Monday, April 29, 2013

Stories from the Field

When we come home from the field, it always is difficult to return to our “daily lives.” While team members are grateful for their lives in America, upon their return to the States they can have a difficult time processing the past ten days of being focused on God, His love for people, and His grace to use team members to bless others. Team members are doing something eternally significant, and the reality of it tends to hit when they try to re-enter life as it was. Venezuela was no different. Here are a few of their stories.

“Persistence in Showing God’s Love”
by Bud Davis, 18 years old
“Maribel was a single mother with three children, one who had physical disabilities. At the beginning of the week, she was very defensive and not very open to the things we had to say. God, however, had bigger plans. As the week progressed, she began to open up more to us as God destroyed the strongholds of her life that were preventing her from accepting Christ. She explained to us that she could not become a Christian because she could not forgive her husband, for leaving her, and herself, for the things she had done in the past and present. We explained that God has forgiven all sins no matter how big or small, and that most sins do not magically go away as soon as you become a Christian; however, they can be overcome with God’s help. On Friday, after a long week of discipleship, she was ready to accept Christ’s forgiveness. It was an amazing experience because God worked through us and softened her heart, so she would come to God.”

Bud and Believers
Bud, discipling believers so that they could learn to discover truth from God’s word.

“El Loco”
by Joey Molina, 20 years old

“As a mission site leader, I was responsible for finding the person of peace. I had spent all week searching for him or her. There was no single person who had a lot of power or influence over the community. It wasn’t until the last day that I heard about the local town “crazy”: a bitter, old man by the name of Lourdes Rameriz, or “el loco,” who had a reputation of being anti-social, avoiding/hurting people, and chasing everyone off his property. He talked with no one and spent his time in his house. Church members previously had gone to his house to share God’s love with him, but were run off, threatened with a bat and a bucket of water. Everyone was afraid of him, so I decided to pay him a visit.

Joey Connecting
Joey is gifted in connecting with people, showing them the love of God.
My ministy partner from the local church was scared to go to his house, but I assured him there was nothing to be afraid of because “if God is for us, who can be against us?” As we approached the house and came within 20 yards, Lourdes saw us and told us to leave, that he didn’t want to hear whatever we had to say. So, I explained to him how I had taken three planes and one bus from the United States just to talk to him, yet he did not care. He told us to leave multiple times and displayed his annoyance. I was about to give up and walk away, but instead began to share my story from 20 yards away from the house, outside in the scorching heat. Little by little, we began to converse. We talked for two hours about a lot of things.  Although he did not come to Christ, I know I planted a seed and made an impact on his life. My partner from the local church then explained that no one had ever been able to talk to him before, let alone share the Gospel with him. That was all God!

Venezuela…Waiting for the Call

God used our Venezuelan team to cause the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear…literally. More importantly, He used our team of 13 high school students, 1 college student, and four adults to heal people spiritually by introducing them to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Team Venezuela
We experienced a phenomenon that was new to us. Over and over, we heard people saw that they wanted to have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, and that they believed what we were offering was Truth, yet they were “waiting for God to call” them.  Their faces portrayed a deep longing for God. We’d explain that God was calling them and then share Revelation 3:20, while literally knocking on their house door: “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens my vice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  Their eyes would indicate they were tracking with us, but then they’d say they needed something else, maybe a miracle, to know for sure it was God calling.

Michele sharing the Gospel in Dabajuro
“Has anyone from a foreign country ever come to your home and sat with you to explain how much God loves you, a foreigner who’s taken three planes and one bus to tell you?” we’d ask.  Wouldn’t that be considered amazing, even miraculous? Some agreed and became followers of Jesus Christ. Still others needed more assurance. God healed some of them physically and, finally, they understood God’s call for them to follow Him. 

After God chose to heal this lame man, the wheelchair was no longer neccesary

Some did not receive His call to follow Him, which is exceedingly sad.  Interestingly, most people going on their first mission trip do not decide to go because people in a particular country are destined for hell, eternally separated from God. They are motivated by other reasons. No matter their initial motivation, rarely do they return home without being burdened for those who haven’t made a decision to follow Jesus.

Taylor spent hours and hours sharing with this family during the week

Who in your life is waiting for God to call them, possibly once they “clean up their act,” or once they “are done having fun and doing life their own way”? Who is waiting for someone to explain to them what it means to accept God’s gift of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Who does God want you to share His love with this week? Ask Him. Obey Him. Rejoice with Him, whatever the outcome.

We’d be blessed to hear how God uses you to share with that person. Please let us know.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Update from Venezuela: Thank You!

Dear Friends,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your prayers on our behalf, and more importantly on behalf of those that God is drawing to himself in Venezuela. We are starting to experience some breakthroughs even today. Taylor, Roger, and Jessica visited Josmaira again today, and the walls are crumbling down. Her heart has softened completely and the Holy Spirit is revealing so many things to her. There are so many Josmairas among those we are visiting every day. Continue to pray that God would crush the chains that hold them in bondage, and they would fall into the arms of their loving Creator.

Michele Leading New Believer
Michele leading a new believer in the study of God’s word.

Boys Learning to Share Gospel
A group of young boys learning how to share the Gospel.

Pray for us, that we would finish strong. That we would bring glory to God in all we do and say. That his love would touch the hearts of both young and old, and that the people of Venezuela would praise Him.

Andreas (on behalf of the entire team)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Update from Venezuela: Please Pray!

Dear Friends,

“I know what you are sharing with me is truth. I understand that God loves me and He wants to have a relationship with me. I realize that He was willing to offer up His own Son that I might live forever with Him...but, I won’t accept that gift.” The exact words change slightly, but this is the response that we hear over and over as we share the Gospel with hundreds of Venezuelans.

Pray with us! Pray that God would remove the fear deeply rooted in the hearts of the people we are sharing with. Pray that God would break down the walls of pride keeping these beautiful people from accepting His free gift of salvation. Pray that God would break down every barrier that would keep the Venezuelans from having an intimate relationship with their Creator.

As I write this quick update, my heart aches for Josmaira. Josmaira is a beautiful, intelligent young woman around 20 years old. I found Taylor and her translator Roger sharing with Josmaira and her entire family. There were so many people sitting and listening that I never quite figured out who was who, but I know her 82 year-old grandfather has been a Christ follower for a year now. He desperately wants his whole family to have that same intimacy with his Savior. I could see the battle raging in the heart of Josmaira. She finally told me that if God would call her she would believe. I asked her how much louder He would have to call. He had brought Taylor, Roger, and myself all the way to share His love with her. Her family lives out in the middle of nowhere, and here we were sitting on her front porch. But she could not see the extent that God was going to in order to pursue her.

Join me! Pray that God’s Holy Spirit would soften hearts, that He would draw these precious ones to Himself. Pray that we would present the Gospel clearly and accurately. And please, please pray for Josmaira. Pray that tonight would be the night that she would allow Jesus to take control of her life. God will never force Himself on anyone, but loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

With a heavy heart,
Andreas (on behalf of a faithful team)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Sunrise in Venezuela

Dios les Bendiga,

Easter in Venezuela was wonderful! Our team of 18 Americans divided up and worshiped in five different mother churches. Several team members preached for the first time.

Sunday night, we had a celebration with all the mother churches together to launch our work for the week. Joey and Nick, along with two of our nationals, led all 400+ people in worship. Following worship, we divided into our six teams to strategize for the week.

Sunday morning, Mickey, Mike and Aurora had two worship services. Mickey preached twice, while Mike and Aurora shared their testimony.

Bud, Nick, and Savanna, along with Joey’s team of Taylor and Brandon, experienced a Venezuelan sunrise service at 6am (the service actually started at 5am, but I negotiated for 6am) followed by a morning of games.

Bud and Joey did a great job preaching, and the rest of their teams shared their testimonies.

Mackenzie, Ryan, and Audrey had a great time with their worship service. The majority of this church actually walked the team all the way back to the hotel because they felt bad about not having a vehicle to take them back.

Terri and Aubrey enjoyed the morning with a great Easter service, then challenged this little church with the vision that they had for them. The church agreed that it was from God and have moved out in a powerful way to reach a new community about an hour from the hotel.

I have heard only great things about the message that Tim brought for their Easter service. Anna and Michele each had the opportunity to share their story with the congregation, as well.

I apologize, as I tried to get this update out all day Monday, but I was unable to connect to the Internet. I already have more stories to tell, but they will have to wait until tomorrow, because I am going out to visit five more sites right now. God is so good! Pray that He makes the rough places smooth and that we would be faithful in the task that he has given us.

Dios les guarde,
Andreas (on behalf of the team serving Him in Venezuela)