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”.

Paraguay

Fresh off of camp week, I found myself heading to the airport on Monday morning, February 12, for an international flight to Paraguay. The trip was to serve two purposes.

  1. I had to leave due to my stay in Chile expiring after 90 days.
  2. I had been encouraged by the director of Vision Baptist Missions to go to Paraguay, see the country, and talk to different missionaries there. There aren’t any missionaries from Vision in Paraguay, and he said that if I were considering a good place to go, Paraguay might be it for various reasons.

They say to get to the airport two hours early for international flights, so I tried my best and pretty much did. When I walked in, the place was more packed than I’ve ever seen it. I waded my way through the crowd, already assuming I might be missing my flight if these lines were any indication.

Upon further review, I realized that I was in the national flight section and that the international flight lines weren’t nearly as bad. I’ve flown out of Chile enough times by now that I’m pretty much a pro at it, so the process went very smoothly and I did indeed make the flight (And was seated in a spacious emergency exit row, on top of that!).

I was to meet three people there: Patrick Henry, Jason King, and Robert Becker. Patrick and Jason are missionaries to Argentina and Robert is interning with them much like I’m doing in Chile. Upon arriving, I grabbed a taxi and headed to the hotel, where they met me. That night, we hung out in Asunción, the capital city, before going to bed rather early.

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Speaking of early, Paraguay seems to be an “Early to bed, early to rise” kind of place. Jason and I went out looking for a store to buy a water about 9 PM and you’d have thought it was three in the morning! That’s the complete opposite of Chile, and from what I understand, the extreme opposite of Argentina.

The next day, we left pretty early for Ciudad del Este. When we got in the taxi, we told the driver (who about pulled off before I was even completely in the car and we had to tell him to stop) that we needed to go to the bus terminal to catch our bus. He took a look at our paper and said that no, we needed to go somewhere else and that he hoped we’d make it in time before the bus left. So we took off through the city and I have to say that, honestly, I wasn’t concerned with whether or not we’d make it. I’ve been put through enough situations like this in Chile (and almost missed a plane on our first trip to Peru) that it’s getting to where this kind of thing doesn’t phase me.

We pulled up to the bus terminal and he told us to wait in the car while he went inside to make sure the bus was still there. It should’ve been, since we arrived about 7:15 and it wasn’t supposed to leave until 7:30. A few moments later, he came running out in a panic. “That’s not a good face,” Patrick commented, and sure enough, we’d missed it. It had left early, he said, to go pick up some boxes on the way, but if we hurried, we could beat it to its second stop. The lady was apparently going to call ahead for us or something.

Twenty minutes later, as we were wandering around the city seeming to never arrive at this bus station, it was becoming pretty clear what was going on. Our friend was trying to make a little extra money off of us and we’d been the suckers who let him go in that first bus station alone.

Finally, we arrived at the second station and Patrick went in to talk to the guy at the front. Our suspicions were confirmed that the bus had indeed been at the first station when we arrived, and then to beat all, the taxi driver wanted to charge us extra for the second trip! Patrick refused to pay all he was asking but did pay more than he would have had we stopped at the first place. We did at least get to get on the bus for the five-hour trip to Ciudad del Este.

I loved Ciudad del Este! It’s where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay all come within very close proximity and is very diverse. While there, we were able to talk to a missionary and learn more about the culture and the people of Paraguay. They are very friendly people, which I found to be true, and they almost all speak another language besides Spanish called Guarani. In fact, for a majority of them, Guarani would be considered their first language and the missionary encouraged us that, if we ever decided to be a missionary to Paraguay, to learn that language. Later we were told that, “They speak Spanish, but their heart speaks Guarani” and, “It means so much to them if you speak Guarani to them.” Basically, I walked away from that meeting deciding that, if I go to Paraguay, I’m going to learn that language.

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That evening, we went to see some beautiful waterfalls before heading back to the hotel. Apparently the ones we saw weren’t even as big as the other ones that can be seen.

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L to R: Patrick, Robert, Jason, Me

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After the others had gone to bed, I stayed in the hotel lobby and watched a soccer game with one of the hotel workers, and we even became Facebook friends! He left after a while but I stayed to watch the game. Then, a lady from Argentina came in and struck up a conversation and a couple of the kids with her, eight and nine, tried out their English on me. It was fun to be able to encourage them and cheer them on. It was what I love about South America in one brief encounter: Soccer, friendly people, and Spanish.

The next day we headed back to Asunción. That bus was extremely nice, but they froze Robert and me out while showing the same movie three-and-a-half times, so I was glad to finally arrive in Asunción. We met with two other missionaries that day and then went to church that evening.

The next morning, we had breakfast with another missionary and ate a food specific to Paraguay: some kind of cheese bread and a tea.

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Then we went down to the boardwalk before heading back to the hotel so Patrick could work on some things for church that Sunday. I decided I wasn’t going to sit in a hotel and that I’d rather be out exploring, so off I went to find the presidential palace and see what I could do!

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As I walked through Paraguay toward the palace, I noticed some people living in extremely poor conditions. It made me so sad for them and I tried to say hi to most of the Paraguayans I passed.

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Upon arriving at the palace, I discovered that there was a gate around it but that the front leading out to the sidewalk was open. There were a few men at the front door and I just thought I would approach them and ask if I could go in. I was barely into the yard before one of them blew his whistle at me, holding his hand up for me to go no further. I just gave him a thumbs up and made a quick exit. Sorry, just an ignorant gringo here.

I proceeded around back and talked to a guard who was actually very friendly. I asked if there was a way to go into the palace and he said no.

However, I maintain that, given more time in Paraguay, I’d make friends with all those guards and find a way into that palace. Jason Holt has taught me that, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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That night, the four of us went out for pizza before heading back to the hotel. We ended up sitting in one room together before bed having a fairly lengthy conversation, mainly about deputation. It was actually a great encouragement to me and something I needed to hear. Then, I told the two of them that I wouldn’t be seeing again before I left goodnight and went to bed.

I left for the airport early the next morning after saying goodbye to Robert. This one was pretty small and I had no problem whatsoever going through. While standing in line, I noticed the man in front of me was holding a Chilean passport, so I struck up a conversation with him.

“Are you from Chile?”

“Yes,” he said, smiling. He was there with his son for a tennis tournament or something. I have to say, as much as I loved Paraguay and its people, something in me missed Chileans. I was so happy to be speaking to one again.

I suppose I’d better enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Campamento de Jóvenes

I began dreading the Campamento de Jóvenes (Youth/Young Adult Camp) about two months out. I was never the “Get really excited about camp” type, even as a kid. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t always thrilled to be going, either. And now, as an adult, the idea of sleeping in a room with thirty other people who were most definitely not going to be ready for bed when they were supposed to be didn’t appeal to me at all.

Everybody else was excited for it, though, making Facebook posts counting down the days and tagging me in them. Ugh. Please don’t remind me. I never gave those posts a “Like”, by the way.

But, alas, February 5th crept over closer until it finally arrived. This camp was designed for people ages 12 to 25, which at first seemed to me like a very broad range, and I assumed most of them would be young and I’d barely have anybody my age to whom I could talk. As it turned out, I was wrong and there were several people there my age and older!

I was also wrong about dreading camp. It was an awesome experience that I would definitely do again without hesitation!

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We arrived on Monday afternoon and set everything up. I was immediately surprised when they announced that I was going to be a leader of a small group that would get together every morning and evening to discuss a passage in the Bible and the preaching, as well as pray together. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this task and the great group of young people I was given. I think two of them even accepted Christ as their Savior during the week!

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of us together because there was a slight problem: The electricity would randomly go out about once every couple of hours and I was unable to keep my phone charged for part of the week due to not really wanting to leave it alone for long periods of time. The water also backed up and created some problems with the toilets and showers; however, I don’t recount this to complain, but rather to say that I was impressed by the good attitudes of the staff and campers through it all. It truly was a pleasure to serve alongside some great leaders with a heart for God.

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As part of every camp, of course there should be competitions and games. And I must say that we played some awesome games each day. The first day was an obstacle course race between the two teams, Equipo Rojo and Equipo Azul (Red Team and Blue Team/If I was anything, I was Rojo and they did end up winning the week!). One of the first obstacles was where they had to crawl through a bunch of wet mud, so it was quite a mess, but it was a blast to watch!

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The next day was dodgeball with nerf launchers. So…DodgeNerf?

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And the last day was a soccer game with these giant bubble balls. Lori Holt got out there and played like a boss, completely knocked some teenage girl out of her way while going for a ball, and scored a goal. It was the one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed in all my life.

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Every day there were competitions between the teams. These included things like eating unpeeled bananas without using their hands and licking manjar (A condiment with a texture like caramel) off of somebody else’s feet. These were also some of my favorite times.

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But I think one of the things I most loved about camp was the heavy missions emphasis. Missionary Kyle Shreve came from Peru to preach the week and every main message was from Hebrews 11. I’ve never heard such a clarion call to Christian action. It wasn’t just, “You should pray about giving your life in full-time service to Christ.” It was: “Given what we know Christ’s final command was before He left this earth, why in the world would you not serve Him full-time? If you’re waiting for a call, this is it: Matthew 28:18-20.” I’ve already surrendered my life to be a missionary and I was so stirred I wanted to do it again!

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Thursday night, people gave testimonies around the bonfire and it was a blessing to see the work God had done in their lives as we sat out there for about two hours. I think it showed that all the work that had gone into the camp was worth it.

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Finally, I post this below from the Facebook page of the missionary who really headed the whole thing up with his team of workers, Tierra Alta.

Giving thanks with the Tierra Alta Team for the 11 teens who gave their life to Christ this week and the 9 teens who decided to go into full time Ministry as a Pastor or Missionary and 34 who want to continue to study the Bible in a formal setting at a local seminary here! PRAISE THE LORD we as a team could see and hear these testimonies last night around the bon fire

By the way, one of those nine teens who wants to go into full-time ministry is Rick, the young man with whom I’ve been doing discipleship classes. He’s been talking about this kind of thing for a little bit and I was so proud of him for taking the plunge. He came back and immediately did some things that show to me he’s serious about following through with it.

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To me, that’s what it’s all about: Seeing young people surrender their lives to be pastors and missionaries to reach this lost world. I truly believe we can do that together in the power of Christ.

I won’t be able to be at the next two or three camps they do, but maybe one day I’ll get to go again.

And this time, I won’t dread it.

 

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.

Happenings in Chile: Part Three

It’s hard to believe it’s been about a month since I last wrote about what’s going on in Chile. But wow, what a month it’s been!

“Happenings in Chile: Part Two” was written on December 21, which means Christmas was right after that. It was definitely different trying to get in the Christmas spirit, considering that I’m used to the Christmas season being cold in the States. Here in Chile, it’s summertime, so there wasn’t any chance of getting a “White Christmas” (and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even bother listening to that song, at least not intentionally, because it was completely out of the realm of possibility!). I did, however, put on some Christmas music and try my best, and even though it didn’t feel like the Christmases I’ve been used to, it was still an incredible experience spending it in Chile and I would rank it up there as one of the best. Also, in Chile, they celebrate more on the evening of the 24th than the 25th, which was a neat change.

On Christmas Eve, we had a morning service at Omega Baptist Church, with food and fellowship afterward. If you remember, in the last blog post, I mentioned how we went to the outdoor flea market and witnessed. One of the men we contacted came and visited as well for our Christmas Eve service!

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That evening, we didn’t have a service, so about 6 PM I went over to Francisco Nuñez’s house for the evening. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and great food. I also got to try ceviche, which is basically a raw fish with a heavy lemon taste, for the first time. It was pretty good! Sometime after midnight, we went outside and opened up gifts together under the stars. I have to say that was really neat.

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Ceviche

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We stayed up till about 2 in the morning or so. Then, the next day, I went over to the Holts’ house for a Christmas celebration with the Sparks and a few Chilean families. We had a blast! First we ate, then we spent the rest of the afternoon playing games together outside. It felt a little less like Christmas and a little more like 4th of July, but never in a million years would I have traded it for the cold! We had such a good time together.

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The missionaries usually have a Christmas get-together and White Elephant gift exchange, which we did on the 26th. That was a lot of fun. The next day, the 27th, it was back to normal.

That is, until New Year’s! I spent that evening as well with another Chilean family that I’m very close to here. We ate a meal together, then went outside to see the fireworks as we rang in the new year. By about 2 AM, I was pretty tired and went on home. But from what I understand, a lot of people stay up till 5 and 6 AM since the next day is a holiday. On the 1st, I did go over to another missionary’s house and we talked about a lot of things dealing with a missionary’s deputation, which was helpful.

Below are a couple of pictures from different church members on New Year’s.

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My favorite day so far in Chile might very well be January 13th, and it’s hard to imagine I’ll have another one like it before I leave. It was a Saturday, and Omega Baptist Church rented a parcela, which is a large area that somebody owns, and made a day of it. We had food and played games. But the most special part of the day, by far, was when five members followed our Savior Jesus Christ’s command of identifying with Him in baptism. It was a very special time in which a majority of the church was able to be there fellowshipping as brothers and sisters in Christ

A couple of times the past month, Jason Holt has taken a group of young men preparing for the ministry, Daniel Sparks and me around different Chilean cities, such as Santiago, Valparaiso, and Viña Del Mar. The purpose of these trips have been to show us where churches need to be planted and how we could go about doing that. It’s somewhat like a survey trip. The sheer amount of people who have never heard the pure gospel as told in the Bible is staggering and yet, I believe these cities can be reached. And not only these cities, but all of Chile and the world. Christ wouldn’t have given us a command to do something that couldn’t be done. And so, in His power, I believe we can!

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Speaking of reaching Santiago and the world, we’ve seen God doing some amazing things through 250Project! We were up against a major deadline to make a payment on the property and just weren’t seeing where the money was going to come from. God miraculously intervened through our Christian brethren and we not only made the 2nd payment, but were propelled way into the 3rd!

Of course, as always, I still get together with Jason and discuss a lot of different things related to ministry. I feel like I’ve learned so much just by being here and want to say thank you again to all of you who have helped me in that, whether prayerfully, financially, or both.

It’s hard to believe, but I have less than two months left before I head back to the States. I hope to make the most of those two months before I go!

Until next time!

Making the Most of 2018

“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”-Ephesians 5:14-16

2018 is finally here! Wait, what am I saying? It seems we barely blinked and 2017 disappeared! But, even still, it’s 2018. A new year with new opportunities, and there is certainly hope in the air, isn’t there?

If you’re like me, every new year you get excited about all the things you want to do to improve your spiritual and personal life. January 1st has this magical appeal that can’t really be explained.

So let’s talk about that.

For 2018 to be your best year yet, I believe you shouldn’t make “New Year’s Resolutions” as much as you should set goals that can be broken down into small achievable steps. For example, “Lose weight” is not a good goal because it’s not specific and really has no start or end. “Lose twenty pounds” is more specific, but even that is a large statement that should be broken down into smaller steps like, “Lose ‘X’ amount of pounds per week”. And even then, that should be broken down into achievable ways to make that happen.

As a Christian, I hope your goals are something that will enhance your Christian life and advance the kingdom of God. After all, that’s the whole reason we’re here, really (For what it’s worth, losing weight really can be glorifying to God if it’s enabling you to serve Him physically and increasing your longevity on this earth)!

So set your goals, make them achievable and specific, and then plan out how they’re going to happen. I strongly encourage you to watch this video below (Watching at 1.5 speed works well here) and do what she says about the performance review and holiday letter. I did the holiday letter for this year and it really helped me define clearly who I wanted to be by the end of 2018. It also helps to state things as if they’ve already happened and see just how much really can be accomplished in a year.

When she breaks down the amount of hours we have in a week, it becomes pretty clear that we do have time for what we want to do, don’t we?

So what are your goals for this year? Here are just a few of mine:

I want to read through my Spanish Bible this year, which at this point, I should’ve already done. But this year, I plan to do it.

I also want to read an average of one book a week. One thing I started doing at the end of 2017 was setting a timer and reading an hour a day. I didn’t always do this, but I want to make it more of a habit this year. I actually love to read, so the timer isn’t so much about forcing myself to read as it is to keep me from distractions as I set aside a specific time to read. I know that if I read at least an hour a day, I can generally finish a book within four or five days, depending on the size of the book.

This next thing falls under my “stop doing” list and isn’t really as much of a goal as it is a matter of discipline, but I want to stop looking at social media until I’ve completed everything I really want to do for the day (unless social media has something to do with a task, of course). For me, going through social media always starts with an innocent intention of five minutes that soon turns into a thirty minute scroll through everybody else’s mind dump. And half of those minds belong in a dump, really.

And even then, I really want to plan the time I get on social media (“From 7-7:30 tonight I can get on social media”, for example. And, actually, if you add that up, thirty minutes a day would be 3.5 hours a week, or 182 hours a year, or about 7.5 days a year!! And that’s just with a measly thirty minutes a day, when I know we spend far more than that on average!). If you’ve ever looked at people when they’re eating, a vast majority of them are on their phones. This year, I want to eat without looking at my phone and just observe and enjoy what’s going on around me. The other day I went to McDonald’s overlooking Plaza Maipú and decided I wasn’t going to look at my phone the whole time I was eating. Instead, I just sat there, ate, and watched people. It was actually relaxing, believe it or not!

I also want to stand in lines without browsing my phone and just observe, which is actually an exercise that trains your mind against instant gratification and increases concentration, by the way.

I think what bothers me about social media, aside from the wasted time and scientifically proven shortened attention spans it brings, is that I used to be an avid reader. You couldn’t get me away from a good book. Social media took that away from me to an extent when I exchanged well-thought-out books for brief snippets of people’s minds or lives. This year, I’m taking back what was stolen from me.

Anyway, these are just three of my goals and plans. I have others as well, but I imagine that if I put these into practice, by the end of this year, I’ll be very happy with the result.

So what are your plans for the New Year? What do you hope to have accomplished by 2019? I’d love to hear it!

 

Goodbye 2017. Welcome, 2018!

I just read a great quote on a friend’s Facebook wall. It said:

“As we go forth into the coming year, let it be. . . with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return but God can transform destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.” Oswald Chambers (There’s slightly more to the quote, but this suffices)

We’ll never get it back.

In a few hours, 2017 will be in the books forever. And let’s face it: Every one of us look back at certain moments this year and wish we’d have used them better for the Lord.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

I didn’t stop to talk to that person when the Holy Spirit prompted me to. 

I spoke too hastily and regretted the words I used.

I wasted time on social media or in front of the television when I could’ve been doing better things. 

If none of this described you at some point in 2017, then I really admire your spirituality. But for most of us, these statements hit way too close to home.

If we look back at 2017 as a list of our failures, it’d look like a pretty bleak year. But certainly, Christian, there are good moments spiritually we can look back on. Surely there are times where we resisted temptation, listened to the Holy Spirit, guarded our tongues, etc. Surely those of us whose hope is in the God of second chances realize just how many of those second chances He gave us this year and how we did indeed take advantage of them.

Judging 2017 should be done in this light: What did God do in your life this year? Are you closer to Him now than you were when this year started? Or is there really no discernable difference? Are you heading into 2018 with any new souls won for Christ? Have you watched God noticeably work in your life? This should be the measure of your year. And I hope that, even with its failures and struggles, you can look back on 2017 as a success.

If you honestly can’t see it that way, read that quote again and realize where our hope truly lies and Who is stepping with us into the future. And resolve that, this time next year, you’ll be able to answer yes to those questions.

We can’t change anything about this past year, but we have a clean slate next year (Which, by the way, I plan to publish a post about tomorrow!). Change won’t come just because a date on the calendar switches, but there is something fresh and exciting about a new year, isn’t there? New beginnings and fresh starts. A chance to have the best year of your life to-date.

Let’s make the most of it for the Lord.

Goodbye, 2017. Welcome, 2018!

 

Happenings in Chile: Part Two

Santiago, Chile, still continues to enthrall me. While I’ve gotten fairly accustomed to living here and can now do pretty much everything I need to do without any problems, the freshness of living in a city where everything seems new is so exciting! In a city of seven million people, there’s no limit to the people you can meet and the things you can watch them doing. There’s no end of “Hola!” and “Buenos días” and, of course, that question so many want to ask the resident gringo: “¿De dónde eres?” (Where are you from?)

Just yesterday I walked down to Plaza Maipú, worked my way through all the construction, and ascended the stairs at a local McDonald’s to eat. This is actually only the second or third time I’ve gone to McDonald’s since I got here. My point isn’t McDonalds, though (although those McNuggets were delicious!), but rather the view that I had looking out at Plaza Maipú. The sheer number of people walking around below is staggering, and I can’t help but wonder where each of them is going. Not within Chile, but in eternity. Sometimes looking at that can make me feel extremely small, like I really can’t even put a dent in this city for Christ. That part can be discouraging, but thinking about the fact that I have a great and living God with Whom nothing is impossible and that He does want to see this city reached for Him gives me hope.

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So, what’s going on in Chile?

First, I doubted this would happen, but it finally has: I’m talking like a Chilean, both in some of the things I say and in the tone I use as I say it. They have a very interesting way of speaking that I love and have just naturally started using. Only a couple of weeks ago, I said something to John Moncada and he stopped and told me, “You’re starting to speak like us.” I took that as a compliment. When I get back to the States, I’ll probably sound a little different than I did!

A few days after I wrote my last blog post, Jason and Lori Holt, Daniel and Anna Sparks and I all headed to Lima, Peru, for a Vision Baptist Mission conference of South American missionaries, as well a couple from South Africa who made it in. It was an awesome opportunity for me to meet many missionaries and talk about my future with the Vision Baptist Mission Director, Jeff Bush (A future that is shaping up and beginning to make sense, by the way!). It was a spiritually-enriching time and I plan to write about it specifically soon.

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Not long after returning to Chile, we had a special night at Omega Baptist Church in which people renewed their membership and signed their name to the rolls. This was done in part to give us a fresh start on some things and bring us up-to-date here. It was a blessing to see the people that God has brought to Omega even since I arrived in September and to watch the church continuing forward for the glory of the Lord.

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Since Thanksgiving in November isn’t a holiday here, it was just another day for most Chileans. However, the missionaries got together for a delicious meal and some wonderful fellowship (I truly feel like I have a second family here now). It was my first time not working at Cracker Barrel on Thanksgiving Day in a few years, so it was nice to finally have the day to enjoy!

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Work goes on at the training center. Once in a while I’ll head over and help Yajairo do some things. I’m not the construction type AT ALL, but I have learned some things and don’t mind helping as long as I’m told what to do! They’re hoping by March to have the place pretty much completely ready to go. One part of me thinks that’s awesome and the other part is like, “So you mean I’m going to work on this and help over here just long enough to get it done, but not to actually enjoy it in all of its glory before I head back to the States?”

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A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday morning, a group of pastors and leaders in the churches went to Hope Baptist Church for some teaching, fellowship and, of course, food. This is something we’ve done a couple of times now since we’ve been here and it’s a great time to come together and enjoy one another’s company.

Graduations are in December here, so last week we had the graduation ceremony from the training center for those who had completed some level of their biblical studies degree. They’re now on their summer break and will start back on March 5, so it looks like I’ll get one or two more times to sit in class with them before I must head back to the States.

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We followed up graduation by heading to the Holts’ house for some food and fellowship. On the way there, Lori Holt was going to stop by the store and grab some things to make a little meal, but the store wasn’t open. So she called Jason and said to go home and get the oven fired up and she’d find something to fix.

“For like thirty people?” he asked.

As you can see below, she did an awesome job finding something!

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It was the first time many of our Chilean brethren had tasted the gringo version of pancakes, and they loved them! They’d never had syrup before and were raving about how good it was and a couple of them asked me what it was made from. After having spent a couple of months learning about their culture and food, it was kind of neat to impart a small piece of mine to them.

One of the most important things that I’ve started doing weekly is a discipleship course with a young man in the church named Rick. He was recently saved out of Mormonism and has an inquisitive mind and a heart that desires to learn. I’ve actually enjoyed our times together discussing various topics.

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Recently, as part of a project for an evangelism class, the students had to come up with an outreach project and perform it. I’m not technically in the class as a student, but I did want to participate with them. We all went to a local outdoor flea market that occurs every Thursday and Sunday and invited people to church as well as prayed with them. We got several contacts and hope to follow up on them and be able to witness more thoroughly to them. I really enjoy our times out witnessing and it is in those moments that I’m truly alive. The only bad thing is that people sometimes think I’m a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness and I have to explain that I’m not.

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Also, 250Project started something called “31 Days of Giving”, and I hope you’ll go check it out on 250project.com or on Facebook! It’s posted all over various parts of my page if you don’t know where to look.

And, last but not least (for now), yesterday I got together with Jason and Daniel to discuss many different things. One of those main things was about where I should ultimately go as a missionary. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of certain countries and in that list was, of course, Chile. I love Chile so much, but then again, I love every country I’ve visited. I’m praying that God will show me truly what He wants me to do and I feel like He’ll give me a peace about which one is right for me. As it stands, I’ve got it narrowed down to about three and, yes, Chile is on that list.

But when I do make my decision, I’ll be sure to let you know!