Wednesday, February 20, 2013


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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I want to start a series of blogs that highlight the three assemblies or local churches that we minister to here. I will start with the first established of the three, and the one closest to us, Esperanza. We live in Esperanza. It is a highly populated city that is not very large in terms of square-footage. So in other words, it is dense. Crowded, rough, dusty streets, on which a never ending parade of "motors" (motorcycles) and "pasolas" (scooters) zip by, marks this area (as many others). Among the busy streets, you will always find children playing with homemade kites (which can be quite impressive), or throwing rocks (one has already hit my windshield). At all times of the day, you will find students walking to or home from school. There are so many kids that they have to stagger-start the times in which they attend.

If you walk long enough in any direction, you are bound to come upon a park of some sorts, though there is usually one main one in each town. They are spots where many come to rest under the shade during the heat of the day, and to "hang-out" on a Friday or Saturday night. They are spots where we hope to preach the gospel in the near future. And sadly enough, if you walk in either direction long enough, you will probably also pass a Jehovah Witness or a Mormon. We live smack-dab between a newly built Mormon temple, and a Kingdom Hall (both among the nicest buildings here in the city).

A couple of blocks East of where we live is the main Avenue. I pray each time before I pull out onto this street. There really aren't lanes, and motors have the right-away....ALWAYS! One ran into Tony a while back because he didn't let them pass him on his left side before he turned left! Often, there will be three lanes (though there's supposed to be only two) and only inches separate you from the other vehicles. And when you see a huge truck carrying tons of rice, barreling down the road, it doesn't make things "pleasant!" However stressful and difficult it may be, the Lord has seen us through every time so far. I don't "knock on wood," I just pray harder! If you take the Avenue North a few more blocks, and then turn right and head a few more blocks East again, you will come to a little corner that houses a small building being rented. This is where the church at Esperanza congregates.

Pastor Jose praying before I preach and Tony translates
As we know, the church is the believers, so let me describe the believers here to you. Now that us missionaries are here, we are a mixture of three cultures: Dominican, Haitian, and American. Though there is a lot of racism between the Dominicans and Haitians in the D.R., we have the God-given joy of all worshiping together. I believe the church is growing-and I'm talking about what matters-in terms of spiritual growth, not numbers. Though, it appears we might be growing in numbers as well. The last 4 or 5 services have not afforded more than 3 or 4 empty chairs. It was in great timing that God enabled us to rent a larger building right next-door to ours. We plan on putting a doorway in the wall to connect the two and use the existing place for a Sunday-school room.

In mentioning the growth, I can only measure in what I see by way of passion. Not yet can I carry on a in-depth conversation, though I long for that day. So, I do not have the ability to gather too much from them yet  by simply conversing. However, when I preach or teach, I try to have a keen eye on the visible marks of the Holy Spirit moving. I observe as well, when Jose and Tony preach or teach. I have noticed more of a "leaning into" the speaker, more of a flicker in the eye as well. Also, many ask questions and want to comment during the teaching times. The crowd on Wednesday nights is as large or larger than Sunday mornings usually. Some have shown great interest in going with us to the other churches, and in helping us minister there. As well, there is a small group of young men, ranging from 12 to 20-something, who have invited us into their homes to answer questions, and want us to come back to do it regularly. So, there seems to be some positive signs of the Holy Spirit moving.

Celia and Tony singing a Spanish!
Yet, I cannot honestly say that I am satisfied. Perhaps, no matter how much the Spirit brought the church along and brought others to Christ, I'd still not be satisfied. And I am OK with that as long as it is just a man wanting more and more of God- wanting Him to mature His church more and more, and wanting Him to always save more. But, I know there is a loooooong way to go for Esperanza. There is still little knowledge of the Holy. We are trying to help (and praying for) that to change because the one thing we are to boast in is that we KNOW the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24). And the more you know Jesus, the more you love God. Not just mere facts that cause a big head (1 Cor. 8:1), but an intimate relational knowledge that leads to change. And though I mentioned the services are packed, one is not..the most important -prayer service. As well, the day we corporately go out to witness in the streets yields one, maybe two followers. That's quite pitiful, and it reveals one major weakness to me-quite honestly, a crippling weakness. It means that Christ is not special enough to you that you want to make Him known to others.

And if I am correct in that deduction, then the church at Esperanza still has to mature a lot. I think if that statement is true, there are a lot of us (everywhere) who have to mature in our love for Christ a lot. Just because it is not mainstream or popular these days for Christianity to be about evangelizing, does not mean that it is not a major problem. Yet, I'm afraid that it is very difficult to share the good news of Jesus, when so many of us do not experience the good news in our lives. Sure, we can always say at least He saved us-and that would be enough-except for the fact that He promised more. He promised to live in us! Why so much defeat then? I believe it is because though we may have died unto life once-we are forgetting to continue to die unto self, and though we might have drunk the waters of life once (Jn. 4:14), the verb is written in the present tense, telling us to keep on drinking unto life. Not to become saved again (for the Bible speaks nothing of being born again...and again), but to grow in Christ. Brothers and sisters, we have to crucify the flesh! It is our life-long privilege now until we enter into Glory and no longer have the flesh to contend with.

In saying all that and sort of addressing everyone, I guess I am saying that Esperanza struggles like us Ocala, like Dunnellon, or like Trenton does. Just like the Villages, or Yankeetown, or Fallbranch, or wherever you may be reading this. However, the scriptures promise hope. In fact, Esperanza is translated "hope." The scriptures tell me that our Sovereign Lord WILL bring about the sanctification of His bride (Phil. 1:6 and many others). And mysteriously, even though God works His good pleasure through us, we are responsible as well (Phil. 2:12-13). And so I ask for your prayers for Esperanza. She is the "hub" for the other churches at the current time. But more than a strategic importance, she is made of people. Real, live, brothers and sisters in Christ. God has ordained them to good works (Eph. 2:10), so please ask God, on our behalf, to make good on His promise. We can only ask this because He has bound Himself to His Word; and far from being impudent, it pleases God for us to come boldly before Him in this manner (Heb. 4:16).

God bless to all who are reading this. May grace and peace be yours in Christ Jesus. Next time, I will write on the church at Boruco. A few years ago, it was about 5 strong. Now it ranges from 50- sometimes over 100.

The church at Esperanza