't believe that God intended for our lives to be so mundane, though. Just yesterday, Doug was talking with the kids about the various ways Israel was victorious in battle against their enemies. Once, God caused a city to fall down after the Israelites marched around it seven times.(Joshua 6) Once, God eliminated almost 90% of the army and then caused the enemy to defeat itself in chaos.(Judges 7) Another time, the battle was going strong and Joshua asked God for just a little more daylight so they could defeat the whole army, so God caused the sun to stand still for almost a whole day.(Joshua 10:12) Then there's the time that Joshua's army was winning while Moses had his hands raised, and started to lose when he put his hands down. That time men held Moses' arms up so Israel could be victorious.(Exodus 17:12) Every battle was different. God was never predictable.
I believe that He did it that way so that the children of Israel would not just depend on the strategy or the formula, but on God. Because the plans of men are not foolproof and often fail.
So, our God is not predictable, but He is dependable! I've been reminded many times over the past weeks of a verse, 1 Peter 5:7, which says,
"Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you."
Doug included the following account in a letter he wrote to some friends the other day. It illustrates how God has cared for our family lately.
I wish I could say as Paul said, "I have learned to be content in all things." I can only say I am learning to be content in all things. Paul said, in those accompanying words at the end of Phillipians, that he had been through a multitude of trials and persecutions in his life. I believe that it was through these hardships that he learned to make the choice to be be content no matter what came his way, keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus, who promised to one day end
all of this suffering if we would only trust Him to do it. I don't think it was easy for Paul, but God gave him the strength (I Cor 10:13) through each trial and each time he was tempted to look at the circumstances instead of keeping his eyes on the "author and finisher of his faith".
Here is a little something that might encourage you: It seems that the people of Mexico look for any occasion or reason to throw a party. As a result, there is a national holiday every week (at least that's what it feels like). Even their streets are named things like "Diesiseis de Septiembre" or "Bulevard de Juan Lopez" to point out significant dates or people in Mexico that have helped shape them into the nation that they are. Kinda cool really! [Wasn't God, throughout the Bible, always telling his people to set a holiday or feast or landmark to remind them of the things that He had done in their lives so that they would not forget either where they had come from or the God that had delivered them? Sounds like we as Christians could learn a lesson from the Mexican people. Just a thought.] Anyway, back to my story.
Last Wednesday was one of these "special days" -- Dia de Los Estudiantes (students day). So, the staff and students at the School of Ministry in Boca planned a trip to the river to picnic and play. Rebecca and I were invited to bring our family along and join in on the fun. Well, money had been a little tight, and our van's gas tank was empty at the time. We had about 200 pesos (about $20) but had dedicated that money to food for the week. We had a decision to make. We could stay behind, or we could put 100 pesos worth of gas (about 3 gallons) in the van and pray that God would provide for the food for the week. We knew we could bless the school by bringing our large vehicle to transport people and that everyone (including us) wanted us to go. So, we chose the second option. Afterall, $20 really wasn't enough to by food for a whole week anyway, so what was another 100 pesos? Really though, we felt the Lord saying, "Go ahead and go. I will provide for you."
The day before we went on our trip to the river, as I was returning home from the school, one of the local guys approached me and said that he had some extra cement and wondered if I wanted to buy any. I asked, "How much?" He told me that he would sell a bag to me for only $6. Wow, what a deal! Cement usually goes for $11 a sack. I talked him down to selling me 2 sacks for only $10. That's a good deal! I knew I could sell those sacks for full price, or even at a slight discount, and still make the extra money that I needed for the gas. I even already had a buyer in mind. We had been putting in pillars at the school, and I knew they could use a couple bags of cement.
I had it all planned out: I would give the bags to the school for 90 pesos each. That's 40 pesos less than it costs at the store. And, they don't even have to go to town to get it. Sounds reasonable right? It did to me. Then came that still, small voice, "You're going to make a profit on the ministry?" "Well," I reasoned,"I am going to use the money to transport people to the river." It was no good. There was no way I could sell something for a profit -- and feel good about it -- to the ministry. "Should I just give the cement to the church, Lord?" After praying about it for a while, I had a peace about just giving them to the church for the money I had in them. Back to square one.
We had not announced our gas situation, nor revealed any of the details about the bags of cement to anyone. This is what God did: The day that we showed up to the school to leave for the river, one of the students approached me and said, "God told me to give this to you. It's not much," and then he put something into my pocket. A couple minutes later, after reaching into my pocket and finding the 200 pesos he'd left, I set out to tell him how God had used Him to touch my heart. I couldn't find him, so I found the next best thing -- his wife.
I explained how our family had prayed and how we had stepped out and how God had used them to touch us. When I finished, she got a big grin on her face and she said, "Of course! Let me get my purse." I thought, "Oh, no! She thinks that I am asking her for money." I knew that English was her second language, so I thought that maybe she had misunderstood me, since we had spoken in English. "No, no!" I said. "Your husband already gave me 200 pesos! I just wanted to say thank you." She looked at me, still wearing that big smile, and said, "Yes, I know! But I, too, want to give you 200 pesos."
I know $20 or $40 doesn't sound like a whole lot, but to us at that moment, it meant that God was watching us, and God cares about our lives down to every detail -- every meal, every trip to the river to spend time with friends. Everything! It makes me aware that I need to be sensitive to the times that God speaks to me. And that even though what he tells me to do might seem insignificant to me, it might mean the world to someone else. I hope that this reminds you to look to the one who can supply all our needs! It has certainly helped me in my walk. God has supplied us -- and continues to supply us -- with more than enough.
Blessings to all of you in the name of our awesome Lord and Creator!
-- Doug and Rebecca and the kiddos
Prayer and Praise focus:
- The ridiculously hot and humid weather seems to be holding off. Praise God!!!
- Praise God for our friends around the world who encourage us and lift us up in prayer!
- Praise God that school continues to go well for all of us. Pray for Doug as he studies for his final exams. Very intense tests!
- Praise God for the healing of Sister Alejandra's elbow!
- Interesting praise: Doug has found a less expensive medicine to control his allergies. This is interesting, because he has tried this med before and it did not work at all. Then the medicine he had been using was discontinued. We prayed for wisdom, and then Doug tried this other med again. It worked!
- Pray for Abimael, Esteban, Abel and Dulce. They are the most faithful of the kids who come to youth group and have been coming every week. It is difficult for the youth to come to the study. They face ridicule for their decision, and the temptation to do "other things" during that time is huge.
- Pray for the teams that are preparing to go on the mission trips to Puebla, Guadelajara and Africa.
- Praise God that He cares about every detail of our lives!
- Pray that God would keep your life from becoming mundane and predictable!!!