Friday, September 5, 2014

Workers for the Harvest

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9:37-38 (TNIV)

Have you ever thought about the enormous need everywhere you turn? And I'm not just talking about one type of need, but rather all the people around us who are hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and, yes, spiritually. There is a world of people who are in pain, suffering, and seeking hope.

As a missionary, sometimes seeing the needs around me is completely overwhelming. Oftentimes, I wish I could do more. But, the truth of the matter is, I am just one. Our missionary team, although united and gifted in many different areas, is small. The needs always seem bigger than our abilities. (And, yes, that makes us totally dependent on Him . . . but that is a topic for another blog!)

It's interesting, really. In Matthew 9, Jesus recognizes that the harvest is abundant. His exact wording according to the TNIV is "The harvest is plentiful." He knew that the needs we find around us are many, too many to meet, in fact. Yet, his next statement is one that should convict: "but the workers are few."

Since returning to McAllen to serve in full-time ministry, I have been overwhelmed by the needs all around me. There are neighborhood youth who want to play basketball in the Taylor Community Center's (TCC) gym. There are young men in our community who want to play on the TCC soccer field. There are children outside our doors, ready to learn from the Bible, at 5:15 PM every Thursday night, even though Bible Club doesn't begin until 6:00 PM. There are ladies calling me, wanting to "shop" in our clothes closet, The Sparrow's Nest, because their kids have outgrown their clothing and the father is out of work. There are women who take a bag of rice to feed their family, joyful that it's something that will fill their children's tummies. There are marriages on the verge of divorce. I have sometimes wept at the needs at the end of the day when I've had time to process all I've witnessed and heard.

The truth of the matter is that the workers are few. There is a broken world looking for hope, and yet our staff is already stretched to the limit. We are joyfully serving, trusting in the Lord's strength to enable us to reach the lost world around us. But, I can't help but think, why are there so few workers? Has God quit calling people to serve? The answer to that is a resounding "NO!"

The one true God we serve is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)! He is still calling His children to serve, love, and reach out to a lost world. So I am left with another question. Who is not responding?

This is not a call to feel guilty. This is a plea to pray about how God is calling YOU to serve! He may not be asking you to pack your bags and move to the mission field ---- and yet, maybe He is! Or maybe He's asking you to step out in faith and serve in your local church. Maybe He's asking you to step out and invite a neighboring family over to your house for dinner, where they can see a Christ-filled home up close and personally. Maybe He's asking you to humble yourself and do a job that you have always seen as "beneath" you, but that would bless someone abundantly and help someone see Christ in you. Maybe He's challenging you to step out of your comfortable bubble of Christian friends and grab a coffee with someone who may need a tangible touch from the God they don't yet know.

The needs are many. Will you take a moment today to ask God how you can be ONE of the workers He is seeking? Then, step out in joy and obedience. You'll be amazed how one Spirit-filled individual can make an incredible difference in the huge harvest field!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Broken Pieces

One of our sons just turned two, and for his birthday he recieved some Thomas the Train toys. He was thrilled!

Pretty soon, Daddy was on the floor with the boys, putting the tracks together so the locamotives could go in a big circle. They boys had hours of enjoyment with those little trains.

Well, Daddy had to leave, which left the boys in my care. As they continued to play with the trains, their play got rougher; afterall, they ARE little boys! It didn't take too long for the tracks to pull apart and end up in scattered pieces.

It didn't take rocket scientists to figure out that the trains would no longer work on the broken track. One of my sons looked up at me and said, "Mommy, it's broken!" as tears welled up in his eyes. I didn't hesitate! I hugged my little guys and reassured them, "Don't worry! Mommy knows how to fix it." Within a few minutes, that track was put back together as good as new, and my boy were once again playing with their little trains.

As I was walking away to get back to my housework, the Lord gently reminded me of a very important truth. I know how to fix broken pieces, too. Now it was time for tears to well in MY eyes! What a wonderful reminder!

As Gerson and I serve here in McAllen, we have the opportunity to meet many people --- and the vast majority come through the door of Taylor Community Center with shattered lives, trying to figure out how to pick up the fragments and put them back together.

In January, we began our clothes closet ministry. We've named it The Sparrow's Nest, based on the passage of Scripture in Matthew 6 about God caring for the birds of the air and clothing the grass of the fields with flowers. As God has brought families thought The Sparrow's Nest, many have opened up and told me why they find themselves in a place where they need clothing. Their lives are ripped apart and many enter with little hope of life getting any better.

My heart has been broken time and time again as individuals have shared with me the cirumstances in which they find themselves. Some are running from abusive situations. One family had a house fire and lost everything. One father had been separated from his wife and children due to paperwork/visa issues. Each story is unique, but all of them come looking for Hope.

What a joy it is to embrace each one and remind them that is SOMEONE who can take their broken lives and bring healing! Our desire is not only to give away clothing, but to also give hope for their future. We know that Christ is the Healer, the one who picks up the pieces of broken hearts and puts those pieces back together. With each individual who comes through, we have the opportunity to share that truth!

Would you pray for us as we continue to love and share hope with each family who passes through our door? We listen, help them find the clothes they need, pray with them, offer them a Bible, and remind them that there is Someone who can take the fragments of their life and put it back together again.

I may be very capable of putting together play train tracks, but I know The Sparrow's Nest and our own resources are not enough to restore the broken pieces of the lives who those who are hurting. I am so thankful to be a small part of the process as we point them to the One who IS the Answer and who knows just how to take their broken lives and turn them into a beautiful, working masterpiece again!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Growing Seeds

I began this post when we were in Bolivia. Due to slow internet connections and lack of time, I did not finish it until now. May it be an encouragement to each of you as you read how God is moving in the lives Bolivian young people!

When Gerson and I left Bolivia to serve the Lord in McAllen, Texas, it was bittersweet. It was bitter because Bolivia holds a dear place in our heart. Gerson is from Bolivia, and it is where he and I met, dated, married, and started our life of marriage and ministry as a couple. It was sweet because we knew the Lord was leading us, and we knew God doesn't make mistakes.

More often than not, when one is in full-time ministry, it is hard to see the results of one's labor. I remember leaving Bolivia wondering what seeds we had planted and how those we had had the privilege to disciple would fare, since our departure from Bolivia was very sudden due to my high risk pregnancy with Jayden. (If you want to read more of THAT story of God's faithfulness, go to and click on the posts from the fall of 2008!)

Coming back to Bolivia after several years has opened my eyes to how the Lord is working in the lives of His children here in this country. The greatest joy for me upon our return has been to see how God is growing the seeds He planted while we were here. I'd like to share some of these with you, praising God who is the One who is doing the work in these individuals!

The first group of people we had the privilege to meet with was the Boanerges or "Sons of Thunder" cell group from the University Church. Gerson was the founder of this group of young men. When we left, he left Limber, one of the young men in the group, with the baton of leadership. Limber has done an incredible job with these young men and the group has grown. (There was a small group our first evening with them due to several conflicts that night.) There has been so much growth that it was decided to split the group into two cell groups --- one for married men and one for single men. Another man from the original group, Gonzalo, now teaches the married men. What a joy to see not only the growth of numbers, but the  depth of growth we witnessed spiritually in these young men. Several came by the house and talked with us one on one about what God is doing in their life. What a joy to hear the testimonies! I'm excited about how God is using these young men to impact Bolivia! Pray that the Lord will bring the single men a godly wife who will join them in ministry. That was a concern on many of their hearts as they spoke with us. 

 Limber with Edson --- they became fast friends.
Another joy for us was to see Gabriel and Angelica. We met them back in 2008 because Gabriel's brother attended the Boanerges cell group. He had shared with Gerson that his brother and sister-in-law were going through a hard time and he was concerned for them. Gerson reached out to Gabriel and we began meeting with this young couple in our home. They were struggling in their marriage, and Gerson and I had the amazing privilege of sharing God's perspective of marriage with them. They had had a civil wedding ceremony, but as they studied God's Word, they really had a desire to have a religious ceremony to consecrate their marriage to the Lord and renew their wedding vows. December of 2010, they had a beautiful wedding to do just that!
We were unable to return to Bolivia to attend their wedding, but while we were here in Bolivia this time, Gabriel and Angelica invited us out to eat one evening, and then the following week cooked a traditional Bolivian meal for us. During that time of fellowship, they showed us pictures of their wedding and gave us the video of the special event! What immense joy to see this couple grow in their love for each other as their love for the Lord grows! They also shared with us that Gabriel is feeling the Lord's leading to formally study the Bible, even though he is a successful businessman. He doesn't know what the Lord has in store for him, but he wants to be prepared to serve Him completely! The fact that he is willing to be obedient to the Lord in so many huge areas of his life is a testimony to how God is working in this man and his family!
Another couple we were able to see was my best Bolivian friend from Trinidad, Blanca Elena, and her husband Roberto. They made the sacrifice to travel overnight by bus to spend a weekend with us. When I lived as a single missionary in Bolivia, God sent Blanca across my path through our church Sunday School class. Blanca quickly became a close friend, and I was thrilled when she and Roberto, with whom I was on the praise and worship team at church, began to date. They got married 4 months after Gerson and me. This couple has an incredible passion for the Lord and have become leaders in a small church plant in Trinidad. Blanca recently quit her job, allowing her to plunge freely and whole-heartedly into ministry! What an incredible privilege to see how God is using this couple to further His Kingdom!

There are just a few of the people who have impacted our lives and who we see God using in ways we never imagined when we lived there. The seeds fell on fertile ground and grew fruit. Now that fruit is sowing seeds and others are coming to know Christ through them. Our joy knows no bounds! Praise the Lord!

Please pray for these young people. As they shared their ministries with us, they also shared their struggles, hurts, and desires. Pray they will remain strong in the Lord, focused on Him, and that He will continue to bless their lives and ministries. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'd Like to Introduce You to . . .

 Gerson's Father: Fermin

Gerson's dad is from a part of Bolivia called Los Yungas de La Paz. In his prime, Fermin was a professional soccer player for a team in La Paz, Bolivia called Municipal. In total, he spent 6-7 years playing soccer either professionally or semi--professionally. He's a jack of all trades, however, and also worked with heavy machinery when Gerson was a young boy. One of his bigger projects was asphalting the runway in Tarija. He also mined and worked various other jobs to help support his family throughout the years. Playing professional sports in Bolivia is not as lucrative as it is in the States. He made enough to support the family, but did not make an overabundance to continue supporting them once he was out of professional sports.
 Currently, Papa Fermin is working at the Bolivian Evangelical University (BEU) here in Santa Cruz. He is the athletic director. He views this more as a ministry than a job. In addition to organizing the BEU's sports teams for the Santa Cruz University Olympics each year, he also coaches the girls' indoor soccer team. He has also taken over the BEU soccer school that Gerson helped found in 2005 and coaches soccer to young boys from the neighborhoods around BEU.
 Gerson's Mom: Dora

Dora is from Tarija, Bolivia. Her joy in life is cooking! She loves to be in the kitchen cooking for her family. And she's a TREMENDOUS cook! From the time she gets up in the morning until it is time to serve lunch, you can find her slaving away in her kitchen. This is her way of serving her family.
 Mama Dora has diabetes. As I've mentioned in a former post, she's quite the business woman. She has no medical insurance, so she finds ways to raise money to cover her medical expenses. She sometimes cooks empanadas, or other such treats, to see at the soccer games where Papa Fermin coaches. She also has begun a jewelry business. She makes beautiful jewelry and has built up a clientele, both here and in Tarija. If any of you is interested in buying some of here jewelry, let me know! I can hook you up!
 Gerson's Brother: Aldo (in the blue shirt)

Gerson has a half-brother, Aldo. He and his family live on the other side of Santa Cruz, so they do not come over to his parents' house often. Aldo is taxi driver and that is how he supports his famiy. Judith runs a little store from inside their house, selling staple groceries to families in their little barrio (neighborhood). We're happy that so far we've seen Aldo and his family 3 times since we've been here!
 Aldo and Judith have three precious children. Hudson is the oldest. He is 8 years old and loves school! He reminds us a lot of Jayden. Jairo is 6 years old. Their little girl is Alison Jamie and she is 3 years old.  It's been a joy watching Jayden and Edson getting to know their Bolivian cousins. We hope they will get to spend even more time with them before we head home.
 Gerson's Sister: Cathy

Cathy is the family care-giver. She is a true SERVANT! She lives with Gerson's parents and takes marvelous care of her mother when she is sick. She also keeps the rooms of the house clean, does the yard work, and helps in the kitchen when Mama Dora is sick. She has just finished taking her classes at BEU to get her degree in English. She has her final exam to take, and then she can graduate! She works at a Christian school within walking distance of their home, where she teaches English to elementary children.
 Gerson was the first Christian in his family. He prayed for the others and Cathy was the next person to understand her need for Christ. Cathy and Gerson began praying together fervently for the rest of the family, and one by one, they all accepted Christ and are living for Him! Cathy is a real prayer warrior and loves the Lord. I can't wait for God to bring along a godly man who will embrace her, her gifts, and her ministries. She is a woman on fire for the Lord!
 Gerson's Youngest Sister: Silvana

Silvana is a professional basketball player here in Bolivia. We went to one of her games, but she didn't get to play because the other team didn't show up. We were disappointed and hope that she will play again before we leave. As I stated above, although she is considered a professional, the pay is nothing like you'd expect for a professional athlete in the States. However, she does make enough to support herself. She rents an apartment several blocks from her parents and lives independently --- which is NOT normal for a young female in this Latin culture.
Silvana also goes to school. She is studying something called "Physical Activity." The way I understand it, this type of degree would allow her to be a PE teacher, own and run a gym, or even coach sports. She still has two years of studies ahead of her. She is the sister who joyfully washes our clothes by hand for us. She has also helped a lot by helping me take care of the boys.

So, now you have met Gerson's family! This is them in a nutshell. :) I am blessed to have such incredible in-laws who embraced me and accepted me from the first moment Gerson introduced me to them. It's a joy to be reunited!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Humble Home (For a Month)

This is the road where we live for the month we're in Bolivia. Gerson's parents' home, which they rent, is the one with the huge tree --- NOT the one with the razor wire on top the wall.
Although the house doesn't have all the comforts of our house in McAllen, it does provide for all our needs and contains an abundance of LOVE!
This is the room Gerson and I share with Edson and Jayden. My amazing mother-in-law raised the money to buy the toddler bed and crib for them by renting out the trampoline to neighborhood kids in the evenings! What an business woman!
The kitchen is the structure in the background where Gerson is working. The second day we were here the wind was so strong it almost blew the tin roof off the kitchen! Gerson and his dad got to work putting heavy wooden rods on top. The room where we sleep will be the dining room when we leave, so for the time being we mostly eat outside on the plastic table where you can see Jayden sitting.
 Don't worry about the rustic conditions. My mother-in-law believes in cleanliness. Even though she cooks in rough conditions, she maintains a clean kitchen! She doesn't even have a sink in which to wash the dishes; instead, she uses plastic tubs.
If you are a detailed person, you may have seen the washer and dryer in the back of the kitchen. However, since Gerson's family has just moved to this new house, they have not been able to hook up the washing machine to water yet. Therefore, all of our clothes have to be hand-washed! Bless my sister-in-law, Silvana, for washing our clothes for us! I'm thankful she actually ENJOYS this chore. I've never had such clean clothes in my life! 
After washing them by hand, she had to hang them all up to dry. Don't worry ---- she really did have a sense of humor about it. She loves serving in this way!
Our bathroom is NOT an outhouse, for which I'm very thankful. Our sink is outside, but at least the toilet and shower are INSIDE. :)
 Bless my father-in-law for realizing and understanding that his "gringa" daughter-in-law considers hot water for showering pretty close to a necessity --- especially during these winter months. The temp can drop into the 50's during the night and can stay pretty cool throughout the day. This gal doesn't like cold showers on HOT days, let alone COLD days! Most Bolivian homes do not have hot water heaters, nor do the they have heat in general, so if the cold remains for several days, it feels colder than it actually may be. So, Daddy Fermin installed a rustic hot water heater. If I explained how it worked, it would probably make you nervous for my safety, so I won't go into details. Suffice it to say that I flip that black switch and turn the white switch on the shower head, and VOILA, I have enough hot water "to skin a pig," as they like to tell me. This gal is happy with whatever hot water I can get! :)
 The kids take even a more rustic approach to bathing. They bathe out in the yard. We heat water on the stove in our almost-outdoor kitchen, add a little cold water, and my two boys are happily splashing away.
Although it may seem backward and lacking in today's luxuries that many consider needs, this home is full of joy, laughter, love, and the Holy Spirit! I will admit it is sometimes a hard life. But, it's a GOOD life --- one full of blessings that can't be put into dollar signs!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bye-Bye USA, Hello Bolivia!

It is a long journey to Bolivia, and for us it was especially long this time. Our missionary friends and co-workers, Tim and Kim Benner, drove us from McAllen to Brownsville at 5:00 AM on July 18th. I had told Jayden we would eat at McDonald's when we arrived at the airport. That was a big mistake, because Jayden doesn't forget promises! Little did I know that the Brownsville airport didn't have a McDonald's. It only had one restaurant and it was outside of the security checkpoint. Needless to say, my little guy was disappointed!

I continued to tell him that eventually we would find a McDonald's, but I had no idea how difficult it was going to be! We had a short layover in Houston, and although our flight got delayed, we weren't sure how long the delay was going to be and we needed to remain at our gate. There was no McDonald's in view. Again, Jayden was saddened.

We arrived in Miami, picked up our luggage, and headed out to wait for our hotel shuttle. We considered eating in the airport before heading to the hotel, but we knew that the hotel had a restaurant and were hoping there would be restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. We caught our hotel shuttle, checked into our 5th floor room, and headed downstairs to try to find some food. Would you believe there were NO restaurants besides the hotel restaurant within walking distance. Needless to say, the hotel restaurant was a far cry from McDonald's!

After a night in the hotel, my boy STILL had not forgotten about Mommy's promise to eat McDonalds. (Now, I was getting a tad bit nervous since I knew we wouldn't be finding a McDonald's in Bolivia!) We checked in at the Taca desk, checked our luggage, and decided to go ahead through security and find our gate, even though we were about 4 hours early to the airport. As we were going through security, I hear Jayden's voice cry out, "MCDONALD'S!" much to the amusement of the elderly gentleman who was checking our passports and tickets. He grinned and said, "My son always had a nose for french fries, too." I asked the kind man where McDonald's was and he pointed behind himself and said, "Right after you get through security, there is a McDonald's." Sure, enough. My son had already spotted the sign, hence the enthusiastic yell. I was praising the Lord I got to feed my son McDonald's! We were one happy pair! You can tell from Jayden's smile he was thrilled with his lunch.
 From Miami we had a 5+ hour flight to Lima, Peru. From there we had another 2+ hour flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The boys did not sleep much on the flight from Miami to Peru, but by the time we caught our last flight, they were both tuckered, as were Mommy and Daddy. We took Edson as a lap baby, so he was on our laps the whole way. Talk about a challenge with a toddler who never slows down! Thankfully we had 3 seats and he and Jayden were able to share a seat for part of the time.
 Both boys are small enough that at one point we had them both laying down in Jayden's seat with their heads on our laps. By the end of the trip, I was carrying a sleeping Edson and Gerson was carrying a sleeping Jayden. We were ALL exhausted.
 We were greeting in Santa Cruz by quite a welcoming committee! Gerson's mom and dad, pictured above, were there. In addition, both of his sisters came as well as his brother, sister-in-law, and our 2 nephews and niece! We weren't expecting EVERYONE to come since we arrived at 2 AM. That was sacrificial on their part! We were given plenty of hugs, and since Gerson's brother is a taxi driver, we had safe transportation back to the house.
We stayed up late talking. I think we finally went to sleep around 4 or 4:30. We slept a couple of hours and then the boys woke us up, ready to start the day. The boys were starving and wanted to eat breakfast. Thankfully, about that time a woman was walking by our gate selling fruit. Edson saw the bananas and started pointing, wanting to eat them. We called out to the lady and invited her into the yard. 
 We made her day by buying a large bunch of bananas for the boys, as well as some delicious strawberries. How I've missed the fresh Bolivian fruit!
So, eating fresh fruit was the beginning of our first day in Santa Cruz. The boys haven't stopped eating fruit since. We can't keep our kitchen stocked with enough bananas, grapes, strawberries, and papaya to keep the boys full! They are both eating super well and LOVING the Bolivian treats!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bits and Pieces of Travel Adventures

Here we are in Bolivia after two and half years of being away. I knew we had arrived in South America when we landed in Lima, Peru and were told we had to go through security after getting off the plane to catch our connection to Santa Cruz. I´m used to not having to go through security if just catching a connection, so both Gerson and I were startled when we were directed to a LONG line of people waiting to go through security. We thought we had less than an hour until our connecting plane left, and by looking at the long line in front of us, we thought we´d be spending the night there in the airport. However, thanks to our two little guys, we were given preference and ushed to the front of the line where we, once again, went through the whole drill of removing our shoes, belts, watches, etc. Were we ever relieved to get through that!

Our next adventure was to find Gate 18, which according to our flight attendant was where we would find our connecting flight to Santa Cruz. We got there, out of breathe after hurrying through security and carrying both kids plus all our carry on baggage, only to find out that it WAS NOT our gate. Once again, panic set in. Time was flying by and according to our boarding passes, the flight was about to leave. We found a arrival and departure board and looked up our flight. Hallelujah! It was  just a few gates down at Gate 26 and it was going to be leaving an hour later than we had thought!

Once we arrived at the correct gate, I left the kids with Gerson and headed to the bathroom. Remember, the last airport in which I had been was Miami. The restrooms there are plenitful and spacious. There is an abundance of stalls in each restroom and rarely is there a long line because the women can go to another restroom down the same cooridor and use one of its 30 stalls. Basically, the wait is SHORT: Not to be in Peru. There were only 3 stalls in the only women´s restroom I found. One stall was locked, although no one was in it. The other two stalls were full and there was a waiting line. I was also reminded of what continent I was on when I read in Spanish, ¨Please do not throw the toilet paper into the toilet.¨Yup. We´d arrived in South America! ¨ To be honest, it made my heart happy!

We made our connection to Santa Cruz without further problems. We were blessed, however, to meet a lovely lady from Tarija, Bolivia while waiting to board our last flight. In the course of our conversation, she learned we were evanglical (Christian) missionaries. She beamed and replied, ¨Then we speak the same language!¨ What a joy to find a fellow Christian travelling with us! Her husband owns a hotel in Tarija and she invited us to come and have coffee with her when we visit Tarija next week.

How did the kids do? They were amazing! (I wish I could download the pictures onto this blog that we took of them during our trip, but I´m at an internet cafe and it would be a little tricky. Hopefully, we´ll get internet access in the house where we are staying tomorrow. Time will tell. We are staying with Gerson´s family and they just moved last week to a different house. They haven´t had time to get the internet installed. That was on our list to do today, but grocery shopping was more important! ;) )

Back to the kids . . . they were troopers! The first day they didn´t cry at all and enjoyed both flights. We stayed in a hotel in Miami, which ended up beimg a fantastic way to break up the trip. The second day of travel was a bit harder. The flights were longer and the kids were worn out from the previous day´s excitement and schedule. There was some crying and some rough moments. but considering we spent 12 hours ON planes and it took us just under 48 hours from the time we left our house on Wednesday morning to when we landed in Santa Cruz on Friday morning, I´d say they did super well!

The funniest thing that happened with the kids was when Jayden looked out the window as we were landing on one of our flights and yelled out, ¨Look, ants!! A LOT of ants!¨ I looked out the window and saw a LOT of CARS!!! Gerson and I laughed and laughed! It was a joy to see things from his three year old point of view.

Thanks for all your prayers. I have so much more I want to share with you, but at this point it´s going to have to wait. I need to go back ¨home¨ and have ¨tecito¨ (light supper) with my family. We love you all and appreciate your prayers more than you know. Gerson has already preached once and is scheduled to preach 2 more times in the coming weeks. I´ll keep the updates coming as much as possible. I will also try to have photos uploaded soon.