Saturday, July 27, 2013

Team Korea & EUC

I can't begin to describe how thankful we are to have received your prayers throughout this EUC week. The Holy Spirit was without a doubt present. Cultural barriers were broken, friendships were made, and more importantly the gospel was shared. Students came to know God for the first time, students that knew Him grew more as believers, and there is now a strong unity between a group of students from many different backgrounds. One of our major prayers is that this unity would bring unification in Korea so that the gospel can be proclaimed in the North.

Our group served as small group leaders throughout the week. This can be one of the most tiring yet most rewarding jobs. Many students are hardened to the truth of the gospel and cling to the things of this world. I was so thankful that our camp theme was to "Be Transformed" based off of Romans 12. The hardened hearts can be discouraging to see. But praise be to God for even the smallest changes in these students lives. I can see God working! I rejoice in those that now know Christ, but I also rejoice in the smile I see on a face during worship from a student who normally would never smile. I rejoice in seeing the expression on a students face when they realize Jesus lives inside of them. I rejoice for prayer requests being answered and students that knew about God yet had not given their lives to Him doing so this week.

Please pray that these changes and these blessings would not be forgotten. It's easy to be in camp mode but I pray that not only this week but the lives of these students would be changed. I pray for discipleship in their lives and for them to long to share what they learned with others.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." -Romans 12:2

Thanks for your prayers,
Team Korea

Oh, How Blessed We Are

We may be the "trailblazers" for those to come in after us in our area of Mexico, but there have already been many that have come before us to soften the path. 

Throughout our time here, we've heard our fair share of stories from the villages of what it was like for the first believers in the villages: many of which came only 20 or 30 years ago!

Some villages beat people who turned to Christ. Others doused them with alcohol for not drinking with them during their fiestas. Some got thrown in jail for days without reason. 

Even worse, one village burned down the only evangelical church in the town and killed all the believers in it! This is the remnants of that church:

Sound familiar? "Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea." (2 Corinthians 11:25, NIV)

This is the persecution the early church endured, and this is the same persecution the early church in rural Mexico endured not too long ago. 

Luckily, we haven't experienced any persecution to this magnitude in the villages, because people have gone before us and paved the way for the gospel of God's grace. 

We have been blessed to serve under local churches in many of the villages we have been working in. However, the village that burned the church down several years ago still doesn't have an active church body, to our knowledge. 

Pray for this village, that God would raise up Christians to bear his name. 
Pray for the other villages, that their churches would reach others in their village with the message of God's love. 
Pray for those coming after us, that our work would pave the way for them, just like others' work had paved the way for us.

Intertwined in World Missions

The burden that has been laid upon me as my summer in the Philippines comes to an end...
At the very core of my being, I want to love others and bring them joy through the Good News of salvation. I want others to smile because there is a redemptive plan for each lost soul whom God draws. What drives me is seeing lifeless, purposeless souls being made alive in Christ. My heart jumps and my spirit is happy when children listen closely to hear how much their Heavenly Father loves them. I rejoice when I see someone’s desire to know Christ manifested in outward actions. I am satisfied with the faithfulness of God’s sovereign hand in people’s lives. Tears well up, and hear strings are twisted when I think about the mass amount of unreached souls who are waiting to hear the Message of Reconciliation. I am called by the God of this universe to be an ambassador of Christ, and I will fulfill that calling. I will not restrict the Gospel because of my own selfish ambitions; this mission of telling others about the saving grace through Jesus is life or death for people all around me. 
We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way...” 2 Corinthians 6:3-4

To share the love of God and to preach Christ crucified is my desire, my drive, and the flame that burns within me until Christ returns. 

For the love of Christ controls us.” 2 Corinthians 5:14
Thank you Lord for being faithful!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Softening the Soil through Sport

Last week, we got to host a soccer tournament in one of our villages -- one of our most difficult villages. 

The climate their is very cold and people aren't very welcoming -- The men work during the day, the children attend school and the women stay inside. There is no Zocalo (central area) for people to hang out in and meet people. 

We found out that many of the families are distrusting of foreigners because there were rumors of them robbing homes. The soil was hard and we needed something to soften it. 

We talked with the local believers there and they said while the nationals may be cold towards foreigners, the children aren't and once the children warm up to you, the parents will also. 

We decided to host a soccer tournament for children ages 6-12 in the village and we had a great turnout -- around 60 children showed up to play soccer and hear Bible stories.

We had four teams: two played at a time, while the other two played games and listened to Bible stories. 

We got the opportunity to share the story of David & Goliath, which some kids were familiar with but many had not heard. At the end of the tournament, when the champions were crowned, we got to share about the true champion, the one called Jesus who conquered death and gave us life!

Joseph got to share Creation to Church and told the children that the reason we were there was because Jesus had changed our lives and we want to share the joy he's given us with others!

Many children came up and thanked us not only for the tournament, but also for the Bible stories. Several parents were there throughout the day and they got to hear the stories also and see why we wanted to connect and build relationships with their children. 

Pray that the stories would sink in with the children, and that their curiosity would lead them to ask their parents questions about Jesus. 
Pray for the national believers we partnered with, that this tournament would help soften the soil for them. 

Central Asia Update

Hello again from Central Asia. We have a lot to share with you from this past week. The week was filled many visits with our local friends. We asked The Father to give us more opportunities for more intentional conversations and He has provided. Here is a glimpse into the past week.

We truly learned the art and etiquette of hosting this week more than ever. After hosting five times in six days, we feel pretty comfortable in the “do’s and don’ts” of the process. We enjoyed having Mulan over three times this week. She was joined by her friend Gretchen, two out of the three times. 

On Wednesday of this past week, we were able to discuss some deep topics with Mulan. We discussed fasting among other things. She told us about her desire to fast and join in with the Islam Religion during Ramadan. Mulan is not able to join in because her father will not allow her to participate. This conversation led to more topics and the evening ended with her desire to read The Word. We had some other opportunities for meaningful conversations with a few of our other guests as well. It was good to get to know them. We also went walking with another friend of ours on Sunday evening.

Please continue to be lifting us up to The Father and the area in which we are working. Here are some ways that you can remember the people here specifically.
  • In our time spent with local friends we have come to understand that there is a great desire to find self identity. Girls look to find their self-worth in many places. Please remember the teenage girls here in Central Asia, that they would find their identity in The Creator.
  • There is also a great deal of pressure placed upon teenagers to perform academically even by ways of cheating. Lift up the academic programs and the students within. Think about the teachers who are instructed to follow the rules of the school whether or not they are fair. Our supervisors are some of those who will be teaching in schools such as these. Please keep them in mind as they walk along the very narrow line of following rules and following ethics. Many times the teachers are instructed to award the students with an A whether they deserve the grade or not.
  • It is not uncommon for husbands to cheat on or even beat their wives here. Please remember the many women who are in abusive relationships. Along with these women, there are usually children and relatives who are affected by these relationships as well. Ask The Father to place those who can be examples of a true father in these family’s paths.
  • Upon our visit to the mosque and in visiting the burial sight of many Muslim followers, we have been faced with the somber realization that there are SO MANY who are blinded and do not know the Way. Please join us in lifting these MANY people up to The Father. “..How can they know without someone telling them?”

Thank you for joining with us in this way and following along with us on this journey. We will have one more news letter before we travel back to the United States. We look forward to sharing more of what The Father is doing here in Central Asia in the last news letter.

Because of His love,

Lauren and Olivia

Going Fishing

Thanks so much for your support this summer. I’m now going into my last week here, and it has been a truly incredible summer. Many of you know the difficult time I had preparing for this summer, and you know the uncertainty of every step that I took along the way. I can say with confidence that this summer has been blessed by Dad & His powerful hand has been upon us this summer. So, to many of you, I want to say a special thank you for encouraging me to persevere through dark & difficult circumstances all along the way. The Fruit we have seen is the consequence of our obedience to endure the difficult things and stay the course.

This week has been filled with mixed emotions: eagerness to return to Family & friends is mixed with a pain to leave new family & friends here. We’ve had so many opportunities to meet with friends this week, continue sharing the Truth, and see eyes & hearts opened to the True Light. To the right is a picture of D’s English club that he invited us to come join for a day. This was an opportunity for us to share the Store with over 30 people as D translated for us the Story of our Brother and how to return to our Father. It was truly incredible to see his boldness and willingness to share with his friends how his life has been changed. I believe we will see a lot of fruit from this small group of students.

Also, we were able to meet these students again for a party to help out with festivities and follow up with a couple of students. D says that as he has been talking about Him, he is starting to find people that are interested and he will continue to share with them. Right now he really needs some Brothers to be beside him, and this is a key goal for us this week. We want to connect him and the other interested friends with those who can continue the work after we leave. This is really important for us, so please lift this up.

This weekend we were able to travel to the countryside with one of our friends, L. We got to visit him in his home & spend a lot of time with him and his friend. We went fishing, swimming, snail-catching, crazy food eating, and badmitton-ing, and we really had a blast. It was nice to get away from the city for a couple days, and it was an awesome opportunity to live out the things we’ve been sharing with this guy for a few weeks. We got to share the Story with him and his friend, and it seems as though his heart is being opened to the Truth. He seems more receptive, but “needs more time to think about it.” For many of our friends, they’ve never even heard of this Guy before, so making a decision takes time as they consider the Truth and the cost of following. It’s hard to leave when our friends seem so close like this. We are trusting that Dad will complete the work He’s begun here, and we must simply be faithful to be obedient to do our part here.

This last week we will be meeting almost all of our contacts for a final goodbye and last words before traveling home. We will connect our new Family and those interested with Friends who can continue speaking & teaching what they need to hear.

Join us this week and Lift Up:
1. Final meetings with friends. Last opportunities to share the Truth
2. D-, continued Growth and Maturity. Ask for a mentor for him.
3. Opened eyes and hearts to receive the Truth
4. Peace for us as we deal with leaving this place that has become our home for the past 2 months

“Don’t fish with a hook, fish with a net.”

grace & peace,
M & Ernest

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Divine Appointment, Local Church

We've had the pleasure the summer of working with some amazing local churches, many of which have started recently.

In one church, the first believer in that village still attends. Now, there are well over 30 members who attend regularly, including our Nehemiah Teams group for this summer. 

When we attended church last Sunday, they invited us to a time of fellowship that Friday. We expected that we would sit around, talk and eat -- but we were in for a big surprise. 

When we arrived at the church, there were over 30 people we had never seen before, some of whom were taking bucket showers next to the church. They were all changing into suits and elaborate robes. 

We found out that it was a traveling choir from the opposite side of Mexico -- an 18 hour drive! This choir group had tried to visit our church last year, but the plans were cancelled. This time, when they were headed our way, they decided to make a surprise visit. 

We spent some time talking with the choir group before they went to perform, getting to know them and learning about their walks with the Lord. 

When they finally went up to perform, we were in awe. The way they worshiped the Lord in unison made us want to worship with them, even though we didn't know the words to any of the old hymns in Spanish. 

This divine appointment was not only a blessing to be a part of, but it truly lifted up the local church as they could bond with other national believers and develop a heart of service to host them at the last minute. 

Pray for the local church, that they would take leadership in the village community. 
Pray that as we prepare to leave, they would take over where we leave off in sharing the hope they have in Christ. 

Fruit that remains

PacRim Ag team members with supervior & director of ARLDF Thailand, Jethro Adang

Wow... it has been a crazy couple of weeks! It is hard to believe we have less than a week left in country! Last week we spent three days in the villages establishing gardens at two people's houses. One of those people was actually the leader of the village! It is a great sign of progress to be able to build relations with him and to make a garden in his home. The second person's house we built a garden in was one of the other leading men in the village. Hopefully with the success of these two men's gardens, the rest of the village will follow and we will be able to do more ministry there in the future. Please be in prayer for the village leader, he has been suffering from stomach pains and is unable to do much in the village. We got the opportunity to pray over him and lay hands on him. We are praying for a mighty healing so that he will know God on a much more personal level, as a loving God who takes care of his children. We finished out the week by tying up all the loose ends at the new training building at our demonstration farm. 
This week, we traveled to a village of Northern Thai people and had a training seminar on our FAITH gardening process and then were able to build one for them to model after. We also went to visit the new land that our foundation has purchased and planted a full six plot garden there. God has been working through the leadership of our foundation and has given them a vision of how to reach the people of Northern Thai people. This newly purchased land is the first step to the new headquarters for the foundation and we are glad to of had an opportunity to lay some of the groundwork. (see more pictures below)
  • Pray for them as they are having to sacrifice a lot to see God's vision become a reality. 
  • Pray for faithfulness and strength as they continue to give of themselves. 
  • Pray for more partners to come alongside them and provide for the financial needs.

This is our last week in country and we are excited to come home but also sad to leave. We will be starting on our last project later today, a gate for the demonstration farm. As we are nearing the end of this trip, Satan will look to distract us and just focus on coming home. Pray for us that we would remain focused and finish strong. We do not want to miss anything the Lord still has for us here. Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement throughout this trip. See you all soon!

Group from the Faith Gardening training

Working on the Faith models


Spider Fighting

Last Friday afternoon we went back up to Kanghumaod and stayed a night with a family we got close to. When we got there, we were visiting with the ladies that had taken care of us before, Ate Leny and Ate Beny. Jester started sharing with them in Cebuano, so we left him to it, and went to talk to some of the kids.

One kid, Dave, brought Cory a stick with two spiders on it, then he made the spiders fight each other! It was really cool to watch, one spider was noticeably larger than the other, but the smaller brown one was whippin' the bigger black one. Eventually, that wasn't enough for Cory, he wanted a fight to the death! 

So when they weren't killing each other, he took matters into his own hands. He smashed the black one with the stick, then wanted to light the brown one on fire. I'm not sure why, but we were all in agreement that it would be fun. This was all just a bad idea from the start. It gets so much worse. 

Cory had to go find matches, and this one little boy kept asking for the brown spider, so we let him hold the matchbox we had the brown spider trapped in. When Cory came back with matches, he got the spider back from the kid, and we set up his death pit. We lit the pit, and put the spider over it, waiting for it to burn (the whole time, nobody seemed to think this was weird!). That little boy kept trying to blow out the fire, and pull the matchbox away from the fire, but we wouldn't let him ruin our fun! A couple minutes later, that spider was dead. We torched it. 

Then we got the bad news... That brown spider wasn't just some random spider the kids had found. It was that little boy's pet! We found out because he ran off crying! And not just letting tears run down his face, but audibly, loudly, crying! Cory felt so bad! I know it's bad, but with this situation unfolding before us, Blake, Joshua, and I couldn't help but laugh! Cory ended up giving the kid a whistle, some candy, and 100 pesos!! He bribed him for silence!!! But the kid's mom said it was ok anyways, and we didn't need to worry about it. So that's our ridiculous story for the week!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sunday In San Fernando

This past Sunday morning began like any other morning. Around 4:30 we woke up to the sound of blaring pop music in the living room of the home where we live. We cooked oats and eggs and then washed dishes and did laundry. We decided to have our quiet time outside in the barangay multipurpose center mainly because we felt like we needed an opportunity to talk with the priest.  

You see, last week we learned that the priest heard that we were staying in the barangay and that he wanted to meet us. So with that news, we wanted to be as available as possible. So call us stalkers, sure… but we had our quiet time where we could clearly view the church. 

Mass started at 9:00 and around 8:55 a man came up to Kristy and me and asked if we spoke Tagolog. We said not very much, of course, and I ran to get Annie so we could talk to this man. We talked with him and introduced ourselves. We told him why we were in the village and what we believed about how salvation is by GRACE through FAITH in JESUS CHRIST. “…not by works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He agreed with us!! So we told him that we would like to talk to him after mass was over if that was okay. 

About that time the priest rode up on his motorcycle. We talked with him and just shared the basic information about where we are from and how long we will be in the Philippines. Then he invited us to mass. So we went! We knew that God was opening doors for us and we needed to take any opportunities that He would give us! 

After mass, the priest invited us to lunch. Much to our surprise, he was inviting us to lunch at N.M.’s house. N.M., about one week ago, became a believer and was to be baptized that very afternoon!! 

So we had Sunday afternoon lunch with the priest at the home of one of the new believers that we have been discipling! Talk about bizarre! 

After mass we also talked with the man that agreed that salvation was through faith alone and found out that he is a “faith healer”. So we are going to spend some extra time this week pursuing sharing Christ with him!!  

Later Sunday afternoon we had the opportunity to baptize one girl from our youth bible study and N.M. that was mentioned earlier. 

Wow. God is good. 

In one day God opened doors to share with the barangay priest and a faith healer. Two women were baptized and we finished the night off with three bible studies. 

Praise God for directing our steps.
Praise God for opening doors.
Praise God for changing lives!!