Every week, we have church at La Roca. For those of you who don't know, we live only two blocks away from the coffee house/ church. It works out well for us to not have to use the car to go do things. But on Sunday mornings, it convenient to bring our car as we bring various things that we need like Jessie's guitar, computer, projector as well as various other things. Like many Sundays, I loaded up the stuff into the car. We share who drives the car because I will go to set up for church and the girls take more time doing their hair (something that does not take me very long). This Sunday, I ended up driving which is pretty simple. You go down two blocks, take a left, then the next block take a left go down three blocks and you are there. It would be much faster here if there was not one way streets all over the place. Anyway, as I was on my way, the street was blocked off with a police officer directing people to go a different direction. "Ok" I thought. "Now where?" Well, I ended up having to go all over town just to get to the coffee house because there was a marathon going through various parts of the city including going past La Roca as well as the two main streets in town. So what usually takes 2 minutes turned out to be 30 minutes and seeing various different runners doing the marathon. You never know what will happen in this town. It was the first marathon I have ever seen here in Autlan.
This past couple of week, I have been studying 1 Peter. I have been preaching through it verse by verse. We are now into verses 13-16.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (NKJV)
I have been challenged by these verses. Is all my conduct holy? These are verses can get right to the heart of our lives and what drives us. What a clear passage of scripture for our lives spiritually. We need more intimacy with Jesus. How desperately I need Him today. Be blessed!
There is a youth day conference every three that happened over the weekend. I ended up driving a group of youth from various churches here in Autlan. One of the amazing things was there were four unbelievers that came. They ,ay have not gotten saved on that day but there were seeds planted. As we were eating lunch together, one of the girls asked if we pray our father and Ave Maria prayers. I was able to show her through scripture why we don't repeat these prayers and why we don't pray to Mary. I made her read what scripture said just before the Lord's prayer where it talks about praying with the door closed and not repeating a prayer like pagans do. Then, I started to address Mary and how she had more sons after Jesus. It took her back. I don't think she was expecting to have me answer in this way. She didn't say much after she read these but said "it must be true It is in the bible." It is moments like this that make you realize you may not know when these moments will present themselves but with God's grace, He can use our words to impact other people. Another young guy was asking a lot of questions (the one sitting on the floor in the picture) whose name is Alfredo. He is seeking for truth. Please pray for these young people as we will have more opportunities to impact their lives.
Every missionary has to have some parts of him that are from his original country. Some of the ways you have been raised and how things simply "are" at challenged in very simple ways. Today was just like any other day. I went to the hardware store to buy a few things. I had what I wanted and I was standing behind a man, who was getting a few things. No big deal. I can wait just like everyone else in line. So as I was standing there, there was an older couple in their 70's I would say. The gentleman then made his way around me so he was in front of me in line. Inside there is a battle raging. Do I tell him he needs to get behind me as I was here first? Do I say nothing? Do I just except this as being part of the culture? I didn't know what to do, so I let it go. There is a part of me that says it is no big deal. So what if he got in front of you. You had to wait 3 more minutes in line. Then there is the part that wants justice. This is not fair. I was here first. Do I look like I am not waiting in line? Ok so this is just me venting a little bit about one of the little things that we deal with time-to-time culturally.
This also reminds me of the other place that this happens: the movie theater concession stand. It is a free-for-all. No lines, just get to the front counter. Whoever is at the counter (I guess) is where the line is. One person serving 30 people all wanting for popcorn, pop and candy. If you don't step closer, then you will be waiting forever.
Our weekly bible study with the church has been going well. We see anywhere from 8 to 15 people come to our home. It has been a good time of chewing on passages of scriptures and how it applies to our lives. We are encouraged each week when we see the younger believers like Laura's sister Juliet, who last week asked about what taking up your cross means. Our hope is that we would continue to see God bring truth to our lives. Tonight at 8 is our meeting, if you could pray for us.
Every once and a while, there will be some sort of day that is celebrated in the catholic church. Here they do parade type things where there will be a group of people who will walk down the street anywhere from 25 to 200 people depending on the what it is they are celebrating. This is just something you get used to after living here for a while. The part that really lets you know that it is happening is when they shoot off these big size bottle rockets. They are very loud and depending on where you are in the city they are like a gun going off very close to you. The times you hear them the most is just outside one of the main churches downtown which is not very far from La Roca. I will find myself preaching and have to stop in the middle of my sermon just because they are so noisy. I am not really complaining here. I just want you to understand some of the cultural things that go on here. This morning at 4:00 AM they were lighting them off as they were passing by the other side of the bull ring. (we live on the backside of the bull ring). We wouldn't even know anything was going on except for these fire crackers. The shoot up in the air and go off as if they are right in your house. I must say this is an unpleasant way to wake up in the morning. Usually they are off in the distance somewhere. But today was very close. It is just a part of how we live here. There are supposedly "noise laws". But this is definitely one that is not followed up on.
As a missionary, we are many times asked what do we do in Mexico? The answer seems small enough but the answer is often times, more than you think. Our first basic call is simple obedience to what God has put in-front of us today. It doesn't matter where you live in the world, if you are not walking in obedience the rest of what you do becomes your own effort and have an appearance of someone who has it all together. Yet when our flesh takes the liberty to come alive again, the flesh takes control of every aspect and dictates how you go about things. I say all this to say, that my flesh wants to know that what we are doing is worth it. It is the part of me that wants to say I am doing a good job. That is not what should be driving me on. It is simple obedience and being faithful to what God has given me to do that matters. When you deal with people you have to choose sometimes to love. I know many of you know a guy by the name of German. He is one of these kids who I have been trying to love over the past two years. I find at times it is difficult. He will come to La Roca in Sunday evenings which is great. Before we open on Sunday evenings, it takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to get it ready after church. Everyone comes and helps out. With many hands make light work. So when German shows up this past Sunday, he came before hand and said he was not going to work that night. I have no problem with this. Everyone is a volunteer and you get food if you work. I still need God's grace. It just irked me that he would sit there while everyone else is sweeping up the floors, mopping, cleaning tables off, cutting up fruit for crepes and waffles and various other things we need to get La Roca ready. I asked him to leave and come back after we are done cleaning. It is moments like this, I realize more and more how much I still need to grow. He did leave and come back. Before the night begins we have a little meeting where we pray for opportunities to bring people to Christ and talk about various details. As my wife has encouraged me many times to be clear in what I am thinking and communicate it, I shared some of my thoughts. I did speak to German beforehand about coming and helping out and if he was not going to work that night if he could come after 7 when we open. The night was a normal night One of our slower night as most of September is that way with everyone going back to school and paying for all the things that go into that. After the evening was done we all pitch in and clean up. After everything was done, everyone decided to sit down for a little while. Not something I want to do, at 12:30 AM. I guess it was pastor's appreciation day. So they all said a little something. Now you maybe are wondering why I am taking such a long time to explain all this? Well, when it came to German's turn, while everyone was laughing about something someone said, all he said was, "Seriously Andy, I love you." WOW!!!!!! After two years, of saying this to him, having him do things that just drive me nuts, but choosing to love him unconditionally and tell him that I loved him, trying to give him hugs whenever I saw him, all that time, comes to this moment where he expresses something so simple yet so profound. Coming from a person who may have never had a man say to him "I love you". It is all worth the effort. Even though my flesh desires become prideful about the things that I do, to God be the glory. I know I am not perfect yet God can use me to reach HIS sheep like German. We are His hands, His feet, His ears, and His mouth. He uses us.