Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 5th, 2014 - My God's Hand is NOT shortened!

July 5th, 2014

I apologize for not getting an entry up sooner.  The last two weeks have been very active and, honestly, there hasn’t been much free time for me to sit down and write.  I actually started this entry twice, but was never able to advance very far in it.  Hopefully, I can now share with you a good portion of what’s been going on here in Rurrenabaque and at Familia Feliz.

Oriel preaching and me translating at Nueva Esperanza church on June 28th.

Can I just say that we serve a Mighty and Awesome God?!  And the more I seek Him and trust in Him, the more I understand and see just how Mighty and Awesome He really is!  Before continuing, I need to preface this entry with the following disclaimer:  the past two weeks have been full of trials, conflicts, and testing of my faith in my personal life.  Satan has truly been attacking and hitting hard where he knows it hurts the most.  But recently, in our devotions here on campus, we’ve been talking about how we should thank God more…not just for the positive things in our lives, but for the trials that present themselves as well, as they are used as tools to polish our character and purify us of self.  The help us realize our inefficiency and our dependence upon God.  So I have tried to do that these past two weeks…thank God for the trials He allows me to go through and trust Him enough to get me through them.  While definitely not the easiest thing to do, I must saw that the results have been amazing!

A few pics of Janet and I.  Love this little girl!  :)

Speaking of Janet, I have to share a video of her standing up straight and actually walking by herself, only holding a few fingers of Jodi's hand!  What a blessing it was for us to see this!  By God's Grade, she will be running around here in no time.  :)

Last week, we “lost” three of our missionaries.  Taylor had to travel back to Argentina, Jonatan had to go to Santa Cruz to do his residency paperwork (but will be returning as soon as he finishes that process) and Jodi left for an overdue trip home to the States.  However, we also gained one.  Nickisha, one of the missionaries from last year, came for her winter break from college.  It’s great having her here again and catching up.  Those of us that are left here spent most of last week working around campus (in the orchard, garden, maintaining the grounds, working on school records, etc.).  It seems as if that is a never-ending process at times.  :)  
Aside from the trials in my personal life, we were hit with news last week that not enough money had come in for our expenses for the month of July.  As a matter of fact, we only had enough for about 10 days.  Jodi and I talked about it and decided not to worry, but to take it God in prayer. He has never let us go without, and we knew that He wouldn’t start now.  So we prayed.  And we asked others to join us in praying for this specific request.  Within 3 days, enough donations came in to cover ALL of our expenses for the rest of the month and then some!  Amen!!
I talked with the Coronel and requested permission to have 10 soldiers help us with two projects everyday in the following week (this past week) and he graciously agreed.  We also started the plans for a week-long evangelistic series at the base, similar to the one we had last year.  The Coronel specifically asked that we offer baptism to the soldiers and encourage them in their walk with Christ!  Amen!
Last Friday, we had our weekly study at the Army base.  It was cold and raining, so there weren’t quite as many soldiers as there normally are.  We had about 30 in attendance.  But we still have a wonderful study on the Sabbath.  We gave each soldier a book called “La Unica Esperanza” (The Only Hope) that talks about Christ, our relationship with Him and His soon return.  They were very happy to get the book and eager to read it.  Many started right then. I let the soldiers know our plans to have some of them help us the next week and they were very excited to help.  Now the only problem was selecting which 10 soldiers would get to go!  There was almost a stampede to the little sign-up sheet.  :)  Having arranged all of that, we said our goodbyes and headed home, stating that we’d be back at 8:00 Monday morning to pick the up.  

Nice looking group, no??  :)

Giving the books to the soldiers on guard duty that weren't able to attend the meeting.

Monday morning came soon enough and we found ourselves at the base to pick up our help for the week.  As I mentioned, we had two projects we needed help with.  One was clearing land and preparing the soil in the second phase of our orchard here at Familia Feliz.  The other was actually at the church up the road, Nueva Esperanza.  I mentioned before the dilemma we have there when it rains due to having a dirt floor.  Well, the Lord opened the door for funds to be provided to pour a concrete floor!  So we needed extra hands to get that done this week.  Five soldiers helped us on our campus while five helped at the church.  They had never been to Familia Feliz before, so we showed them around campus and answered some of their questions.  Then, we got to work!

Pics from the orchard work:

Monday morning, however, when we dropped the five soldiers off at the church, I got hit with another problem.  The family, whose property the church is located on, informed me that they may lose their land.  The previous owner did not do things correctly when they sold it and now, it seems, were trying to take the land back.  Not only would that mean we would lose the church, but that this family would lose their house and livelihood, as they farm the land and sell what they produce.  My heart sank.  As I walked back to Familia Feliz, I prayed to God, asking Him to provide a solution to this problem.  I knew full well that this was Satan’s doing.  I mean, the very day that we start work to install the floor, this problem arises?  The Bolivian Army has given permission for the soldiers to help in this wo

rk of building the church (something unheard of) and the community is driving and walking by watching them edify this building and seeing God’s blessing and work in progress, and now is when they may lose the land?  I knew Satan wasn’t happy and was trying to destroy and discourage.  But all I could do was pray.  This time, however, I remembered our devotions and decided to put them into practice.  I actually thanked God for this trial…for it was an opportunity for me to put my faith into practice, as well as for God to work mightily on behalf of His people.  So I thanked God and asked Him to provide a solution.  When I got back to campus, I informed the other staff members of the situation and we all united our prayers in behalf of our brethren and the church.  In the meantime, we keep working.
Working on the church floor:

On Wednesday, I went to talk to the church brother than owns the land to see if anything had happened in regards to the land problem.  He told me that his wife and he had gone to talk with a lawyer in town, with the previous land owner, and that God had worked on their behalf and the problem had been 100% resolved!!  The land is theirs to keep.  Amen!  My heart jumped inside.  God had heard and answered our prayers yet again…this time in only 2 days.  :)  God is Good!
Wednesday was also my parents’ 36th wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary mom and dad!  :)  It was also John Alex’s birthday.  We made him a cake and celebrated it with the soldiers.  
John, Janet and Nickisha with John's birthday cake.

We continued to get the soldiers everyday this week and worked from 8:00 to 5:00.  5 at the church and 5 here on campus.  We all had lunch together and had many opportunities to fellowship together and get to know each other on a more personal level.  It was a wonderful experience!  As a result, the soldiers now feel even more comfortable talking to us and opening up about their lives, etc.  One of the soldiers called me over to him while he was on guard duty this week.  He said he wanted to ask me a favor.  He asked if we would pray for his father and brother, both of whom are sick and unable to work.  This is causing stress on the family.  He said the doctors can’t seem to find the cause of the sickness.  Some of the family believe that a relative used witchcraft to put a curse on them.  But, he said, he knows that God can heal them and wanted us to add them to our prayer list.  While this may not mean much to you all, the fact that he asked for prayer meant a great deal to me.  For just a few short weeks ago, none of the soldiers did that.  Many didn’t know what a prayer request was.  It’s such a wonderful experience to see God change these lives and to see them realize that their Heavenly Father cares for them!  I assured him that we would praying and ask others to join us in lifting them up.  I contacted the local pastor and gave him the family’s information so that someone from their area can visit them and pray with them.  Will you join us in praying for the Mamani family?  Also pray that, through this, they will come to know Christ and turn their lives over to Him.  Thank you.

The following day, the same soldier surprised me again.  After lunch, he approached me and, handing me a $10 bill, said that he wanted to pay his tithes.  It caught me off guard, because we haven’t talked about tithes and offerings at all.  He hasn’t even gone to church.  He wanted me to turn it into the church, since he isn’t able to attend yet.  I agreed and walked away humbled yet again at how God works in the lives of his children.

The highlight of the day for the the soldiers....lunch!  :)

Friday finally came…the last day the soldiers would be with us.  They didn’t want to stop coming.  During the week, they even expressed their desire to spend the night with us every night!  It has been a true blessing to have them with us.  And, as a result of their presence and help, we’ve made great progress in the orchard!  There’s still much to do, and we’ll see about having them come back and help us again in the near future, but we are very pleased with how much we’ve done this week.  At the church, the same is true.  We now have floor! Praise God!!  We can’t wait to attend church tomorrow and break it in.  :)  
Two full rows of the orchard finished and ready to plant!

The finished product!  Beautiful, isn't it??

Preaching at Nueva Esperanza this morning and enjoying the new floor!  It rained this morning, which made us all the more appreciative for God's goodness as we no longer had to kneel in mud.  

But that isn’t where the blessings stopped.  As we were heading back to town to take the soldiers back to the base, our small truck broke down.  Our big truck has been out of service for about a month now.  We were finally about to purchase the new batteries for it, but it’s still not starting.  So we really need this small truck to work, as otherwise we won’t have any means of transportation.  So…we prayed again.  Ori worked on it for about 10-15 minutes on the side of the road and was finally able to get it started.  But it kept cutting off. We made it to town, dropped the soldiers off and rushed back to get ready for the Bible study.  The soldiers had already asked to make sure we were still coming.  And the ones that helped us this week were anxious to see the pictures of them working and share their experiences with their comrades.  When we arrived at the base, however, yet another problem arose.  While we were stopped at the gate before entering, a soldier came and told us that there was a new lieutenant that had just transferred in.  He doesn’t know us nor does he know about the study and he says he needs to work with the soldiers, so we wouldn’t be able to have the study tonight.  Once again, my heart sank because we were really looking forward to sharing the events of the week with the soldiers and continue our study.  As the soldier apologized, I sent a quick prayer up to God.  I didn’t know how, but I knew that He could fix this.  Before Oriel could put the truck in reverse to leave, someone yelled for us to come on in.  It was another lieutenant, lieutenant Davila.  He attended the meetings last year with the other soldiers and has become a good friend.  He was off duty, but had arrived there just as we pulled in and, evidently, talked with the new guy and made the arrangements for us to continue with the meetings.  As we pulled in, I thanked the Lord for once again hearing and answering our prayers.  This new lieutenant may not know us, but the General of the universe made a way where there appeared no way!  :)
We went in and started setting up the equipment.  At this point, the soldiers started coming in.  When I turned and looked, the place was packed!  There were more soldiers than any of the previous nights with this new group….almost 70!  8 new soldiers had arrived this week and were present as well.  Then, the new lieutenant (Lieutenant Martinez) came up and introduced himself.  He was a young guy, with a  very serious demeanor.  He walked over and stood beside the soldiers that were seated for the meeting.  We opened with a welcome, introducing ourselves to the new soldiers and then had song service.  The lieutenant was still standing to the side, watching everything that was going on.  We showed the slideshow of the pictures from the week and everyone loved that.  Then it was time for our theme songs.  Since there were several new people, I asked the ones that knew the songs to sing loud and teach them others the motions.  I wish you could have heard them!  It was great!  Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Lieutenant. He was still there, observing everything with a  serious face.  I wasn’t sure what to think of it, but just prayed and asked God to work everything out for His glory.  

The new Lieutenant looking at his new Bible.  :)

After the song service, we started the study.  We handed out studies, a new Bible and a copy of the “La Unica Esperanza” book to each new person, including the Lieutenant and commenced our study.  We reviewed the law of God, the Ten Commandments (which the soldiers recited to me) and the importance of being obedient to God before we started on the lesson for that evening… how to properly keep the Sabbath.  The whole time, the Lieutenant stayed and listened.  At the end, we broke up into small groups for prayer.  As I mentioned before, the soldiers are much more comfortable now and eagerly shared their praises and requests.  We had prayer and then went back to our seats.  I announced that we had a little surprise for them.  I had spoken with the Coronel this week and asked permission to have a “fun night” the following night, as our way of thanking the Army for their help and support during the week.  He thought it was an excellent idea, so I announced the plan to the soldiers.  They broke out in cheers!  :)  

I started to dismiss them when the Lieutenant interrupted me, asking permission to speak, as he had something he wanted to say.  I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  He said, “I’m new here, but on behalf of the officers and commanders of this base, I want to express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for coming and conducting these studies and working with these young men.  We pride ourselves on making fine citizens, on teaching young men to be faithful to their country and to serve.  We are soldiers for Bolivia.  But you all….you are soldiers of God and your being here completes these young men and provides for them that which we cannot provide.  We are now a complete and perfect base because you are providing the spiritual guidance we lacked.  So again, from myself and the rest of the officers, thank you!  We applaud you for your service.”  At that, all of the soldiers started clapping and cheering.  I stood there not knowing what to do or say.  I totally wasn’t expecting that.  (And from the looks on the faces of the other missionaries, neither were they.).  I thanked him for his kind words and praised God for the opportunity to be there with them.  The Lieutenant then asked if he could ask me a favor.  He wanted a picture of all of us with the soldiers and the material we had given him.  He wanted to remember that night.  So we took several pictures.  

As we drove home that night, I was overwhelmed by all that God has done for us during the last two weeks.  
 - He provided money when we lacked it.  
 - He sent the soldiers to help us at Familia Feliz.  
 - He sent funds for the new floor at the church, as well as more soldiers to help install it.  
 - He saved the land of this family, along with their home and the church.  
 - He has blessed Janet and she has been standing up straight and walking much better these last two weeks! 
 - He opened the door for the evangelistic series at the base and impressed upon the Coronel’s heart to request us to have a baptism on the base at the meetings. 
 - He overruled Satan’s attempt to keep us from having the study at the base by fixing our truck and sending Lieutenant Davila at just the right moment.  
 - And as a result of that, this new Lieutenant, the one who initially said that we couldn’t have the study tonight, not only heard the songs, received the Bible study, a new Bible and heard the truth about God’s law and His Sabbath, but was moved to thank us for our efforts and ended up encouraging us to continue our efforts to share with Gospel with these young men!
As I reflected upon all of us, tears came to my eyes.  Who are we that we should enjoy so many of God’s blessings?  Who am I?  I am nothing.  Yet He has worked in so many wonderful ways my life this week!  I started this entry off by saying that my personal life has been full of trial during the last two weeks…and it has.  A flood of emotions, questions, doubts, concern and uncertainty have gone through my mind lately.  My faith has been tested in way as never before.  And I cannot sit here and tell you that it’s been easy.  But what I can tell you is that God is Faithful!  My go-to verses this past week have been Ps. 34:1, 2 Cor. 12:9-10, Rom. 5:3-6 and James 1:3-7.  I have said them over and over in my mind and meditated on what they mean, trying to make them a reality in my life.  And the more I thanked and praised the Lord, even for the trials and tribulations, the easier it became and the lighter my burden seemed.  The uncertainty, doubt, concerns, etc. were replaced with patience, faith, hope and love.  The trials are still there.  They didn’t magically go away.  The circumstances didn’t change.  What changed was my reaction to those circumstances.  And what a blessing that change has been to me!  
Tonight, we had our fun night with the soldiers.  We took oranges, cake, juice, candy and made popcorn for about 90 people.  We showed them the movie “Front of the Class” and just spent time in fellowship together.  We had a blast!  And the soldiers really appreciated the snacks.  :)  Here are some pics from that meeting:

I want to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite books, The Desire of Ages.  Referring to the transfiguration of Christ on the mount (Luke 9:28-36), the author writes, 
“Evening is drawing on as Jesus calls to His side three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, and leads them across the fields, and far up a rugged path, to a lonely mountainside. The Saviour and His disciples have spent the day in traveling and teaching, and the mountain climb adds to their weariness.  Christ has lifted burdens from the mind and body of many sufferers;  He has sent the thrill of life through their enfeebled frames; but He also is compassed with humanity, and with His disciples He is wearied with the ascent.
“The light of the setting sun still infers on the mountain top, and gilds with its fading glory the path they are traveling.  But soon the light dies out from the hill as well as valley, the sun disappears behind the western horizon, and the solitary travelers are wrapped in the darkness of night.  The gloom of their surroundings seems in harmony with their sorrowful lives, around which the clouds are gathering and thickening.”  (DA 419.1-2)
So Christ has chosen three disciples to go with Him up the mountain.  These are the same disciples that will be with Him in Gethsemane.  He desires them to see His glory so that they will be encouraged when the harder test comes at His crucifixion.   But the disciples aren’t on the same “page” as Christ.  They are tired and concerned with their problems.  Darkness surrounded them, representing their trials and uncertainty.  They forget they are in the presence of the Son of God.  And instead of focusing on Him, they choose to worry themselves over the apparent impossibilities.  As a result of taking their eyes off of their Savior, they were overpowered by the flesh and fell asleep (the same thing that happened to them in Gethsemane.)  While they are sleeping, the Glory of God comes down and rests upon Christ and His Divinity flashes through humanity.  Moses and Elijah join Him and encourage Christ in the road ahead of Him.  But what about the disciples?  Desire of Ages continues saying, 
“Through being overcome with sleep, the disciples heart little of what passed between Christ and the heavenly messengers.  Failing to watch and pray, they had not received that which God desired to give them,—a knowledge of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.  They lost the blessing that might have been theirs through sharing His self-sacrifice.  Slow of heart to believe were these disciples, little appreciative of the treasure with which Heaven sought to enrich them.”  (DA 425.1)
Notice that because they focused too much on their problems and not on the Savior, they lost the blessing that God desired to give them.  Christ led them up the mountain so that they might pray and see/experience the Glory of God.  He knew they were tired, for He shared the same condition.  He knew the worries and tribulations they were facing.  And He knew that the climb up the mountain, the darkness of night would challenge their physical, mental and spiritual strength.  Yet, He had a purpose in that challenge.  Only accepting it and facing it with Christ could they behold the Glory of the Son and receive the coveted blessing.
As I read this chapter this week, I couldn’t help but relate to the disciples.  I was tired…physically, mentally and emotionally.  And just when I thought I had caught a break (when the day was over and it was time to “sleep”), a bigger trial presents itself and, through it, Christ asks me to hike a mountain!  Have you ever been at this place in your life??  As I meditated on the words in the paragraphs cited above, and remembered my go-to verses, I realized that if I can just keep my eyes on Christ, instead of on my problems, and pray and thank Him…I will be more than a conquerer through Christ and He will bless me.  I realized that Christ desires to show me His glory through my tribulation.  And as all of this came to my mind, I decided to make a conscious effort to keep Christ my focus, regardless of how hard Satan attacks.  To take things one day at a time and not cross any bridge before I get to it.  To trust my God blindly and implicitly.  As I mentioned before, at first it was difficult.  Satan is right there to remind you of the giant before you and discourage you.  But the more you turn everything over to Christ and cherish a spirit of gratitude and love, the easier it becomes, for God fights the giants for you (Ex. 14:14).  And that is exactly what I’ve experienced these last two weeks.  I truly feel that God has shown me a small portion of His Glory through how He has worked in our little part of the world during the last two weeks.  I mean, just re-read all that He has done!  And now, the “giants” in my life that concerned and frightened me last week are no longer an issue for me.  They are still there.  I haven’t forgotten about them.  I’ve just come to the conclusion that I cannot defeat them, so I have turned them over to One who can!  Whatever He chooses to do, however He chooses to handle them, is fine by me, for He only has my best interest at heart.  His Hand is Mighty to save and is not shortened.  Amen!  
Are you stressed and exhausted?  Are you fighting a losing battle with the giants in your life, desperately seeking a break?  If so, I want to encourage you to turn them over to Christ.  Take His yoke upon you.  Seek His Face.  Thank God in the midst of your trials.  His Grace is Sufficient.  He will impart to you His perfect Strength in your weakness and the victory will be your.  You will see and experience the Glory of God!
God bless you all!


P.S.  I would like to thank all of your for your prayers!  I know that God is hearing them and is answering them.  I would also like to ask you to pray for me in a special way during the next two weeks, as some important decisions must be made and some “giants” need to be faced.  Pray for God to grant me His guidance and wisdom and to remove the “mountains” that need to be moved.  Thank you very much!  
P.S.S.  I was recently given the dvd that was made from our activities last year with the Army Base.  I wanted to share two of the slideshows with you, as well as the three that have been made this year with the new group of soldiers.  God is doing amazing things here in Bolivia!  Please keep us in your prayers!
Evangelistic series video with our theme song, "Jesus Mi Capitan" (Jesus, My Captain)

More pics from the Army meetings, as well as Pathfinder activities from 2013.

Bible studies at Army base - March and April, 2014

Bible studies at Army base - May and June, 2014

Bible studies at Army base and work at FF - June 2014