Sunday, December 16, 2012


"Sweet" is the word that best describes how I feel right now. And, I'm not referring to the way its used among the youth (and I must admit, myself often!). I mean to use it more in the way it is used in the famous Doxology that sings: There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord...Sweet holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove, stay right here with us, filling us with your love...

I say that, because the Lord has saw it fit to answer our prayer towards Celia! Last Sunday night, much of the church at Esperanza came to pray for her health to return, so that we would not have to return to the States to get a check-up. For over two weeks, Celia had either slept all day, or had gotten up to do a few things, only to be wiped out by the effort. A growing concern was developing. I recognized this to be Spiritual warfare quickly. I imagined that the hand of the evil one was upon Celia, and I concluded if it were so, it was because our Sovereign God permitted it. I thought that Satan meant to do us harm, and derail our ministry quickly, yet I believed God meant to work this for good (Ro. 8:28) as I mentioned in the last post, "Bang!"

However, in saying all that, the very real, very urgent need for God to "show up" presented itself, and all I (and everyone praying here and back home) could do was wait on the Lord in faith. I want to take you through what transpired in my mind in this process. At the group prayer for Celia, my main concern was for everyone to recognize this was Spiritual, and that we were pleading for God to do a big thing in our midst. Would prayer to God, really change Celia's state? Would she suddenly heal before Saturday (read the last post, "Bang!" to see why I mention Saturday) after she lay down for the count for two weeks straight? I wanted everyone there praying for us to know that if she improved, then they just saw the hand of God at work in their own life too.

On Monday (the next day), I was a bit nervous, and that might shamefully be an understatement. Celia had not woken up "healed," and doubts surfaced as to if God would respond the way I hoped, and thought He should to glorify Himself. My faith is not as strong as I'd like it to be-that was revealed to me. So that whole day, I prayed but continued to think of the "what if's." What if we had to go back to the States-would many back home question our call...would I...for literally the first time? What if the church in Esperanza (the one who came to pray) witnessed no fruit of their prayers? Would they think this whole God-thing was a "hoopla." What if God wouldn't get the glory He could have if had done this thing we asked? Would I ever even understand God then? Worse yet, could I ever ask anything in faith again? As I mentioned...the spiritual battle of faith was on.

However, that night an amazing thing happened. God comforted me! That is always a great thing. Tony and I went up on his rooftop to pray under the stars, and as we were talking before our prayer, I thought of something. It was that God doesn't need me to glorify Him. He can do that at anytime, and in anyway, even if  He didn't answer our prayer like we wanted. He's been doing it before my birth, and will continue after I'm gone. Immediately, I was relieved. I confessed my sin of presumption before my Father-that He needed to do this to glorify Himself, yet thanked Him for my desire to see Him glorified. Tuesday was filled with a lot less stress...but with a lot less prayer.

I hope I can convey the importance of all this that was worked out in my mind. Sometime, Tuesday evening, I talked to my dad. He was a bit alarmed by my sudden "aloofness" to the situation (though I think we'd both agree that wouldn't be the best word) as I explained to Him how God had spoken to me on the rooftop. The next day he called me again, and urged me to continue taking this before the Lord, as it was a mighty undertaking, and many back home were praying. Once again, I was convicted that I had swung to the opposite end of the pendulum. My painstaking prayers, my urgent pleas, my strong desire did please the Lord, because He wants to give good gifts to His children (Mat. 7:11), and He wants us to desire a thing according to His will and importunately ask for it (Luk. 18:1), putting all our hope in Him. So again, I fell to my knees, striving to honor my Father, Who wants to give me good gifts, and I pleaded to Him on Celia's behalf, asking Him to make her well before Saturday. However, I also knew He WOULD receive glory however, and thus my worries were relieved.

Well, today is Sunday. Yesterday was that Saturday I keep mentioning. Celia was in church today...strong...healthy...graced by God. The previous Wednesday, the day my dad called the second time, Celia finally said to me, "Jared, I think I feel better." 17 days after her incident, and two days after our corporate prayer, I heard the words I was longing for!!! Like I said, "sweet" is how I feel. God has done such a work in my heart and mind through all this. My faith has increased. I am finding myself praying for more things as a result. God really does hear us. God really cares. Oh, we know it because we know we're supposed to know it, but do we really know it? I think Celia and I do now for sure, or at least are learning it more deeply.

Couple this whole "ordeal" with the "Bang!!!" that you read about in our last post, and it is clear to see that we are in spiritual warfare, and that we have to rely on God for everything. Never have we had to rely on God back in the States, as we do now. Back home, we just have a solution for everything-so much "stuff" that fixes other "stuff" that goes wrong, whether it be health issues, or a leaking faucet. For example, back home I would have just taken Celia to the clinic. Here, I had to take her to the Master Physician. And when you are forced to rely on God as we are, Satan starts to rear his ugly head and attack because he knows it is a scary thing (to him) for a Christian to start walking in faith with their God. And with Satan, come trials and tribulations. I think we're seeing the horizon of James 1:2-4... where we praise God in our trials, knowing that the trying of our faith will work maturity and Christ-likeness.

And I hope that everyone involved in this mission with us gets there too (if you are not). I hope some of our experienced shared here encourage you who are reading this in America..."the hardest place to be a Christian" as says John Piper (Pastor, author) look to Christ first, and trust in Him alone-even before you look to other means that may be available to "fix" your issue. May God bless us in this endeavor, as it brings Him glory.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I'll get to the "bang" in a minute, but first I wanted to talk a little about Celia. Actually, the whole post is centered around her.

Last night, we had a prayer "meeting" in our home for Celia, Arianna and myself. I felt the need to call the elders (Pastor Jose and Pastor Tony) to come pray for our family so that we (mainly Celia) could "raise" us up again (James 5:13-17). Ever since we arrived here, a bit over one month ago, things have been tough. Nothing is really, "easy" as you might expect it to be (and as we have grown to expect so many things to be because of our life in America). Most of this stems from not yet having a vehicle, and not speaking the language fluently (often times I am still "signing" to convey my points). I believe the stress of all this, and more, coupled with Celia catching a "bug" of some sorts, wiped her out the other week. Since that time, she has improved somewhat and I have made sure that I posted that on facebook a few times, as well as in our first newsletter. As time has marched on, however, I find myself continuing to say, "she is doing better", and never, "she's completely better." In fact, she has been relatively the same ever since the few days following the night she was hospitalized (over 2 weeks ago). What does, "the same" mean? It means that she sleeps most of the day, and when she does exert herself a little, she gets very tired, and needs to go back to sleep before long. The next question I'm sure your asking is, "How can you say she is doing better?" The reason I kept saying that is because I'm comparing everything to that night she became ill and literally could not move.

The time has approached, that serious decisions have to be made as to what we will do regarding Celia. I was leaning to taking her to a hospital in Santiago (a bigger city about 40 minutes away) so more tests could be done, but Pastor Jose (along with a few in Ocala of Hispanic decent) advised against that. Their reasoning was that there is a large possibility that the doctors will only see "dollar signs" when us Americans walk in. According to them, there is a good chance that we could be kept in the hospital for days for no reason, and have tests run on Celia that are unnecessary, which would only be done to raise up the bill. Jose said it was only by the grace of God that the doctor in Mao did not take advantage of us when we brought Celia in the first time. Their recommendation was to take Celia back to Ocala, FL to get a check-up, (along with Arianna, who got sick the other day, but is now getting back to normal).

However, that is plan B. Our first plan is to go to God and pray the "prayer of faith" (Jas. 5) over Celia if it so be that the Lord grant us that ability. So that is why I called the elders last night. Come to find out, Pastor Jose had already planned on doing that as well. The only difference, it turned out that 1/4 of the church came with Jose and Tony (as you can see in the pics)! Luckily, Celia had just made two loafs of bread (and then got tired) so we could feed everyone. We have no furniture yet, but I hardly think the Dominicans care-they just plop down on the ground as if that's normal! After eating and fellowshiping a bit, they formed a circle around us and prayed. Our hope and prayer is (and was) that the Lord heal Celia. That he restore her health, that a trip back to the States would not be necessary. After all, Jesus is the "Master Physician." While praying, many recognized (as Celia and I do) this to be spiritual warfare. Many prayed for our protection, and even for our safety in our new house.

This Saturday (the 15th), the annual Christmas dinner is planned at our home. We are going to keep an eye on Celia and see how she progresses. If she is not nearly 100% by then, we will most likely purchase tickets and come back to the States. As I mentioned, this is not what I want to do, and I am praying fervently for the Lord to provide a healing for Celia. Please join us in this prayer. Even more than I wish for Celia to be restored (and that is so much), I want the church here to witness the glory, majesty, grace, kindness, and power that is our Lord's. I want our ministry to start off with the visible manifestation of the power of God, and His blessing. That being said, if it turns out she does not heal by the 15th, I will praise God regardless. Why? Because He is worthy, and circumstances should not affect our praise towards Him. We will know that He is still working everything towards good to us who love Him...and who are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28).

And now to the "Bang!!!" and to more proof that we are battling the forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). This morning, the three of us were sitting on the floor against a wall (in a spot where no paint can fall on our heads), where we often do, and eating some of the remnants of Celia's bread. Celia also started to bake crackers in the kitchen. She put them in the gas (hint) stove and came to sit back down with us. 5 minutes later, she went back in as I continued to feed Arianna. All of a sudden, the loudest "Bang" that I have possibly ever heard (it sounded like being right next to a transformer that blew up) cracked out of the kitchen. It was followed immediately by glass flying everywhere and a blood-curdling scream from Celia. I literally froze and could not think straight, but soon came to my senses. I ran in with Arianna in my arms to check on Celia. The first thing I saw were shards (big 18" pieces) of glass laying all around Celia and our stoves insides and toppings laying everywhere. She continued to just stand there screaming. I thought for sure she was injured severely. Through the broken kitchen window I could see neighbors from all around filling the streets to come see what happened.

Walking all over the glass (that was EVERYWHERE) I rushed to Celia, and gasped as she was...not hurt at all. Scared, some roasty feet, singed hair, and a hot forehead, but not touched by glass or burnt. Celia had turned the stove on to preheat it some 7 minutes earlier (and forgot that she did that), and was in the kitchen to put the crackers in. However, she did not notice a flame, so she decided to relight it (she knows not to do that from now on). 7 minutes of gas had built up in the stove and exploded upon the lighting of it. According to Jose (who has seen this happen before), that powerful of an explosion should have burned 90% of Celia and thrown her across the kitchen (she was leaning into the explosion). This is what happened to a man he knew. Yet, Celia stood there unharmed. As I swept up glass, examined the stove (which somehow works-only thing needing to be fixed is the stretching out of the oven rack so it fits again), and raced to and fro doing things, I could not escape the pressing thoughts of the fact that at every turn, Satan is after us. Some might discard that thought and say it is foolish, but I would say it is foolishness to not realize that. Satan is roaring here folks. He is trying to kill us, he is trying to destroy us. He cares not for civility, for repose. Only to continuously, relentlessly harm...

...But in the other corner stands the Great I AM! The Almighty, the God of my heights (Mic. 6:6), God who is near (Jer. 23:23), God of my kindness (Ps. 59:10), God of my refuge (Ps. 43:2), God of my praise (Ps. 109:1), God of my salvation (Ps. 25:5)...and we thank Him this day- for I have seen my wife stand through an explosion untouched. I thought she was in the kitchen alone, but another walked through the fire with her (Dan. 3:25) and did protect her. A warm feeling of gratitude trandsends my whole body as I write this. I have been encouraged in knowing that our God is watching over us, and not only has protected Celia's life, but will see her through her illness as well. Perhaps your prayers, combined with those offered last night at our prayer meeting were heard by God!

I am sure many have questions regarding this event. Post me on facebook if you do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Strongholds and Prayer

Well, we've been here a week-and-a-half already. Amazing, because it feels like we just got here. I talked to some of our family, and they feel like its been forever already. I guess that's because the adventure/newness part of it is on our side. I want to thank all those who have donated financially to us, and those who are currently donating. The only reason we are here is because of every last one of you. I mean that, because we are right at our financial goal, and that means every one of your dollars counts! I also want to thank every one of you who are praying for us. I imagine we'd still be in the States if not for all the prayers. (Within this post are prayer requests in bold. Many have asked for specific are SOME to start.)

Speaking of prayer, it is why I wrote this post and titled it "Strongholds and Prayer." This place is so dark. Satan has many, diverse strongholds. On the brochure I made, I listed that the evangelical percentage is somewhere around 5-18% (and that includes cults such as Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, along with all other Protestant denominations). Since being here, I'm learning that there are a lot more JW's and Mormons than anything else. Of course, Catholicism reigns. I'm also learning that many are more loyal to their Catholic roots than I thought. That is not saying that they know anything about what they say they believe though. They are just stubbornly against anything "different." Perhaps this is why at our last witnessing opportunity (the dad of a young lady who was recently saved), the man tried to suggest Christianity and Catholicism are the same. His intention was to give us the satisfaction that there was no reason we needed to be there and could therefore leave. I told him if that was true, then he should come to worship with us the upcoming Sunday. He agreed that he would but never showed up. But, many take the obvious route and just shut their ears after we mention we are Christians. Having ears, they do not hear, and having eyes, they do not see (Mark. 8:18). Mark 4:12, however (a difficult passage), says that Jesus spoke in parables, lest the people saw and perceived. I don't want to get into a theological discussion on that right now, other than to say that I see in this passage a hope that these who are deaf and blind can turn and repent if the Lord would grant them understanding. Please join us in praying that the Lord of the Harvest would open the eyes of the blind and deaf (upwards of 98% in my opinion) in this place. That is spiritually speaking of course.

So Satan has a stronghold of cultic following as well as false religious adherence that only can be defeated by prayer. And we know that the gates of Hades shall not prevail (Mark 16:18. Note: This verse is talking about the prevailing of the Kingdom of God, not hell as is commonly understood). Another stronghold Satan has is within the church. Now I must confess, that the Strong-man (Mark 3:27) in the body of Christ is the Holy Spirit, but there are areas within every believer's life that need to me more fully yielded to the Holy Spirit. Permit me to call these "footholds." There are many footholds within the churches here. Much of that stems from a lack of ability to read. Imagine trying to live the Christian life not being able to read the Bible! That is one reason we are discussing the implementation of a reading class, with the Bible being our text book. Though I cannot speak Spanish well yet (more on that in a minute), I can read it fairly well. If we accomplish nothing (in say 2-5 years) other than teaching the people to read the Bible, than I would have to realize that could pay off with eternal dividends. However, we are praying that God would give the churches here a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened...(Eph. 1:17-19). We are praying for hunger and thirst for the Word to increase in their lives as Christ allows them to see more of Himself. Please join us in this prayer. I more than anyone, realize that many who call them self, "Christian" are no more saved than those in Matthew 7:21. We are praying Ephesians 1:17-19 for them as well, in order that the Lord may open the eyes of their heart to see Christ for the first time and in doing so, develop a craving for Him.

Personally, Celia and I need prayer as well. When you lift us up before the throne of grace, please remember Tony and Christen and their family as well as Pastor Jose and his family. We all need to grow spiritually in our discipline. Things were so hectic the couple of weeks before we arrived, that I confess my focus swerved. I kept hoping once I arrived, I would regain that immediately. Well, this past week-and-a-half has been just as crazy! Hopefully, we can move into our place tomorrow (Tony, Christen, and the kids have been so gracious in letting us crash at their place). One major concern that remains is that our water pressure has dropped a lot since the cleaning of our cistern. This is a short-term prayer request and insignificant compared to what I've stated prior, but please pray for the Lord to give wisdom to a plumber we choose in order to identify and fix the problem. In getting back to my point, I did want to mention that the Lord is pulling me to Himself. I feel it every minute of every day, and this gives me confidence our sweet fellowship is returning (even though He never went anywhere). What frightens me more than anything I can think of is that I just moved to another country to do the Lord's work and I've drifted somewhat in the process. I know it is has to be strange for some of you to read this, but I'm praying for the Lord to rejuvenate Celia and myself. I know we just got here, but we are flat worn out already. Pray the Lord leads us by His still waters and restores our soul (Psalms 23:2-3) as we drink from the spring of living water (Jeremiah 2:13) through our communion with Him in prayer and His Word (James 4:8). 

I started to mention spiritual discipline at the beginning of the last paragraph and then I got on to something slightly different but related. I want to get back on track. As you are praying for our close communion with the Lord (what I got slightly off track on) please lift us (and Tony and Jose with their families) up in asking the Lord to increase all of our discipline. To go to bed early, and rise early; to eat the word before we eat anything else-memorizing it to the amount the Lord will grant; to fast often and not forsake the closet (our secret prayer time). People need to see Christ for all the above significant prayer requests to be answered, and I so desire to let them see Him through my actions and words as I open the Bible to teach and witness. I know we all do. I would like to thank the Lord that He has used Tony and myself these past two Sundays in touching many with the preached Word. To what extent, I do not know. What I do know is that it can be to more of an extent and I believe God will allow us to come in a greater demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4) as we know Him more, forsake the world more, and trust Him more through our closeness with Him.

Lastly, I want to learn Spanish! I'm learning alright, but I want to be fluent now! Ask the Lord to grant me and Celia and Christen and their kids the ability to grasp the language quickly. I can only follow bits and pieces when Tony teaches for a while and less than that when hearing a native speaker go on for a while. I get tired quick as well because I'm using so much "brain power" in trying to concentrate. It is literally exhausting. Thank God, Tony is here to translate so I can be used (and am being used) in bringing forth the Word already. However, I day dream of preaching in Spanish!

Lastly, please pray for Arianna's health and safety (she's doing good) along with the rest of us. A dangerous place we live in- no doubt- but we are at rest in the safest place of all...His hands! Nothing will reach us, unless it passes through them. There is comfort in that!

Thank you and God bless you for your prayers. Know that we pray for you as well.


Jared and Celia

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We have arrived!

Written around noon: On November 9th around 8:45 PM Eastern time we touched down in Santiago, DR. Since that time, we have been staying with Tony Salgado and his family (the other missionary couple here). There are some things we need to do on our house before we can move in (plumbing work, paint work...which could be hazardous to Arianna, and the furnishing of the home as it is completely empty right now).
Arriving in Santiago

This morning (Sunday) I preached in Esperanza out of Ephesians 1:3-4. Tony translated. Of all the concerns I have, learning Spanish fluently is one of the top on the list (but not the top-that would be the spiritual growth of the body, and the salvation of lost souls). There is no way to be as effective as I'd like until I learn their beautiful language. But I imagine there is a thing or two the Lord will teach me in the meantime. 1 Corinthians 2:4 comes to mind: Paul says, "and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."

Making sure I know what I'm going to say
Written around 7PM: We just got back from the church in Pierda Gorda (see pictures...Celia stayed home today because Arianna had a rough night). I preached again. Same sermon, totally different "feeling." This morning was powerful, and not only by my account. Many commented on the fact. However, this afternoon, I felt like gravel was coming out of my mouth. Hopefully, Tony did not feel the same way because He was speaking the Spanish! Pierda Gorda does need serious prayer though. I think it wise to be here more than just one day before I pronounce my verdict on the place though, so I'll say no more at this point.

Coming soon, I will publish a new post with some specific prayer requests. For the meantime, please pray for the Spirit of God to move upon this place and call to Himself those that are His own. The work of the missionary (along with all forms of ministry) is one of faith. We are reliant upon Him in every aspect. Please ask Him to move in this place for His glory!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Arianna and more...

Many of you know the scary weekend we had at the end of September, that ended up being less of a headliner than at first expected (Thank God). Perhaps, some of you do not, so read on. We had blood-work done on Arianna near the end of last month because she was not gaining weight as quickly as the doctors would like. Her alkaline phosphate numbers were high, so they scheduled another draw. We received the results the 28th of Friday.

Our pediatrician called us and started the conversation with the words, "I wish I had better news..." Immediately my heart sank, because they had mentioned to me these raised numbers can indicate kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer. She went on to let me know that it was probably not liver or kidney disease because no other numbers were raised that should have been if it were one of those conditions. She mentioned (at my asking) that it is probably tumor, and that Shands was expecting us.

We were pulling into Ocala Eye for an eye appointment scheduled for Celia and immediately turned around and jetted down the interstate to the pediatrics ward of Shands in Gainesville. The emotions of horror that followed can not be explained, so I won't try. I'll just say everything got surreal very fast. I was awakened out of my "stupor" at the sound of Celia crying in the back seat (she was feeding Arianna in the car seat). I don't recall that we had even said a word to each other...though I'm sure we did. But we were both so deep in thought, that I don't think we wanted to talk at the moment. However, when I heard her sniffing, my heart was so overcome within me that I could not contain my emotions, so we both had a little cry-fest there in the car. Then I called a few people to ask them to get prayer-chains started and probably cried my way through all that.

On I-75, we had our defining moment... I think. Looking back, I THINK this was what the Lord had in mind in purposing this all to happen. For a while (with our departure to the DR drawing near), I had been getting more anxious every day when considering the dangers that were about to become Arianna's on a daily basis. God, my Father, wanted to show me that she is in His hands. We lifted our hearts to the Lord in prayer, and though we had done this before, we offered Arianna to the Lord similar to Hannah in her dedication of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11). We acknowledged our praise to the Lord despite the outcome of our hospital visit, which I honestly thought would go on for weeks and result in Arianna not leaving there alive. I know that sounds extreme, but cancer is extreme. But God used our prayer to fill us with His Spirit, which resulted in a confidence and peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:6). And that prayer, coupled with the whole event, assured us that dangers exist everywhere; and that our trust should not be in where we are or where we are living, but rather that it should be in the Lord all Mighty (Ps. 20:7). Look at where trusting in circumstances got us with Arianna- a trip to Shands!

Now, I don't think that our prayer of faith "cured" Arianna, but it is true that things went from "bad" to "better" pretty quick upon our arrival. At first it was, "probably tumor"; after initial tests and talking to us, it was, "might not be tumor"; then after further tests (10 tubes of blood, 2 x-rays, 1 ultra sound, and the usual things) it was, "probably not tumor." 2 days later we finally got the diagnosis: Benign Transient Alkaline Hyperphosphatesemia or something like that. It is a rare condition in under 5% of children with those raised numbers (the alkaline phosphatates), where they rise for "no apparent reason" as the doctors explained to us. There probably are reasons in some of those 5% cases where "minor" things cause the numbers to rise, but nothing could be found to be wrong with Arianna...nothing!

Wow, praise God! And with regards to the weight-gain issue, the dietician basically said we need to just out-feed her. No one thought anything was wrong or could at least identify it. So, sitting here on my dad's computer, with little Ari sleeping in the back room, I can say that there was nothing found to be wrong with Arianna. She was ordered blood tests to be done every month just to keep an eye on that particular number, however. Please keep her in your prayers though...and for that matter, please keep us all in your prayers! We hope to be leaving later this month! I just got back from Orlando where we mailed off our first round boxes of belongings to the DR. Kind of a good feeling. Thanks everyone. We love and appreciate you.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How could we bring Arianna to the D.R.?

Why are we bringing a 1 year old to the D.R.? I get that question a lot. Usually it is not directly asked like that, but Celia and I get the gist easily enough. And before I go on, we understand the concern people have. We're not offended at it either. We know of the higher risk of Malaria (or some other disease) that  mosquitoes may bring with them; we know that a blond hair, blue-eyed girl will catch the eye of some sick-o's; we know of the danger in eating foods or drinking water there; we know all that and more...more than most. And its not only Arianna, I know the risks placed on Celia as well.

So how can we do it? Do we not love our little one? Ha! I admit, that might offend me a little if you insinuate that, but I'd get over it- I would understand that there is just confusion as to why we are making this move. So here is the answer in one word: "Obedience." If the Lord were not leading us to go, then I might rightly be asked to sit down and consider the needless dangers I'm risking myself and my family with. However, we are very confident that God Almighty Himself placed within us the knowledge of His will through the reading of His Word over two years ago.

At that time, we did not have Arianna, and she was not even a thought to be quite honest. However, the Lord was not ignorant of the fact that on one crisp, late October morning Celia would wake me up and say those two words, and that upon hearing them, I'd almost pass out! No, my sovereign Lord was not surprised like his feeble child (me) was. So the fact of Him "calling" us to the foreign mission field before we had Arianna made no difference to us. If He called us then, He's calling us now. Some have tried to convince me He's not, but they have not succeeded, nor do I think they ever will.

I think its safer to be in the middle of God's will, than outside it, even if that place seems safer. I'd rather be sitting in a lion's den if the Lord is with me, than sitting on my couch in my comfy home if He is not. In fact, I'd rather be in the lion's den (if He is with me) than on my couch, even if He was with me. My point is, if God be with us, then who can be against us (Ro. 8:31)! I remember hearing a story of how a guy was in an airport in some other dangerous country and for some reason he had to leave his briefcase in the airport over night. He prayed to God for Him to keep it safe until the next day. Upon arriving, sure enough, he found it safe and secure right where He had left it. After he picked it up, he mumbled, "Thanks God, I got it from here." Shortly after a guy ran by him and yanked it out of his hands, disappearing into the crowd. That story demonstrates the point of us being safer with the Lord even in the midst of danger, compared to being without the Lord in a seemingly safe setting. Please do understand that I believe in taking precautions, I just don't believe in trusting in them over God. For example, the Lord has blessed us with a home that has bars all the way around it. We even have it set up to hire a night guard that will walk around our home all night with a shotgun (I can hear the groans now...he needs a night-guard...oh just don't tell me anymore!). I will try to never let Celia or Arianna out of my sight. My point in saying this is to assure everyone I will not be dumb. But rather, on the other hand, I will pray for wisdom.

I would like to finish this post by saying one final thing. And that is that we realize there is cost in serving the Lord. Sometimes, great cost. Sometimes, the greatest cost. Missionaries die all the time; so do their kids. If it seems fit for the Lord, the great God Who giveth and taketh (Job 1:21), to take His little one (notice I did not say our little one because before she is ours, she is His) home before we'd prefer, then may it be. Know this please, as I write these sentences, my eyes fill with tears and the thought of it punctures my heart. But I know that I have a Father Who lost His Son and can relate to me. I have an elder brother, Who gave His life, which separated Him from His Father. My God would know how to give me and Celia and my family and my friends grace to help in this time of need (Heb. 4:16) because He too has gone through the lowest of lows (and His was lower than all others) and can therefore sympathize with us (Heb. 2:17-18). Guys, we have got to develop an eternal perspective. This life is a vapor (Jas. 4:14); this life is not what we are living for! Oh most of us do (including myself more than I'd like), but why when eternity is around the corner!

Please, if you are reading this, and you consider yourself "Christian," life for your Christ! He who loses His life for Christ's sake will save it (Mat. 10:39). If you are reading this and you are not Christian, I urge you, find out who this Jesus is. The last question, the only question in the end will be: Who is this Jesus of Nazareth.

May it never be that these things happen oh Lord, nevertheless, thy will be done. I love you...thank you for Your Son.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Update from the D.R (2): Hind-sight is 20/20

God is good. I say this after a recent disappointment. I say this because God knows the beginning from the end, and even when circumstances do not go exactly the way we want, we (as His children) can rest assured that He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). The main reason I had for going this summer for one week to the DR was to find a place for my family to live. When I say "place," I mean a home. On Tuesday, Jose drove me around and we found a place fairly shortly. It was a spacious 3 bedroom, two bath in nice condition and secure. A gentleman (not the owner) led us around and told us the monthly cost to rent. A whopping $179 per month! I was very pleased and thanked God. I got to the motel and skyped, facebooked, and emailed everyone back home the great news. The next morning, Jose called the owner to find out where to meet and pay the down-payment. Instantly, I saw the demeanor change in his face. After he hung up, he communicated to me that the owner had rented the house out three days ago. It had sat vacant for a year, and happened to be rented out 3 days before I could. A coincidence? I think not...hopefully we know there is no such thing. Though I knew this, it still discouraged me throughout the day. Satan's fiery darts of doubt were hurting a little.

The above was written on the Thursday of my trip to the D.R. I got interrupted in writing it, and saved it as a draft. Today, nearly a half month later, I continue this post. The day after I wrote the above, the rest of the gang on the trip was going to a Dominican beach to enjoy God's wonderful creation. I chose to stay back and go house hunting again. To be honest, I had little hope in securing a place. Pastor Jose had told me we combed the place quite well, and there was nothing available. Still, I did not want the thought to be while returning to the States that I could have tried harder. I set out with Fernando, Milli and Frank, and immediately struck disappointment. Another house we had missed previously appeared to be available. It was a spacious, nice place in a good part of town. Frank went out and asked a neighbor if it was available only to find out it had been rented a week earlier. It, too, had sat vacant a year!

To recap, the apartment Tony and his family were staying in (and where we wanted to live) had an opening. However, we found out the owner is in jail in America. A "no-go" there. The house mentioned in the first paragraph soon after fell through our grasp. Afterwards, the place I just mentioned. "Was it God's will for us to be here?" I thought. Many would say, "No, God's will is easy, and He wouldn't shut doors like that. He would remove all obstacles." However, when I look at the Apostle Paul's life, I immediately have to come to one of two decisions: Either, he was constantly out of God's will because he suffered so many hardships and difficulties, or God's will may in fact involve disappointment and the shutting of doors along the way. I doubt any of us would think Paul was outside the will of the Father quite often.

While these thoughts were running through my head, I heard Milli say, "Yes!" I had become so engrossed in thought, I failed to notice that she was in deep conversation with a woman. We had pulled into an apartment complex to check it out when Milli got out to talk to this woman who had just rode her bicycle into the gate. The lady mentioned to her that there was a place across the road that housed a pastor who was renting the house, yet was moving out next week. No one had contacted the owner yet. We jumped on it immediately, and to make a long story short, signed the contract on Tuesday of the following week. I was back in the States already but was in constant contact with Pastor Jose via skype. He told me afterwards, that the first home we looked at, unbeknownst to him, had a night club right behind it, and that you could play baseball in the living room of our newest place because of its size (that size will go to bible-studies, not baseball I assure you!). It was truly a more fitting place than any of the others.

As I look over my first paragraph, I smile, because hind-sight is 20/20. Going through things would be a lot easier if we knew the end ahead of time. All of us have wished for this knowledge at some point in our lives. But what if God gave it to us-would we need Him? Would we need faith? Could we please God? I think not because Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please Him. Thank God for our limited vision! It is only through this that we bring our God honor.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Update from La Republica Dominicana

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and the group heading to the Dominican Republic this week. Your prayers have been heard!!! Let me explain: It all started when my flight got delayed an hour in Orlando. I was doing the math and it was looking pretty scary in catching my connecting flight in Miami. I still had a little time, but everyone would be boarding before I even landed. That doesn't sound good does it? Well, I knew God was in control. If I missed the flight, I missed it, and God would want me sleeping in the Miami airport for a reason. I called my mom and let her know the situation. She suggested I talk to someone letting them know I would be cutting it close and for me to ask them to wait as long as possible in Miami. As I did this, the lady informed me I could go on stand-by for another flight leaving at the same time my current flight got delayed to. I was thinking, "what is the difference" and also, "at least I know I have a seat on this flight" but I did it anyway because she said my current flight's plane was not even in the airport yet. Well, I made it on the other flight...but it took forever also to depart. I prayed on my flight to Miami that things would work out, and took a nap. We landed at 5:30pm. The connecting flight left at 6:20. No problem right? Wrong! We got hung up on the runway. I have to admit, the peace that surpasses all understanding was fading a bit. But I took God at his word to be anxious for nothing (Phil. 4:6) and did so. By the way, I was prepared to miss the flight if it happened. Well, we finally got the clear and I was excusing myself through the aisle until a guy blocked the path as he held a bag for his son who was throwing up. I patiently waited...and waited...and waited. When I got off the plane it was 6pm. Remember, the connecting flight left in only 20 minutes. I started running, and I ran...and ran...and ran, and wondered how in the world the airport was that big. I ran up escalators, through trams (even though that didn't help can only go so far in a tram!), the whole while dragging Tony's microwave (you heard me right) behind me. Thank God they gave me a bag with wheels on it. Still though, in the tram my legs got weak, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I seriously have to get back in shape! Well, to make a long story short, I made it. I was the last one on, but they held the doors for me. It was like 6:15 or something. I later found out that my original flight got delayed again...and then again (no joke). But the fun did not stop there. My suitcases never caught up with me, and as I write this, I have not brushed my teeth or put on deodorant since Saturday. It is Monday. A nice couple I met from FBC Dunnellon (John and Elizabeth) offered me some of John's clothes. That was great. It was like the early church! I was not the only one whose suitcases did not make it either. However, I am happy to now comment, that prayers have been answered and 4 out of the 5 (both of mine and the folks with me) have made it. That was a blessing, because I had a window A/C unit in one, and a printer in the other. These are things that I have heard like to be taken by others. But I again had taken this to the Lord and if another got to enjoy some nice cool weather in their home because of me, then I would have been fine with it. However, there is still one missing if you of remember. It is one of Tony and Christen's (the other couple becoming career missionaries with us in the D.R.). They sent some cases with us to take for them. Please be in prayer for this case to show up. Fernando and I are going to the airport tomorrow to see if we can find it. The Lord hears the crys of His children.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Goal- 2 Timothy 2:2 (Part 3)

Lastly, I did want to mention that we have some other goals or things that we would like to see happen while there. These are various things, of which I'm sure will morph into other avenues once we are there and see different needs that we can help out with.

The first goes hand in hand with our "discipling disciplers and training trainers." It is to see the school that is being built with the funds raised by the Marion Baptist Association to be used as a theological training center as well. I would love to see the dual usage of such an important building.

I also have future hopes to plant new churches either in the area or beyond. I think this would happen naturally as the churches in the area grow in health and in size.

Thirdly, we hope to help the more rural areas receive clear/clean drinking water. I think this can easily be done by the usage of inventions here in the States. The "Lifesaver Jerryycan" comes to mind. It costs a few bucks but, wow!!! these things are cool! Check them out here:

Fourthly, I hope to get the Bible on audio, along with the means to listen to it, to the people in the area. There are many who are illiterate, and that might be their only means to hearing the Word of God.

Fifthly, we think our being here would be a great way to help out the Carolina's group, the Marion Baptist Association, and now Trenton FBC in Georgia, in planning the summer trips where we already do awesome Vacation Bible Schools for the kids (which also allow for outreach opportunities to the parents). Our presence will aid in follow up and discipleship of new converts. Furthermore, we plan on organizing more opportunities to serve on different short-term trips at different times in the year that will focus on different areas of ministry. 

Our Goal- 2 Timothy 2:2 (Part 2)

Pastor Jose, God bless him, pastor's 3 churches in three small towns there with no leaders to help him. "Solo yo, solo yo" was his response when I recently asked him if God had raised up any leaders to help him in the church. That translates into, "Only me, only me" in English. There are a few who help out with this or that, but none who can teach or who have Biblical wisdom to help carry the load. We often complain about the lack of leaders in our churches here in the States. Listen, if your church has at least one, you have more than Pastor Jose! My heart goes out to him just sitting here, writing this post. Wouldn't God send someone to help him? Well, we think he is calling us to do that.

The great need as we see it for the churches in Esperanza, Pierda Gorda and Burruco, is DISCIPLESHIP! I'm sorry if that wasn't too original and fancy, but it is the truth. The often quoted great commission of Matthew 28:19-20 says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (emphasis added).” 5, 10, 15 years from now or whenever God calls us home or to another place, we hope to look back and see that our time was faithfully spent doing the work of the Lord in making disciples, and teaching them. We believe that a biblical disciple will be one who can disciple others.

Another way of stating our primary goal is: to "train trainers, and disciple disciplers" in accordance with 2 Timothy 2:2. It reads, "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." It is our vision, that through the faithful, fervent teaching of God's Word (Mat. 28:20), the demonstration of the Word lived out in our lives (1 Tim. 4:12), our loving servant hood towards the people (Gal. 6:2), and our sharing of the Word to others outside the church (Acts 8:4) will produce the effects of 2 Tim. 2:2- disciples who can disciple others. When we pull out, it is our hope that like the Apostle Paul, we can have helped in establishing elders in the church that no longer need us. Of course, we realize this is of the Spirit, and can only be done in His power.

And I dare not forget prayer as well. A retired missionary once said, the reason we need to come up with so many methods and strategies is because we don't pray enough. I agree! Guys, there is power in the Word! There is power in love and serving! There is power in character! And there is power in prayer!

Our ministry will be to work alongside Pastor Jose (under his leadership as our Pastor) and will be specifically to the church, because like I have been explaining (mostly in part 1) this is where we feel God is leading us. Specific ministries with orphans, hospitals, clothing the needy, etc., are all great and can be Christ-honoring, but will not be the center of our ministry and work. In focusing our attention to any one of those things I just mentioned, or on anything other than the church as a whole, would be sin (for us)- it would be to go against what we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to do, and it would mean not utilizing my spiritual gifts to the fullest, which primarily involve teaching and evangelism. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us to use our spiritual gifts for the work of ministry; for building up the body of Christ. I do not think it strange that what God has revealed to both Celia and me as the need he wants us to help fulfill-discipleship within the church-is what we are best equipped to do by the Holy Spirit! However, it is my expectation, that our work will lead us to work with the orphans, within the hospitals, and the poor; and God-willing, to partner with other ministries or missionaries in the area who are doing this.

Our Goal- 2 Timothy 2:2 (Part 1)

It is time that I make a post centered on what we will be doing in the Dominican Republic. Much prayer, Bible study, conversing, and other reading have gone into this post. That is in part why it has taken so long for me to write this.

Even though it has taken much time to confirm what our direction will be in the DR, it was made known to us in the days following our "call" from God, almost 2 years ago. While on our second short term mission trip to the DR, God impressed His will upon my heart while listening to a devotion given by Pete Menendez. I have written of this in a previous post ("Our Testimony"). The neat thing about the timing was that God had sovereignly arranged us to be there 3 weeks this mission trip instead of the usual 1 week. This too can be read about in the same previous post. The advantage of being there 3 weeks, living immersed, was that we got to see the "big picture" and what we were getting ourselves into. It was these 3 weeks that have gotten us through many ups and downs in our journey to get back to the DR for good. The need we saw while there (of which God revealed to us), confirmed our calling like nothing else could.

We saw many needs while there that summer of '10. All sorts of physical needs abound. Anyone that goes there on a short trip can see that immediately. But what is harder to see, and lurking below the surface, is the great spiritual need. Many who have been there (or ones that have not, but can still simply imagine), would claim that it is easy to see the spiritual need as well. And they'd be right in one regard-it is a lost world. There is a profound lack of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ everywhere you look around. But the spiritual need that might be missed, and what we would have not picked up on if we were not there for 3 weeks (and even then if God had not revealed it), is the spiritual need within. I'm talking of the spiritual need within the church.

You see, us short-term missionaries, are not the only ones that can fool. We are not the only ones who can muster up the fortitude to put our "happy" faces on for a week, or dare I say, our "holy" faces (I know not everyone does this). The local churches there do this as well. As soon as the Americans left on the bus that summer (the one I've been talking about of '10), the whole atmosphere changed. The extreme lack of direction and lack of joy, of which we later found out stemmed from a lack of knowledge of the Word of God, overwhelmed us like a strong, rushing wind. We learned of grievous sins, current on-going sins of which I will not mention in detail, which are going on in the church. We saw what we thought were dedicated workers in the church, lose their zeal. We saw believers' desire to be conformed to the world more than the desire to be conformed to Christ. In fact, the Lord Jesus did not appear to be a significant part of most of the church there.

I remember filling Pete (the leader of these trips) in with some of the details after we returned to the States, and he said he never knew-and he'd been there 7 years. This was what God revealed to us; this was our field, and God graciously allowed us to see it. I say that because it was grace. In spite of what we saw, our spirits were strong within us. We did not flounder. We grew solemn, yet we were filled by the Spirit with confidence that we were meant to see this for our benefit. We were meant to see it so we would know what we’re getting ourselves into, and so that though it grieved us, we would still be willing. This willingness can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit-this is why I say it was grace.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Update! Our Current Status as of May '12

As mentioned, our target date of departure is late September. We are slowly making progress to meet that goal, but God is sovereign. It is up to Him ultimately, not us...and that produces a peace that surpasses all understanding. Apart from Him, I am impatient and doubting. Praise be to God, we who belong to Him, are not left to ourselves.

We are about to finalize our partnership with Harvest International (, a sending agency. We are excited to join them hand in hand to advance the gospel. I will have more to come regarding Harvest International (HI) when we are "finalized" with them. HI has a requirement of attaining 200 physical addresses to send monthly newsletters out with updates. If you are reading this and I have not gotten your address, please email me ( it with "address" in the subject line if you are interested. We would appreciate that very much!

Spiritually, Celia and I are withstanding a lot of Spiritual warfare, but Christ is conforming us to His image throughout it all. We are discovering our roles as husband and wife more fully and how we (as a couple) are to reflect the gospel in our marriage-deep stuff. Speaking of the gospel, I am constantly praying for the gospel to be more and more magnificent to me than it has ever been. I desire this so I can bring more glory to God by praising and appreciating Him and His grace more. I also desire this so I will be more passionate about sharing the gospel. I could go on and on, but I just wanted to mention a few things.

Monetarily/materially, we are about 1/4 of the way to our goal. I know that sounds bad, but I think we are about to see some real headway. Again, God owns cattle on 1000 hills (Ps. 50:10) and He can sell any of them anytime He wants! He can do more than that, He can make money appear in the mouth of a fish (Mat. 17:27) for crying out loud! So, needless to say, God's got this. If you are reading this and would like to partner with us financially, please email me at

Please be in prayer for us in these two areas. We have a long ways to go in both areas and we are trusting in the power of prayer to get us there.

Also, if you are reading this, please sign up to become a member. That will encourage me to update more often :) If you do become a member (or even if you don't) please contact us about receiving prayer cards, 3 fold brochures, bookmarks, and/or business cards. HI is printing those up for us. Get one, or request a lot to hand out at your church/ small group. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Statement of Faith

The Bible, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired by God, and without error in the original manuscripts.
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.
There is one, and only one, living and true God, an infinite, intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of Heaven and earth; inexpressibly glorious in holiness, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love; that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; equal in every divine perfection (thus each Person is fully God), and executing distinct and harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.
God is supremely joyful in the fellowship of the Trinity, each Person beholding and expressing His eternal and unsurpassed delight in the all-satisfying perfections of the triune God.
God’s Creation of the Universe and Man
God created the universe, and everything in it, out of nothing, by the Word of His power. Having no deficiency in Himself, nor moved by any incompleteness in His joyful self-sufficiency, God was pleased in creation to display His glory for the everlasting joy of the redeemed, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
God directly created Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from his side. We believe that Adam and Eve were the historical parents of the entire human race; that they were created male and female equally in the image of God, without sin; that they were created to glorify their Maker, Ruler, Provider, and Friend by trusting His all-sufficient goodness, admiring His infinite beauty, enjoying His personal fellowship, and obeying His all-wise counsel; and that, in God’s love and wisdom, they were appointed differing and complementary roles in marriage as a type of Christ and the church.
The Fall of Man
Man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
As the head of the human race, Adam’s fall became the fall of all his posterity, in such a way that corruption, guilt, death, and condemnation belong properly to every person. All persons are thus corrupt by nature, enslaved to sin, and morally unable to delight in God and overcome their own proud preference for the fleeting pleasures of self-rule.
The Mediator
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the divinely appointed mediator between God and man. Having taken upon Himself human nature, yet without sin, He perfectly fulfilled the law, suffered and died upon the cross for the salvation of sinners. He was buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended to His Father, at whose right hand He lives forever to make intercession for His people. He is the only Mediator, the Prophet, Priest, and King of the church, and Sovereign of the Universe.

The blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, penitent, and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation.

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who makes alive those who are dead in trespasses and sins, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.
Repentance and Faith
Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Savior.
Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal of sinners who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made. It is given not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith.
Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means—especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer.
Election and Perseverance
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He sovereignly regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners, yet it is consistent with the free agency and responsibility of man. It is the glorious display of God's goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

The visible Church is the body of Christ-His bride, consisting of every born again believer. The local assembly known as a church, is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by his laws, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word; that its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.
The Resurrection
The bodies of men after death return to dust, but their spirits return immediately to God - the righteous to rest with Him; the wicked, to be reserved under darkness to judgment. At the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised.
The Judgment
God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world by Jesus Christ, when everyone shall receive according to his deeds: the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment; the righteous, into everlasting life.
Evangelism and Missions
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man's spirit by God's Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.
*Acknowledgements: The New Hampshire Confession of 1833, Desiring God, Heart Cry Missionary, and the Church at Brook Hills aided my compilation of a statement of faith.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prayers answered at the Conference

While at the Mission conference held by the IMB in Alabama, God answered at least two prayer requests in a pretty forthright manner.

Of late, God has been working on me to trust Him for my needs more than I have been doing. I am reading of how Hudson Taylor would not even remind his employer when his paycheck was due but took it to the Lord in prayer and trusted in God to move the heart of his employer to remember to pay him. Really, that only scrathes the surface with him. He was a man of faith like few others!  It has been real convicting reading his biography, The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor, because it has shown how little I trust in God. I trust in my own means to accomplish almost everything. I think that is common amongst us American Christians, who have so much. And I think this is a major reason that God withholds His mighty right arm in so many cases...because we trust in ourselves-our strength, our wisdom, our finances, our retirement, etc.

Well, while at the conference, we came to a time when we were about to break for the day. The night before, they had provided dinner but tonight they would not. However, they were drawing some names out of a hat for gift cards to restaraunts around the area. After a few other people (over 200 in attendance) won some gift cards, a sudden spirit came over me to turn my attention to the Lord and ask Him to meet our need for dinner. So I took it to the Lord and received a confidence like few other times in my life.

So the hand went into the big hat, and came out with a little name...."Tony Salgado" (the person I came with). I was not even shocked, but joy did fill my heart. Then the man asked how many were with Tony and he replied that there was one (me) so Tony and I ate dinner for free that night! God is good! But I want to clarify some things before I just leave it at that. First, I am not intending to create the idea that God is some kind of divine butler, or a genie in a bottle. I think many would like Him to be, but that will never be the case. The motive I had for asking was pure. It was so that God would receive glory by being my Jeovah-Jireh (God the provider). It was so that I could learn to trust Him to supply my needs as I will have to when living in the D.R. (Phil. 4:19).

If you read my last post, Update! We're back from the Mission Conference, you know of the reason I had for wanting to speak to David Platt (who was speaking the last day of the event). I will not elaborate here as a result, but suffice to say, I was burdened to talk to him. The likelihood of having a meaningful conversation with him did not seem good (I figured everyone in the place had a question for Dr. Platt like we did, and I had never been good at being in the right place at the right time), but we prayed for one nonetheless. The night before David spoke, Tony and I earnestly took our request before the Lord, and we continued to pray throughout the next day.

After the first speaker (who was real good), and before Dr. Platt spoke, a break was scheduled. I slipped out of my pew and headed for the back of the sanctuary to exit so I could go to the bathroom. On my way out, I glanced to my left, and none other than David Platt was skooting out of his pew. I kept walking and then paused and turned when I left the sanctuary. I could not believe my eyes when Dr. Platt was right behind me with not one single person around him.

I introduced myself and asked him if he would mind answering a few questions I had. He said, "sure man" but that he first needed to go to the restroom. I told him I was on my way there as well. Afterwards, we (including Tony) had a great 10 minute or so conversation. He is a real down-to-earth, humble guy. A brief summary of my question and his reply is on the other post.

I am thankful to have a God Who listens to us and cares for His own as He does. I would encourage anyone reading this who doubts His willingness to lend you His ear, to first ask yourself why you want Him, and if your motive is pure, to simply seek him until He be found which He promises He will (Mat. 7:7).

Update! We're back from the Mission Conference

Tony Salgado (another missionary to the D.R.) and myself went to the Mission conference held by the IMB at First Baptist Trussville, Alabama last week.

We were pleased with the general sessions, as well as the break outs. But more importantly, we developed some beneficial contacts. One in particular, Jeff Palmer, works with "human needs" and has a lot of experience at helping people with their physical needs while simultaneously helping people with their spiritual needs. His angle is akin to the old Chinese proverb, "Better to teach a man how to fish instead of giving him a fish." He has learned the hard way of how simply "giving" can actually be detrimental in many circumstances. He also has a lot of good contacts in the D.R., which will be great for us. There are a lot of physical needs in the areas we will be in, and I am looking forward to mobilizing willing churches to help out in this area in a long-term beneficial way.

The need for discipleship was reinforced at the event. Many officials admitted that the IMB had dropped the ball in many situations around the world due to their desire for speed with church planting. This went hand in hand with a book on missiology that I just read, called Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience by David Sills. I feel since the week God called us to this mission (2 years ago), He has shown us the need for discipleship amongst the Christians in the Esperanza area. The confirmation that we are receiving in this is great!

However, all was not well at the conference. Tony and I, as well as a few other attendees (from a church in Jax), and at least two IMB officials noticed the strong (overtly) emphasis that was being placed on the newest and best strategy/plan to fulfill the great commission. The arm of man is clearly being trusted in more than the arm of God in many cases. This is something I constantly pray we will avoid. The desire to do this is strangely tempting, and can sneak up on you as you hear the facts about numbers, and sociological reports, and what is working and what isn't. Before you know it, some phrase similar to, "If only I did this, the church would grow..." will enter your mind. However, I am convinced that many (not all) of these latest and greatest schemes are created due to the lack of prayer and trust in God's Holy Spirit and Word.

Another topic came up regarding oral learners. 70-80% of the world are oral learners. Most are illiterate due to choice or circumstance. Effective ways of communicating to oral learners are through story telling and catechisms. Oral learners are unfamiliar with the American's way of presenting sermons in points and deductive reasoning. We feel that a few of the places we will be ministering to are considered to be populated by oral learners, so I was all ears (no pun intended) when it came to this break out session. Everything was going great until I asked the presenter where this left expository preaching. His answer was basically that it left it back in the States. Now this disturbed me, because I greatly appreciate the need for the "exposing" of God's voice in preaching. I find expository preaching to best do this. Furthermore, I wondered how some of the Pauline epistles could be taught in story form. I asked many people afterwards in the hall ways, at lunch and throughout the day how they thought story telling and expository preaching could mesh, but I was not satisfied with any answers. I knew there would be someone at the conference the next day that could probably answer my question...David Platt.

That night I prayed for the opportunity to speak to David Platt (who would be there the next day to wrap up the conference). I knew the crowd would throng him, and everybody would be having a question for him like we had, but Tony and I still prayed. The next day, after the first speaker and just before Dr. Platt spoke, we had a break. To make a long story short (which I tell in the post, Prayers Answered at the Conference) we got that chance to speak to Dr. Platt before any other person in the whole place! And better yet, he gave me the answer I had hoped for and thought was God honoring. Basically, he said that both could be done, but that in some of the meat of the N.T. (amongst other places as well), the preacher needs to trust the power of God's Word by "exposing" the text. He did not think story telling was as beneficial in these areas. I honestly felt my heart flood with relief with his answer.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Testimony

A little over two years ago, I signed up for a short term mission trip to the D.R. Little did I know that it would change our lives drastically. Celia and I had just gotten married, yet she was not going to go because we could not afford for two. However, right before the trip, a lady from our church had to back out, offering Celia her ticket, expenses paid. Looking back, we can easily see the Sovereign hand of God at work. I say this, because while there, Celia struck up a deep friendship with a Dominican family- a relationship that probably would not have happened if Celia had not come. The friendship led us to schedule a 3 week visit there the following year instead of the ordinary 1 week mission trip. When our church and the other churches we came with would go home (the next year), we would stay two additional weeks in the home of this family, totally immersed. We thought it would be for fun-God already knew otherwise, yet it would be another year before He clued us in.

Shortly after our return to the States, Celia and I both started to become agitated spiritually. We grew uncomfortable with being comfortable in life. Months later, we started reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan and that didn’t help matters. The challenging and convicting nature of the book conjured reflections upon the immense brevity of life, the vapor that it is and the fact that we don’t have much time here. I didn’t want to waste my life by focusing on temporal things. The feelings of discomfort continued to grow but I didn’t know what to do about it. Amidst the confusion, we began praying. We continued to seek God’s guidance and wisdom but didn’t really feel that He was moving in any way yet. Looking back, however, we can now clearly see He already was. The Sovereign hand of God was stirring our spirits for what lay ahead.

Fast forward a bit to the plane trip over to the D.R for our 2010 mission trip. I can only think of lost souls and the chance to preach to them again. I am hoping it will go as well as last year. I don’t have to wait long to find out: the answer is a resounding “NO!” I am scheduled to preach first and we head back to the church after VBS but no one follows except the missionaries of course and a few regulars. I was expecting a large and diverse crowd of lost souls like last year. We have a bright idea and turn the speakers out to the neighborhood (the church is right in the middle of it and everyone hangs around outside in the streets), but then the microphone cuts out. Satan seems to be doing his thing very well. I can hardly blame half the listeners as they falling asleep as I preach after a hard day working and just arriving the day before.

Discouraged and defeated, I’m driven to my knees. Looking back, I once again see our Sovereign God at work. What I thought was a failure was used by God to make me do what He wants us all to do the most-pray. I cried out that night that more than anything, I want to be used by God and to have His power in my life. I sat out on the balcony as everyone slept, pouring my heart out to God, offering Him my life and begging Him to please use us mightily. Less than 12 hours later and on that same balcony, God would answer and shake our world in an unexpected way. Ephesians 3:20-21 would come alive to me. It reads: Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Moments before a devotional Pete would lead, I was joking around with others, light-hearted at the moment you could say. Pete prayed and then began reading out of Genesis 12:1-Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. At the end of the word “country” out of nowhere I felt my gut clinch and in a way that I can’t fully describe with words, I knew what God wanted to do with Celia and me. It was as if God said, “Jared, get thee out of thy country.” It was so overwhelming; I bent over and started weeping like a baby. Eventually, I slipped back into my motel room and sprawled out on the bed and talked with God like never before. I heard no voice, I saw no vision but I didn’t need to. I just knew and there was no doubt. I told God I’d give Him everything, my family, friends, job, retirement, hobbies, comforts, home, everything. I could feel Him taking them as I offered them and that was when it hit me-there is no turning back, this is really happening. I had placed my hands to the plow (Lk. 9:62).

I called Celia in first and she simply said, “let’s go.” I was like, “Ok, that was easy.” I then called my pastor in and later spoke to Pete. They were supportive; cautious yet supportive. Everything started falling into place. This is the real reason we were staying 3 weeks and living immersed alone from all other Americans-God was giving us a taste of what we were getting ourselves into. Our whole outlooked changed as to our being there as we realized these two additional weeks were a mission, not a vacation. Nevertheless, I’d love to tell you the rest of our time there was wonderful but it’d be a lie. Hot, A/Cless nights, swarming mosquitoes, getting sick, but worse- a struggling church, an inexperienced, tired, but willing pastor, a lost world, false converts. Guess what though, this confirmed our calling more than having the best time-of-our-lives ever could have. Our hearts were set and our minds were stayed-not by our own doing but by God. This peace in the midst of what I’ve just described created joy unspeakable in our hearts, and we were also enlightened to the goal of our mission-discipleship.

I don’t think last statement is very groundbreaking. The great commission does say to “go and make disciples.” And that is our goal. We are working with Pastor Paul and some local pastors, including Pete to develop a more detailed approach. The opportunity to get some training by David Platt and the IMB (the author of the book Radical) has presented itself as well.

Well, we returned to the States, a little nervous that the comforts of home would erase our current goals and new-found mission, and that we might indeed glance back, while holding the plow. That was not the case. There has not been one day that has passed in over the past 18 months that we haven’t felt secure in our calling, not even when we were unexpectedly surprised with Arianna. We sold our house a few months after returning, and have recently started attending a different church-a Spanish one to get acclimated with the culture and pick up some Spanish along the way. Pastor Matos and pastor Adalberto are both giving us Spanish lessons as well.

In January we met with a lady from the IMB to garner support through them. We met their qualifications but had one problem. They told us we would have little chance of going to the D.R. Instead of turning them down immediately, we prayed fervently for the Lord to direct us. Over time, the thought of going somewhere besides the D.R. felt like disobedience. That conviction was confirmed in our hearts one night as we prayed for God to send laborers (Lk. 10:2) to the harvest in the D.R. It was as if He said, “Yeah, you are the laborers…and haven’t I made it plain already?” Again, the peace of God filled our hearts, and even though we will not have the benefit of having the IMB at our backs, Celia and I have not stopped trying to get there ever since.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Update! Missions Forum East 2012 Conference

I will be heading to First Baptist Trussville (Alabama) on February 20th to attend the International Mission Board’s (IMB) training for missionaries. Below is a brief description of the event.
Missions Forum is a learning and sharing event designed specifically for missions leaders, addressing topics vital to effective missions involvement. At the Forum you will be able to:
  • Receive practical information on many aspects of the missions task, ranging from church mobilization and preparation to field connections and engagement strategies.
  • Hear speakers who are successfully engaged in the missions task, providing inspiration and practical "how-to" suggestions.
  • Dialogue with other missions leaders and missionaries to explore effective methods.
  • Talk with IMB and NAMB missionaries and learn how you can partner with them.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham and Gordon Fort, vice-president for Global Strategy IMB are the forum speakers.
There are two tracks:

Awaking and Exploring - for those who are in the initial phases of missions outreach; presented in an instructional form. Topics include Basic Missions Strategies, Biblical Basis for Missions, Planning a Successful Missions Journey, The Effective Missions Leader and others.
Taking it to the Next Level - for those who are more experienced in the missions task; using a breakout group format. Topics include Planting an Indigenous Church, Staying Strategic, Oral Strategies (reaching oral learners), T4T (Training for Trainers), Reaching the World at Your Doorstep, Risk Management and others.
Obviously, the first track is what I will be taking. I am looking forward to meeting other missionaries, IMB officials, and of course, David Platt (author of the book Radical). But what I am most looking forward to, is gleaning the wisdom of many missionaries that will be there so we can in turn apply anything useful to our situation and efforts in the D.R.
In viewing the above information concerning the Missions Forum, I am expecting to leave that conference with a lot more practical knowledge and ideas that can be utilized immediately upon our arrival to the mission field...though I feel the necessity to make a disclaimer: Some trust in chariots, I will trust in the name of the Lord my God (Ps. 20:7). Father God, may it not be said of us that we trusted in strategies (chariots and horses), but rather that we were a people of prayer who could accomplish nothing of our own accord, but great things...mighty things through your Son, Who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

Thank you for your prayers,