Thursday, February 15, 2018
“I still can’t believe that there is an Adventist church in Chan Pine Ridge!”
His comment caught me by surprise. I had met him for the first time at the church in Chan Pine Ridge that very morning, and now we were enjoying a fellowship meal at the MOVE campus.
“I used to colporteur in Chan Pine Ridge and the people were really closed-minded!” the brother continued. “In fact, there was a group that tried to hold evangelistic meetings there, but they got sabotaged. Someone even rubbed Pica Pica on the upholstery of their vehicles!”
“Wow, what’s Pica Pica? Sounds like something itchy!”
“Yes, it's a poisonous plant with hairy pods and it gives a terrible rash! Besides that they would disrupt the meetings and even cut out the lights. The heckling got so bad they ended up suspending the meetings! So how have people been treating you?”
“Quite well actually! They haven’t chased us out of town yet! We’ve experienced some prejudice from a few families in they way of suspicious glances and comments like “we have our church” when we try to visit them. We’ve also been insulted by a couple of drunks, but many of the people are actually quite receptive!” I replied.
The work in Chan Pine Ridge began to gain a foothold a few years ago when Miguel and Vilma Chavez, former volunteers at MOVE, felt a burden to take up the work in that community and they began regular house-to-house visitation, community service projects and small group meetings. An evangelistic series resulted in 14 baptisms and the group acquired land and began building a church. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, most of the new members fell away. When the Chavez family received a call to Guatemala, Yaneth Robles and Ray and Phoebe Sikidge continued the visitation in Chan Pine Ridge and advanced the church construction. Ray and Phoebe were called to the Philippines about the time Lyli and I arrived to MOVE.
About this same time, Yaneth was praying fervently that God would send reinforcements: permanent Adventist members from the local vicinity to help raise up the church. God has been answering that prayer in extraordinary fashion. Four families simultaneously began to attend regularly. First there is the Bochub family: Sister Eva Bochub and her husband Agusto and their three children, Abdi, Isis and Uziel have been a tremendous blessing to our group. Brother Bochub has given the sound system, electric fans, and made a beautiful pulpit. They also regularly pick up those who need rides and bring them to church. Sister Eva is full of energy and hospitality and is active in visiting the sick and ministering to the needs of others. She teaches our primary Sabbath school class. The Bochub family has an extraordinary testimony that I will share in a future update.
The Tosh family also joined our group. Grandpa Margarito or his son Alberto drive the red work truck, and the rest of the family packs together in the cab and on wooden benches in the back. Margarito told his testimony how God saved him as a young man from falling into a life of drug trafficking. He later accepted the Adventist message after listening to a complete evangelistic series and Fatima bring a number of grandchildren, and Alberto and Lucy come with their two children, Donovan and Keila and some other cousins as well. Alberto grew up Adventist, but when his first wife died, he fell into drinking. At the bar that he frequented, he met Lucy, who worked there as a waitress. When they got married, Alberto decided it was time to quit drinking and began to study the Bible with his wife and two stepchildren. Last November they became the first to enter our church baptistery!
The Cawich family also began to attend about the same time as the other families. Brother Daniel is an electrician and taxi driver, and his wife Mirtha is a teacher at the Adventist elementary school in Orange Walk. Brother Daniel has already brought in one of his mission contacts, the Cámara family, and they have begun to attend regularly as well. They are not Adventists yet, but Claudia Cámara is convicted on the Sabbath and has already made a stand with her employer and received Saturdays off. She has not missed a Sabbath since she started coming about two months ago. Her husband, Adrian Cámara scoots into church on a skateboard and lifts himself up onto a chair near the front. He was born without legs and makes and sells his own prosthetics. They bring their children Claudia, 13 and Anthony 15. Anthony loves learning the hymns. Brother Daniel asked us to accompany them giving Bible studies in the Cámara home, but unfortunately we have only been able to do one study so far. Please pray for Mr. Adrian, as he has some real personal struggles that he is dealing with, including alcohol.
Brother Wilber Valencia does imports and exports for the Mennonite community. He wants start doing mission work, but something is holding him back. Please keep him in special prayer, as he seems to be in a great internal struggle. His wife Ana has been active working with the youth and Ambassador’s club, which is similar to pathfinders but less formal and more mission-work oriented.
Wilber’s sister-in-law, Alvina also began attending our group regularly with her two children, Marina and Isaac. Marina wants to be a missionary and study at MOVE when she is old enough. (She is only 14.) We told her she can be a missionary right now at home with her own father! Well, a lot of people have been praying for him too, but her father, Luciano, came to church the last two Sabbaths. He spoke with me after the service last week and wants to study the Bible. He also asked if he can be in charge of cutting the grass and keeping up the church yard! The next day I was able to visit him and have our first Bible study. This New Year he quit drinking and says he hasn’t missed it a bit.
“I am so much happier now!” he grinned. “I haven’t fought with my wife since, and there’s a lot more peace in my home. I want to seek God more and get involved in church. I was baptized Adventist when I was a teenager, but it was just out of emotion. Now I want it to be for real.”
God answers prayer! He is doing exciting things in Chan Pine Ridge. I haven’t even told you about the mission contacts and Bible studies going on in the village. We need your special prayers as does God’s church all around the world. We feel a great responsibility to help the group start right on the solid foundation. Pray that we will be faithful instruments, always in the hands of our merciful and mighty Lord. The story of Chan Pine Ridge is still being written, and while the Enemy is trying to get his words in edgewise, God’s side of the narrative is glowing with the power of His double-edged sword.
Monday, January 08, 2018
The following essay was written by Isai Perez, one of my students this last class session, about his experience at MOVE. He asked for my help translating and editing and gave me permission to share. Isai is now in Bolivia where he will be in charge of the food services at the Familia Feliz orphanage (See pictures below).
All Roads Lead Home
All roads lead home. I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head.
For some reason, different feelings had ended in tears that night. I felt I could not continue the same life I had when there was something better, but to leave my dreams for something completely new? I was really scared.
"All roads lead home?" What does that mean? Somehow I kept thinking about that phrase. Roads? Home? Ha ha ha. I laughed at myself for a moment. “Foolishness!” I hissed through my teeth.
At that moment I received a message: "Hello friend, are you ready to come start a new adventure with Jesus?" The truth is that it took me two days to answer that message. I was afraid to leave everything to go to a little missionary training school in Belize.
That week one of the most important people in my life disappeared, leaving a great pain in my heart. My sadness was so noticeable that my parents were worried. So I decided to answer the message and asked the directors if I could arrive a week early. They said yes, and I bought my bus ticket for the next day. It hurt a lot to say goodbye to my family. I had been home with them for a full year while I recuperated from a surgery that had taken me away from college. I saw my parents crying and I felt my little sister’s arms holding tight to my leg as a last hug. Sadness enveloped me for a moment as I boarded the bus and tears began to roll down my cheeks.
"All roads lead home" the phrase interrupted my tears, but I could not understand. What ways? What home? I'm leaving my home. I told myself. Maybe if I got married I could go to my home. I retorted sarcastically. And thinking about all this I fell asleep.
Finally I got to MOVE. Everything was very different. The people were very friendly. I liked it so much that I started to forget about my problems and that confusing phrase that had plagued my thoughts. Until one evening when the principal said, “I had the opportunity to visit my family but I am happy to be home again.” When she said that I remembered that she had referred to MOVE as her home before, and it had confused me a little. But now I was really perplexed!
The rest of the students arrived later that week. They came from Belize, Canada, the U.S., Chile, Mexico, and Guatemala! MOVE suddenly had more life than usual. We were all waiting, we did not know what was waiting for us, but we knew what we wanted, to serve and to know God more.
During the first week of our new life at MOVE, we had the opportunity to hear each other’s stories, or many would say testimonies. Through them we could see that God had led us all in different ways, and that MOVE had been our choice. For many of us it was a drastic decision to come to MOVE. But we could not deny that it was the best decision. Each testimony told of a sea of troubles, suffering, despair, anguish, pain and confusion. We all had the desire to leave all those problems in the hands of the only One who was willing to give his life for us, Jesus Christ, and He had led us step by step to this decision.
"-All Roads Lead Home" I said to myself again, but still could not understand exactly what that meant.
All of us chose from four different elective classes: mechanics, construction, education or health. We had a tight schedule of school, work, visits to the local churches and other activities. Each of us had to preach twice, give four Bible studies and direct two small groups.
A smile could be seen on our faces, teamwork was one of our good qualities, we all seemed to be synchronized, and any problems around us seemed intangible for the moment. I liked this new life; apparently everything was perfect! Something that really caught my attention is that everyone ran: from breakfast to classes, classes to lunch, lunch to work, from work to dinner in the evening and many more activities.
But as the days passed, my smile began to fade. Fear and fear of loneliness began to pervade my heart and soul. Each of us began to act differently, as activities and responsibilities began to be a burden and a challenge for most of us. Pride and self-sufficiency was our greatest enemy. We really had many talents in different areas and that knowledge was our own shadow.
After the first month of classes, we had a survival campout in the bush as part of our Practical Skills class. We had to meet several conditions in order to win certain pantry items for the campout. One condition was to keep our garden areas clean and free of pests. Also we had to present our homework and tasks on time, and complete certain challenges that our teacher gave us in order to win the necessary points. Finally the awaited day arrived. We got ready to pray and head out.
That weekend marked us all. Lack of organization, communication and our pride emerged from our shadows. It was a hard blow to see how low many of us had fallen. From that point on the challenges were increasingly difficult and the activities even more numerous.
Soon a new challenge began. We had to plan a mission trip that takes place at the end of the course, and would test our knowledge gained during the three months. Most importantly, it would test our trust in God.
We had to choose among ourselves who would be in each of the 17 different responsibilities as director, secretary, treasurer, food services, accommodations, evangelism, health, and transportation, among others. We began to pray together each for our trip, but sadly we were still not able to achieve unity among ourselves. We did not give up, however, and God did not abandon us. Little by little I could see the hand of God working in us. But negativism and pride were also still present.
It was in those days when my spirits fell, and I touched the depths of my ocean of loneliness and sadness. For a few days I forgot everything, and many noticed it. I felt that part of me had died. I could not see clearly. And when I was just about to give up and go home, I told myself “All roads lead home.” Again that phrase resounded in my mind, although I still could not quite understand.
Another week had passed; both the good and the mistakes were history. What have you really done to improve and to overcome? Or do you just settle for what you thought was good? I asked myself. The truth is that often we stop so long to lament missed opportunities that we don’t see other opportunities open before us. When you cannot run, jog. Jog when you cannot walk. When you cannot walk normally, use a cane but never stop. Life is uphill. Never give up! Always go ahead, with confidence in God because that will bring success.
Despite all our weaknesses, God had great plans for all of us. Despite our differences, our faith in God kept us together. We were 17 students with 17 pasts and 17 different stories. Is that what that phrase “All Roads Lead Home” meant? I wondered, but it still didn’t quite make sense and I sighed but still hoped to discover the meaning.
The days passed quickly and there was so much to do. We only had three weeks to complete the three months at MOVE. We were one week away from the mission trip. Our destination was San Pedro Columbia Belize. We were all worried because we had no money. But that week all 17 or us joined in the morning to pray and beg God's direction. Despite our stress and concern for the trip, God began to make changes in us, and at the same time He graciously began to give us what we needed for the trip.
It was Monday, November 6 at 4:47 in the morning when we started our trip. We were all waiting to see what would happen. I am more than certain that God watches over his children and all those who decide to leave everything to follow Him. He provided the money that we needed at the last minute.
The mission trip was a success. The people of San Pedro Columbia could see something different, and expressed interest in hearing the Word of God. We did construction, mechanics and health fairs. We went out to visit people in the Mayan village. We distributed books and had a campaign in the local church as well as a Vacation Bible School for children. Thank God we had about 90 children in the last few nights. God blessed us greatly and was with us at all times. He kept making changes in us, and despite the difficulties we could feel peace. We were now sure that God made up for our needs.
After the mission trip we only had one week left. The three months had come to an end. I could not avoid the nostalgia at the thought that I would no longer see my new friends. I was afraid because now we had to split up to go to the mission field for 6 months or maybe more. We did not have the money or any idea of how we would get to our destinations. What we did know was that God would continue to provide and help us at all times.
“All roads lead to home” I told myself again, but this time I knew that my home is not on this earth, my home is a place I can not even imagine. My home is where Jesus is, no matter who I was, what I did wrong, if I am poor, or do not have a degree. It does not matter my skin color or the country I come from, God loves me and accepts me as I am and is willing to give me the peace that the world denies me. He died for me, died for you and is willing to carry our burdens. He is willing to change the direction of our road, and take us home to His heavenly kingdom. Yes, all roads lead home, if we trust in God with all our heart. If we let Him direct our paths, soon we will enjoy eternal life and happiness.
“I'm with you, I will protect you wherever you go. Do not be afraid or discouraged, be strong and brave I command you,” God says. He will never leave us alone.
We were 17 students in our last weekend in MOVE. For us, MOVE was a drastic decision, a 180 ° change. We cannot deny that it has been the best decision. Each of us is a witness to the living proof of the miracles of the great love of God in us. We all have the desire to go out and tell others about the love of Jesus who gave His life for us on the cross of Calvary. Now I have a new challenge: to follow Jesus without flinching, without looking back: to leave everything for the One who gave His life for me.
Monday, December 18, 2017
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35
Our second session of classes for the year finished last month at our little missionary training school. One of the highlights for me was the one-week mission trip to the Mayan village of San Pedro Columbia in the southern mountains of Belize. The mission trip is completely organized and executed by the students as the culmination of their three-month training. The staff is simply there to work and follow instructions and intervene only if a major problem arises. It was exciting to see the students learn and grow as they tried to organize the work and work together.
As usual, the best moments of the mission trip for me were the personal contacts with the people in the village. Miguel is a young husband and father who makes his living cutting lumber with his chainsaw. His chainsaw wouldn’t start, so he brought it to us during our mechanics brigade. While I tried to diagnose the problem, he sat and watched, because, according to him, he wanted to learn. I told him I’m still learning myself, but he was welcome to watch all he wanted. In the meantime, he began to ask me questions.
“So why do you worship on Saturday instead of Sunday?”
“Well, that is the day that God himself kept and made holy and asks us to keep holy according to the Scriptures” I explained, and cited Genesis 2:1 and Exodus 20:8-11. “Why do you keep Sunday?” I asked.
“Oh, because Jesus resurrected on Sunday” he replied.
“The Bible does say that Jesus resurrected on Sunday, but I’ve never found a text that gives that as a reason to keep Sunday holy! Have you ever read a verse that says that?” I asked.
“Well, no.” he smiled sheepishly.
“Well if you find one be sure and let me know!” I replied. “It is very important that what we believe and practice be founded on the Word of God!”
Thank God, I found the problem on the chainsaw: it needed a small rubber seal for the needle valve in the carburetor. Miguel left his saw until the next day when I was able to get the part and put the saw back together. God answered my prayer, and we got the saw to run, after fiddling at length with the carburetor adjustment screws. Miguel was quite pleased. Along with his saw, he left with an invitation to the evening meetings as well as some literature on the Sabbath and a copy of Steps to Christ.
Sammy is another young father who works at a Butterfly farm a few miles from the village where he collects and counts thousands of eggs every day. Lyli and I met him while washing clothes at the river. He was very friendly and even invited us to his house to look at his butterfly collection. I was able to visit him in his home on three occasions during the week and our friendship opened the door to share a prayer with them and leave them some literature as well.
One other impressive contact Lyli and I made occurred during the daily house-to-house visitation that Jair and Victor, the directors of evangelism had programmed. We had no assigned area, so we prayed that God would guide our steps.
“Lord, lead us to someone who is really seeking truth.” I prayed. We followed the street past the village school, and turned on another street that took us toward the village outskirts to the south, but noticed that two other visiting groups were already ahead of us on the same road. One group took the next crossroad, and we followed the other group until they passed the next fork in the road that turned uphill.
“Let’s go this way,” Lyli said. The second house on the uphill road was a hut perched another 50 feet up a steep stairway cut out of the embankment.
“¡Dias!” we called out with the abbreviated greeting typical in Belize when we paused halfway up the stairs.
“It doesn’t look like anyone’s home” I remarked, noting the closed doors and windows.
But Lyli called out several more times as we approached. The door opened, and a young man emerged. We introduced ourselves and explained our visit
“We are just getting to know the folks around the community and letting them know about the activities happening in the community center during the week.”
“Oh, that’s nice!” He said. “Please come in!”
As my eyes adjusted to the dim one-room interior, he offered us a seat and then sat down on the edge of his bed.
His name was Arjel. We talked for a few minutes, asking about his family and how long he had lived in the village. He had lived here all his life and his parents lived next door.
Lord, give me an opportunity to turn the conversation to spiritual things. I prayed.
“What are your hobbies?” was the next question that came out of my mouth. That’s probably not the kind of question that will help answer my prayer, I thought.
“I used to really be into music, and even worked as a DJ, but when I started reading the Bible about two years ago I realized that I needed to leave that kind of music behind. Now I just like to study the Bible. In fact I was reading just now when you got here,” he smiled and motioned to an open Bible on a small table next to his bed. I was flabbergasted.
“You couldn’t have a better hobby!” I grinned. “I love to study the Bible too!”
“Do you believe that God can speak to us through dreams?” he asked.
“Why yes, the Bible gives us many examples of people who had dreams from God” I cited several examples, being careful to mention that dreams from God will never contradict the Word of God (Deut 13:1-4).
“I had a dream that I need to be baptized in the river, I don’t know why” Arjel continued. “I was baptized as a baby in the Catholic church, but I don’t even remember it. It seems to me that the Bible teaches that baptism should be a choice we make for ourselves when we desire to have a new life in Christ.”
“Yes, that is what I find in the Bible as well!” I confirmed. “Have you ever read in the Bible about the way that we should be baptized and why that is important?”
“No, I haven’t” he replied.
“Would you like to see some verses about that?”
“Oh, absolutely!” He replied, and immediately retrieved his Bible.
“I think that will help you understand why you should be baptized in the river or a similar body of water instead of just being sprinkled!”
I took him through the story of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan and the emphasis in the Scriptures on immersion and how that symbolizes our participation in the death and the resurrection of Christ (Col 2:12-13).
“Wow, that makes sense!” he enthused.
“Do you have anyone here to fellowship and study the Bible with?” I asked him, hopeful to connect him with the small group of Adventist believers.
“No, not here in San Pedro” he replied. My hopes soared, and I could already imagine him being baptized into our fellowship in the near future.
“There are some brothers who come visit me occasionally, and they seem very biblical. They are from a church in Guatemala, it’s called La Iglesia de Dios la Hermosa. They have the power of the Holy Spirit, and even cast out demons. They put their finger on the person, and the demon comes out, because in the Bible it says that Jesus cast out demons with the finger of God. What do you think about that?”
Immediately, several Bible texts flashed into my memory and I realized I had studied this before!
“I remember that verse where Jesus said that He cast out demons with the finger of God. Let me see if I can find it” I answered, knowing that I had the reference for the companion text written in the margin.
“Here it is, in Luke 11:20. ‘But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.’ One thing that is really important when we study Scripture is to compare what the Bible says about the same topic in other passages. In Matthew 12:28 we find an almost identical verse. It says, ‘But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.’ So here we see a parallel between “The finger of God” and “The Spirit of God.” Also, if you read the accounts of Jesus casting out demons, I can’t recall that it ever mentions that he touched them in a certain way with His finger. Instead, He merely spoke, commanding the devil to come out. When you study the connection between the Spirit of God and the Word of God, you will see that they are inseparable. Which reminds me, it was the finger of God that wrote the law of God on the tables of stone! That’s why the Word of God is alive and powerful. The Holy Spirit will never work contrary to the Bible.”
We continued to share with each other from the Bible. The time flew by and soon we had to excuse ourselves to return to the Community Center for lunch. Curious about the church Arjel had mentioned, I looked them up on the internet. The only page I could find mentioned that they had services on Sabbath as well as Sunday, and I hoped
I was not able to visit Arjel again until Sabbath morning before church. I found him working in his yard. I gave him some literature and invited him to join us for church or at least for the concert planned in the evening. Unfortunately he never came, but I continue to pray for him and that the Holy Spirit will guide him into all truth as he continues to search the Scriptures.
Again I am amazed by the singular fashion in which God answers our prayers and condescends to use weak, imperfect instruments like me in such a grand work. May we be ever more faithful, more attentive, more passionate in the mission our God has given us.
This class session ended with 17 students committed to the following mission posts for from six months to two years:
1.Melinda Tzib and Ellie Kahler, Bible workers working with the Conference of Northern Peru
2. Nayeli Castillo, Marisol Juarez, and Isai Perez at Familia Feliz in Bolivia
3. Jair Flores, Red Advenir, TV station in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
4. Ana Paola Santander, UETIRG, Bolivia Industrial School, Guayaramerin.
5. Israel Rayos, Japan Christian Services, Japan
6. Aaron Chavez, MAJAL, Mexico
7. Nathan Wheeler, Bethany School, Guayana.
8. Joshua Pimentel, He’s Coming Back Network, Philippines
9. Rachel Skuva, Pioneer work, Ukraine.
10. Grace Queva, Springs of Life, Poland
11. Katelyn Johnson, Adventist Frontier Missions, Ireland.
12. Wendy Gamboa, Orphanage in Tanania.
13. Victor Adonis, PAMAS, Philippines.
13. Jonathan Benson, returns to MOVE, previously fulfilled his six month assignment in Familia Feliz, Bolivia.
|Generation 8 students signal their destinations for the next six months to two years.|
|MOVE staff and students|
Sunday, October 01, 2017
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” Proverbs 6:6
Storms have punctuated our survival camp weekend. Though we have yet to feel the force of a hurricane, yesterday it rained a real beating on our band of campers, and this morning we awoke under a steady drizzle. In the afternoon, the slanting rays of the afternoon sun illuminate the woods for a few precious hours of reprieve, while storm clouds again brew on the horizon. I am resting in the shade next to the trail during a field exercise, waiting for the last group of students to arrive, when I notice a line of large red leaf-cutter ants moving rapidly over the spongy forest floor, green sails blazing.
The ants themselves define a highway I would have never seen, running along crisscrossed sticks and strips of bark, and crossing a deep rivulet on a span of two fallen leaves that overlap and curl into an almost-perfect tunnel. How do they know where to go? How do they find the road without a guide? They travel at high speeds, despite packing loads as large as themselves. They march with three times the leg as we do, and their ranks roll onward without a lag. In their mouths they hold their green banners waving at full mast.
I think God’s people should be more like the ants. Though we live in a world where the road to true happiness, peace, joy, and fulfillment seems virtually unmarked, how often might the path become evident to onlookers if we would all work together and move forward in harmony, even when under load? Of course, the road is well marked for those ants, although the chemical signals they follow are invisible to onlookers. The same is true of our road. God has given plenty of waymarks so that none need err from the path, but spiritual things are spiritually discerned. What a difference it would make for the world to see the otherwise invisible road clearly marked by the continual action of harmonious and helpful travelers!
Of course, the road is not an easy one. There are obstacles that must seem impossible, and the burdens are often larger than we are. Like the ants, however, we can have an unproportionate strength, supernatural power to run the road with large burdens as if they were light, for Christ has promised, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). We can have even more than three-times the leg for the road when the Spirit of God comes upon us (Jer 12:5, 1 Kings 18:45-46).
Also, like these harvester ants, we live in a lull between storms, amidst the gathering shadows of the ultimate nocturnal tempest that will soon devastate our world, and we must work together like good soldiers, work while it is day, no matter the odds. The opposition is coming, and will far exceed the natural, matter-of-course impediments.
Andean, the director’s little boy, begins to beat the advancing ants with a stick while chanting “and there was a great slaughter, a great slaughter!” But the ants are undeterred by the undertaker. Although there is some confusion in their ranks, and some abandon the path now strewn with the carcasses of their comrades, the remnant marches on. They have a harvest to take home! Like the ants, if we continue in the way we face a dreadful pounding. But let us remember that the giants we face are really only little boys with sticks when we think in terms of our omnipotent, conquering King. Raise the banner high! May our mouths be full of faith and hope, and may our legs move that message and make it come alive! There is a mission to fulfill. Soldiers, whether ants or Christians, must be missionaries.