Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When Bugs Become Toys . . .

We lovingly joke with our coworker Bob, because he loves to fish, that there must be some way to justify buying a boat for our ministry. This month God provided that justification by opening up the skies and dropping rain. The boat was needed just to leave our house . . . no, we did not buy a boat (nor do we intend to) and for much of the time we handled the rain like anyone else: by simply staying home. While flooding did come, some dangerous situations were created, and there were a few deaths, water was something that was very much needed after such a long time of drought. For us personally, the rain creates a melodic sound, freshens the air, and brings down the temperature, which combine to generate a great an inspiring ambiance while reflecting on God’s great work.
Now though, the sun has appeared again, revealing the appearance of all the mold that the rain brought. Afternoon siestas once again are a necessity to both preserve and persevere. It also means that we can resume reaching out, meeting with people, and  having Bible studies.
For our children, summer is an exciting time because it brings out new playthings . . . Ok, they’re bugs. While many our getting out their bikes for the summer and looking forward to going to the beach our children look forward to the bugs.
Certainly, the bugs are not as intimidating as one might find in some other places, but they are sufficient enough for us to pause and abhor their hideousness. Nights at the plaza are spent looking for the ear-drum piercing cicada, which exits the ground, makes its way up a tree and slowly exits a shell, freeing its wings and flying free. Even from our home we can often hear the sound and all three children are quick to reference it.
In the home, it’s another story. Here they’ve found an array of other bugs, including scorpions, water bugs, and grasshoppers to entice and play with. Enough to incite their curiosity, they provide plenty of entertainment for us and them. So, today, we thought we would entertain you by sharing the below pictures of the kids playing with these animals of God’s creation. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Spiritual Deception and False Teaching

"He told me my daughter would not have died if I knew how to manage my spiritual gift."

Most people are aware of the Catholicism in Argentina. Less well-known are some of the other religious influences. Let me tell you about one of them.

What do you think of when you hear the term "Pentecostal?" Perhaps you know or are yourself a Pentecostal believer in Christ. One of the interesting things about ministry here in Argentina is that there are many cults/religions that use familiar terms (like Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal) but the meaning here is vastly different than what those terms mean in the U.S. 

Most, if not all, Pentecostal "pastors" here teach that God will bless you if you give enough money to the church, if you have enough faith, if you are faithful enough in church attendance. The pressure is on the individual. There is no real gospel about a loving savior who redeems by grace through faith. I have been aware of this for a while, but I was horrifically apalled when I heard that a "pastor" told a grieving mother, who dreamed of her daughter dying before it actually happened, that if she had known how to manage her "gift" of dreams, her daughter would not have died. That someone claiming to know God would put that burden on a woman suffering from one of the most painful circumstances of life, who desperately needed to know God's love for her and her family, is infuriating. Yet it drives home even more the helpless and hopeless state of people here. Most fall into one of two camps; they are either unwilling to listen to the gospel, or they are open to listening but deeply confused and decieved about what the Bible says and who God is. 

Please join with us in prayer for the gospel of peace to take root in hearts here. The work is long and slow, but so needed. May God accomplish His work in and through us. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" John 10:10. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big City Through A Child's Eyes

Admittedly, I find myself content in the midst of Buenos Aires. Although I'm not sure that I would want to live there, the combination of parks, bookstores, and cafes creates an ambiance that it motivating, inspiring, and reflective. Last week, I was able to introduce Elijah to that atmosphere as we journey that way for an appointment at the U.S. Embassy for his passport. The result was two overnight bus trips, two days in Buenos Aires, and some quality time together. The errands necessary for the appointment consumed only about 4 hours of our total time there but required two days in Buenos Aires. Therefore, we had quite plenty of opportunities to enjoy the richness of this city.
In true childlikeness, Elijah found great joy in playing whenever he got the chance, oblivious to the history that surrounded him. At Casa Rosada (the presidential palace pictured above) he paused long enough for a picture but was more infatuated by the ability to play with his Hotwheels in such a large plaza. To him, the Obelisco where we paused for a snack (see picture below) looked like a rocket (the first of several we saw on this trip). And just yards away from Recoleta Cemetery where the founders, generals, and leaders of this country are buried (including Eva Peron, or 'Evita') he chased pigeons (see additional picture below).


However, it was behind the spectacular Teatro Colon and before the justice building (similar to the U.S. Supreme Court building) that he found what he calls, "My favorite park" (see below). Like a dog let loose in a new home to explore, he ran from one slide to the next, jumped on the trampoline and found himself a home amidst all these new toys. Over the course of the two days, he spent several hours there. His 'other favorite park' was much quieter and brought some moments of rest, relaxation, and reflection in front of a large flower sculpture.

Watching Elijah enjoy those sites and opportunities with a childlike joy provided moments of reflection and thankfulness for myself as a father. But it was the opportunity to share with him my favorite place in the city that also brought pleasure. Converted from an old theatre into a large multi-level bookstore and cafe, we spent two hours exploring this tremendous place. In the midst of it, Elijah kept asking to go on the moving stairs . . . it took a while to realize he meant the escalator and he had never seen one before. 

It was a lot of firsts for Elijah. He got to see his first train, visited a mall, and got to experience Starbucks (something he was at as a child, but not old enough to enjoy something to drink). Before boarding our bus, we spent an hour and a half playing Uno at a Starbucks at the base of a clock tower . . . or another rocket as he would tell you. 
After spending two nights on a bus, limited sleep at the hotel because of his appointment, and walking 13 miles over the course of the twos days, he was certainly exhausted. But he finally fulfilled something he's been wanting to do for two months: go on a bus with daddy. Now he keeps asking to go on a plane with daddy . . . somehow he doesn't remember his previous 50 or so flights, but it has been over two years. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our Goals, God's Guidance

As I gather my thoughts to share with you today, I was looking at our last posts and noticed that on average we post about once a month. Our goal is to post once a week so you can see, we are far off of our mark. But, isn't that how life often is? After all, Scripture tells us that we may plan his steps but it is God who directs the way.
That certainly is the truth for our ministry here. We never came to Argentina with grandiose plans. In fact, those who were sending us on our way probably had greater plans than we did. It's not that we didn't have a plan. We came with a purpose to fulfill the Great Commission and had ideas on how to do so: through discipleship leading to church planting (see our mission and vision for more of that). Yet, our expectations were meant to be realistic knowing that ministry, in general, is hard and that in particular, the area that God has brought us to was exceptionally hard. Those expectations though, have thus far not even materialized as we expected. It can be easy to allow one to be discouraged by such lack of progress . . . and trust me, those moments have found us many times.
Did you know though, the sunsets here are some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen (see the picture above that I took from the plaza near our house), rivaling even those that I've seen in Kenya (a place known for spectacular sunsets). Odd transition huh? Those sunsets though are a reminder not of the creation, but of the creator. He is Lord, not us, and so in these moments we have two options: be discouraged in our own strength or be content by trusting him completely.
Today, I wrote an article about human dignity for a fellowship of churches and people in the States and as I look at the people we've come to serve on behalf of our Lord, I am reminded that all have been created in God's image. Because of that, those here are to be valued as image bearers of God. Therefore, the investment of time, money, and energy is worthwhile because it seeks God's glory by demonstrating human dignity through his act of salvation. So, we consider ourselves encouraged by God's grace of ministry and move forward with the ministry as he steers the way and causes growth in us.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Through the Eye of a Needle

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" (Mt 19:24 ESV).

This phrase has taken on a new significanse for me (Bethany) recently. Last night we were with one of our contacts, who whenever we try to talk about God or scripture is quick to remind us that she is Catholic. We spent some time with her brother a few weeks ago, so were talking about the enjoyable conversation we had with him and she said something like "just don't talk to him about God, because he doesn't believe in God." 

This past week our coworkers Bob and Karen visited with their former neighbor who had suddenly and tragically lost her husband. When they tried to speak of knowing God's peace, she was quick to remind them she is Catholic. 

When you picture a missionary on the field, what comes to mind? I used to picture a missionary sacrifically serving and preaching to people who were desperate and eager to hear the truth of salvation, possibly for the very first time. While I am sure that scenario has happened, saddly it is not always the case. People here in Goya are very proud, and very rooted in their tradition. They are not trusting of outsiders. We have been told that some hate Americans, that some think we are spies, that some hate pastors (likely due to the influence of cults here that demand money from church members in exchange for healing or good standing with the church). Sometimes it feels hopeless that anyone will ever accept Christ and beleive unto salvation. Yet how does the above passage from Matthew continue? 

"When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, 'who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, 'with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'" (Mt 19:25-26). 

How frail is my faith! I am so thankful for God's faithfulness, for His work changing my own heart, and for His ability to call people to Himself. Would you join with me in prayer for Him to open the eyes and hearts of these people to the gospel?

"Because all things are possible with God, including the conversion of the hardest sinner and the most spiritually callous person we know, therefore we will pray to this all-powerful God for such conversions, and we will speak the gospel of Christ with great expectation that this is the very means God will use to do what is humanly impossible" (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-to-get-a-camel-through-a-needles-eye).

Friday, May 11, 2018

Rain & Soccer Do Not Mix

It's been an eventful week for us . . . or maybe it's been an uneventful week, depending on how you look at it. The rain has been intense, raining for several days, filling our yard with several inches of water and turning our streets into a flowing river. Anytime it rains, especially hard, the streets fill up quickly, but since we have arrived it has never filled up this fast, for this long. It made for some exciting days as all of us enjoyed watching the rain together and then spent time cleaning up afterward from the mess. We know that the rains here can be intense, but even we were surprised when we found a fish on our sidewalk in front of the house. Certainly, that's not an everyday experience for most people.

However, it also meant we were often confined to the house and the boys were unable to run off their energy outside. On Thursday classes were canceled and many businesses were closed due to the rain's intensity.
For the past several weeks Elijah has been engaged in soccer with a local soccer club and the rain has meant that he has had several sessions canceled as well. He's been a little down that he hasn't been able to go to soccer. It is something that he enjoys immensely. Last week, he scored his first goal on a penalty kick and then two days later he blocked his first goal . . . which was pretty good since he wasn't supposed to be in the goal anyway. Unfortunately, he also gets a lot of penalties called on him, usually because he picks up the ball. One of our the tasks we've been dealing with as parents is how to teach kids to share. I'm sure this is a struggle for every parent. During soccer, and knowing that he should get a turn, Elijah is quick to run in grab the ball with his hands for his turn. It's made for some good Elijah and daddy time though because it's an excuse to put on a Seattle Sounders game. When they play, the two of them will watch together while Robert explains some basic principles . . . basically, all his knowledge of soccer, since he knows so little of it. It's fun to watch, it gets him doing something active, and we pray that some contacts will come from our time there . . . if the rain will stop long enough for us to have soccer practice.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Uniqueness that is April

April is always a unique time here in Goya. Transitioning from summer to fall finally brings a bit of relief from the intensity of the heat. The asados (barbeques) become less frequent, but do not stop altogether. Perhaps the pinnacle of the month though is the National Surubi Festival.
This festival brings in professional teams of fisherman from all around. This year, in particular, is a big deal because while the event usually boasts 1,000 boats, they are seeking the world record for the number of boats (which means staff from the Guinness Book of World Records should be on hand).
For us, this festival gives us another opportunity to continue assimilating into the community here. With a variety of events taking place between Wednesday and Sunday (April 25-29), we can walk around and enjoy the crafts, games, and food in a couple different parts of the city. Therefore, it is simply a moment to continue to make ourselves visible in the community, in a way that is contrary to the drinking and party mentality that also often accompanies this weekend's events.

However, uniqueness this month is not only found in large-scale events, but we were surprised by a unique opportunity to infiltrate more when one of our contacts invited us to join her family. This particular contact is very dear to us and we enjoy spending time with her, so the opportunity to meet her family was something we looked forward to. Just like here, they were all welcoming and open and the Sunday afternoon asado was relaxing while allowing us to meet more people. There could be no greater joy for us than to see them come to a point of salvation. However, right now we are focused on building the relationship and would ask that you pray specifically for that relationship to continue and grow.
Perhaps the most unique event his month for us though, is Robert getting his haircut by John the Baptist. True story. Haircuts are yet another way to meet more people. Since we arrived, we have utilized the same husband and wife for haircuts, but Robert decided to try this man since we have been walking by his shop periodically. Besides, getting a haircut in a foreign culture where things are different is always an adventure anyway, so why not try a man that in the Bible is portrayed as living in the wild eating locusts and honey? Such a picture brings the expectation of what his hair was probably like as well. In truth, it turns out that is actually his name John Baptist (if you translate it) and the time was enjoyable. Perhaps, this too will create another opportunity for a contact.
So thank you for praying.