This past week has been a bit difficult for me. Back in April, we sent out a prayer letter with a request for healing for a dear brother and pastor in Autlan who had inoperable lung cancer. Over the past few months, Luis was waiting to die. He had pain in the right side of his chest where the cancer, but was controlling the pain with morphine. I spent at least couple of months I visited him weekly, just sitting with him and talking for over hour each time. The last time I visited him in his home, he said he had tremendous pain through out the night and finally went to sleep at 6 AM. Towards the end of our time together it was clear, he was exhausted, falling asleep in the middle of sentences. I prayed again for healing but for God's will to be done. I came home and told Jessie, it wouldn't be long. Sadly, I was right. Last week, they admitted Luis into a local hospital to make sure he was comfortable. With this type of cancer, he had little use of one of his lungs and partial use of the other. It was hard for him to breath. On Thursday last week, I went to visit him there at the hospital. He was awake but weak. I was able to pray with him and his family. I said I would be back the next day to offer any help I could. Friday morning, when I arrived, they had sedated him due to boughs of coughing fits. I sat and talked with his wife, just hoping to pass some of the time during these final moments. His breathing was labored while he was sleeping. I prayed again with his wife and one of his sons. I left late morning. By 3 PM he was gone. As a family we were celebrating Thanksgiving, but had to change our plans to attend the funeral. Friday evening the funeral started at 9 PM. Some of the extended family are Christians but about half are Catholics. But being that Luis's wife Soyla was able to decided before hand what she wanted for the service, there were three different services for the funeral. The first started at 9 PM on Friday evening. The second at 11 AM on Saturday. Then one final one at 4 PM, then everyone travel to the cemetery for his burial. At each service the gospel was preached. I was asked to pray at the end of the first service. I shared Philippians 1:21 " For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Luis had gained eternity with Jesus. Before sharing this, I counted 12 pastors from Autlan and surrounding areas. He was a brother in Christ. I will miss him dearly. But as believers, we do not mourn the same as unbelievers. Our hope is in Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our treasure. We continue to pray for Luis's family members, those who are saved and those who are not that they would come to salvation. Please pray with us.
One the very necessary things in life is your wallet. You don't fully grasp as how important it is until you don't have it. Not only bank cards but a Minnesota licence is hard to get replaced when you live over 2000 miles away. I drove on my scooter from a local restaurant where I had lunch with a gentleman of the church. I checked my wallet to see if I had change just before taking off back home. Upon arriving home, I reached to my back pocket to where it is suppose to go and it was not there. For men, it is a normal thing to have. Everyday you start your day after getting dressed by making sure you have your keys, watch and wallet on you, so you can get to work. To find one of these items not there, your stomach sinks. Then your mind races to think about when you last remember having it. I drove all the way back to the restaurant with no luck. It was gone! Now to call the bank to get cancel the cards that were there and have new ones sent all the way to Mexico. This is not an easy task when you are dealing with a phone service that is not the most reliable as we have come to find out on long distance phone calls. So after 4 hours of being on the phone, I am now done with making all the necessary phone calls. Hopefully, the cards won't be "lost" in the mail. I even have a snowbird packet coming to replace my Minnesota driver's licence. It is not like I need it being in Mexico but having it as a from of ID, often comes in handy. If I present it here, often times they accept it. Actually when I asked someone about us ever getting into an accident, our US licences would be more valid, (not sure what that actually means?) Knowing the system of getting your licence here is much less work. You have to answer 10 questions. That's it. Then they check your paperwork and then they give you a driver's licence.
Needless to say, it is frustrating to have to replace all the important things you carry with you on a daily basis. I have learned my lesson on riding my scooter that is for sure. Making sure everything is secure and with no possibility of falling out, I will be more vigilant it checking. Now to prepare for youth group in an hour. Hope your day is going well.
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Have a great day.
From one of our past newsletters, we announced that a dear friend, another pastor in town named Luis Oscar Madrigal, has an inoperable cancer in one of his lungs. He is slowly dying. He is losing weight and looks much thinner. I have made a point of visiting him at least once a week. Just sitting with him and talking about different things. Yesterday when I visited, he shared about his oldest son Luis. I have heard bits and pieces over the years. In a nut shell, when his son got to the age he could rebel, he became rebellious in every way. In many different ways but one for example, when Luis (the son) starting looking for a girlfriend, he started dating a Jehovah Witness, then a drug addict and so on, you get the idea. Luis (the father) still has hope that his son will submit his life Jesus. He knows the truth yet to leave behind the sin that so easily entangles us is a hard but worth while battle. I am encouraged by our time together. He told me the same after I prayed for him and his family. I continue to pray for his healing and for strength for his wife Soyla and daughter Lucia.
Just a taste of what life is like: I had a neighbor yesterday ask me if we were able to sleep over the weekend with an event that had a live band playing so the whole neighborhood could listen to their music. It was actually comical because I do remember hearing the music but it nothing like what we used to endure being right behind the main bull ring in town. I didn't think anything unusual about hearing the music. I did mentioned it to Jessie that there was a concert going on and it was not the traditional banda music that is played in these parts. (Banda is Mexico's version of country music often sounding like polka music). When we sleep at night we sleep with the fan in the wind trying to blow cooler air into our bedroom. When the temperature drops 5 to 10 degrees cooler at night, it makes all the difference. So my neighbor laughed at me as I asked "What event? We slept fine."
Some other neighbors of ours have between 30-50 roosters. They raise them for cock fighting. They still allow it here in Mexico. They raise them until carnival comes in the spring in March or April. While I write this now there are 20 different roosters crowing. After a while you get used to these noises. When we first moved here last year at this time, they were so loud. Now they are just part of the normal noise.
There are also times of the day when the guys who own the roosters come in and make sure they have food and water. They usually have their car playing loud banda music, so there are times of the day. This does bother me but I put headphone on to keep me focused on preparing for a bible study or sermon. It is weird how things become so normal you don't notice them any more. I guess it is why people who live by train tracks can live so close to them is that your brain gets used to the sounds.
Today, as I start my day in my office, I found someone from where I graduated from Bethany Global University (used to be called Bethany College of Missions) shared a video on facebook. I understand that some of you may not be on facebook. But after listening to the message that Francis Chan shared, I am encouraged. One of his main points that we need to be lovers of Jesus and lovers of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I have found this to speak right into a difficult situation we are facing right now with someone saying they are leaving the church. We are scheduled to meet towards the end of this week. Basically when it comes down to the root of it, how do you love your fellow brother and sister in Christ when they have offended you? This is the question. How do you go about getting past a difficulty you have with being around that person who has offended you? If you are not able to find reconciliation then what do you do? Do you just leave? Do you follow what Jesus said in
Matthew 18: 15-17.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
So the question remains, do you break fellowship with the body of believers before you follow the steps of these few scriptures? I would contend that you need to follow what Jesus said and see what happens. What do you feel like doing? No, it's easier to leave and not deal with brother's sin and in fact deal with your sin. Pray for us as we continue to walk through this situation this week.
Here is the link for the video below.
Last year around late October, a lady walked through the doors of La Roca church. For a visitor to come to church, they are usually invited by someone. Emma Gomez was invited by a guy who had only been to the church 3 or 4 times. She had been attending another church for a few weeks but felt she needed to keep looking. When she came, we spoke to her to find out more about her. She had come to Autlan to hide from an abusive husband who she was going through the process of getting a divorce. After hearing some of the stories she shared, it was clear that this man who was her husband is in fact very dangerous and she needed to cut ties with this man. So for a time she was living with her mother. She had no money, no job, basically had come to Autlan with the clothes on her back. Over the course of the year it became more difficult for her to stay with her mother who is extremely catholic, to the point that her mom would begin to scream in rage about Emma's christian faith. So we invited her to come live with us.
If I could describe her to you, she is a warm, caring woman who is a mother to everyone in the church. She has been a christian for many years. We knew after talking with her she was going to be an asset for us in the ministry of the church. She did indeed become an asset to our ministry. She was teaching Sunday school every other week, cleaning and preparing for church or bible studies on a weekly basis and helped with the two groups that came over the summer from the U.S.. A cousin in Seattle invited her to come for a visit so with this invitation she applied for a visa. She asked us about the application process which we have no idea about the process. The only thing we could tell her was to be honest and not lie. We told her that God only blesses obedience. We prayed with her about it. If the Lord was going to move her in this direction, He would do it with the truth. They gave her a six month visa!
On Sunday we prayed for her as the body of Christ sending her out from us. We do this more often then we like to as you have seen with Josue going to bible school. This morning she left to be with her two sons who are 19 and 21 and both in college, before she flies out on Sunday. We will miss her. We know that God is directing her. We know that we may have only had a year with her, but because of Jesus we have more than just friendship, we have fellowship as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Jesus knows His sheep, and knows what they need when they need it.
John 10: 27-30
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
When you get out the habit of something, it takes awhile to get back into the habit. I am back. We are finally getting back into a rhythm of life after months of summer with a short trip to the states, two different teams from the states coming down to do ministry, and some visitors. Then Jessie and Anna are in the middle of a trip being gone for two weeks. This means I am spending my mornings with the kids doing home school each morning. Getting back to the blog here and also finishing a newsletter are on my top priorities.
A few weeks ago, we again had the pleasure of praying for a young man named Josue who decided to attend bible school before moving on to study something else. When you are in ministry you see so many different kinds of young people who grow up. Sometimes you see them follow after what they think is going to make them happy often leading to rebellion and sin. It is those times, you have to trust that the truth of God's word you have poured into them, will continue to take root even in the midst of their unfortunate decisions they are making.
Josue is not the case. I think of Paul writing to Philemon about Onesimus in which he wrote:
"I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me." Philemon 1:10-11 ESV
This is how I feel about Josue. He was just a kid around 8 or 9 years old when he started attending the church. I have watched him fight for holiness as he confessed sin to me at various times over the years. I have watched him grow into a man with strong integrity and good work ethic. It was may privilege to watch him grow into a young man who loves the Lord. That is why, when he asked me what I thought about him attending bible school, I was was thrilled. If you have followed our ministry over the years, he is the younger brother to Chavo and Vicente who both graduated from our mission's bible institute who are both in full-time ministry. He also the younger brother of Rosa, who is studying to be a pharmacist and started a cell group on her college campus. Being in ministry, when Paul mentioned child/father relationship you get to see the transformation of these kids who turn into adults with a love and passion to follow Jesus in whatever he calls them to do. Josue truly learned to be a servant. Jesus said in Mark 10:43b-44:
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (ESV)
I have translated what Josue posted on Facebook the last night he was at the coffee house before leaving for bible school. You get the idea of what I have been talking about.
"Today was my last day of service that I offered in "La Roca Coffee Shop", a place where I had the joy of growing both physically and spiritually, having the opportunity to share good times with my family and friends. A place where I learned that you serve in spite of the small things that you know and can support. I learned to work in a team despite different qualities and defects that we have. A place where I learned that not all work is tedious and boring. I learned to arrive with a purpose every Sunday, where the purpose is to glorify God with our work and serve our neighbors before ourselves. It certainly breaks my heart to leave this place, however I know that I will have the happiness of working here again, I keep hope :) I thank God so much for allowing me to grow here and meet those people who have been tools of growth throughout my life! Cafeteria and Church "La Roca" I love you!"
Glory to the Lord for what He has done and what His going to do! It is our privilege to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of His people.
This is a question that needs to be asked no matter how old you are. It implies that you are not blinded by your own pride. Pride is so often what causes so many to feel there is no need for me to learn some thing new. Being teachable and correctable I think go hand-in-hand. Pride is what stops this from happening. When you are young growing into an adult you have the idea in your head "I can do what I want because I am an adult now." In some ways this is very true in other ways not at all true. The reason I bring this up is that I am leading a youth bible study now. There is a huge difference between one who is teachable and correctable and one who is full of pride. Instead leading by example there is a desire for recognition. This is the same old problem that caused the great tower of Babel. It was to make a name for themselves. It was also what Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. "Don't you want to be like God?" In essence it is what is the driving force of our sin. Pride. I can do it by myself. I don't need anyone to help me. Yet no one can save themselves from sin and earn their salvation.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This verse are so clear. God rich in mercy ( Mercy=not getting what we deserve) ...... by grace (Grace= a gift that you don't deserve) you have been saved. Not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Our salvation is so different that all the other religions in the world. You have to please the '"god or gods" in order to find favor maybe having that god give you what your works deserve. Our GREAT GOD the FATHER who is rich in mercy loves us even when we don't deserve it and pours out his grace on us giving us our salvation based on what he has done through Jesus on the cross putting on him the cost of our sins. How amazing is this?!!! We can never do enough to pay for what our sins deserve. It is only through Jesus that we find reconciliation to the Father. What a gift. To spend eternity with Jesus and God the Father because we believe and receive the gift that God offers. May you receive much joy as you ponder and reflect of this great gift and ask Jesus to reveal pride that is in your heart.