Monday, March 18, 2019

Where the Battle Lies

     The purpose of our Bible Institute isn’t just to have people who know more about their Bible, it is to have people trained to teach the Bible to others. The 3 families that have graduated so far, are in full time ministry. 2 are pastoring new missions, and one is our dean of students. Their experiences so far are helping us learn how to better aid our students as they graduate and then transition into ministry. There are 4 couples and a single guy scheduled to graduate this year. One couple is staying and in charge of translation work and teacher training in existing churches.

   It’s a tricky situation because legally you have to join a pastors association to form a church, but these pastor associations have become political machines that tax churches rather than helping them. They are also full of syncretism and idolatry where half the pastors are also the village witch doctor. There is a significant lack of biblical training. Not all of the churches involved are corrupt though. Many are sincerely searching for truth and know the current system is failing them. Many call into the Institute desiring a pastor who can lead them to the Truth. In one such church, La Balza, Jimmy and Elias were able to lead them to Independence. They legally formed an independent association just for their church. This allows them to pick their own pastor and also frees up their money to be used to reach the unreached villages around them. 
Taking 1st Semester Finals
   La Balza has relationships in 7 of these unreached villages, and have 1-3 people in each village who have accepted Christ because of their witness and radio station. This became an obvious partnership, to have our 3rd year students begin formal works in these villages. As each church is formed, each will create their own independent association.

   The 3rd year students are visiting their assigned village once a month during their final year at the institute. They spend Saturday traveling, Sunday preaching in the village, and Monday traveling back to the Institute. Our prayer is that their hearts will be tied to these people and their need and that they will leave straight from graduation to pastor in these villages. 

   The village of Purulá has 30 families and only one Christian. It is hard to get to (hour and a half walk from the road) and even harder to live there. During the dry season, the people get all of their water from a cave. They have to walk down 36 meters of steps to get to the water. The people take turns, 4 families at a time, carrying down their laundry, washing their clothes and then coming back up to switch with four other families who take their turn.

   Henry and Teodora visited this village this month. They just got married in December, so since they don’t have to carry kids with them, we thought the young couple could handle the hardship of travel and carrying their water. It was a hard first weekend. The Christian family was open, but didn’t want to take them anywhere else because the people in the village can be hard and closed. We thought they would be discouraged so after the visit we talked with them alone. Teodora said, “I knew who I was marrying and the call he has. If this is where God wants us to go, I’ll go there with my husband.” Henry said, “Yes it’s hard. But how are they going to hear about God if I don’t go? I’m motivated by how lost they are, not discouraged about how hard it is.”

   The village of Ak’ Tela’ has 400 families. It’s more of a town than a village, even though it’s 3 hours from the highway. There are 3 Christians in the village, so we sent Giovani, his wife Angelina with their 9 month old Joel, and our only single 3rd year student, Gerson, to this village. Gerson is one of the vocalists in our church, so the Christians asked him to sing a Christian song. They didn’t know any. He sang two and they asked for more until he ended up singing our entire songbook to them. Then he taught the kids while Giovani taught about the Bible. The Christians there were very happy about what they learned that day. They said that no one had ever opened up the Bible to them like that. 

Mari y Jackson
Rodrigo and Mari went with their 2 year old Jackson to La Balza, the mother church of all of these missions. The pastor of La Balza took Rodrigo to the village of Joventé on his motorcycle. It has 50 families and 2 Christians. There is some dispute about the land that was bought for a church building, so we are not sure if they will continue there or not, mainly because La Balza is putting a lot of pressure on Rodrigo to visit them every month rather than Joventé because they want more Bible training. Unless he becomes their pastor, we don’t want to continue down that road, because without the authority that comes with being the pastor, you can’t change much in an existing church. Please pray that God gives wisdom in the situation.  

    This is a fluid situation, depending how a village responds and how God leads each student. I listed all of their names so that you could pray for them specifically. Satanic attacks are common, he wants to keep these villages as captives in the kingdom of darkness, so please lift them and this work up in prayer! Thanks!

Friday, February 22, 2019

What Tools Would It Take To Reach the Rest of the Kekchi?

Missions is a third year class at the institute. Is is a study on cultures and what missions strategies have been effective and which ones have been destructive. One of the weeks Jimmy assigns them a chapter from Steve Saints book, The Great Omission, about dependency. They were to answer the question: "What are the tools the Kekchi need to reach and disciple the rest of their people without any outside help."
3rd year students. There are also 2 more wives and 2 kids that travel with them.
We really like Giovani's answer, he put a lot of thought into it and I think it could be really effective. I wanted to share it here:

1. Radio: We have a little radio that reaches 5 kilometers. For anything larger than that, you are required by law to buy a $125,000 radio frequency. That frequency would give us the license to build a tower and infrastructure to reach from Mexico to Belize covering all of the unreached areas. (Petén alone makes up 1/3 of the entire country of Guatemala.) This is something we want to do in the next 5 years. It would probably be pretty easy to get the equipment donated once we had the frequency. The guys here enjoy this kind of work and are already familiar with how to put together broadcasting. We would also put many of our Institute classes over the airwaves so that every person would have access to reliable Bible teaching.
Assigning villages for 3rd year students to work in during their final year of classes.
2. Cars: It is so difficult for them to get around. Each time our 3rd year students visit the 3 villages they have started in, it's costing the institute $400 round trip. We are looking into purchasing motorcycles for them instead but we don't like the idea of wives and babies traveling on the motos too. After paying micros to take them to the main town, they have to pay a private vehicle to take them out as far as possible, some still have to walk another hour and a half to get to their mission. 

3. TV Station: Giovani was sad because as tv's are becoming more popular in villages, usually in tiendas, so many false messages about God are being spread. All "Christian" messages are preached by tel-evangelists asking poor Kekchi people for "seed money" and promising big returns. He wanted someone to share the truth through this medium. I don't know about a TV station, but I think a YOUTUBE channel and a Facebook page where people could hear truth relevant to their culture and share it with others would be really effective. Nearly every family has a smartphone now. The phone company here offers free internet for the FB app.

There is one video some organization did about condoms that is all in Kekchi. Even though we don't agree with the message, it was really well done. That got viewed and shared thousands of times on Facebook because it was cool to see Kekchi people speaking Kekchi in a video. We want to connect with someone who could train our students how to put together quality videos with an iphone or some other basic equipment that would be a realistic sustainable ministry for the nationals here. 

Something no one mentioned but we believe is a big need is the Bible put into the alphabet they learn in the schools. We have been working on the permission for that for quite some time. We (the institute) have already started translating study materials. We will be working on that until we're dead!

So these are some of our next ministry goals. Maybe you have expertise, experience, or an idea in one of these areas. We would love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A New Name

Before Rigo came to the institute he had been a Christian for a total of 3 months. He was 21 and up to that point had come to be known as a drunk. Being a talented mason he used the money he earned to buy alcohol. He grew up without a father, but had a loving mother. She taught him about Jesus, only he rejected it.

He got a job working on a church building. While he was there he was contemplating suicide because he knew his life was missing something and everything he was trying to fill it with was just making it worse. He began to remember the things he heard growing up. He realized at that point, that God was drawing him into a personal relationship with Him. He put his faith in Christ that day leaning over a barrel of water used to mix concrete at the job site. I think it is beautiful the way that God so clearly drew Him to Himself.
Rigo introducing himself the first day of classes.
 A lot of people didn't believe that Rigo could change, but after that day his entire life was different. He never drank again. When he heard about the Institute from a national pastor, he contacted Jimmy about coming to learn more about God. Jimmy asked him, "How do you know you are called to be a pastor, when you've only been saved for about a month?" Rigo responded, "I have a burning inside me to tell others what I know." Jimmy approved his application and he became one of our first students. 
The first group of students who came. I'm pretty sure Rigo's shirt was soaking wet in this picture because he had just washed it and we did not plan on taking this photo that day, haha! (He is the 1st one on the left.)
Despite never finishing the 3rd grade, Rigo dedicated himself to not falling behind and thus never failed a single class. Beyond his studies, he memorized Bible verses on his own time in both Spanish and Kekchi. That is what I always think of when someone mentions Rigo, that he knows a LOT of scripture. His passion for the Bible also led him to be a successful evangelist, winning several families to Christ in the village neighboring the farm.
After studying for 3 years at the institute and leading Juana to Christ, who would later become his wife, he began his new life of ministry in the village of Agua Negra this past June. He had shared with Jimmy his concerns about not having enough food to eat. He had been serving in his home church for a while doing mason jobs during the week to save up money for his first work. Even up to the last week before he was scheduled to move to Agua Negra he was thinking about postponing it two more weeks to have time for one more job, just in case they needed money. Well he decided to go.
I'm so glad that he did because the church had been preparing for their arrival. They had been calling Jimmy for months asking for someone who knew the Bible to come teach them. Rigo and Juana were greeted with so much love! The church had a big celebration. They had a special handing over of the keys to the church ceremony. They signed an official creed to make him pastor, Juana signed it too because she is very much part of the ministry, they are serving God together.  
Parsonage
And as far as them having food to eat, the members had gathered 12 sacks of corn and had them waiting for them in the kitchen along with a financial gift. Here they are praying a prayer of dedication in their new home. You can see some of the sacks behind them.
The people were so grateful that a trained pastor chose to move to their village (There is a huge need here!) that they all brought fresh fruit and vegetables to show how dedicated they were to treating their pastor well! This is when Juana started to tear up.
I am so thankful that God brought such a great couple and a village hungry to learn more about Him together. As passionate as these members are to know God, Rigo and Juana are just as dedicated to faithfully completing the task God has for them! 

A couple weeks later Rigo called and said that he had 7 chickens that members had given him to eat and that he felt bad for having such an abundance. Haha! I wonder if God is laughing too. He takes such good care of those who are serving Him. 
God has greatly blessed him, but more importantly He has given Rigo a new name. Before he was known as a drunk but now he goes by Pastor!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Life and Waiting in Line

It seems like so much time passed before this line formed. God has blessed this church! I was so thankful to wait in line for the Lord's Supper on Good Friday! I remember when it is was basically our family and the first 4 students who came to the institute. I remember before that working in villages where we weren't allowed to have baptismal services or form a church and I wondered if we were just wasting time. Now there is a big family of believers, who share their faith!
 This was the baptismal service the week before Easter. 
The girls on the right told their cousin in teal that she needed to put her faith in Jesus too. This is the second time I have seen a baptismal service where new believers get baptized along with other new believers they have already brought to Jesus!
There are a couple churches sprinkled around the villages next to the farm. In order for someone to "become a Christian" and join their church they have to pay over $1,700. That is the newest trend around here. The man in the photo above said, "I know your church is going to be more expensive than that, but it is worth it to me." Thank God, the Gospel is free and Jimmy, Elias, and Gerson got to tell him that! 
 There are so many people searching. I feel like this is a very important time for Iglesia Bautista Ak' Yuam. We are moving into our new building soon. We carried chairs over there to use it for the Good Friday and Easter services even though it doesn't have permanent lights or bars on the windows yet. It is in on the very corner of the farm property, closest to the villages, which makes it seem more theirs than the institute. Please pray that people who are so close to taking that step of faith will and for the members to continue sharing their faith! We want to keep growing.
The Good Friday foot washing service is always a favorite among the members. It builds community. It's not hard to wash someone else's feet, but it is very humbling to have someone wash your own.
The Art of Teaching class students built the tomb!
All the ladies at the farm got up before sunrise to start cooking breakfast for the church on Easter morning. We made beans, rice, eggs, salsa and tortillas.
 
Once the sun rose, more ladies from the villages came to help too.
 It was a beautiful service!
 So this is a moment in time I want to remember. What the devil whispers is a lie. Nothing for God is ever in vain. God can take what we might feel is wasted or not even close to enough and build something living... something that continually reproduces itself! That is the miracle we were celebrating on Easter - the miracle of new life, that's free and that only Jesus can give!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Wedding Day

Over half of the students at the institute are single. The lady they choose for their wife is crucial. We care about them so much! Besides having a happy life, we want them to live out the purpose God has for them. Their partner in life will be their partner in ministry too. We want them to have God's very best for their lives. We feel the same about the young ladies in our youth group. It's stressful at times watching all of these relationships unfold!
All of us on a boat tour last month. We might have teased them a little bit for sitting together!
Angelina was the cook at the farm and now is a student. We love her! She is such a hard worker and has a genuinely sweet spirit. Sometimes it is really hard to get to know people when they become part of the institute and I have to really work in the beginning at building a friendship with them. She wasn't like that. It's so easy talking with her. It's a delight! She has always been a comfort to me.
 Giovanni is a second year student. He was voted Best Christian Character by his peers last year. He is the fourth from the right, holding his plaque. We were excited for them both when they shared their intentions of getting married with us!
 They were married legally at the courthouse on the last Wednesday in February
The day of their civil wedding.
and then their church wedding was the following Sunday. All of the students helped prepare for the ceremony. I thought it was sweet that even the guys helped!
Hilda and Bonnie spent lots of time helping me build flowers!
Angelina was a beautiful bride!
Angelina with her parents
Both of their families were there to celebrate with them.
We were honored they wanted to have the ceremony at the church here. Giovani is not originally from Petén, so his family had to travel a ways.
  
Jimmy performed the ceremony. It was all beautiful! In a culture that pressures girls to start living with the first guy that gives them any attention, these two followed God's plan. They waited and honored God with their decisions. I feel like He is blessing them for it. We wanted to celebrate that!



 Afterwards Angelina's family had prepared caldo for everyone.
That part was a lot of fun! 
We just love them and can't wait to see what God had planned for them! The next semester started the following Tuesday. Pray for them as they continue with their studies and as they begin their life together!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

My Baby Girl is 6!

This year we decided to have Eden's party with her friends at school. It is common here to have parties during the school day.
  She has a wonderful teacher, Maestra Norma. This is Eden's second year in her class. The assistant teacher is wonderful too. I never posted this on the blog but Eden finished K-5, first in her class. I think that has a lot to do with having such a great, patient teacher!
She wanted a baby doll theme this year of course, she LOVES baby dolls. She picked out every detail. She is very opinionated... and I like that so far, haha!
Invitations
We played lots of baby doll games. There were prizes so I don't think the boys in her class minded too much!

 I love this picture of Titus. He was determined to get a seat next to Eden. Once everyone started eating he kept sneaking snacks off all of her friends' plates!

Eden with her best friend, Emily
Eden's teacher told her that she could wear a party dress that day instead of her uniform since it was her birthday! She must know Eden very well!!

 
  
Eden wanted a baby doll cake with pink ruffles! 
 I'm just so thankful Eden has the opportunity to go to this school with these sweet ladies as her teachers. It has helped her so much with her Spanish (I think she speaks better than her brothers, but don't tell them;)
The party was on the day before her birthday since her actually birthday was the first day of the next semester at the farm and both Jimmy and I had a class that day. I thought it was sweet for Jimmy to come too. He and Eden have a very close bond! Since the next day was her birthday we had a little celebration that night in Santa Elena, at Pizza Hut with more of her friends that don't go to her school. We are very blessed to have so many sweet people in our kids' lives. 
I think the girl was thoroughly celebrated! 
For her birthday present from us, Jimmy and I made her some beds for her Barbie dolls. It was so much fun!
I am so thankful that God gave us a daughter. She is an absolute delight, just like her name means! I hope we stay close to each other and even more importantly that she stays close to God. 
This photo was from the day back in August when she put her faith in Jesus for herself!  
 Then she was baptized in October. So this was a big year for her! We are so thankful for God's great care for our little girl!
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