In Which We Go to Texas

“What are you doing to grow right now?” This question was asked to all of us at the Vision Baptist Missions Orientation, which was held at the Wild’s Christian Camp midway through the month. Orientation is a special time to come apart and be with all of our other missionary friends at Vision, and it was truly a refreshing and encouraging time for the two of us midway through the month of May. This question really hit home because it’s so easy to get caught up in getting to Chile that it’s easy to overlook how we could be growing and being used of God even now, on deputation. He has us right where He wants us, and we are truly loving it.

Orientation was barely over before we found ourselves in our little Honda Accord headed to Texas.

What an exciting trip that was! I whooped in excitement as we crossed the Texas line. For those who have never been to Texas, let me just say: You can actually feel the freedom when you cross the state line. I just love it. It was great to spend a week there with a supporting church, as well as to present the ministry to Chile in another church.

On top of gaining several new supporters, we also received various blessings from individuals who wanted to give in many different ways. Any time we seem unsure how God’s going to handle a need that arises, He always comes through on our behalf. One thing we are learning through the process of deputation is that God will truly take care of His children. It may not be how we envisioned (Actually, it rarely is), but we can truly say, as did the psalmist, that the Lord is our shepherd, and we shall not want.

Please pray that God will continue to use us on deputation to bring glory to Him and to see souls saved even as we travel. Pray that He will provide our needed support to leave for Chile as soon as possible.

God bless each and every one of you!

From Goats to Printing Presses to…

“And how can a person be saved?” I asked.

“By baptism?”

It was a Tuesday night, and I was having a Bible study with a group of men in the local jail. Every first and fourth Tuesday night of the month, a group of us go there and minister to the men and women behind bars (This is assuming we’re in town and not traveling somewhere!). Over time, I’ve gotten to make some friends with the men in the pod I’m in. Laurino is one of those men.

“No,” I explained, and began to show him Bible verses about salvation. It was an exciting thing as he began to underline those verses, following along with me, wanting to know the truth. I pray one day he comes to know the Savior. And I can’t wait to get to show people in Chile these same truths!

God is truly blessing our travels and we are having a wonderful time. This month, we were able to return to our home church, Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church, for a couple of days of their missions conference. We’re on the road all the time, so it was nice to have one last opportunity to be there for a while. We also visited several new churches and even saw a Bible printing ministry in one of them!

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This coming month, we’re taking our biggest trip yet as we head to Texas! We can’t wait to be there and fellowship with God’s people. The Lord is showing Himself strong on our behalf, providing support and filling our calendar with meetings. It’s amazing to watch Him work.

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It was pretty hilarious to see a herd of escaped goats at one church. They were so excited!

Please continue to pray for us, that we may reach the needed support to get to the field. We hope to leave at some point next year. Please also pray for Laurino and the others in jail, that they may come to know our Savior.

That would be incredible.

What a Month!

We serve such a good God, and it was revealed to us in multiple ways this month on deputation. He blessed tremendously and showed His power to us more than we ever thought possible. Whenever a financial need arose, He was already meeting it beforehand through His willing servants. Though we traveled into the thousands of miles, He protected us all the way. Truly we can say that our God shall supply all our need and is so kind to us.

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God is blessing with new support!
March started off with a bang, as the first Sunday night the church we were in voted to take us on in the service!

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We also went to our first missions conference together (followed by two more back-to-back), and we absolutely loved it. We’ve already received word from one of those conferences that they voted to partner with us in the ministry. While at our first conference, we received a phone call from a church I was in last year that they wanted to be involved in our ministry financially as well. Then, the month ended as well as it began, with another church voting during the service to begin supporting us!

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Please continue to pray…
1. For safety as we travel
2. For God to provide the support we need to reach Chile as soon as possible
3. That we may be a witness to all around us as we go, and that God will divinely place us where He wants us at just the right time

 

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We met a man from Chile who came to America at a young age. I was able to speak a little bit of Chilean Spanish with him!

 

Now the Table Can Match the Couple

If you’ve been keeping up with us for any length of time, you know that we got married a little over two months ago. What you may not know is that we’ve struggled to get our pictures done together so that we could have our prayer cards printed and our tabletop display designed.

First, before the wedding, the person who was going to do our photos had a major issue come up at his house that prevented his being able to get together with us. Then, we planned another day, only to be rained out (torrentially, I might add). But, finally, a couple of weeks ago, we were able to all get together and get them done.

So they came in the mail this past week! Now, when we go to churches, our display table presents both of us.

And we’re so excited that the table now matches the couple.

We Absolutely Love What We Get To Do

It’s somewhat hard to describe deputation to somebody who’s never done it, but I think I finally figured out what it’s most like. It’s like having thousands of brothers and sisters out there somewhere that you’ve never met. And every week, you go meet several new ones. You never know what they’re going to be like, but you know one thing: You have the same Savior, Jesus Christ, and because of that you’re going to love each other.

That’s deputation. It’s going every single week and getting the thrill of meeting hundreds and thousands of new brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s walking into a church not knowing anybody and leaving feeling like you’ve known these people all your life. It’s making friends that will certainly be a part of your life for years to come.

It’s being a blessing and being blessed.

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Pastor and Mrs. Harvey from Christian Baptist Church. They were such a blessing!

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What a fun time we had with our friends at Lawsonville Road Baptist Church for their Missions Month!

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This was waiting for us in our hotel room this past Sunday. It’s incredible that our brothers and sisters give of their time and money to be a blessing to us!

After her first day of deputation, Leslie said, “I love this. This is awesome!” And it really is.

The members of New Life Independent Baptist Church praying for a tent revival they’re going to have.

Sometimes God gives us beautiful sunsets.

Other times we end up at a church out in a country area, bringing us both back to our roots before heading back to the city.

And then occasionally we end up speaking Spanish, which is always fun!

We can honestly say we love what we get to do, and we never knew how much fun it would be. God is so good to allow us to enjoy the journey so much. I pray we enjoy it every step of the way.

Accepted as a Missionary to Chile

“You’re not coming back to Chile, are you?” Lori Holt asked sometime last December or so, disappointment and even sadness in her voice. I don’t know why she said this. Possibly because I was very noncommittal and I’d talked to Jason as if I were going elsewhere. Whatever her reasons, she apparently thought I wasn’t.

“I don’t know,” I said, kind of laughing. And that was the truth. I had no idea.

Early on, I really wasn’t sure. I was trying to follow the Lord’s leading and see where He wanted me to go. But somewhere around December and January, something changed. I don’t know if that was the point that my family in Chile became real to me and I felt as if I were one of them, or what it was. But I just knew. I knew there was no way I wasn’t coming back to Chile full-time.

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In seeking the Lord’s guidance, I had it narrowed down to Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile. I eventually got it down to Paraguay and Chile, but by the time I went to Paraguay, even though I went through the motions and learned much about the country, I already knew. Deep down, I just knew.

It’s kind of a crazy thing. I surrendered to preach the gospel and knew God wanted me in full-time missions in 2011, but I went all this time without really knowing where I would end up, only knowing that it would be to a Spanish-speaking nation.

I was always curious how I was supposed to pick a country. How was I supposed to know?

Would I see some video of a country that would really touch my heart?

Would I go somewhere and come away with a burden for it?

I was never sure. But now, I know. I finally know that Chile is going to be home for me. And it was nothing mystic or haphazard. It was just the gradual leading of the Lord in my life to this point until I just knew and had His peace in my heart about it.

The Holts, the Sparks, the other missionaries, Mauricio and Lorena, John and Cote, Pancho and Connie, Jorge and Cristina, Mirko and Gisella, Yajairo and Pancha, and on and on and on-These are the people I want to grow old with, to work with until we die or the Lord moves us elsewhere. This is my new family, and I can’t believe God is letting me go through life with such incredible people.

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I can’t wait to get back.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go now to do some things to try return to Chile.

Or, as I can now call it…

Home.

250Project-Our God Is An Awesome God

When we put up the final Facebook post announcing 250Project’s completion, I couldn’t believe it. That massive endeavor had finally come to a close. What had been a part of my life for nine months was now suddenly over. Had it not been just yesterday that Jason sat down with me in Bolivia and showed me how to update the website and what all I needed to do to help work on the project? Had we not just been discussing what kinds of pictures to take and what kinds of videos to post to promote the training center?

And yet, here we were, at the end.

Now I almost feel empty, like a major chunk of my Chile life is gone.

But it’s a good empty. It’s a, “That’s over. What’s next?” empty.

I’m in awe at how God has provided. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money to raise, and when we first started, I don’t think I quite grasped the gravity or the height of it. We separated it into three payments, and while I can’t speak for everybody else involved in the project, for me it was just a simple matter of taking it day-by-day, reaching the next step.

Broken down that way, it doesn’t seem as staggering. Yet when I look back at just how much money God brought in for us, and HOW He did it, I’m stunned. I’m talking gifts big and small. Fifty dollars here, a hundred dollars there. Some random person giving $10,000. We saw it all.

There was one point around the end of the second payment where we saw no way it was going to happen. I truly believed that if God had brought us this far, He would provide, though I honestly didn’t see how. Perhaps it was easier for me to believe, since if things didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be the one dealing with the fallout. Somehow, though, I felt that if God had led Jason into this and had gotten us this far, He wouldn’t let us down.

And He didn’t.

We got a call from a church that they were going to give $25,000 toward the project. Add to that another matched giving opportunity, and we not only met the second goal, but were propelled far into the third! We went in a matter of days from wondering where in the world we were going to get the money for a second payment to having a drastically reduced third payment!

And that’s how God worked. Little by little, we inched toward that final payment until we could say, “Mission Accomplished!”

I must say this was good for me as I prepare to be a missionary, to realize that where God leads He will provide…

That outside circumstances mean nothing to Him…

That He can do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think…

That He places big dreams in our hearts so that He can fulfill them…

And that our God an awesome God.

Continuing On

When I hugged my Chilean friends goodbye, I knew it would probably be about three years before I saw many of them again, assuming I even go back to Chile as a missionary and not somewhere else. Three years sounds like such a long time when you’re saying goodbye to those you love. It somehow seems like less when you look back on it in hindsight (For some perspective, 2015 was three years ago and it feels like yesterday).

And so it is now. How is it that I’ve been gone from Chile a month? The time has flown by and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing my family and friends in Tennessee and spending time with them.

It was a month full of games and good times. I was able to ride with Dad twice on patrol, one day shift and one night shift. We all played games constantly. And I finally…FINALLY… beat Dad in Putt-Putt for the first time in my life. They think I might have been practicing some in Chile, but the truth is, the only thing I practiced there was Dutch Blitz, and I’m still not very good at that!

It was great to reunite with many other friends as well. I’m thrilled with how well the Spanish ministry at my church is going and the little bit of time I got to spend with them was very special indeed. It was also neat to get to go back to the churches that supported me and preach and present what I had been a part of in Chile.

As wonderful as all of this has been, I’ve been somewhat anxious to continue on and feel like I’m moving toward my ultimate goal again. A vacation is nice and I always want to enjoy the brief moments I have with the people I don’t get to see often, but my future is in Georgia and, beyond that, South America.

Last week I packed my bags and headed to Alpharetta, Georgia, which is in the Atlanta area. That’s where my mission board, Vision Baptist Missions, is located. I’m completing some training with them before I head out on deputation, and my first night here I got to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones!

I think the thing I love most about this city is the diversity of its people. It’s almost impossible to sit in a restaurant or public area without seeing at least three or four ethnicities walk in, which is an exciting change from Johnson City.

I also like how nice and clean Alpharetta is. It feels very classical in a sense.

So, it’s been a good first week here and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.

Until next time!

Heading “Home”

If home is where the heart is, then I can’t really say I’m heading home. I’m not sure where I’m heading, exactly, but it’s not home. Yes, the United States is where I was born and raised, but it’s not home.

If home is where the heart is, then, if anything, I’m leaving home.

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I knew when I came to Chile that I would make some friends and would grow to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. I knew we’d make some good memories and have some good times.

I didn’t, however, expect them to become quite as special as they have to me. I didn’t expect to love them quite this much.

And what I didn’t expect, most of all, was for them to show me so much love and affection. Maybe I always expected to feel somewhat like an outsider, just here for six months and then gone. Maybe I didn’t really expect to feel as if I were a part of the group, that they would all be nice to me but deep down they’d know I was leaving and so they wouldn’t get too attached.

I definitely didn’t expect to get what I got. I didn’t expect to get multiple sendoffs, gifts, and tributes. I didn’t expect the heart-to-heart messages and emotional words I received both on my phone and in person. I didn’t expect endless hugs and tearful goodbyes.

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If I thought I could come here for six months and then leave without feeling too much attachment as I made a decision about where to serve the Lord full-time, I was wrong.

My family in Chile has made sure of that.

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Jesus promised me this precious new family I have in Mark 10:29-30 when He said, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mothers, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”. I’m sure there must be persecutions and troubles to come, but they will surely pale in comparison to the incredible family He’s given me here in Chile. He’s fulfilled every word as far as that goes.

But now the time has come for me to leave.

I know so much will change by the time I come back someday.

The twins will probably be past the “being held” stage by the time I see them again.

Some of the young recently married Chilean couples will probably have kids by the time I get back (I’m not posting a picture here, so there’s no pressure!)

The Sparks, who have done so much for me, will have long been out of language school and started a new church plant, Lord willing.

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I’m not sure what the other missionaries will be doing, but I’m sure there will be new churches started and exciting stories to tell.

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The training center will be completely remodeled and good to go (At least, I certainly hope it will).

Many of the students that are now in the training center will be either starting churches or heavily involved in one somewhere.

And I don’t doubt there’s a good possibility that Omega Baptist Church will have been added on to and grown. They’re already planning to knock out a wall for more space in the auditorium as soon as I leave and they have the use of my apartment for the children!

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Everything will be different, and yet there will be so many things that will be the same, waiting here for me when I get back, I’m sure.

And I can’t come back if I don’t leave, can I? And I know that every step I take leads me closer to that moment.

So, because of that, even with the pain of leaving Chile and my wonderful new family here…

Even with all the tears…

Even with the feeling that I’m ending a moment and a memory I can never quite get back…

I’m excited to be going back “home”.

The Land of My Affliction

“And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”-Genesis 41:52

There’s a pretty decent chance none of us will lose a mother to the childbirth of our younger brother, be sold into slavery by our other brothers, and be thrown into prison based on false accusations (only to have our one hope to get out completely forget we exist).

But we all will, I believe, at times find ourselves in a “land of affliction” just as Joseph did. A place we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves, yet one that we can’t seem to escape.

Perhaps tonight you, too, are going through a dark period in your life. Let this verse encourage you and show you that God can make you fruitful regardless of where you are and what you are going through. Joseph maintained his testimony and his faith in God throughout, and in the end he was able to name his second child in such a way as to reflect the goodness of God in his life.

If you are passing through a time such as this, remember Joseph’s story, and remember that God may just use your “land of affliction” to do mighty things through you as well.