This fruit-bearing thing is becoming a constant theme in my life.
So this morning, we went to the Iglesia Biblica Bautista de Gracia in Huaraz, and we had invited two of our friends who live in Huaraz to join us. Nancy is a lady that we had met in the plaza in Recuay one morning, and she and her three beautiful children came - AND - one of the fifth grade teachers in Recuay (the one whose birthday party we went to, actually) and her husband came, too! This may not seem like a big deal to you who are reading, but for us, this is really the first sign of INTEREST in adults around here! So PRAISE THE LORD! We went out to lunch with them afterward, and getting to talk to Lina (the teacher) and her husband and seeing the passion in their faces when they talked about the Word of God and how they felt about church this morning - oh. It was beautiful.
During the service, Matt, an American guy from Minnesota who just happens to be married to Pastor Cristian´s sister-in-law and who works with the hispanic ministry at John Piper´s church, came and brought the message... and if you´ve ever heard John Piper speak or read his books and felt as mind blown as I did, you can imagine that same feeling but in a foreign language. Yeah. Amazing. He spoke about Jesus´ parable of the sower - where the seed fell on different types of soil that mirrors our own hearts. And as we dug into the Word, I was hit with the fact that we have seen every type of soil in Recuay this summer...
We´ve seen people who have rejected the Word, whose eyes have not been opened yet by the Holy Spirit, whose hearts are still darkened... and I was burdened to PRAY for them... that the Lord would open their eyes and bring light into their hearts. (Also struck by the amazing Spanish phrase ¨dar la luz¨- literally, ¨to give the light,¨ it´s a phrase that means to give birth, and think of it in the spiritual sense - that when we are born again, we are given light...)
We have seen people (and especially kids) who accept the Word with much joy but have no root, no foundation in the Word, and when difficult times come, tribulations and trials will discourage them and cause them to fall away... and I was burdened to PRAY for them as well... to share with them how the Word of God is our foundation, how Christ is our satisfactions... to teach them how to study the Word... and to pray that they will not only study and hear the Word, but that they will OBEY and put it into action...
We have seen others who accept the Word but whose lives are too easy, who feel as though they don´t really need the Lord, who are distracted by other things in the world... and who fail to bear fruit. This is probably something that is more common in our own lives as American Christians but still is prevalent here in Peru... and what a burden this has been today in my own life. Praying that we as a team and the believers we have met here would be single-minded, wholehearted, and focused on the Lord that they may bear fruit.
And praise the Lord, even today, we have seen people who hear and understand the Word, who accept it with gladness and seek to follow Him with their whole lives, who have been transformed.
So I´m full of praise today for the seeds that have been planted here in Recuay... the seed that is the Gospel... the story that says that the holy and perfect God of the universe loved us, sinners, hopelessly separated from Him by our own sin, and provided a way for us to know Him. That´s beautiful.
This is my prayer in the harvest, when favor and providence flow. I know I´m filled to be emptied again. The seed I´ve received I will sow.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
We really are just sticks in the mud. Dead. Worthless. Unable to produce anything on our own... and that´s the most beautiful thing about us. It´s not about us.
It´s only through Christ that we live. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. He is the One producing fruit in our lives - when we don´t even realize what´s going on... when we feel perfectly useless. It´s only when we keep our eyes focused on Him, remaining as branches in the Vine, that His Spirit moves through us.
That´s what I´ve been reminded of this week in Peru. This is all about Him.
And here´s what He´s doing.
This week we´ve started teaching our last lesson in English in Recuay - teaching body parts and the song Father Abraham and the story of Abraham and Isaac. We´ve gotten to build relationships with some of the teachers in the school and were invited to the most AWESOME birthday party - organized and realized by fifth grade students - for one of the teachers. We´ve had some awesome conversations with some of the kids we met our first day here about salvation and what it means to follow Christ. We´ve helped plant a garden in Utcuyacu at the school where we teach. We have baked cookies for kids´ birthdays (and tested a few ourselves to make sure they were edible). And now we´re struggling with the thought of having to say goodbye so very soon.
BUT. God provides. Mindy called us last night and gave us the FABULOUS news that there will be TWO SEMESTER MISSIONARIES from the States coming to Recuay to live for four months and continue the work that God has begun here. They´ll keep teaching Bible studies, keep hanging out with kids, keep being faithful with whatever God leads them to do. How. Stinkin. Amazing.
So pray for Rebecca and Meagan! They´ll be getting ready to leave their families and friends for four months as we´re getting ready to leave the family and friends we have made here in Recuay these past two months. Pray for provision, for comfort, for peace, for guidance, for boldness. And pray for us... that God would continue to lead us that we would make the MOST of the last few moments we have... that even as sticks in the mud, He would produce fruit in our livse - fruit that will bear seed that will CONTINUE, fruit that will remain. All for His glory. That His name may be known on earth, His salvation among all the nations.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Into the double-digits of July, and while you guys back in the States are suffering through intense summer heat, we´ve been soaking up the nice warm sun here in calm, cool Recuay. Jealous?
But with much relaxation comes reflection... and sometimes reflection is less comfortable than Mississippi humidity.
I feel like I can´t say it any better than Paul, so I´m quoting here: ¨I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing... Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!¨(Romans 7)
You know that feeling when it rains in the humid summer and you feel like you can´t even move because of the stickiness? or when the heat is so oppressive you feel like you´re baked solid into the air itself? Yeah. That´s kind of the feeling I get sometimes even here. There are so many things we feel God leading us to do... and yet sometimes we just can´t figure out how to get out and DO it!
And that´s where you come in. Please please continue to pray for us. We have two weeks left here in Recuay, still teaching English, leading Bible studies, and hanging out with the kids who are constantly at our doorstep... but we also want to be intentional about following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We want to make the most of every moment we have left, in spite of feelings of homesickness, physical sickness, and just being plain out tired. So pray that the Lord will strengthen us with power from His Holy Spirit... that we may be rooted and grounded in His love so that we may share that love with others without fear and without stop. (Eph. 3:14-21)
¨And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.¨ Galatians 6:9-10
Maybe we won´t see the fruit of our labor here in Peru this summer. But we know that God is faithful. As we spread His Word, we trust that He will not allow His Word to return to Him void, but it will accomplish what HE purposes... So praise be to our God and Father, who always keeps His promises, who is faithful even when we are faithless sticks in the mud.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
With hopes and prayers of starting a local body of believers here in Recuay, Pastor Cristian from the Bible Baptist Church in Huaraz joined us here on Friday night to have a Bible study... And even though we invited everyone we met and of course they all responded, ¨Sure! We´ll be there!¨ ... no one showed up except for five of our most faithful kids from Bible club. So, never give up! We prayer-walked down the street to the plaza, handing out tracts and inviting everyone we saw to meet us in the plaza in just a few minutes... and no one showed up. So. We saw some people waiting on a combi or a taxi and invited them to come as we shared our stories and the story of Christ. And lo and behold - they came.
Eva and Gregorio are two Peruvians, native to the jungle, who just happened to be in the area until October. They came and listened as we shared the story of Christ and His love in our lives, but how sinful and separated we are from God. As they listened, Eva said she knew that God allows peoples´ paths to cross for a purpose, and she knew this was exactly what she needed to hear.
Crossed paths for the purpose of the Cross.
Yesterday for the Fourth of July, we gringas went to Huaraz, the capital of the area, for a fiesta with several other Americans - and one British girl who didn´t seem to mind we were celebrating our independence from her country. :) It was a beautiful reunion of brothers and sisters from around the world, from different denominations, all united in Peru for the cause of Christ. The stories they shared encouraged us and challenged us to continue on steadfast. They shared how the Lord called them to Peru, how the Lord provided all they needed, and how He is continuing to work in their lives.
Crossed paths for the purpose of the Cross.
And in God´s divine sovereignty and grace, as we were walking in Huaraz, we met Joel, my pastor from Yungay, who just happened to be at the same place at the same time! He asked how the work was going in Recuay, and we shared how discouraging it can be at times to see the lack of interest in adults here... He asked about our work with children, and we were thrilled to share all the times kids run up to us, asking us to sing songs about God or tell stories about Jesus... and he said, ¨Why don´t you connect with adults THROUGH these kids? Hang out with their families. Get to know them. Work alongside them. Share life with them since you´re already sharing life with their kids.¨ Why have we not thought of this before??
Crossed paths for the purpose of the Cross.
When we got home from Huaraz, we went next door to a store to buy some bread, and as soon as we step out of our door, we meet up with Nelly and Marisol - two sisters we met on our first day here. Talk about crossed paths for a purpose! We walked with the girls to the store talking about life... and now praying for opportunities to reach out to their parents.
So pray with us... that God would continue to cross our paths with people for His kingdom´s sake... and that we would take notice when He does. Less than one month left. Continue praying that we would make the MOST of the time we have. There´s also a group from South Carolina coming at the end of July right before we leave to teach parenting classes to the families here in Recuay. Pray that THIS will give us even more motivation to get to know the parents of these kids that have stolen our hearts.