Monday, October 18, 2010

My God, the God of ALL Comfort!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 ESV)

I am so pleased to report that the Lord is blessing our labor!! We had a really encouraging meeting Sunday with about 14 people in attendance. We are excited because we are planning on hosting a conference here in Cuenca for all of the Cristo Vive folks in Ecuador, the third weekend in November. This will be a first, and virtually all of the responsibility falls on Noele’s and my shoulders. Also, we have lined up at least three foundations with a total of about 230 children with special needs to do Christmas activities. We are in process of raising funds and planning out those events! We have also been discussing plans for the April camp in Guayaquil, as we have a special job to do -- build a wheelchair accessible ramp so that we don’t have to carry the campers and their chairs up a flight of stairs to the cabins. Anyone interested in coming along to help, or sending extra funding for this project would be greatly appreciated!! Now is the time to start planning! We will need to raise approximately $3,000 for materials and such to complete the task. These last few days Noele and I have been beside ourselves because everything is falling into place right under our noses!

There is so much going on here, it is hard to put it into words. Unfortunately, not all is positive. Our friends here have been battling big time. I know it is because they are working hard to be a light in this dark place. We recently learned that Cuenca has the highest concentration of Satanic churches of anywhere in Ecuador (about 80 total). That said, of course we are in the middle of a war! We are dealing with depression, manipulation, lying, insecurity, suicidal thoughts, marital problems, doubt, fear, persecution, and the list continues. From the beginning I had decided not to get too heavily involved with this one church because we wanted to be open to working with many churches without difficulty. The problem is, that this body is becoming like family, and, as they encourage and lift us up, what can we do but offer the same to them. We have decided to invite all of the leadership of the church over for a time of prayer. We are here as missionaries, to bring in new believers, and to encourage those that are here. This may not be directly part of our calling, but we willing to allow Him to use us. Wherever we are, God puts us there to bear one another’s burdens in love.

God is putting us through the fire and bringing to the surface all of our impurities. He is bringing to light the things that we want to keep hidden from the rest of humanity, in order to give us new minds and new lives, entrenched in Truth, integrity, and love. Do we really and truly put our trust in Him as we say we do?? When push comes to shove, are we going to make the right decisions, to do what is right, pure, and holy?? Or, will we succumb to the pressure, take matters into our own hands and try to manipulate God’s perfect will and timing. His gifts are beyond our imagination, and He longs for us to ask for them, to wait for them, to believe that He is going to give us the desires of our hearts, but first our desires need to be righteous. We are all capable of doing so much good, and SO much harm. And the second we let our guard down, thinking we are strong, that we’ve got everything under control, we fall flat on our faces, having to scrape our pride off the pavement, and start over from square one. I long to see us living lives of victory, showing the world just what it means to live life to the fullest. We need to take captive every thought, every moment…and give our all for the glory of the Father, and then watch and be amazed at the extraordinary things He wants to do with us ordinary people!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

IF MY PEOPLE...would only pray!

"...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints..." Ephesians 6:18

SO much has happened since I last wrote in, and I apologize for not updating you all!!

Thursday, Sept 30, the day after my last post, chaos erupted all over Ecuador, and we were not sure what to make of it. All of our friends kept telling us it was not safe to leave home, that the cops were all ticked off and on strike, were not doing their jobs, and worse yet, were capable of killing anyone walking in the streets.
There was an order given the following day for everyone to stay in their homes, and we read a report from the US Embassy warning all foreign citizens to refrain from any involvement with the protests. We watched a live news broadcast which showed the military trying for hours, and finally succeeding, to rescue the president from the hospital where the police were holding him hostage. There were bullets flying, people screaming and running, and even the camera man got hit, though thankfully for him it was a rubber bullet and he would be fine. We did see one of the presidents policeman/bodyguards get shot with a real bullet and watched him lay there for at least a half an hour before anyone was able to get close enough to check on him – we heard the next day that he died, and that he had a wife and small daughter. From what I can gather, after everything has calmed down, the policemen reacted to a decision the president had made to keep government costs down and maintain free education. They thought he was cutting their already high salaries and bonuses, when in fact he was planning on raising their salaries and cutting the jobs of transit officers (which are basically rent-a-cops that patrol highways and toll-ways). All of this madness was created by an emotional reaction to a misunderstanding. The scary part was how powerful emotions, multiplied by the mob mentality, could actually be, sweeping across the nation like a wildfire, and then dying as quickly as if it had been doused by an immense downpour.
My personal reflections based on this situation are: always seek the TRUTH and make decisions based on it, making sure that I know as much of the whole story as possible. Also, it reminded me of how delicate this, and many more, governments truly are, and how powerful and evil those who were meant to protect it can become, when they feel their “rights” are being violated. Also, within the Christian community, we often jump to conclusions about one another, or about situations occurring within the Church, and cause damage instead of growth thinking that we are doing the right thing. We need to be careful with our judgments, for only God knows the Truth in its entirety.

On a more personal note, for those of you that haven't heard, on Saturday morning, I went out for my usual run along the river. It was an especially beautiful morning and I ran with vigor, anticipating the pancake breakfast which I had promised to Noele and a few friends. I was just about to cross the street with only about a block left to return to the house. Looking back to make sure that there were no cars, I didn’t see the gaping hole in front of me, which seemed to grab my foot and wrench it in ways I didn’t think humanly possible. I fell, of course, and struggled to my feet as quickly as possible, beginning the seemingly endless limp home. When I arrived at the house, one of the breakfasteers had arrived early (Ecuadorians are rarely early!?), and flew to my side firing questions at me and saying we are going to a doctor immediately. Thus commenced my Saturday. I ended up riding in a car, being carried up a flight of steps, and meeting a woman who could have been 110 if she was 70. We were at her house; she wasn’t a doctor, but my friends convinced me that she would make my ankle feel better. She poked and prodded and massaged some sort a cream into it, moved my foot this way and that, during which I thought I might faint from the pain. She commented that my ankle must have been injured years before…which it had…about 9 years ago, when I sprained it playing basketball with friends at YWAM, Minneapolis. Well, long and painful story short, she did wonders for my ankle (for 5 bucks!!), and, although it is frustrating to have to rest, ask everyone to do my running around, and NOT run myself, I am once again reminded of the necessity to trust in the Lord’s strength and not my own, to give myself permission to take it easy and to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord. It is healing up nicely, and hopefully in another week or two, I will be able to begin running again – taking extra precaution for holes of course!

Noele and I had the privilege of attending a meeting of pastors this last Monday. We have been planning on doing this since we arrived, however something always happens which causes us to have to reschedule, so we were a bit surprised when we actually arrived and were able to share the ministry. Many of them were very excited about our ministry and invited us to come to speak to their churches, saying that a ministry such as this is of great need here in Cuenca. It was a great time of fellowship and encouraged us to keep on moving forward and visit these churches.

I would like to ask a special prayer request: one of our friends here is going through a lot and we are concerned about him. His father left them when they were very young and has a wife and other children in the States. A lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders, to provide for his mother and two sisters. He has been making some poor decisions which are affecting his family, friends, church, work, and ministry. We long to see redemption at the end of this story, so please pray with us!!

The following is our Prayer points for this month, and I ask that if you can join us for a time of prayer on Monday evening from 6p.m until 8:30 pm, or whatever works for your schedule, please do!!

“Looking to the hope we have through Jesus, we request once again that you join us in our monthly prayer and fasting for our friends and ministry. Monday night is the time we have set aside to make this a corporate event so if you are can join us during that time: 6:00-8:30 PM, please do so, however if that is not a workable time, please join us anytime that works for you in your home or whatever location you can commit to the time of prayer. As you take the time to pray, we ask that you fast the normal scheduled meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner until after the time of prayer and fasting is complete. Thanks so much for joining us; these fasting and prayer times are making a huge difference.
I am reminded of the call to fast that Queen Esther gave when the decree was given to kill all the Jews of her day. (Esther 4:16) As she held the confidence that she could hear from God and gain insight on what to do to gain the king’s favor to do something that could change the edict, she didn’t hesitate and Mordecai took that as well and committed the Jews to join in the fast. The outcome was swift and effective. She received the wisdom and the king responded. Isn’t it awesome that when we humble ourselves before God, He listens to our hearts, shares His Spirit with us and we can do what needs to be done to accomplish what we know to be right. So, yes as we fast this prayer time we are confident that God will speak, we will listen, and then take action to do what it is God charges us to do and He will make the end of that time to produce His perfect will.
P.R.A.Y. Praise Repentance Ask Yield
Jesus Himself taught us how to pray in Luke 11. He gives us an example of the way we should structure our prayers: giving praise to our Father and worshipping Him, bringing petitions before Him while acknowledging our trust in His provision, identifying our sins and asking for forgiveness, and then giving everything up to Him in reverence of His faithfulness. Remember this as you begin your time of prayer this week. It may be beneficial to pray the Lord’s prayer together as well. (Matthew 6:9-13)

PRAISE: Please begin by praising the Lord and asking His Holy Spirit to come and be with us and guide us as we pray. Please spend 20-30 minutes focusing on God’s majesty and worshipping the Lord through music, whether by listening to CD or singing together. (Exodus 15:11-13)

REPENT: Take time to repent and search your hearts, asking God what things in your life might be keeping you from the throne of God. Also, ask the Lord to help you forgive those who have hurt you, so that you are not harboring bitterness. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

ASK: We would like to remind everyone to continuously be praying for our campers. Praying for them when we are with them is great, but it is not enough. We have seen proof of the spiritual battles they encounter; we have seen how they weep when we pray for them in the camps. They are susceptible to so many different types of evil forces and most are not able to battle with Satan by themselves. This is our responsibility. The Lord has put them in our lives and given us glimpses into their struggles. They need to be covered with our prayers for protection, for healing, for anointing, and for strength. We all know that prayer moves the heart of Our Father. We do not need to be present with them for our prayers to be efficient.
Being an ever increasingly vigilant force is a worthy goal. As we pray we are breaking through the spiritual barriers to salvation, joy, health, prosperity, and living a valued life so we encourage you to openly ask God through your time in prayer to intervene on behalf of these campers and their families. We are seeing tremendous evidence of God’s intervention in families as their children have encountered Jesus during camp. Just recently we received a report from our team in Guayaquil, Ecuador that a camper, Mayte, died on October 1. One of the team members received a call from Mayte’s mom asking for prayer. This mom realized the effectiveness of our people praying and thought enough about it to call and commit the team to prayer. It is a joy and a powerful right guard of defense for others as we pray. Let’s take our place this prayer session and be there for our friends. (James 5:16)
Let’s take time to pray for our campers. Some names we would like you to remember this month are Flor, Jorge, Erwin, Christina, Nila, and Luis, Karlita, Neiser from Guayaquil; Mayte, Gisella, Rosita, Fernando, David, and Alex from Quito; Rachel, Raessa, Nick, Vickie, Hana, Damien, Josh, Courage, and Kieven from Osceola; Ron, James, Kathy, and Sarah from Idaho; Natasha, Ivan, and Nicoli from Ukraine, Bodji, Jacki, and Biagala from Mongolia. Specifically lift up the names of campers that you know and that the Lord has put on your heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1-8) Please pray for the freedom of Christ to be revealed in their lives. (Galatians 5:1)

YIELD: We were recently encouraged and reminded that the Lord has sent us out with a purpose, and that He has given us His blessing as well a promise that He will provide for us. Our work is not in vain and we are learning to rely on Him for helping us to further His kingdom and share His love. (Mark 6:7-13, Acts 13:2, 3)

As you draw to the end of your time in prayer and fasting, please take some time and share with each other what you hear the Lord has said. It may be helpful to spend some time quietly listening to the Spirit, with the ears of our hearts open and ready to receive, as prayer is a two-way conversation. Share praises, words of encouragement, Scriptures, etc. It may also be nice to close with a song or two. Have great time with your brothers and sisters in the presence of our Papa!”

Additional and Supportive Scripture Verses to pray and ponder through this event:
Psalm 107
Isaiah 40:28-31
John 14: 6, 15-21
Psalm 46

“May the God of Grace be to you this month with great awesome power, lifting up your head to see His Glory as He fills the whole earth, may you see His mighty wonders and majestic splendor as you travel your path each day and see He is for you and not against you. May you experience a huge amount of His overextending love and joy to give you strength!”