Monday, December 22, 2008

El Vallecito - Camping in Chile



My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation;    
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

In November and December we took two different groups of students to a place known as "El Vallecito" or the little valley. Its a place just outside the city, on the way to the higher mountains. Its a great place because its fairly easy to get to, relatively deserted and free!

Our focus with these trips was to get away from the busyness of life in the city, enjoy nature and reconnect with God. Each time we spent various times together reading the scriptures, praying, singing and talking about spiritual topics such as God's love, things we learned in 2008 etc. 

I thank God for all of the incredibly beautiful places He has created on this earth and that we can get away, take a deep breath and find our rest in Him. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Spring Time in Santiago

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. Acts 9:31

We were able to do lots of fun things in the spring month of November here in Santiago. It has been beautiful outside making park services and outdoor fun activities almost weekly events. The campus ministry got together for a park service one Sunday and heard a great communion lesson by Juan Pablo, one of the great young students in our ministry. Hector, another student preached a great message about being aware of Satan's schemes that helped all of us tremendously.
video
We have been having some great bible discussions on campus this semester. One of them takes place at the Catholic University which has been ranked as the most prestigious university in Chile. It has been a great semester as we have really seen God move in the times we have met together. Especially encouraging is Maria Paz being baptized a few months ago and two other students now studying the bible on the campus.














We have also been able to enjoy celebrating a few birthday parties with great friends in the last few weeks. It is always such and joy to get friends together. Here are a few pics of some good times...
On a side note, check out John's other blog for some of his recent studies about trusting in God (lapalabrapoderosa.blogspot.com).

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Edge - International Leadership Conference

From October 5-15, I had the opportunity 

to make a trip to the other side of the world to attend the 2008 International Leadership Conference of the ICOC in Kiev, Ukraine. It was an amazing trip for many reasons: very long, very inspirational, very memorable.

 

My trip took me from Santiago to Atlanta to Paris to Vilnius to Kiev and back. I got to spend a day in Paris on the way there and on the way back. At the conference I was able to see a number of old friends as well as hear many inspiring and convicting classes. On the way back I got to spend time with a good friend, Jon Sherwood while in Atlanta.

 

All

 in all it was a trip I'll never forget. I praise God for the way that he is working all over the world to help our brotherhood of churches grow and mature. The news of baptisms, growth, learning and advancing through faith called me higher and encouraged me to keep working with God to preach the Word and stay on the Edge with Jesus.

 

Below are a few pictures and some quotes from classes that really impacted me.


Preachers should comfort the afflicted and afflict the com

fortable - G.Ferguson

Having one main leader provides the clear voice of inspiration that churches need - G. Ferguson

United leadership takes time, effort and pain - G. Ferguson

Harmony and Unity are God's will (Psalm 133) - T. Singh

Passion is essential. Everybody has passion and they are just looking for where to put it - S. Wooten

There is a certain joy that is lost when we are not giving away the love of the cross - S. Wooten

What can you do to help build ligaments (Eph. 4)? J. Renton

The church does not grow through compromise - M. Fontenot

When prophets repent, the fire rains down - M. Fontenot

Campus ministry requires lots of hard work - M. Taliaferro

Young people need six meaningful adult relationships  - J. Porter

Good parenting can overcome a bad church situation - A. Hill

It takes time to invest in the family but it yields fruit that will last - D. Pocta

When you decide to get well, humility and decision are what is needed - D. Arthur

Do you expect the lordship of Jesus in the life of every disciple? B. Williams

Expectations will not increase without confrontation - B. Williams

Fear is not a weakness, it is a sin - M. Alhinn

There is only one message of the cross where two opposing ideas come together - A. Fleming 



Saturday, October 04, 2008

Good News



For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future..."Jer 29:11

It is always good for our hea
rts to think about the ways that God is working in people's lives, the miracles he is doing and how people are growing. In the last couple of months we have seen some encouraging things happen here in Santiago in the lives of some of our friends.

We were privileged to be able to participate in two engagements of clo
se friends. Jose and Priscila are a great encouragement to the church and we are so excited for them as they plan to marry in January. Priscila's mother and entire family came to their engagement party and left deeply impacted by the love that was showered on her daughter. Her mother decided that she would come to church with Priscila the next day and is looking forward to coming to our Women's Day in November.

Jose Miguel and Veronica
got engaged in September and
at their engagement expressed intense gratitude for what God has done in their lives up until this point. Jose Miguel first came to the church over 10 years ago now and studied the bible multiple times before making his final decision this year to make Jesus Lord. He introduced Veronica to the church and to the scriptures as he studied the bible and they were baptized on the same day! Now, a year later, they are celebrating the relationship that they are building with God as the center.

Also we were able to see some great friends, Juan Guillermo and María-Paz begin dating. After meeting almost 9 years ago, Juan Guillermo shared his faith with his good friend Mari for over a year. She was humbled before the word and incredibly grateful that her long time friend showed her the way to a relationship with God. We are so excited for them to now be dating and watch how God has great plans for our lives when we surrender to his will.

Some more great news is that John was able to see a great friend, Agustin, be baptized
into Christ! In January, Agustin began to think deeply about studying the bible and in March he started slowly to look in to the scriptures. He had very little belief in God's word and Jesus at the time and has studied diligently with the brothers ever since. His faith has grown and we have watched Agustin be transformed, understanding and believing in Jesus for the first time in his life.

It is refreshing to watch God's hand move in each of our lives and the lives of those around us!

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:3-6

Monday, September 22, 2008

Maya is 2!

On Tuesday, September 9th, Maya turned a big 2 years old! We had a great week of fun and celebration.

To celebrate Chile's Fiestas Patrias (18th of September), Maya danced the cueca with her classmates from "The Happy House", her little school.

The next day we returned to share the joy of Maya's birthday with her amiguitos. Kay made an amazing 3 layer cake that everybody enjoyed.

video
Finally, when we got home we got to unwrapping the gifts. From Daddy, Maya got some new shoes. From Mommy, a toy stroller to take her baby dolls around. And from both Grandmas some new clothes!

Speaking words in Spanish and English, learning new things everyday, jumping, running and playing; we're so proud of our big 2 year old! Happy Birthday Maya!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trip to Concepción


We had a great time a couple of weeks ago traveling south to Concepción to visit the small church there. In April, we sent out from Santiago an incredible couple, Patricio and Daisy, to the small mission church. They are working part time for the church and are doing an incredible job there. Carolina was baptized about a month ago and has brought joy and encouragement to the group. We are so proud of Pato and Daisy and the church. It is so great to know that they are fighting "with all his energy"(Col 1:28) for Concepción.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation!

Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.
Isaiah 25:9

This week there are angels rejoicing in heaven and many rejoicing with them here on earth because two incredible campus students have decided to make Jesus Lord of their lives.

On Wednesday night the campus ministry piled in to our living room to share this special moment with María Paz. God has taken her through many intense times in her life up until this point in order to draw her to him. Over a year ago, María Paz started thinking about God as one of the brothers in the campus shared with her about his life. She began to study the bible with some of the sisters but very shortly after, decided to step away from the challenge of living her life for Christ. Almost six months later, God drew her back as her older brother was in a life-threatening accident. He survived and has recovered well, but her heart was changed completely through it. She decided to begin studying the bible again and didn't slow down for two months. On Wednesday she shared with intense gratitude and brokenness before God and the brothers and sisters. It was encouraging also to have her mother, her cousin and her best friend there with us on her special day.

Thursday night the fun continued as we piled in the campus students once again to be apart of Alejandra's baptism. God has worked similarly in her life as she first visited the church in 2006 and studied the bible last year but walked away not wanting to give up everything to follow God. A few months ago she came walking in to church alone, scared that no one would accept her. Her heart for God has been a light for the ministry. He has carried her through some rough times and left her convinced that there is nothing more worth living for than God. In the process of studying the bible this year her mother suddenly became very ill and has been in the hospital now for nearly a month. She has undergone multiple surgeries on her intestines and is recovering slowly. Alejandra has been forced to look to God and learn about faith, about believing in what she does not see. Thursday night was a time of great joy and rejoicing for her and for all of us who have fought alongside her.

God has brought two girls from opposite sides of Santiago to know the wonders of his love and the joy we find in his amazing grace. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thank You Florida!!!

We want to say thank you to all the churches in Florida who have constantly and unconditionally given to the churches in the Southern Cone of South America. This VIDEO is a thank you specifically from the Spanish speaking churches in the Southern Cone to each of our sister congregations. We are forever indebted to you for your generosity spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. You have watched out for us, discipled us, prayed for us, sent us missionaries and have been a great example for us in the Lord. From Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Bolivia: THANK YOU!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Los Tigres Blancos

Fútbol. Soccer. Whatever you call it I knew when we decided to come to South America that I was going to have to learn how to play sooner or later. Here in Chile, they are not into fútbol as much as perhaps in other countries, but that doesn't mean they don't love it. I hadn't actually had the opportunity to play until June came around and the church had it's first tournament.

So I decided that I'd go ahead and play with the teens figuring that being on a young team probably wouldn't be too bad. We were called the Tigres Blancos (White Tigers) and I was totally mistaken. We played on Sundays after church, five games in total. The first Sunday I was sick, but I went along to watch and take some pictures. It didn't appear that hard and I was optimistic. To make a long story short, we lost all five games - 13-3, 17-3, 9-4, 8-4, 5-4.

It wasn't pretty, but I was encouraged by a few things.

  1. We stuck together as a team and got better. After every game there was talk of quitting, but we fought through difficulties and not so great attitudes and kept going. The last two games we were actually winning for the majority of the game but couldn't pull it out.
  2. We had fun. Having fun is super important in life. It can be so easy to be boring and serious, but we ended up having a great time. I'm sure that we could have had even more fun if we would have won, but we're saving that for next time.
  3. I (sorta) learned how to play. We were playing "baby" (fútbol), a version that is played on a shorter court, kinda like a tennis court. I'm not great, or even good, but I did grow in my understanding and feel like it was an important learning experience for my development as a missionary! And I even got a medal for participation. Amazing!

    Now I'm just looking forward to the next opportunity we have to jugar la pelota. ¡Vamos Tigres Blancos!


This last picture is of the winning team, Los Pinoguachos receiving their trophy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

For they refreshed my spirit...1 Co 16:18

In May we were able to go back to the States for the first time in almost a year and spend time with our incredible family and friends. The Churches in South Florida, Orlando and Gainesville welcomed us home with open arms and loved up on us completely. It was a great time for us as a family to enjoy so many wonderful memories being made. We were able to celebrate our 5 year anniversary in Orlando where we were married. Also, a highlight of our trip was being able to participate in the HOPE Global Summit in Washington D.C. We feel so refreshed and are very grateful for the time we spent back home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…


Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Last week over 40 disciples from nine cities and five different countries came together with the brothers and sisters in Santiago to participate in the 2008 Southern Cone Discipleship Conference. We spent an incredible 5 days together studying God's word, praying, fellowshipping and eating all with the focus of fixing our eyes on Jesus. I'm not sure, but it seemed like a glimpse of the multi-national fellowship of Acts 2.

On Wednesday, we began with a typical Chilean lunch of Pastel de Choclo and empanadas while we got to know each other and shared about the various situations in our churches.


On Thursday and Friday morning we met together for a devotional time and then discipling groups. Norberto Dorantes, the leader of the church in Buenos Aires, Argentina led our thoughts on Thursday morning to the power of Jesus through the scriptures. My heart swelled with admiration as I listened to my brother who has to work part-time to support his family while still leading the church closer to God. Thursday evening Martin Bentley preached an encouraging and challenging message calling us to fix our eyes on Jesus and repent of our sins.

On Friday, Leo Santana from Santa Cruz, Bolivia gave an inspirational devo about the intensity of Jesus' prayer life and challenged us to follow Jesus' example. Each day we spent the late morning in discipling groups discussing the devo, sharing scriptures, confessing sins and encouraging one another. Having attended a similar time for leaders a year and a half ago, I could see how much God has done to work in the hearts of each church leader and to bond the churches closer in unity.


Friday afternoon we ate lunch together at the Mercado Central and then went up to the top of the hill in the middle of Santiago, Cerro San Cristobal. It was a special moment for me as I was able to see how God had answered my prayer of four years ago to be able to live in South America and help the churches here. At the top of the hill I was able to share my heart with dear friends, participate in unity-building talks and dream about the future of the church.

Saturday was a special treat for the Santiago Church as we were able to participate in a day-full of classes given by the brothers and sisters who had come from other churches, especially the US. Classes were given about marriage, finances, excellence in the workplace, dating relationships, parenting and more. During the lunch break, the fellowship was buzzing with reactions from the classes and hearts eager to change. In one day, it seemed as if the church had received an injection of maturity, wisdom, zeal and faith. Many thanks to all who shared and taught.

We finished the conference with a powerful and uplifting time of worship. Christian Amestoy reminded us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that we are all searching for. Truly it was a time of renewed faith, renewed dreams and renewed unity. Although the churches in South America have suffered a lot in the recent years, it is obvious that God is not finished with us, but instead wants to call us higher each and every day as we fix our eyes on Jesus.





Thursday, May 22, 2008

18 Anniversary - Santiago

April was a special month in Chile as we celebrated the 18th Anniversary of the church in Santiago. In 1990, a group of disciples from Buenos Aires crossed over the Andes Mountains and planted themselves in Santiago, a city that boasts a population of over 6 million. They came with great dreams and great faith that someday there would be disciples all over Chile. Today there are churches in Viña del Mar and in Concepción working together with the church in Santiago. We continue to dream for Chile and the 12 other regions yet to be reached.

 To celebrate what God has done, we decided to invite one of the former leaders of the church in Santiago along with his wife, Josué and Veronica Ortega. With incredible generosity, they offered their hearts and ears and experience to the church. For a week they poured out love and vision to the staff in daily meetings. They taught on subjects such as personal walk with God, church-building, leadership strategy and development and many other important topics. We had special workshops for the men one evening and for the women the next that inspired and challenged the church to have greater faith. Josué was also our guest speaker for an evangelistic event that was held Saturday evening. He spoke about finding direction and purpose in our lives through our relationship with God. Josué and Veronica wrapped their arms around us and injected all of us with much needed vision and faith.

Our Sunday morning celebration service was filled with emotion and gratitude. One of the heroes among us is a sister named Teresa who was the first woman baptized here in Santiago. She was able to share with the church about how God has been faithful to her in good times and in bad. The church stood and clapped for her with great appreciation for her example of faith in God and for her devotion to his peopleWe also watched a video that went through each of the 18 years of our history. One of the great surprises for the congregation was a message in the video from John and Sylvia Reus who are living in Miami now and formerly led the church in Santiago. We also saw special messages from Edson and Teresa in La Paz, Bolivia and Norberto and Yanina in Buenos Aires, Argentina encouraging the disciples in Chile. 

 A special gift from God that day was to watch a teen be baptized into Christ, Emmanuel Sowicz. God had been preparing him for this day for a few months and the brothers shared enthusiastically about the incredible change they had seen in him from the inside out. The church laughed as Emmanuel challenged the friends visiting church that day to study the bible and discover the reason for the huge smile on his face. 

 The celebration was closed as we sang "Feliz Cumpleaños" to the church and blew out candles on a cake for hundreds. It was a great day of reflecting with gratitude on what God has done and looking forward with faith to what God will do in the years to come. 

 
 

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Patricio and Daisy sent to Concepción


Wednesday, March 26th, the Santiago Church sent off Patricio and Daisy, who will be leading our sister church in Concepción, Chile. For the last few months, Pato and Daisy have been traveling to Concepción to help and encourage the brothers and sisters there. Daisy used her vacation time and traveled by herself, moved by the need for more people to help study the bible with friends who had been visiting the church. God put in the hearts of this incredible couple to move to the southern part of Chile, leaving behind work and other personal goals to serve the Lord in this way. Patricio stepped down from his work as an IT Engineer and Daisy who recently received her degree in Nursing, turned down a great job, to be able to go where our Lord was sending them.Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

Patricio and Daisy have responded to the call of the Lord. We are so grateful for their hearts to love God and be guided by him. They are an example for us to follow. Our hearts and prayers are with them and the church in Concepción.

"To An Unknown God"


2000 years ago Paul spoke in Athens to a group of philosophers and thinkers with incredible pose. He saw their statue in the city with the inscription "to an unknown god" and announced to this group of learned men that this was the God that he would proclaim. The God that created the world and everything in it had sent Jesus and had raised him up from death. It is one of the most powerful sermons that we have in the scriptures.

In light of Paul's message, we decided in Santiago to have a special event for campus students to really examine who God truly is. The weeks leading up to the "conferencia" the campus students spoke to thousands of students about how they view God and if they were interested in finding out about the God of the Bible. It was an incredible, faith-building month. Many of those invited came to hear a great message by Luis Fernando Herrera. They heard testimonies by some of the disciples and were able watch a video about how people view God on the campuses in Santiago.

We are praising God for the power of his word and for those that he brought to the event. There are many who are studying the bible and digging deeper and we are anxious to watch God continue to work in their hearts and lives.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dr. Douglas Jacoby visits Chile



Challenging. Deep. Refreshing. Inspiring. These are words that disciples in Santiago, Chile used to describe the visit of Dr. Douglas Jacoby. In just four days we learned principles of parenting, strategies for studying the Bible, and the truth about the Holy Spirit. He also spent many hours teaching the staff and answering their questions.

On Sunday March 12, the church heard two classes on the Holy Spirit. The first session focused on the basics of the Holy Spirit, including how a person receives the Spirit and how the Spirit works in our lives. The second session dealt with common misunderstandings and false doctrines surrounding the Spirit. For some, the classes brought added clarity, while for others the teaching brought new perspectives that clashed with previous understandings. For all it was a challenge to think more deeply. Many friends and visitors were present and afterwards the fellowship was abuzz with conversations and questions. The Wednesday class on Bible study strategies called all of us to go deeper into the Word. One of the most convicting moments was when Douglas asked the church how many had read the entire Bible. A number of hands went up, while many realized their need to read the Old Testament as well as the New. A number of brothers and sisters started that week with the goal to read the whole Bible. At the end of the class we saw the strategies applied as we examined a few scriptures regarding lukewarmness, division and church discipline. Our convictions were strengthened by the call to love our brothers while dealing firmly and biblically with sin. The disciples were very grateful for the input, and surrounded our guest speaker in the fellowship to ask him even more questions.

A special part of the trip was having Douglas' son James here as well. On Sunday morning James spent time with the teen ministry, encouraging them to remain true to their convictions. All in all we are very grateful for how God inspired us and taught us so that through God's word we might be "thoroughly equipped for every good work."