Monday, March 31

An amazing servant of God

*One of my favorite people in the world is a woman I will call "Jewel", for she is one! She is an incredible servant of God and my life pales in comparison to hers. I've been wanting to tell you her story (or part of it as there is just too much to tell!) for some time now and I finally found the English translation of her testimony she gave to me. It's a bit long, but well worth the read.

Jewel has been serving faithfully in Asia for the past 10 years. She works as a church planter, has started a free school and an orphanage. Her Asia stories are worthy of being written into a book. Wherever she goes, she has people on the edge of their seat in rapt attention begging for more. I am no exception! She is so inspiring. Jewel is currently back in Ecuador for a year of sabbatical and is working on our team. She is a one woman army and never seems to tire of working for the Lord. She is truly amazing!

Poverty Cannot Rob You
Of Your Heart's Desire

Poverty and hard work are all I knew in my life. I was born into a poor family in Ecuador, South America. We were six children - four girls and two boys. I am the second oldest. We spoke Spanish in our home but we are of several races - Ecuadorian, African, and European.

My paternal grandfather worked very hard in a factory. His wife was a nurse. My other grandfather was a fisherman. My maternal grandmother is still alive, though she is blind. She was and is very poor. She used to work for other people cooking and washing clothes. My mother earns a living cleaning in a hotel. My father, an artist in his youth, now paints houses.

My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. My father had become an alcoholic and made life very difficult for us. He beat my mother and us children. For about three or four years we kept running from house to house to get away from him. It was very traumatic. Not only was Father abusive, he was also involved with other women. I hated him for his unfaithfulness. Finally Mother decided to divorce him. I was so angry I told my mother not to marry again or bring another man into our house.

A few years later, Mother did bring a man home. She was only 31 and was raising six children. She wanted someone to help her. She worked hard full-time to make it possible for us children to go to school. I didn't understand; I was just in my early teens. When the man moved in, I ran away. My two brothers also left home. One brother went to live with a close family friend; the other one went to my grandparents. My mother continued faithfully to pay for their schooling. My oldest sister ran away with a man when she was only 15 to get away from the problems in our home. I went to a Christian family. Although our family was Roman Catholic I had been attending an evangelical church since my parents divorce. So I went to live with my pastor and his family.

The man who came to live with Mother left after a couple of years. A short time later I returned home. Even though we lived in different homes, my siblings and I were always close to our mother. She continued to take care of all of us. Through her hard work, Mother was able to buy some land. We built our own home and finally had our own place to live.

When I was only nine years old, I started to work at odd jobs to help my mother with the family income. Mother taught us always to do our best in whatever menial job we did. She taught us never to beg, but to work for our food. I had to study at night most of the time. Because we had moved around so much I was never in one school for long. However, Mother made sure we studied.

My parents did not go to church, but they sent us children every Sunday. Mother taught us the Lord's prayer. She was not Catholic as were my grandparents. One night as I was praying, "Our Father in Heaven," I realized that the picture I was praying to was only of Jesus and His mother. There was no Father in the picture. So I said to God, "Your family looks like my family; we are without a father. But I hear that You are a good Father. I want to meet you as a Father." God answered my child-like prayer.

A couple of weeks later, a lady from the Baptist church came to my neighborhood to invite all of us children to a Vacation Bible School. My brothers, sisters, and I all attended for the week. That week I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and God as my Father.

The church was having evangelistic meetings at that time, and as I sat in the church service, I heard the pastor talk about God's love. He read John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Those words really spoke to me. I cried and said, "God how can you love me and everybody in the world and send Jesus to die for us?" I was just a child, but I knew I needed to be saved and cleansed. I hated people and I used to fight the boys in my neighborhood to protect the younger children. I knew I was a sinner. When I heard that Jesus loved me and that His blood would cleanse me an make me His child, I stopped crying. The pastor then called for any who wanted to know Christ to come to the altar. I went forward. I said, "Yes, I want to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I believe He died on the cross for my sins." A number of other people also came. The pastor and other Christian workers came to lead us individually in prayer to ask for forgiveness of sins and to invite Jesus Christ into our hears and lives. That day I committed my life to Jesus.

The church folks gave me a Bible and literature explaining what the churach believed, what it means to be a Christian and how to walk by faith. The people in that church were faithful and continued to teach and disciple me. I went to class every day. Although I was only 11 years old, my family saw a change in my life. I was shy, but I was serious in my decision to follow the Lord. I prayed for my family so they, too, would be changed by the Lord. And I wanted to work for Him.

One day, Mother asked why I went to the Baptist Church so often when I had not completed my Communion classes at the Catholic Church. When I finished all the Communion classes, she gave me permission to attend the Baptist Church regularly. That church is still my home church.

Every Saturday was Missions Day for all ages, from children to adults. We had Bible study first, read a missionary biography, then prayed for current missionaries. When we read about William Carey, the first missionary to India, his life really impacted me. I faithfully prayed for India, China, and the Islamic countries.

When I was 14 years old, I attended youth camp. One of the missionary children gave her testimony. We also watched a movie about the five young missionary men who were killed by an Indian tribe in my country. The testimony and the movie moved me to tears. I said, "God, I want to work for You." When the camp director asked if anyone wanted to attend their Baptist Seminary, I replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Here I am, Lord, Send me."

When we returned to the city, I told my pastor I wanted to work for the Lord full-time. He gave me a job at the church. I cleaned, ran errands, and did odd jobs as needed. Then he gave me a job as a full-time secretary. I also taught music and Bible to the children in the church primary school.

I attended high school in the evenings and then university for two years where I studied accounting. Instead of completing my university degree, I went to the seminary. After four years of study, I earned a degree in Theology. Women students usually studied Christian Education, but I challenged the director to allow me to study theology. I wanted to be a missionary or an evangelist and pastor. I was the first lady in my country to study theology at the Baptist Seminary.

I was still praying for the countries of the world, but especially for the countries in Asia. I prayed fervently for the Lord to send workers there. The churches in Ecuador were not yet ready to send their own missionaries out, so they would not send me overseas.

I thought I would become a home missionary, so I applied to do missionary work in my country. I was not accepted because I was not married. It was too difficult to send out single ladies.

I started to teach at the seminary and traveled around the country with my church in evangelistic work, church planting and youth work.

In 1995 I went with some of my friends to the country of Argentina to a youth conference. In Argentina, someone gave me an invitation to a conference in Costa Rica (in Central America) the following year. When we arrived in Costa Rica in January 1996, we learned that it was a missions conference. When I saw the photos and heard about the peoples of the world who are unreached for Christ, I wept. I prayed, "God, is that what You are calling me to do?"

After the conference, the Lord spoke to my heart not to return to my country, but to stay in Costa Rica. I asked Him for confirmation because I knew no one in the country, had no job and no place to live. All of this was a very big challenge to me.

During the conference, I noticed a lady using a lap-top computer. I had never seen one before, so I asked the lady what it was. She asked me who I was. I explained that I had come to the conference from Ecuador. She spoke to me for about five minutes and then apologized that she had to leave. She was going to neighboring Nicaragua for a two-day missionary retreat. She gave me her business card and said, "God sent you here for something. If He is asking you to stay in Costa Rica and you need a place to stay, please contact me and I will be happy to help you. My church sends out missionaries and we can support you."

When she left, I cried. I said, "Lord, You answered already." I began to write letters to my family, to the church and to the seminary to resign from my job.

The lady I met was a pastor/evangelist. When she returned she took me into her home and gave me a job in her office. Then she sent me to a mission called FEDEMEC to tell them God was calling me to be a missionary. The people there received my testimony and said I could study with them. They gave me free tuition, obtained a student visa for me and allowed me to study about missions for two years.

The Lord wonderfully opened the hearts of the pastors in several churches in Costa Rica and in my home country of Ecuador. I finally arrived in Asia in September, 1997. I have since learned English and the local language.

In spite of my background and the grinding poverty, God has given me the greatest desire of my heart. Nothing can keep us from God's will when He steps into our lives.

*Thanks to my wife, Linda, for first publishing "Jewel's" testimony on her own excellent blog, A Foreign Life from where I have copied the above. To see several more photos of Jewel, click on the link. Don't forget to pray for her as you do!

Friday, March 28

Things God is showing us (Part 4 of 4)

Last night while taking home our team leader from a training, Geovanny was sharing with me some of the things God is revealing to him these days. When he mentioned John 12:24, something clicked within as one of the lessons God is also teaching me these days.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The 'grain of wheat' that is falling into the earth and dying is my dream for a genuine church planting movement of simple/house churches here in Guayaquil. For nearly a decade we have labored, studied, prayed for, and dreamed of a movement of multiplying simple/house churches. But after ten years, we are still far from seeing this become a reality in our midst.

So, why am I saying our dream has to be put to death in order to bear fruit? Because that is what Jesus says. As long as it remains our dream, our vision, our passion, there will be little fruit to show from it all.

However, to truly allow it to fall to the earth and die, will ultimately bring about much fruit--maybe even the dreamed of CPM.

So, how is God bringing us to the point of surrendering our dream and allowing it to die?

I am a passionate student of all things related to ekklesia--a return to the concepts and principles of 1st Century Church and Christianity.

Today, many different terms are being used to describe this recapturing of the apostolic N.T. ekklesia: simple church, house church, organic church, emerging missional church, etc.

I devour materials/books by people like Neil Cole, Wolfgang Simson, Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch, and many others, too numerous to mention, who write in this fascinating genre.

David Garrison, Curtis Sergeant, David Watson are my CPM inspirations. I identify closely with House2House, DAWN, CMA, and NTRF. I have benefited from studies/writings/videos by George Patterson and associates, Steve Atkerson, Alan Knox, Jon Zens, Beresford Job, Gene Edwards, Watchman Nee, Rad Zdero and many others whose work has helped shape our understanding of the church and church planting over the years.

Our dream/vision has always been that this would happen as a movement of multiplying house/simple churches. What we are surrendering to the Lord is to allow Him to do things any way He chooses. Even if it means that the churches planted are of the contemporary/traditional kind with all the extra-biblical trappings that accompany them.

What trumps our passion for simple/house church is our desire to see this nation come to the feet of Jesus Christ--to see the Great Commission fulfilled in Ecuador. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal convictions about ekklesia in order for the greater Kingdom good to be realized?

What we are now coming to understand is that God may choose to do the very thing we have prayed for, but may use any number of models or manners of church planting to assemble the ingathering of new disciples:

-house/simple/organic churches
-satellite churches
-traditional/institutional churches
-cell model
-mega church
-multi-congregational model
-mother churches with daughter missions
-independent pioneer model
-colonization model
-missionary model
-denominational models

Surrendering the first on the list is what is difficult for me. It is almost like if we can't have it our way, then no way at all is acceptable. This is what God is gently showing us--it is not about us planting churches using the "correct biblical model", but His way. This is His church we are talking about, not our church. Once we surrender having things our way, then He will be free to do things any way He pleases.

So, what do you think about these things?

Tuesday, March 25

Baptisms matter

In the most recent statistics available from the Southern Baptist Annual Church Profile (ACP), Baptist Press reports, "...baptisms last year dropped from 371,850 to 364,826, or 1.89 percent, eclipsing 2005 as the lowest annual total since 1993."

Along this same theme, Thom Rainer in an article for the Florida Baptist Witness "The Dying American Church." states the following:
It takes 86 church members in America one year to reach a person for Christ...if the research is even close to accurate, the reality is that the church is not reproducing herself. In just one or two generations, Christianity could be so marginalized that it will be deemed irrelevant by most observers...
Compare this to the 3:1 baptism ratio as shared in one of my recent posts of the folks in the Guayaquil house churches. It takes three of them one year to baptize one new believer. While that is a far cry from our goal of every believer winning/discipling four per year, it sure beats an 86:1 ratio for churches in the States, or even the current 44:1 ratio in Southern Baptist churches.

Baptisms are a key indicator to overall church health.

Why has the American church become evangelistically anemic? Thom of course gives several reasons in his article, but I would like to capitalize on just one of them, "Christians in churches often get caught up in the minor issues and fail to become passionate about the major issue of evangelism..."

I honestly believe most Stateside churches have more to learn from their Guayaquil brethren than the other way around.

What differences are there between our Ecuadorian national brethren and their Stateside counterparts? Why are the folks here so much more effective with their evangelism than Stateside Christians?

I can identify at least seven overlapping things I see house church believers consistently doing that are not usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for the lost. Talk to the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, and neighbors.

2) Active regular sharing of the Gospel. It is a very natural part of their Christian walk to share the Gospel with people they encounter in their daily lives. Christ has made such a difference in their lives, and they cannot help but share with those they come in contact with.

3) Planning regular evangelistic events. The house churches plan regular evangelistic events inviting those they are praying for to attend (concerts, outdoor street meetings, special programs, family conferences, DVD/Videos, invited guest speakers, neighborhood evangelistic door-to-door blitzes, etc.)

4) Visiting the sick and personally ministering to lost friends, neighbors and family in times of crisis. They are very good about visiting sick people outside of their church family, praying for healing and ministering to lost family and friends during difficult times.

5) Not distracted by a lot of outside issues like Thom Rainer mentions above. We too have our sticky issues, but they are more along the lines of things like can unmarried couples who get saved be baptized? How to counsel people with difficult problems? How to discern if someone is demon possessed or just emotionally unstable? How to handle questions that Roman Catholics always ask? Why doesn't God always heal someone when they are prayed for? If I were to share with them (and I don't) the issues that are causing all the uproar in the States these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least four people to Christ this year. They expect God to give them these souls and are consciously praying and working to achieve this goal.

7) They maintain friendships/relationships with lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They play ball on the street with them, visit them in their homes, minister to them in times of need. How are we ever supposed to win people to the Lord if we have little/no relationship with the lost? How is a Christian supposed to win lost people if they do not even know any? Folks here know plenty of lost people whom they are burdened for their salvation.

Stateside churches may be doing a lot of neat things, have wonderful church programs, great worship services and solid Biblical preaching, but if they are not winning people to Christ, baptizing, making disciples, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded, are they really a healthy N.T. church?

Saturday, March 22

Computer interview

Ever wonder about the lives of those bloggers you read? I confess to being curious about wanting to know a bit more about some of my cyber friends whose writings intrigue me. On my Facebook page there is an application where a computer "interviews" you. So you can get to know me a little better as a person and not just a blogger, the following are taken from that Facebook computer interview...

What is your favorite song of all time?
That's a tough one for a music lover, but I never seem to tire of Puccini's "O mio babbino caro."

Biggest regret?
Not keeping up my proficiency in playing the piano and guitar.

What kind of car do you drive?
KIA Carens is the mission vehicle assigned to us.

Coke or Pepsi?
Dr. Pepper (or Pony Malta)

If you were one word, what word would you be?

How many people are in your family?
4--wife Linda, son Josh (16), daughter Anna (12)

What language would you like to speak fluently?
Besides Spanish and English, I would like to learn Italian someday. I love the sound of the language.

Favorite hot drink?

Performing Arts, Fine Arts, or Sports?
Definitely the arts over sports. I am not much on sports or games.

Do you plan in advance?
I function better by instinct than by planning.

What attracts you most?
The mysterious, the unknown, and the beautiful.

If you could be successful at any job in the world, what would that job be?
A good dad and husband.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Somewhere warm, safe, in a simple quiet house on the beach, with clear blue skies, sandy white beaches, palm trees, clear calm waters, cool sea breezes.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
I would like to be my wife for one day to get inside her head to better understand her.

What is your favorite word?

What makes you cry?
I don't often shed tears, but am greatly moved by God's work in people's lives.

What do you do for fun?
Search for new music on the internet (emusic, napster), go to the movies (my wife and I both are huge movie fans), travel when the opportunity presents itself.

What 3 words would your best friend use to describe you?
People tell me I'm talented, encouraging, patient. I have my doubts about all three.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Only God knows. Could be anywhere or right where we are now.

What are you most proud of in your life?
Being a servant of God.

Do you own any pets, and if so what do you have?
dog: Taffy, cat: Claudia

Who do you admire most?
Probably my parents.

Would you rather be hot or cold?
Definitely hot...I cannot stand the cold.

Favorite Place to Eat?
Mauro's Italian restaurant in Guayaquil.

If you had to pick one car, which would it be?
Any SUV for here in Ecuador (but it has to have a good sound system.)

Favorite fruit?
A good Texas cantaloupe.

Define yourself in 3 words...
Ask my wife.

What is your favorite TV show?
I enjoy local Ecuadorian news, The Office, Le Femme Nikita, Alias, ER, CSI, 24, Lost, Travel & Living channel, Discovery Channel, CNN Int'l.

Do you shower every single day?
Every single day, sometimes twice...we live in the hot, humid tropics.

Where do you want to travel next?
Anywhere away from crowds and the big city.

What is your favorite food?
Hot fresh bread, cheese, popcorn, avocados, my wife's everyday cooking.

Favorite body part?

What do you do on Fridays?
Fridays are like all the other days of the week for us, nothing special other than ordering in pizza for the kids. Our Fridays are Thursdays when my wife and I have a standing date.

How tall are you?
5' 7"

Do you like bananas?
Love 'em...supposedly they the perfect food...Ecuador is the world's biggest banana exporter so we never lack for having a banana around the house.

So now you know a little more about me. Comments on any of the above? How about yourself? How would YOU answer any of the above questions?

Wednesday, March 19

You Are His Hands

I am asking for just 3 minutes of your time. 2:30 to watch, and :30 to pray for the Ecuador flood relief efforts going on all over the coast of Ecuador.

These shots were taken last week with the visit of students from CMU in Pittsburgh, along with others from several of our house churches and local Baptist churches. There are numerous groups and churches out in areas like Babahoyo, Quevedo, Vinces, Taura, Yaguachi, Montalvo, Milagro, Naranjito, and Salitre doing what they can to relieve the suffering caused by the flooding.

We are grateful for the funds made available to us for these efforts through your giving to the IMB Disaster Relief Funds. Thanks for taking a moment to watch and pray!

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours

Monday, March 17

What a week

This past week has been a packed one indeed.

MONDAY: I spent the day compiling our team's "Annual Statistical Report" (ASR) for 2007. These are the indicators that the International Mission Board uses to help us evaluate our work over the past year. Our team reports for the past year: 18 new church starts, 202 baptisms, and 22 new outreach groups (churches in formation). We were close to reaching our goal of training 200 new church planters, though obviously, not all ended up planting new works. The 4:1 ratio of people trained and people actually implementing the training continues to hold. For every four people trained, only one will go out and DO what it is they have been trained to do.

Was spent at the annual meeting of the Ecuador Assemblies of God pastors as their invited guest. On Tuesday night I had the privilege of challenging their pastors to step out in faith in reaching their goal of 1-million new disciples for Jesus in '08-'09. During the invitation to commit to doing all they can to reach the million, nearly every single pastor came forward for a time of prayer. They have adopted our team's COSECHA (HARVEST) church planting materials as the tools to help them reach this goal. Basically the plan calls for 1) everyone praying the Lord of the Harvest to touch the hearts of 60,000 laborers this coming year and train them, 2) every church plant at least one new church, and 3) every believer in their assembly to win/disciple eight. These three emphases are to be pursued until the million are reached.

One of the highlights of this meeting was on the final night when one of their own pastors who is known for his leadership in prayer, challenged all the AG pastors present to lead their churches in 2000 hours of praying for the goal of a million new disciples. I "peeked" during the invitation time and saw what looked like more than 200+ AG pastors raise their hands promising God to lead their churches in this prayer challenge. Folks, that's 400,000 hours of prayer being focused on the million new disciples! Oh that we had that kind of prayer commitment in all our churches!

We went out with a team of volunteer students from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh to help with some of the flood relief going on about an hour out of Guayaquil. Words cannot express the magnitude of this incredible tragedy that has struck the coast of Ecuador. The suffering and despair of millions of people is beyond anybody's ability to grasp or begin to alleviate. One of the things that personally impacted me were the cries of help calling out to us from people needing food and water. We only had provisions for about 150 families. Our canoe was constantly being chased down from those who had boats with people begging us for food. Saturday, my wife Linda and son Joshua went out for the day and spent five hours in waters up to their waist installing split bamboo flooring in cane houses which were on the verge of falling into the water. I hope to have a YouTube video up in the coming days to show more of this tragedy taking place on the coast of Ecuador.

SUNDAY: We said good-bye to the volunteer team with a brunch at a fellow missionary's house and then off to the airport. The rest of the afternoon was given to making Sunday a literal "day of rest!"

Thanks for your many prayers and interest in all that God continues to do in our midst. Pray that we would have wisdom to know how to get a handle on training the 60,000 workers this year, and how to best alleviate the suffering of the millions in the ongoing flooding.

Saturday, March 15

More Ecuador flood relief photos (Salitre)

It is one thing to see photos and view news clips, and quite another to be out amongst those who are living through the flooding which has 3/4 of the coast of Ecuador under water and 4-million people without work, food, water, and having lost nearly everything they own.

Yesterday we went out to Salitre, one of the flooded areas with a group of students on a missions trip from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Please click on this link and then click "Slide Show" to view. The devastation is overwhelming. Yesterday we were out five hours going from house to house in a remote part of the rural countryside. Today Linda and Joshua, along with the volunteers, and several from our house churches have gone out to continue where we left off.

If you should feel led of the Lord to not only pray for this crisis, but to give to the relief efforts going on in Ecuador, you can make a donation directly at the IMB website here.

Thursday, March 13

Must see video

I am a missionary. I love missionary stories like the one linked to here from

Tuesday, March 11

Carlos and Maria

The church that meets in the home of Carlos and Maria has been meeting now for several years. I first met Carlos when he came to one of our church planting trainings. It was during the third week of lessons that sadly Carlos and María's small cane house burned to the ground leaving them with only the clothes on their backs. Satan figured that would stop any new church planting by this couple. As materially poor as they were, the Lord helped them come up with enough random bamboo slats, wood, and cement to rebuild. From the very beginning they dedicated the "living and dining room" space to function as the area for the meetings of the new church plant.

Today, this is a church that meets seven days per week. Every night the believers gather to comfort one another and share fellowship in the Lord. Those who miss are visited by Carlos and Maria the following day to see why they were not present. Over the years they have baptized many people into their small house church fellowship.

At one of the baptisms that I was invited to, Carlos and Maria together baptized five new believers. It took place in the heat of the day on a dirty little beach on the extreme southern end of the city. I was invited to go and take photos. I was glad to accept and share in their joy.

As 20 members of the church clapped and sang praise choruses at the edge of the water, thunderous loud speakers blasted away salsa, reggaeton and rap music from the various bars that lined the beach area. But nothing could change the joy expressed in their faces and the song coming from their lips.

The competing musics were symbolic of the spiritual battles raging between good and evil for this city. While there was no way to compete with the loud speakers drowning out the sound of the brethren singing, the reality was that Christ had once again defeated Satan. Seemingly, all the loud, vulgar music was Satan's yelling out his discontent of losing five more souls over to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of those baptized was an elderly woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The church prayed for her and anointed her with oil. The Lord graciously healed her.

After the baptisms, all the church went for a dip in the cool waters of the estero (branch of the sea that snakes its way inland.) One of the sisters brought a 2-liter soft drink along with three disposable plastic cups. All 20 adults plus innumerable kids shared out of the same three cups. Many would suck on the ice for a few seconds before returning it to the cup and allowing the next person to have their cup filled. As an "honored guest" I was given the cup first (thank you, Lord!) Believe it or not, that one 2-liter bottle (and ice in the cup!) "stretched" for everyone to have a full glass of refreshing drink!

Afterwards we went back to Carlos and Maria's for a thin slice of cake in celebration of the baptisms. Eating cake together was a breaking of a church-wide fast. As we ate our cake and more cola, people shared testimonies of the Lord's goodness. I was personally impacted by the vision this tiny church has to reach, not only their community, but the entire city.

Pray for these brothers and sisters. Not one of them that I am aware of has a steady job or way to support their families, yet each remain faithful to the Lord and are out there literally living by faith day by day in the Lord. Times are very tough economically for the country, and our brothers and sisters suffer greatly not knowing from day to day where their next meal will come from. They know what it means to pray, "give us this day our daily bread."

Saturday, March 8

Give everything away

Paul Watson posts some excellent thoughts on "successful" missionary service.

Give Everything Away

My parents raised me to be an adult. Yet I know parents who raise their children to be, well, children. For some reason they create dependence in their child that does not allow their children to mature. Consequently, we have an entire sub-culture of thirty-somethings living with their parents permanently, without good reason. Parents have to give the important things – their knowledge, understanding, and experiences – away to their kids. Sure, if they withhold these blessings their children will keep coming back for more, but this isn’t healthy. Parents eventually die. What happens then? Parents who give the important things to children find that their children come back even more. Why? Not because of what their parents have to give, but because they value who their parents are. When parents give the important things away, both parents and children benefit.

The same is true in ministry. We have to take the risk that eventually, if we do our job right, people won’t depend on us. We don’t simply give people strategies; we teach them how to strategize. We don’t tell people what to do; we teach them how to think and do for themselves. We don’t teach people about the Bible; we teach them to read and obey the Bible. We give away everything we know, without strings, all the time. We create mature believers, not dependant children. If we do, people eventually value who we are rather than what we have to give them.

Lead from Behind

In a show I saw the other night, the main character, a Marine, stated, “A true Marine doesn’t need medals pinned to their uniform. They wear them in their heart.” If we want to change to way we minister in the West, we are going to have to feel this way about ourselves. We lead from behind the scenes and allow others to be in the forefront. They get the “medals” and we get satisfaction in their medals. They are asked to speak, and we get excited for them. Everyone knows their face, but we have to be introduced. We have to be completely ok with the reality that most people will never know who we are or understand what we do.

Value Influence over Position

Another friend told me, “Paul, I don’t have authority over anyone. No one reports to me. I really can’t get anyone ‘fired.’ No one has to listen to me if they don’t want to.” Yet church planters around the world come to my friend and say, “My company may employ me, but you are my boss. I will do whatever you tell me to do.” Thousands of church planters around the world do what my friend says, but they don’t have to. “I gave up my position a long time ago,” my friend adds, “Now all I have is influence.”

If we want to change things, we are going to have to value influence over position. But we can make a living from position while influence rarely pays the bills. Most of the people we influence will never be able to pay us. We have to be ok with that and find out a way to make a living without sacrificing influence. I think mission agencies and churches need to employ people with influence, understanding that their influence will make their employer more successful in the long run.

Value People over Tasks

We have to value people for the way they think and what they can do rather than for the tasks we want them to complete...We have to create an atmosphere in our churches, missions, and ministries that values people for the way they think and what they can do rather than for the tasks we want them to complete. If we do, things will change.

In the West, for the most part, the church is anemic. People depend on ministers rather than upon God. Church staffers resist good change because it might make their positions obsolete. They have to create dependence so they can survive. Good people have to hide their ideas because it threatens the status quo. This cannot continue. We have to do things differently. Churches and ministries must make difficult choices and change their values.

May we all take these principles to heart and implement them into our lives and ministries.

Wednesday, March 5

Ecuador flooding

The heavy winter rains have brought flooding to 3/4 of the coast of Ecuador. Over 4-million people are without work or food, their homes under water, crops destroyed, and live stock dying for lack of food.

This past week we were able to draw upon Disaster Relief Funds from the International Mission Board to purchase food, rubber boots, water, medicine and other emergency needs, to help in some of the hardest hit areas of Yaguachi, Vinces, Babahoyo, Taura, and Montalvo. We have urgent requests for Quevedo, Milagro, Salitre, Machala still pending. As reports come in daily from those working with us, most report the help they were able to give was the first received. One of the most difficult things our people are experiencing is running out of supplies to give and having to turn away hungry families with sick children.

To see more photos of the flooding, click on my wife's blog HERE.

Doug Cherry is bringing in a volunteer team March 6-16 from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Please pray that God would use this team greatly as they seek to share Christ and work with us in areas impacted by the flooding, and where new works are trying to be started in the midst of much suffering and loss.

Thank you for keeping us in your daily prayers. Even as I type, the rains continue to pour down. If you should feel led of the Lord to not only pray for this crisis, but to give to the relief efforts going on in Ecuador, you can make a donation directly at the IMB website here.

Tuesday, March 4

Prayer as a first priority

I am a member of the Guayas Mestizo Team. There are two IMB missionaries, and nine nationals. Our team leader is a national believer. Years ago, when our team was made up of only IMB missionaries, our meetings were different than they are today with a majority being national believers.

Prayer is more the priority than the business needing to be taken care of.

In most USA Christian meetings a short devotional may be shared followed by someone praying God's blessing and guidance for the meeting, with the bulk of the time spent on the business agenda. Here, typically, 2/3 of the meeting is given to prayer, singing, sharing what God is doing...and maybe 1/3 of the time going to the business that needs taking care of.

As a N. American Baptist missionary, this can be extremely frustrating when not enough time is alloted to "taking care of business." There are so many urgent matters that need discussion and decisions.

-Who is going to be in charge of the volunteer team coming next week?

-The 'nuts and bolts' of how the new training will take place in the north part of the city.

-Progress reports on the teams who went out to share disaster relief with the flood victims.

-Follow up on all the recent conversions.

-Going over the text and layout of our new COSECHA brochure.

The list of pending, urgent items needing attention is long indeed. Yet, in its place long prayer times, tears, passionate crying out to God gets top bill. By the time we are done praying, people start looking at their watches as if it is time to go, and we have to rush through business in a distracted way because everyone is chatting with one another, getting up to get coffee, or going to the bathroom.

But you know what? I can honestly testify that more is taking place spiritually in our midst than ever before. The Spirit of God is blowing in our midst. Souls are being saved. People are being mobilized into the harvest fields. We are getting more requests for CP training than we can possibly handle. In short, the very things we are praying over God is answering. This creates an excitement and passion in us all. Talking about brochure formats is mighty dull compared to hearing about lives being impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To illustrate the difference in spiritual outlook between 'us' and 'them'...

This past Saturday I was out to lunch with Geovanny (our team leader), his brother Marcos, and a visiting missionary from Mexico. We were downtown standing in line to get our rice, beans, plantains, and meat when my cell phone rang.

Hermano Guido...ORE!!! Pedro está grave. Parece que está teniendo un ataque cardíaco!!! (Brother Guy, PRAY! Peter is very ill. It looks like he is having a heart attack!)

My response?

Call an ambulance, get him to the hospital as fast as possible. It is critical that someone take him NOW!

Their response...

Pray for him, please! He is very ill and is struggling to breath...

I insisted...

Get Pedro to the doctor ASAP!

The four of us sat down at a table and began to pray for Pedro. The two missionaries prayed that the Lord would help the family get the medical attention Pedro was needing. The two nationals prayed that God would heal Pedro.

After a few minutes Pedro's wife called back.

Pedro is fine, thank you for praying. A bunch of the church and family arrived in the nick of time to pray over him. We prayed for his healing. God once again graciously intervened. He is now resting.

Yesterday Pedro was with us in our meeting like nothing had happened. He looked perfectly fine and was one of those walking around the room crying out to God in the extended time allotted for prayer that God would continue to send out laborers into the harvest fields.

Even though we have been here for 20 years, I feel like a novice in spiritual matters. I learn so much from the example and spiritual walk of my brothers and sister in Christ whom I am privileged to serve amongst. Is prayer really my first response?

Saturday, March 1

Strategy Coordinator Churches

Tim Patterson often writes on characteristics of the future missionary church. For example, The missionary church of the future will have a comprehensive strategy for making disciples of all nations...
One of the innovative strategies among IMB partner churches is known as the Strategy Coordinator Church. This strategy calls on a local stateside church to become "the missionary" for an unreached people group.

IMB personnel facilitate training, some logistics and mentoring... as the SC church plans and implements a missionary strategy to initiate a church planting movement among their focus people group. The SC church must be willing to do whatever it takes for the gospel to be accessible by all among their focus people.

The SC church will develop prayer/advocacy networks, utilize appropriate media to communicate the gospel, train reproducing indigenous disciples to plant reproducing indigenous churches, provide for indigenous leadership training, and facilitate indigenous structures/platforms that will help to expand the kingdom. The SC church involves the whole church in the mission, including those that will never visit the people group but will pray, give and advocate for them. The SC church may even send a long-term missionary or missionary team to live among the people, as the Lord leads.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this model for mission. However, the SC church model is a step in the right direction... mobilizing the church to be directly involved in Great Commission missions, and not giving up that responsibility to a missionary agency or institution. Also, this strategy involves the church in the main role of missionary work... making disciples, planting churches, training leaders... and does not allow the church to settle for a support role on the sidelines.
The Guayas Mestizo Team is looking to partner with Strategy Coordinator Churches. There are 25 cantones (counties) in Guayas province. Most are unreached/under-reached with only a small evangelical community at best in some of them. We would ask you to prayerfully consider contacting us about adopting one of the Guayas cantones as a SC church. If you feel your heart pumping a bit faster after reading this, click on our Guayas Cantones For Christ for more details.