Friday, December 07, 2007

Times of Rejoicing for the Cardona Family

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4

The Cardona family has been a rock for the church here in Santiago for years. They have given their hearts and served the church in more ways than we know. This last year for their family has been one of miracles and answered prayers. Sometimes it feels like God knows just the right time to answer the prayers we have prayed for years. Over a month ago, Jorge Ivan and Maria Lucia were able to baptize their oldest daughter, Mariana (15). There are very few things I can think of that are more special than baptizing your child. Jorge Ivan said that it was one of the best days of his life. Only a little while later, they received a call from an adoption agency with news that there was a little boy ready for them to take home. As a family, they have prayed earnestly and dreamed for that moment. A few Sundays ago we were able to hear a welcome at church from the Cardona family with their new son, Juan Pablo (11mos). Maria Lucia shared in tears that God has truly given her the desires of her heart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Special Missions Offering

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. - Ephesians 4:16

This past Wednesday, November 14th, the church here in Santiago took up a Special Offering. The leadership had recognized the need for extra financial support in September and decided to have this special offering to help meet the needs in Santiago and in the mission churches of Concepción and Viña del Mar. With only a short time to prepare, the disciples here gave with all of their hearts and raised almost 2,400,000 Pesos which is about $4700. That might not seem like much to disciples in first-world churches, but it's a big sacrifice for the Chilean disciples.

We were especially proud of the Teen and Campus ministries who put together an event called "La Velada Primavera". It was an evening of entertainment, food and fun with all the proceeds going to the special offering. Some of the teens worked in the kitchen preparing home-made juices, sandwiches, pizzas and snacks while others served the food and collected money. The campus students and a few other disciples worked to put together various types of entertainment. I played the part of Don Jeronimo in a short comedic sketch called "Médico a puros palos". Altogether it was an enjoyable night for many disciples that resulted in an offering to help advance God's kingdom.

Other than the offering, another source of encouragement has been our newly added sister, Diana Arrue. Diana is the daughter of Italo, a brother who has been a disciple for a number of years in Santiago. Diana had studied the Bible a number of times before this summer, but in the midst of the recent difficulties in the church, God was really working on her heart. She studied almost every week with Kay and some of the other campus girls and was baptized on October 14. Since then she has been a dedicated member of the campus ministry.

God continues to work in amazing ways even while we are surrounded by trials and temptations. I personally have been very encouraged by my recent studies of Mark and Isaiah. So much so, that I've started another blog, La Palabra Poderosa to share some of the things I'm learning. My Spanish is a work in progress, so please be gracious.

Please keep us in your prayers as we close out 2007 and continue to seek God's will in 2008.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A little strengthening action

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Acts 18:23

We have had the chance this past month to travel to both Montevideo, Uruguay and Concepción, Chile to strengthen the brothers and sisters there. It is an answer to many prayers that we are able to be down here in South America and live a small portion of what Paul was able to live. Honestly it was a time of strengthening for us also. It is sobering to visit small churches that are struggling to stay together and keep their faith burning strong. It is hard to see the needs so great and feel like there is no way to meet them all.

We traveled to Montevideo in the beginning of October and spent a great week with the six disciples that are there. It was incredible to spend time with Pablo and Rosa, who are leading the group, and strengthen our friendship. We have made a commitment to each other to talk every week and it has been great so far. We are really praying that God will inject faith into the group even though it is so small. While we were there, Kay was able to meet a girl who wanted to study the bible. It was a small reminder that there are people everywhere searching for God, we just need to find them and bring them to him.

This last week we spent time in Concepción, which is a city about six hours by bus from Santiago . There is a group there of 12 disciples, two of which were baptized in the last couple of months. It is a young church that was planted this year from Santiago. We have recently begun a "Member Missionary" training program here in Santiago that will be sending groups to Concepción and Viña del Mar starting in December. We will be doing a 4-week training course and then begin sending out small groups every month to encourage our smaller sister congregations. Right now, we have about 25 disciples training with us for these projects and they are fired up about giving and serving and traveling, by their own means, to help these brothers and sisters.

We were able to spend time with the disciples in both Montevideo and Concepción talking about faith and praying for God's hand to protect them from the attacks of Satan. There is so much work to be done and so many prayers to be prayed. But we know that God is working, and we are confident in his promise that they will be "more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You went where?!

Afghanistan - May 2007

In May of this year we were able to take one of the most amazing trips we could have imagined taking. With one suitcase for the three of us, we got on a plane to Kabul, Afghanistan to visit my parents, Dan and Mary Allison. We had thought about going and tried to plan it earlier, but this was the time that worked for all of us. Our minds raced to imagine what we might see or even the dangers we might face, especially bringing a six month old with us. On the way, we had an overnight layover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then flew into Kabul the next morning.

We got off the plane and entered into another world altogether. Every woman, and there were not very many at the airport, had her head covered and showed no skin on the rest of her body. The men were serious and businesslike. The women and men didn't interact much. As we walked into the customs area, a man pulled me up to the front of the line with Maya and left John at the back of the line. I admit it was a little scary, but I waited for him on the other side while he went through the line. Maya was, of course, dazzling everyone and calling attention with her bright blue eyes. After the luggage arrived we walked out of the airport to meet my parents and Fayaz, who works with them in the HOPE office.

The air in Kabul is orange if you can imagine it. There is dust everywhere and you can't help but think of the time when Jesus lived because it is at least closer to what he might have seen. The day we arrived, President Karzai had also been traveling and so we saw a good number of military officers and military vehicles around the airport. We arrived at the HOPE compound in the heat of the day and for the first time met the staff my parents have come to love so dearly. They greeted us with as much warmth as they could muster. Afghans are not generally affectionate, but in there eyes you could see how glad they were to have us visiting.

We got acquainted with the offices, the rooms where the international staff live and the room where everyone comes together to eat. It was incredible to finally see and feel what my pare

nts had been living for the past year and a half. In the subsequent days, we were able to visit a few different parts of the city, including the Malalai Emergency facility that HOPE Worldwide is constructing and a women's prison where HOPE WW plans to provide some vocational training. In the afternoons, we were able to jo

in the staff, along with some of the orphan children that they care for, in some friendly games of volleyball.

One of the highlights of the trip was traveling with nearly the entire HOPE staff to a mountain that jets out into the center of Kabul. Rumor has it that the wall lining the top of this mountain was built by Alexander the Great thousands of years ago. We climbed for a couple of hours until we reached the peak and could see the entire city. It was breathtaking!

During our time there, we were able to see and hear about the grants that they are applying for and get a picture of all of the ways that HOPE is planning to serve in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan in the years to come. Often times when we hear of Afghanistan, all we hear about is violence and we get a sense that there is no hope for the country. What they never put on the news is the hundreds of organizations that are there risking their lives to rebuild it. It was so obvious to us that there truly are beacons of light in Kabul and people that are trying desperately to bring hope to a hurting people. We are so grateful that we were able to take the trip to see my parents, their home and their work. It is an experience we will never forget.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HOPE in Santiago

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

But he answered, "You give them something to eat." Mark 6:37

God's heart has been and will always be a heart of compassion, sympathy and mercy towards those who are in need. Jesus himself demonstrated this when he fed the 5,000.

Within the church here in Santiago, we have a small ministry of HOPE. The group is made up of disciples who have deep desire to help the poor and needy. Right now the ministry has two projects that happen every weekend. On Saturday mornings, a group goes out to the central market to give food to the many homeless people who gather there. Another group goes on Sunday afternoons to a home for orphans to spend time with the children there.

I've started going on Saturday mornings and it is has been an incredible experience for me. Many of the disciples wake up before 7 am on Saturday to make it to the location by 8 am so that we can prepare the sandwiches and coffee for the people who are waiting. Although at first it seemed like a sacrifice to wake up early and go out in the cold, it has become one of my favorite times of the week.

Each week I get to spend an hour talking with and listening to people who have very different lives than mine, but who's souls are in need of the very same things: love, encouragement and hope. Sometimes I can share a scripture with them, sometimes I just listen. But every time I walk away amazed by God's grace and the hope that we can find in Him.

On September 15th to celebrate the "Fiestas Patrias", we brought empanadas and music. Also, some disciples who dance the tradional "Cueca" came and performed. It was inspiring to see the transformation that occured with a little music and dancing. The men and women who usually appear discouraged and sad about life, became joyful and alive. I realized then how a small amount of love and thought could really make a positive impact. If you want to see more photos of that day, click here to see the photo album.

I've decided that every saturday that I am able, I will go to serve those who are in need. I know that it will help my heart to be more like Christ and to be more grateful for all that God has done in my life. I pray and believe that at the same time God will bring hope to those who are hurting here in Santiago and everywhere in the world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plans to give you a hope and a future

(Missionaries from Viña del Mar, Concepción y Rancagua)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:1-5

This weekend was an incredible time of hope for the disciples in Santiago, Chile as we enjoyed a reunion of all the disciples in Chile. We shared our homes, our hearts and God's word with our brothers and sisters from Rancagua, Viña del Mar and Concepción. This is a special week in Chile as the country celebrates its independence. Friday night we worshiped together and heard a great lesson about loving one another with a deep love. Most of the visiting disciples arrived on Saturday and we learned about the great faith we can have in God from Cristian Escobar. An encouraging time of fellowship was enjoyed by all. We also had a focused time of praise and worship to God where we sang almost every song arm in arm with one another.

Sunday was an amazing service followed by a family lunch and an Independence Day party. The church stayed late in the afternoon to fellowship, eat together and dance the Cueca. The focus of the service was Romans 5 and the hope that we have in Christ. I was privileged to speak for communion about the hope we have through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus. Christian Amestoy preached a lesson from Romans 5 that challenged us to stand firm in the hope that we have. In all that we have been through in the church here recently, we are confident that suffering will produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

We saw an incredible victory also, having Delia restored in her walk with God. She shared with the church in tears of gratitude for God's mercy in her life. During the service we had a special video with good news from different parts of the world and also pictures of the many souls God has brought to himself in Chile. It is incredible to look at the miracles that God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those around the world. Before the communion, we sang "Amazing Grace" in Spanish, in French and in English. The words of the song profoundly impacted the church as we meditated on the grace that God has given us in saving our souls. With this hope, we can walk in confidence that it "was grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Feliz Cumpleaños Maya!

On Saturday, Sept. 8th we had a grand Minnie Mouse Celebration for Maya's first birthday! Some of her new friends came to play and share a great time together. Maya has been received with such warmth here in Santiago. Her first year has certainly been eventful. The first few weeks of her life she shared her home with Uncle Jonathan and three of her cousins. Since then she has traveled the world. When Maya was 4 months old she traveled to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with Mom and Dad. At 6 months she went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Allison in Afghanistan. And now here in Santiago, Chile she is doing great. Maya has a way of drawing people to her that is almost magical. We are so grateful to have such a special little girl. We can't wait to see what the next years have

in store for her.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A very special visit

On Monday, August 6, Chase Mackintosh arrived in Santiago for a very interesting two weeks with us. Chase came with the group of disciples that came to Chile from Gainesville, FL in June, 2006. He made a huge impact last year and had a great desire to come back. So when we decided to come move to Santiago, he told us he was coming.

The entire time he was here, he was a great encouragement to us. A few days after Chase arrived, Raúl Moreno called the church to follow him in joining the Portland Movement. Chase joined us and the disciples in many hours of Bible study, prayer and discussion. We wrestled together over many scriptures as we tried to understand God's will in this very difficult decision. As we prayed and read, it became very clear that God is completely opposed to division within His body. A few of the scriptures that really helped us were:

Ephesians 4:3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Corinthians 1:10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Colossians 1:17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Later on, Martin & Carmen Bentley, John & Silvia Reus and Terry Folker came to Santiago to help advise us and direct the church toward Jesus in this difficult time. On Saturday, Aug. 10 we met with the church for almost 5 hours in an attempt to help clear up confusion, answer people's questions and mostly examine the Scriptures. On Sunday, Aug. 11 we had an incredible worship service in which Chase sung "Solo Puedo Imaginarme". The song, a Spanish translation of "I Can Only Imagine", helped the church focus on overcoming our current trials and being with Jesus forever. Personally, I don't know if I've ever been so encouraged by a song as I was that Sunday.

Sunday afternoon we met together and again on Monday morning. It was a weekend filled with every emotion possible. Chase was there through it all, doing his very best to share his heart and encourage the disciples to remain faithful to the Scriptures.

During the following week Chase made special times to spend with some of the teens as well as other disciples that he wanted to encourage. Each night he'd come back to our apartment and share with us about his times and his victories in Spanish.

As the two weeks came to an end, a few things became clear to me. First, that the church here is filled with incredible disciples who love God, love His Scriptures, love one another and love the lost.There are now about 260 brothers and sisters worshiping together in the Iglesia Internacional de Cristo de Santiago. (For a more detailed description of the recent events, see Martin Bentley's letter here.) Second, our efforts for unity must be greater than ever. Chase's presence here alone was a great statement about the unity of the churches. It takes money, time, sacrifice and great amounts of patience to achieve unity, but it is totally worth it. Third, we need each other so much. God knew all that would happen in the two weeks that Chase was here and he knew that we needed a great friend to help us out.

Chase, we thank you and each and every disciple in Florida and all over the world who loves us and the churches in South America. Thank you for your sacrifice and friendship. Please keep praying for us and never stop fighting for unity.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Weather in Santiago

There's been a whole lot going on here in Santiago in the past month or so, and I don't have time to write about it right now, but there is something I wanted to share quickly, especially for all of our friends in the northern hemisphere.

This picture was taken on July 28 at around 5 pm. We were spending time at the Cardona's house and as we looked outside we realized that it was snowing. It's not like we've never seen snow before, but snow in the middle of July is not what we're used to. This year has seen the coldest temperatures here in Santiago since 1942. So we decided we had to take a picture so that all of our friends who are sweating through the summer in the US could see what we're experiencing.

Not only that, but just one week ago it actually snowed in downtown Santiago. That's something that has not happened in over 30 years. After church on Wednesday night we were walking home and it was snowing!! Of course it didn't stay too long, but it was pretty amazing while it lasted.

These are historic times here in Santiago, Chile and we're grateful that God has seen fit for us to be here to experience them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Week 1 in Santiago

We arrived in Santiago, Chile just one week ago and what a week its been!

Last Tuesday when we arrived, Raul and Lynda welcomed us with open arms. They gave us their bedroom and have taken great care of us. They lead the church here in Santiago and have become good friends in the past 4 years as we have visited. They have two children, Felipe who is two years old and Isabella who is 6 months old. Isabella and Felipe have been having a great time playing with Maya.

The first thing that Raul and I did was to go to the Cerro San Cristóbal and pray. The Cerro is the tallest hill in the middle of Santiago and it offers a great view of the city. After that we got right to work. Kay and I were both able to be in Bible Studies each day.

Kay was involved in a study with a Brazilian woman named Rigianni. Even though the study was in Portuguese, Kay was able to understand most of the conversation and even contribute a few times. After studying Wednesday through Saturday, Rigianni got baptized on Sunday! Rigianni is in the middle of Lynda and Kay in the photo above.

I was able to be in studies with two different people. First, I was in the Cross study with a campus student named Nicolás on Wednesday. He is a very hard worker with a soft heart for God. After hearing about the sacrifice of Jesus, he knew he wanted to be a disciple. Later on in the week I studied with Francisco. He has been coming to church for a while and is still learning about God. On Sunday, Nico was baptized at church and we are hoping that Francisco can get baptized some time soon.

On Friday, the teens and campus students got together and welcomed us with a Chilean-style party. We ate completos (hot dogs with tomatoes, avocados and mayo) and torta (cake). We also played a number of games together to get to know each other. Already we feel loved by the group and we look forward to seeing what God is going to do.

Please keep praying for us, especially that we can keep warm. Most of the buildings don't have heat and with the temperature staying around the 40s we have to wear almost all of our winter clothes every day. But all in all we're having a great time and learning a lot.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Acts 8 Story

A few weeks ago we went down to Sarasota, FL to be a part of a very special occasion - Joe Bruno's wedding. It was a long time coming, but it was an amazing event. The wedding was held on the beautiful white sands of Sarasota right as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico. Here's a picture of Joseph and Sam Bruno right after they were pronounced husband and wife.

So, Saturday, June 9th was a great day because of the wedding. But little did we know that God had a great surprise in store for June 10th.

In Acts 8, we read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian. Philip is directed by the Holy Spirit to run up to a chariot. As he does, he meets the rider, explains the good news about Jesus and then baptizes the Ethiopian and goes on his way.

On Saturday while I was preparing for the wedding with Bruno, one of our friends Caroline Sofarelli asked Kay if she could come and study the Bible with her mom Tina. Tina lives in Alaska and was only down for that week to spend time with Caroline. Since we were going to be there anyways and Kay had helped Caroline become a Christian, Kay gladly said yes. After about three hours of studying the Bible with Kay and Caroline, Tina saw her need for God and decided she wanted to be baptized. Kay encouraged her to think and pray about it some more and call us in the morning.

Sunday morning we got up and Caroline called us to tell us that her mom wanted to get baptized. So we drove just a little north of Sarasota to another great beach. We met Tony and Caroline along with Tina. After a brief time of talking and sharing scriptures, Tina confessed Jesus as Lord of her life and was baptized.

Now Tina is back in Alaska worshiping God and rejoicing in her new found salvation. Praise be to God!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Our new adventure

So, its been a long time since we've updated our blog. That's because a lot has been happening and a lot has changed.

The short version goes like this. In the last two months, we've sold almost all of our posessions, visited two new countries and significantly changed direction in our missionary adventure.

Since telling three stories at once is a bit too confusing, I'll start with the change of direction with our life plans.

Proverbs 16: 9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Our plan for the past 10 months has been to move to Montevideo, Uruguay to help reinvigorate the struggling church there. However, all along God has been working to accomplish His will and as we've recently discovered His will is a little different than what we had been planning. And that's actually really great.

After seeking advice of many wise and spiritual men, and after praying a lot, we along with others decided that right now was not the best time for us to go to Montevideo. Instead we will be going to Santiago, Chile. For a number of different reasons, we feel good about starting our missionary adventure in Chile instead of Uruguay. We've visited Santiago 4 times in the past 4 years and we have many dear friends there. We'll be able to learn spanish with the support of a large church. Also we'll be able to help raise up leaders that can help plant more churches all over the southern cone.

And so the question comes, What about Montevideo? We still have dreams for what the church can be in Montevideo and we believe that God is working right now to make great things happen. There is already a couple that has been leading in Chile that is being prepared to go to Montevideo sometime within the next year. Our hope is that for the next few months we can visit the group that is already in Montevideo and encourage them until this other couple can move there permanently. We have continued to be in contact with our friends in Montevideo and they are faithful that God is and will provide for them.

So, on July 2nd we'll take a few suitcases, board a plane and begin our new adventure in South America!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Finally an update!

Alright, so our big church traveling tour has ended. It has been great, but it has also been a whirlwind. Here's where we've been so far in 2007:

January 10-15 Santiago, Chile for South American Church Leaders Retreat.
January 15-17 Buenos Aires, Argentina visiting the church there.
January 18-25 Montevideo, Uruguay scouting the land for when we move there this summer.

If you want to know more about this trip, I wrote a much longer summary on our website: It's called Scouting Trip Report.

After we came back to the US, we've been speaking all around Florida about Montevideo. Here's where we've been:

Jan 31 - Jacksonville Church of Christ
Feb 4 - Tampa Bay Church
Feb 6 - South Miami (South Florida Church of Christ)
Feb 7 - North Miami (SFCoC)
Feb 11 - Broward and West Miami (Spanish)
Feb 18 - Fort Myers/Naples Church
Feb 23-25 - Tampa for Family Dynamics Facilitator Training seminar
March 4 - Orlando Church of Christ
March 7 - The church at Shiloh Farm (Tallahassee)
March 11 - Capitol City Church of Christ (Tallahassee)

Our last speaking engagement (that we know of) will be for our home church, the Gainesville Christian Church on April 1.

We are super grateful that God allowed us to do all of these things and share with all of these people. At every church we have received an incredible welcome and so many people wishing us well and saying they will pray for us. I am reminded of the scripture in Luke 12 when I think about this time in our lives:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

I feel like God has entrusted us with so much by letting us go to speak at so many churches and share about our mission. I know that we are unworthly, but we are very grateful to be God's servants. I feel like God accomplished a lot in these trips. It seems that at least 3 things happened:

1. Relationships were built.
We were able to become much better friends with various leaders and members in all of the churches. I'm sure that these relationships will be invaluable in the future. Who knows where God will take us, but it will always help to have good relationships with people in many churches.

2. The heart for missions was stirred.
All throughout the state, it seems that there is a re-awakening about missions going on. Each church is at a different place, but I think that our visits spurred each church to consider their committment to missions both overseas and at home. Hopefully also, more people will begin to dream to be used by God in this way. Certainly not everyone is meant for overseas missionary work, but I believe that many more in our churches can dream this way than are right now.

3. Sacrifice was encouraged.
As we shared about a church of seven people, some of whom have a very difficult time making it to church because of the $.70 bus ride, people were encouraged to sacrifice. We, here in the United States are so rich. I believe that greed/love for money might be the sin that condemns more Americans to hell than any other. I'm not trying to judge people in our culture, but I know that our brothers and sisters all over the world are living on very small incomes while we are going more and more in debt and acumulating more and more earthly treasures. I think there are many more sermons that need to be preached about materialism in our churches here, but I believe that many were encouraged to sacrifice more. I know that I need to pray more to be more sacrificial "so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified from the prize".

So, I am very grateful to God for the opportunity to share His Word in so many places. Now we're going to get some rest and get ready to make the most of our last 4 months living in the US.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Not much blogging

Wow, well we haven't posted anything in a while. Life has been crazy these past few months. Most of our updates are on the SaveUruguay website. If you want to see what we're up to, you can check us out there.