Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Talking to God, our Father

A blog from Jared, that's not a monthly newsletter??? Most everyone knows I don't blog that much (except for posting newsletters as I mentioned). Deanna, my sister in California went to link my blog to hers or something like that so my posts would pop up for others to see but then found out I never posted anything so didn't :)

I don't think I blog that often, because I fear the flesh. I want an at-a-boy-Jared. I want people to like what I write too much. Plus, it takes too much time. I could get carried away writing all the time...but how could I when I have more noble things to do: a family to disciple, a Bible to study, churches to ministerto, a lost world around us, and most importantly, a God to pray to...oh yeah, and a language to learn better? Probably why I don't post on facebook that much as well (though I'm trying to do it a little more often).

All that being said, here I am posting something. But I feel none of the things I mentioned above to be factors pulling at my flesh with this post, so here it goes. As the title says, I wanted to say two quick things, both in reference to prayer:

1) God is our Father...wow! 

Yesterday, I had a distracted day. It was one thing after another. I didn't pray like I wanted, I was looking at cars on the internet here (they actually have like an auto-trader website...and we're trading in our truck) for longer than I wanted; I got caught up in a study about an issue regarding the doctrine of hell to the neglect of my study for Wednesday night (unrelated teaching topic), and to the neglect of some of the more noble things I mentioned above. I finally hit the bed that night feeling like a loser. I didn't even want to pray with Celia, but she persuaded me. Gathering the strength, I muttered out one word..."Father..." and tears welled in my eyes. He loves me as a son I thought (oh glorious thought)! Even though I'm a rotten thing, He loves me through His Son, and as a son- His Son...wow (John 17:23)!

Now this is what made it sweet also. I immediately thought of my earthly father. I thought of how much Dad loves me, and its not hard to tell. It was a good feeling. Even when I fail, he is there for me and always has been- always has loved me unconditionally. And the picture of his love reflected the love of my Heavenly Father (this is what parents are for above all else, and it really helped me!). And even though it was a very good feeling to ponder on my earthly father's love, I knew oh even how much greater is my heavenly Father's love (Mat. 7:11). That was a great moment and I wanted to share it to encourage others.

2) We can talk to God (our Father)...wow!

And on to the second thing I wanted to share to encourage in. Today, I bowed my head a few minutes before my Wednesday night teaching, and asked God to speak through me. Just as I started to ask, Arianna ran over to me, and I heard Celia say, "Arianna, not now, daddy's talking to God." Again, instantly my eyes welled up with tears and the magnitude of the moment hit me...I'm talking to God...God!!! What are we doing with our mundane pursuits of life?! We have the living God to commune with...oh saint, we have God...forsake all and run to Him! Now, get off this blog, get off facebook, get away from it all and go commune with God!

Thank you Father for sending your Son to save us. Thank you Jesus for revealing the Father; may your Spirit, Whom you and the Father send, ever increasingly open our eyes to see the Father's glory and love in Your face, amen.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014 newsletter

Dear friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! This newsletter will be short, as we are back in the States for Celia to give birth to our second. Celia is due to “give light” (as the Dominicans say) to the baby on my birthday, February 9th. But we all know how those due dates are, so we’ll see. Please pray for a safe delivery for Celia and the baby (we still haven’t settled on a name and we are pretty sure we are having a girl).

I am currently writing this newsletter from Georgia, where we are visiting family. We also had the privilege of visiting FBC Trenton, our only out-of-state church supporting us through giving. It was a wonderful time as they threw Celia a baby shower where we received tons of much needed baby “stuff!” Thank everyone who participated– it was truly a blessing! We also got to experience something unusual on our visit here...cold weather! The lowest we have seen in the D.R. is in the mid-60’s (maybe). We hit a little lower up here in N. Georgia. Only about 65 degrees colder at –1!!! And that wasn’t counting wind chill.

We are looking forward to returning back to Florida soon, and seeing the rest of our family and getting caught up with friends, before we have the baby. Then it will be our focus to obtain the birth certificate and passport and “all-go” from the doctor to head back (probably in March).

While we are away from the D.R. (I almost said mission field, but that would suggest while here, we’re not on mission! Not true!), please remember the Salgado family (the other missionaries serving alongside us), in your prayers, as Christen is suffering from Dengue fever. Tony is a bit overwhelmed with that and trying to get everything ready for the new church building to be built in Boruco this week. Your prayers for them, and for us regarding Celia’s pregnancy are greatly appreciated and needed. We have the greatest supporters, and are truly blessed by you all!

—Gracias y Dios los bendiga,  Jared and Celia


Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 6, 2013 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I hope all is well at home, and that everyone is enjoying this holiday season with family and friends. Things are not near as hectic here during this season, and it is a lot easier to focus on the meaning of the season from abroad, and to ponder the greatest miracle of all-the incarnation of Christ. Pastor José told me the other day that he heard a lady in New York was killed in a stampede on Black Friday as one of the stores opened. I told him it happened every year (which it does), and he was baffled. To people who have never had the means to go shopping for anything but the bare essentials (and many times not even that), it is hard to comprehend the madness. I had to admit the total lack of priority most in the good ‘ol U.S. of A have, and shake my head along with him.

But not to make it sound like those who have less, somehow as a result have their act together either, I want to tell you in the remainder of this newsletter of a recent event that happened the days prior to our Thanksgiving. For months, I had been seeing a “3 Days of Miracles” poster hung up all over the town of Esperanza, but gave little thought to it...until those three days were upon us, and 8-10 thousand people (I’d have to say that 1/2 to 3/4 of the city) went every night to watch this “Pastor” from the United States perform “miracles” and preach on wealth and prosperity.

I remember Wednesday night, as we were having prayer service (with low numbers), looking behind me and seeing the streets filled with people, all walking to the event. Tony and I drove by it after the service and were blown away at all the people. The message was typical– health and wealth if you give. But what we were not expecting, was to see people from our church (who had skipped our service) there. A sad, heavy weight (that I am accustomed to feeling here) once again fell upon me as I drove home. How could everyone be so blind, and how could those we have been teaching for so long be fooled?

Well, its times like those, that you feel like throwing in the towel. When you look at all the street preaching of the true gospel we’ve done, the witnessing, the teaching, and all the praying, but then see the whole city, and even many within the camp dazzled by Satan and his false gospel, it just makes you lose heart a little, and second guess things. But like David often did, after he got done lamenting, I want to end with praising God. A little talk with my dad, and especially the Word of God (2 Cor. 2:12-17) lifted my spirits. I read again where Paul learned of churches he had labored for with blood and sweat, only months later, embracing false teachers, and I saw how despite his anguish, he was strengthened afresh in the knowledge of Christ as Victor! We are here to serve Christ, by serving others with the gospel that can change lives, but oh how being here is changing us as well!                                              
—Gracias y Dios los bendiga,  Jared and Celia


Monday, March 25, 2013

Piedra Gorda

This post is part 3/3 of a short series I wrote on the three places we minister to.

I saved Piedra Gorda for last because it is the furthest out from us, and is also the hardest place to write about. In fact, I've not really looked forward to writing this. I'm going to be flat-out honest in this post. Usually, that gets me in trouble, but what's the gain in sugar-coating things.

Arianna walking the dusty streets of PG
Piedra Gorda-as some of you know- is poor. I mean, pooooooooor. I don't say that light-heartedly either. Every time I go there, I look around and just wonder how people can live like they do. In that respect, I have a lot of admiration for them. I remember when Carmen (you can read about her on some of my facebook posts) was sick, they even had a hard time finding her water. Could you imagine having difficulty attaining water. As a side note, this is why I am very excited what Pastor Shane of South Carolina is attempting to do-and that is to get running water to Piedra Gorda (please pray for these attempts).

So, when you walk up to Piedra Gorda, an immediate sense of gloom overcomes you (well, at least me). I've not yet not had that feeling. Kids constantly having to be taken to the hospital, a new story of woe every time we get there, and just looking around at the homes and people wipe me out. And then I have to teach! I remember one time (after and not before I taught thank the Lord), we visited Carmen when she was sick. I still shutter at the thought of feeling the way she did and having to live where she does. Dusty floors, multiple old dirty mattresses (3 in one room), cracks and holes all in the walls, no electricity, musky smell, and a lot more. I tried to picture myself in her shoes, and I think it was the first time I could identify with what it meant to "go crazy."

But I want to return to the sentence, "...And then I have to teach!" Because, even though it is hard to teach after seeing everything-sometimes I have to pray a lot to be able to- once I begin opening up the Word of God, the words of God give me great comfort. And I can only hope they give great comfort to the listeners. They give me comfort because they speak of eternity and a life with Christ that "momentary afflictions" only make all the greater (2 Cor. 4:17).

However, there is a greater problem than all this. Yes, if the physical was all that was the matter, I'd be stricken by it for sure, but could take comfort in the spiritual. I know some who are reading this are thinking, "didn't he just say that he takes comfort when he opens up the bible?" And I did, but I can explain. I do take comfort for I know the truth of God's word. I know that these people of Piedra Gorda (PG) can and will experience the joy of Christ now, and have the type of life that could produce an exceedingly great reward...if they would but turn to Christ and drink from the Living Water. But, that little word "if" is a mighty word indeed. Somehow, someway, it seems that the multitude here are more interested in the things of this world! I can understand that to be true in America (even though that still shows an extremely foolish and short-sighted manner of thinking), but not in PG where dust and heat are your greatest companions! So, though I take comfort and know that there is hope for these people-I doubt many of them know that yet (or at least truly believe it), and it is this that creates a weighty burden that presses far more upon us than the physical one. I shudder at the fact of many of them living a life as they are, only to open their eyes upon their last breath to the Judge of the Universe-Who will show no mercy to them at that time, and will rather, usher them into their new abode-a place that makes Piedra Gorda look appealing.


I think and hope there is a tiny remnant Christ has redeemed. Perhaps, there are a few who have bowed in heart to the Lord Jesus. But this remnant is very small, primarily illiterate, and still ignorant of many ways they differ from the entanglement of Catholic roots that surround them. In fact, it is difficult to determine their true spiritual state. And I've been wondering how those true Christians will grow in Christ when they can't even read. I want to arrange a time they meet for a public Bible reading with one who can read and is a Christian there, but I'm not too sure that there is even a desire for that. I think they think they are fine with our two times a week teaching. But they are starving!!! and I don't even think they know it, which does make me wonder if there is truly a knowledge of Christ there at all.

Can you see why PG can be a difficult place to minister to? Poverty abounds, both physically and spiritually. Sometimes, I want to grab them, shake them and yell, "Wake up!!!" but that would do no more good than grabbing a corpse and telling it to awake. And so I have learned that what the Bible says in Ephesians 2 is true. Man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1) and only God can make them alive (Eph. 2:5). Some men lay in their coffin with a nicer suit, better make-up, more trinkets, a nicer-smelling rose, and others lay in their naked, without a ring, without a watch, without a suit...but still dead. I once thought that it would be easier to reach the people here because they did not have as many things as we do back home to trust in and take pleasure in. That makes sense, but I should have read my Bible better. Men are dead, and only an act of God can awaken them.

Don't get me wrong, these people are nice. They'd probably give you the shirt off their back, but then realize they didn't even have one to begin with. But nice isn't going to get you into heaven. If there is not a spiritual awakening here, then PG is going to hell. That may sound brutal, that may sound blunt, even sound uncaring. And I'd agree with the first two descriptions, but not the last-not "uncaring." Guys, we see these people every week, they are part of our lives week-in and week-out so it breaks my heart to say that. The most loving, caring thing I (or anyone) could do for them (or anyone) is to face reality and then figure out what we can do to change it...still realizing that only God can change it but that He can use us in the way He has directed in His word. Some would say, "just love on them", others would say "just keep preaching the Word" and still others would say "only prayer will avail." And I could find scriptures to support all three, so that means that no one of those alone will necessarily suffice. For example, if all you do is pray (still, in my opinion the most important) and never share the gospel or demonstrate love, (which John 13:35 says is the way others will know that you are a disciple of Christ) you might as well stop praying!

Oh, how I have a great burden for them (as well as all the churches here). Please do not cease in bringing them before the Lord. Since you can only pray, please pray for our gospel, and Bible teaching to be with the power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4), please pray for us to demonstrate the love of Christ that John 13:35 speaks of. Please pray for wisdom for us (Jas. 1:5) to better determine how we can spend more time with them (it is difficult because they are the furthest out and we have two other places we minister to) because I don't think the two times a week is enough right now, especially when both of those times are given solely to teaching. And above all, pray for God to send His Spirit to go before us and prepare hearts, to fill us as we minister, and to remain after us convicting of sin and leading to the cross.

Thank you! I only wish you knew how your prayers are being heard. I will write a post soon containing many of these blessings. If God get's a hold of PG, I'll be sure to add that to the list. It would be the most magnificent one by far. In fact, if God sent a revival there...I think I might turn into an animal for Him! I would not only know God can do all things because I read it, I will have seen it displayed in front of my eyes and will be in awe (as I hope you will be). Like I said, I think I would turn into an animal...though that sentence only convicts me as to why I wouldn't be otherwise...


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boruco

This is the second part of our three part series on the local churches here that we minister to. Last time, we discussed the church at Esperanza-the town we live in. Today, we move on to the church at Boruco-an exciting and growing home church, where God seems to me moving.

Pull out of the dusty, crowded streets of Esperanza, heading south and you'll soon come to some breath-taking views of fields, mountains, plátanos (plantains) and gorgeous sunsets (this is where Celia took pictures of the sunset we placed on facebook). Though beautiful, it is a foreign looking land-something out of Jurassic Park. Every time we pass this way, I have expect to see a T-Rex jump out from behind a palm tree and start chasing us. Eventually (15 minutes), you will come to a small town called Amina. This is where we plan on doing VBS this summer.

The road will dead-end, and you take a left to head to Boruco. Not even ten minutes later, you'll be there. One of our VBS success stories, is the one we did at Boruco. I remember seeing a picture-shortly after we left there that summer (the summer that Celia and I felt called to missions here)- of José and five people or so sitting on cinder blocks worshiping God with their Bibles open- due to everyone's efforts in that town. Shortly after, there were 50, then over 100. The growth had a lot to do with a man by the name of Freddy (maybe its Fredi), opening up his home and yard for a place to worship.

Looking down from where I often pray in Boruco. Freddy's home is the red and grey tin roof
I remember my first trip to his house. We walked and walked up a hill. Soon, I realized we were climbing a mountain! You'd have to think the church is faithful for them to endure that climb every time (ok, its really not that bad...). Finally, we reached the top, and man, was it worth it. What a view! Esperanza in the distance, the adjacent mountain range protruding overhead, and all the palm trees and homes below. We mainly go there at night, so I started missing the view. But then, there was a full moon one night and it lit up every thing. I climbed the short distance from Freddy's house to the top of the hill/mountain and was blown away again. This time- stars, the city lights, the glistening palm trees, the burning fires here and there, and the church just below in Freddy's house.

Freddy saying a few words
Speaking of Freddy, he and his family were baptized this past summer in front of the missionaries who came on the Ocala trip (I had the privileged of baptizing one of his sons). I've seen a lot of baptisms since I've been here, and I've seen a lot of those same people no longer interested in God-so I was cautious about this one as well. But you could tell there was something different about Freddy-he was the real deal. He was a leader. And most important of all, you could tell he wanted more of Jesus. Oh, that more of us would want more of Jesus!

I soon learned that Freddy was taking it upon himself to visit families-inviting them to church, praying for them, and just loving on them. I also heard that he had been given money as a demonstration of thanks for his work. He used it to buy food and refreshments for the church. This is the kind of man Freddy is. Another time, he was offered a good paying job, in which he turned down because it would have prohibited him from serving God as much as he does. A good paying job is a rare, and coveted thing here. We are making plans to begin discipling Freddy soon. I am hopeful that he could one day pastor the church at Boruco. This will not be for some time, and has not been discussed too much as of yet, so keep him in your prayers, as well as us for wisdom in this area.

Like Freddy, there are quite a few others there who seem hungry. I am teaching a class on the attributes of God, and I give out homework. Many do it faithfully. Throughout the week, Freddy and Teresa go to different homes to help those who need it complete their homework.  That being said, there is still a great lack of knowledge of the Word. I'm just starting to get used to this. Its so different than back home. Sometimes, questions are asked and comments made that reveal profound misunderstandings-even regarding issues that we've covered many times. For sure, everything we do here will be a process. While that may be viewed as a downside, there are upsides as well. Imagine teaching on the Passover, or the bronze serpent, or some of the parables of Jesus (these come to mind), and having people hear them for the first time. Seeing them understand the connection of OT events and Christ, and the teachings of Jesus becoming clear. It's fabulous. I'm smiling as I write this.

But as I alluded to, there are concerns. The attendance has dropped of late (I think a few were coming for a while because it was the only thing in town to do), it is hard to know just how much is being learned and applied yet, and we still have to (and perhaps will always) struggle with helping people overcome behaviors that seem to be normal to them, but are a sin against God. For example, a gentleman, who seems to be eager in learning, came to me just the other day and asked me if I would help him tell an American girl that he "likes" her. I asked if she was a Christian, and he said matter of factually, "no." I then told him hat I would not help him say that because he should not be involved with her. He just smiled and be-bopped down the road like nothing happened. My initial thought was, "What is he thinking asking a missionary that?" But, as I reflected, I thanked God because it revealed to me just how far we still have to go. Like I mentioned- a process, a marathon.

Please join us in praying for the church at Boruco. Please pray that the hunger and thirst of those exhibiting it, rubs off on others. Pray that their spark starts a fire. Pray that God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened to know Him more (Eph. 1:17-18). Also, pray for Freddy, Teresa, and their kids. They are a target for Satan. He wants to destroy them, and hates them for their work and love for Christ. Reach across the United States, the Caribbean, and into the D.R. to a little mountain with your prayers. Lift them up with these prayers so that they might learn that He Who is in them, is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4).

Thank you and God bless. Next time, we will talk about the church in Piedra Gorda.