Friday, June 17, 2016

Yesterday, Today and into the Future

About 16 years ago I began an adventure and I had no idea where it would lead. A friend, Al Graham, asked me if I would consider going with him and driving a bus to Guatemala. I was not sure you could even get to Guatemala from Chicago. I talked to several people and they all encouraged me to go. I remember my mom saying "You should do it. It would be the trip of a lifetime."  Little did she know, it was not the trip of a lifetime but the trip that launched my current life. What started as a 20 day adventure turned into a passion for a lifetime, to see the Kingdom of God impact a country I have grown to love. Many of you have been following along on this adventure with me since the beginning and a few have even come to join me for a week or even months. What a ride it is.

For the last 4 years, I have been working with Iglesia Galilea in San Lucas Sacatepequez. When I first met the pastor and leaders here 8 years ago, I saw their enthusiasm and their dreams for their country. Over the years I have come to see the depth of their faith and their understanding of the heart God has for Guatemala. They know that God desires to bring healing and freedom to lost people and they pursue Him to see that happen. I have not heard them use finances an excuse ever. If they believe God wants to do something, they press on until He tells them to stop. Their faith that God will come through to accomplish His purposes continually challenges me to believe and act beyond my comfort zone.

For the last few years we have been working on the completion of the school in Zapote and assisting the Church in Zapote in reaching out to the community with construction projects. We also have been working on building the school in Membrillal and helping Pastor Esdras plant a Church there. This year we will see the Church building there begin to be used for services. The roof is currently going on. The Church in Zapote is looking for options because they are currently at capacity every Sunday and often have people standing outside that cannot get in. They need more space.

Along with these projects, there is already discussion  about what is next. I do not have many details about the future projects but I now that Tono and Merari are in the planning stages for what will come next. One of the things that I do know is we will be working on a new Church building for San Lucas. Much like Morris, there is a large number of unChurched people here. We are frequently full beyond capacity so we need more space. Because there is seldom room at the second service, visitors can easily feel that they are not welcome. We are looking to build a much larger sanctuary so we can continue to reach out to San Lucas with the love of Jesus. The property is ready and waiting. One day the decision will be made and construction will begin.

I love working here with these people. I love having my faith challenged as I see them continue to step out beyond what is comfortable into the realm of walking by faith. I love the impact that the Churches and schools are having on the communities that we are working in. I am grateful for all that God has allowed me to be part of. I also love how He continually proves Himself as a loving and faithful Father. God has provided time and again, often through brothers and sisters in other nations that have seen the vision and sent funds to share in our projects.  Thank you.

As I write, I find myself still in need of $4,000 to finish this year. I am $9,000 short of my original goal for the year. That included $5,000 for a car or other transportation here. I still have airfares to pay for and other expenses to meet in order to be here for the last 3 months of the year. I will also have expenses for the month of September while I am in Illinois. I am committed to being here and the work that we are doing. I am also sure that it is God that has brought me here. I am asking that you pray about continued support. I know that God is my provider but I also know that He uses people as His hands and feet. If you believe in the work that we are doing and would like to support, you can send support to

Life Church Morris
PO Box 679
C/O San Lucas Mission
Morris, IL 60450

or you can follow the link for donations on this page.

I do not want anybody to feel pressure to support beyond prayer. I only ask that if God calls you to give, you are obedient to Him. He will provide sufficiently. If you do feel called to give, let me know. I do not get a list from the Church but would like to personally thank you for your support and encouragement.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Everybody has a role to play

Over the last couple of years, I have read many negative articles concerning short term missions. They see these short term trips as ways to satisfy egos and to Americanize the developing world. They have concluded that short term missions is just a continuation of American imperialism. People want to go, give kids candy and become buddies, while doing things and giving gifts to those poor people in.................. There can be an attitude of superiority if we are not careful. It can be easy to want to export our uniquely American way of life to those we see as less fortunate or less able.

I have been pondering how to address this things because there is an element of truth behind much of what they are saying. Often people have many wrong ideas as they begin short term missions. They believe that they are going to go to another country and change the lives of the people there in the course of their 10 day trip. This is poor thinking. It was my way of thinking at one time, until I was challenged by a wise pastor/missionary named Mark Simpson. He pointed out that they Bible calls us to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. We cannot do that in a matter of days. It takes a constant, sustained effort. Discipling people is time intensive and takes months or even years. This is the call for missions

Short term missions often has the feel of a kid seeing his dad at Christmas time. He has not seen him for many months but at Christmas he comes loaded with gifts. Mom and stepdad have been there providing clothing, shelter and everyday essentials but dad comes along and has a new iPhone 7 and a MacBook Pro that mom and stepdad cannot afford. The kids love him but do not see the sacrifices that their parents have been making for them everyday. They only look for the value of the gifts and not for true relationship with the giver. At the same time, the one giving mistakes expensive gifts for showing love.

In order to bear lasting fruit, short term missions need to be partnered with local ministries that will remain after they leave and that will work with the community to find the needed solutions for that particular community. They will not work independently of local community leaders but in partnership with them. At the same time they will be looking for ways to share the Gospel in the community and to make disciples. This work involves regular contact and not just a few days a year. Local Churches and ministries provide that long after you have returned home. Find a good partner ministry and begin to build a relationship.

The young widow preparing to receive her new house.
You may come to the conclusion of many others from reading the above that there is no need for you to go if you are not there to get to know the people in the community or to provide things to the people there. This would be the wrong conclusion. You are vital to successful ministry. Teams come and they bring energy and resources to the local ministries. You bring freshness and strength to people that are tired from many months or even years of sustained work. You bring a fresh set of eyes to the local workers who may be having a hard time seeing the progress that is happening. You bring resources and enthusiasm. It is because you came that they local ministry is able to continue fulfilling the call that God has given them. If you are not paired with a local ministry, I would like to encourage you as an individual or as a Church body to look for one to partner with. They need you and you need them.
The new home owner and her parents in front of the new house.

I would like to tell you about the last three weeks here and the way that our teams have helped, encouraged and strengthened us. First we had a team from Hinton, Alberta come. This was their fifth trip to us in the last 4 years. This time they only had 2 returning from previous years but their enthusiasm and the legacy that they have was evident on the other members of their team. All together there were just 5 of them but we set high goals because they have proven their desire to work and would want nothing less. On their first day, they went out to Zapote to build a house. The house was built for a 22 year old widow whose husband was killed because the family could not pay a $3,500 ransom when he was kidnapped a month ago. We had a goal of finishing in one day because we also had a lot of work to do in Membrillal. It was an incredibly hot day when we went out, well over 100 and we worked. They tore the house down and had the frame up for the new house by lunch time. By 3 p.m. we were beginning to clean up and go home. They house was complete and prayed over.

The next 4 days involved lots of difficult work. We formed the top of the columns and the top beam for the Church in Membrillal. Because of the gutter system and they roof design, it was a difficult job to form but we got it done over 2 days. On Thursday we mixed and poured it. It was difficult because we had to lift all of the concrete up to the people on scaffold that were pouring. The scaffold deck was 7' up in the air. The team never complained. They just kept working. On their last day they replaced all of the old netting around the soccer court with chain link. They had to tie the top off 14' up in the air. They not only  worked but they were joking around and having fun while doing it, Talk about bringing strength and freshness to tired local workers, they also bring us new joy every time they come.
Grading the ground so it will drain

Next we had a team from Georgia led by a pastor that has not come in 4 years. This was his first trip to us with the Church he is now serving. As a result, most of his 14 member team was new and had little idea what they were getting into. Most of them were still young also, high school and college age. We had planned for them to work a couple of days in Zapote at the school. There was an area of the playground that had drainage issues we needed to address by pouring concrete sloped to a drain and adding drainage beyond the property. This involved lots of digging, moving a rock that weighed 1500 lbs or so and then lots more digging. It was not as hot as with the previous team but the temp still hovered around 100 every day. Every time we dug it seemed like we found a new problem. What was to be a two day job turned into a 5 day job. I never heard one complaint about the long rides or the hot, dirty work. They just kept going. At he end of the week the drain pipes were all reworked. The ground was leveled and there was a new drainage system that separated rain run off from the sewer drains. 40 bags of concrete were poured on top of it all to finish the job.
The concrete and drainage are in.

These two teams not only accomplished a lot of work, they allowed those of us that hosted and worked with them a chance to get a fresh wind. We could see through their eyes and not just feel like this was just one more task in a long process. The job before us was important and we were able to focus on it. We gained a fresh enthusiasm for what we are doing at the moment.

Short term teams are vital to success. The attitude and the perspective of being there to serve the local ministry is vital. When you come to support the ongoing work and not to serve your own purposes, you help foster an environment of hope and success to those that you come to work with. Don't come for a short feel good trip but come to help change a community, a nation and to work with those committed to see that happen. You are vital. Because of your work, we have open doors to stay and continue working in our communities. Thank you.
One of the team members from our Georgia team being baptized last Sunday afternoon