Friday, July 30, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

Wednesday, July 28 was Peruvian Independence Day!

As a result, I've been thinking a lot about freedom.

Some definitions:

  • The condition of being free of restraints.

  • Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.

    1. Political independence.
    2. Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty:freedom of assembly.

  • Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.

  • The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon

  • There are a few contexts in which I've been thinking about freedom. First with the fact that Peru has freedom from Spain!

    Also, I am teaching people to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and freedom is an important part of that. We are given freedom from our slavery to sin,  and also freedom to stop working to earn our salvation. We are free in Christ Jesus!

    I've also thought about what not having freedom looks like. I know it might sound dramatic, but some days, it feels like we live almost in a prison. I love it here, don't get me wrong, but we live far from everything. And we can't go out by ourselves. And we live with 20 people now, with more moving in within the next couple weeks. It's a great community for sure, but when you need alone time, there are few places to go. We definitely gave up freedom to come and go as we please, freedom of independence.

    We gave up certain other personal freedoms as well. We agreed to certain rules, rules to live by to keep us focused. We chose to follow our call and seek first the kingdom of God.

    But we also have the freedom to choose our own way. We have the freedom to focus on our selves. And because some people from our team forgot their focus, we are losing four members of the Cusco team. Suddenly, we only have three pairs to do all of the work in Cusco.

    But now we on the Cusco team are learning new freedoms. We are learning the freedom we have to give grace. We are learning the freedom we have to defy odds! Because we are taking it upon ourselves to do all the work of six pairs between the three of us. We have the freedom to step up and refocus and give all of ourselves for the work of church planting, for the kingdom of God.

    And this is where we are all at on the Cusco team. We want to focus solely on the kingdom of God. And we are going to first focus on our three assigned church plant sites, but after that, the sky is the limit. We won't stop until the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in Cusco.

    But it is probably important to note that many people have said that Cusco may be the hardest place to do this work. The people are bound in darkness. I have seen the spiritual warfare there firsthand, but if I had any doubt, the way this team has been attacked makes me even more sure. The work there will be hard, but I am in this for the long haul. I am all in. I only want to seek first the kingdom of God. That is all that matters.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Spiritual Attacks

    I have talked about spiritual warfare before, but everyday my eyes are opened to it more and more.

    I have seen some crazy things. I am an optimist and really like to paint a pretty picture, but things have been really difficult.

    Let me give you a few examples, so that you can pray for us...

    During Love Extreme in Cusco, I was leading a team going to a few different schools to do a drama sharing the gospel. We walked down to the main road to grab taxis with the Pastor. We finally got everyone in a taxi and headed to the school, and all arrived about five minutes after our scheduled start time. The principal wouldn't let us come in. So we didn't get to go into the first school.

    So we decided to head over to the second school early, and since there was a university right around the corner, we were going to see if we could do the drama there as well.

    On the way there, we got a flat tire, and were delayed about a half hour!

    So we headed to the university, still with plenty of extra time. We talked to security, and they just wouldn't let us in. They said their schedule was too tight and it just wasn't possible on such short notice, but we could schedule a time sometime.

    We finally went to the last two schools, and things went pretty well. Now I know all of these things could be ordinary, happenstance things. But I remember standing at the second school thinking about all the things that had gone wrong that morning, and feeling so attacked. The enemy was at work, because Cusco belongs to him. He didn't want us to share the gospel with the next generation that day. So he used men and objects to get in our way.

    Another example pops into my mind from the week of Consolidation after Love Extreme. All day of the Mega-Event, there were people working to put the names and data into the computer to help us when we went to follow up with them. A few of us stayed up pretty late that night to get this done to be able to begin calling people the following day.

    The next day, things didn't go as smoothly as they could have. And the enemy started working to cause division. And he did. I won't go into detail, but there was a lot of division.

    So to attempt to solve the problems, I volunteered to just take all of the consolidation stuff home and finish what we needed for the following day. I was determined to not sleep until it was done, and really, I wasn't planning on sleeping. I also volunteered to help get short-termers to the airport the next day by 5 am.

    So things went fine for me that night once we finally go the data sent to my computer (There were many technical difficulties in this process; imagine that!) So I stayed up all night, everything got done, and I took all the stuff with me to the airport so we could go straight to the church after that to get everything printed and ready to go for a day of follow-up with people who had made decisions for Christ.

    So, we left the airport, Jaclyn and I, walking a ways to get a taxi for cheaper. We walked, and kept waving down taxis. Every taxi either ignored us like we were invisible, stopped but couldn't go that way for whatever reason, or was charging outlandish prices! We walked for nearly an hour, and without exaggeration, waved down about 50 taxis. 

    We continued to pray, and finally got a taxi. On the way to the church, there was a lot of prayer because of the crazy traffic and near-accidents. And when we looked at the clock once we arrived at the church, and it was one minute until our meeting was supposed to start!

    Do you realize I had every piece of information about the 700+ people who gave their lives to Christ on my back that morning? And the enemy tried so hard to not allow us to get where we had to be with that information that morning.

    I have been thinking a lot today about all the difficulties we face on a daily basis. A lot of times, there are conflicts and divisions among people. But I am reminded today that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). Our struggle is not against people! I feel very strongly that Satan often uses people for his purposes, but our struggle is not against people. It is against the evil forces using people.

    So let's remember to put on the full armor of God.

    Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God, And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace. Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one]. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.

    Jesus and Fruit

    So the last thing I posted was about Sonia's mom accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior.

    Well, there's more to the story!

    On Sunday, we went to the market to pick Viviana up for church. She went with us, and brought two of her grandkids, one of whom I met the night of Love Extreme. She was really into learning and studying the Bible and listening during the service. It was really awesome to see!

    And so we went back to the market on Thursday, with the intention of starting the discipleship lessons with Sonia and Viviana, and whoever else was around who wanted to hear about Jesus! But Viviana wasn't there. Instead, Sonia told us that she wanted us to talk to her sister, Mirian.

    And she told me and Ester, right before introducing us to her sister, "If you can get through to her, you can get through to anyone in the world."

    Once we found out that Viviana wasn't there, Ester and I whispered to each other to figure out a plan, since we had a lesson prepared for Viviana. We could give that lesson, or we could talk about the Prodigal Son, or we could use the metaphor of marriage in the Bible, which we had used in class the day or so before. We decided to go with that one.

    So we met Mirian, and started talking to her. She is 20 years old, doesn't like working at the market selling fruit with her family, and so she doesn't do it much. She is studying English and wants to live in the US someday.

    And then we started sharing with her about Jewish marriage customs, and how Jesus did these things to show us that he wants to have a great romance with us. We shared just how MUCH God loves us.

    And once again, right there by the fruit, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior, and her Lover!

    So tomorrow morning we are going to visit her at her house! And we are going back to the market on Sunday to take Viviana to church again. And next Sunday, we are planning to start a cell group at Sonia's house, when all of the family is there to hear the gospel.

    The movement is still going!!

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    It's a Movement!

    So, remember when I wrote about Sonia, a new believer from Love Extreme?

    Well, she sells us fruit. So our cook, Victor, talks to her twice a week when they go to the market. And she has told him that she really wants to have a cell group in her house, and she really wants her family to become Christians.

    So she asked Victor to come talk to her mom about Jesus. And Victor asked Ester and I to come with him.

    So Thursday was our visit, at the market, and it turned out that only Ester and I could go.

    So we get to the market and Sonia immediately gave us a mandarin orange to eat. She is super sweet!

    And we started talking to her mom, Viviana. She told us about how she is really down because a friend of hers was recently murdered by her husband. They had two kids. And Ester began to tell her about the assurance we can have of seeing our family and friends again after they die if we know Jesus Christ.

    Then Ester whispered to me, asking me if I wanted to say something. I told her I was waiting for the right moment. Ester continued sharing about Jesus.

    A little while later, I jumped in and asked Viviana if she knew the story of the prodigal son. She said no, so I told her the story about two sons, one who asked for his inheritance, then went and spent it all. I told her that he wanted to come back, but only expected to be made a worker in his father's house. And I described how the father ran to him, and through him a party, and that this is how God is with us.

    And Ester told her about how we all have gone away from God, but that he wants us to come back to him. She told her that as I was talking she was thinking about the mandarin orange, and how we can't eat the skin, so we peel it off. She said that is what Jesus does with our lives; he takes off all the dirtiness and sin in our lives. (I was super excited at this point. This is a metaphor she can understand, because she sells fruit all day!) She asked if Viviana wanted to accept Jesus Christ into her heart. But she said no, not here, she couldn't do it in the market.

    So I told her to pretend that we were astronauts. We were going into space, and decided to go to the moon. But we can't go to the moon, because we would burn up. And that's what is like with God. He is so holy, that we can't enter into his presence as sinners. So we need some time of protection. And Jesus came as our protection, with his blood to cover our sins. And we can accept him and come to God.

    We tried to explain to her that we didn't have to be in a church to talk to God, that he was listening to us now. We talked to her, and Ester prayed with her, and she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior!

    We made a date to pick her up for church, and she came with two of her grandkids!

    She is so hungry to learn about Jesus, so we are going to start a discipleship group in the market on Thursday afternoons!

    I called this post "It's a Movement;" I've said it before, that what God has started here is a movement. It is not going to stop! Family members are coming to the foot of the cross. The people in the market listened to Ester and I share the gospel, and we will have the opportunity to disciple them! It is not going to stop until this country knows the name of Jesus Christ, and his amazing grace!!

    "Shout it from the rooftops. Let the trumpets ring. Sing your freakin' lungs out! TELL THEM JESUS CHRIST IS KING!"

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Potsherds: Not our Final Identity

    Isaiah 45

     9Woe to him who strives with his Maker!--a worthless piece of broken pottery among other pieces equally worthless [and yet presuming to strive with his Maker]! Shall the clay say to him who fashions it, What do you think you are making? or, Your work has no handles?(A)
        10Woe to him [who complains against his parents that they have begotten him] who says to a father, What are you begetting? or to a woman, With what are you in travail?
        11Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Would you question Me about things to come concerning My children, and concerning the work of My hands [would you] command Me?
        12I made the earth and created man upon it. I, with My hands, stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.

    This is my Bible's note on this passage:

    God calls his complaining people "potsherds," broken pieces of clay. These broken bits rank as the least valuable materials for pottery making and are usually thrown into a potter's field and abandoned. Or they're used as scrapers, scoops, or pieces of scrap paper. The Lord says these clay shards scarcely compare to the master, who masterminds the creative process.

    King David calls himself a piece of "broken pottery" when he feels worthless and fears that people disrespect him (Psalm 31:12). Being a potsherd is as far as someone can crumble. That's who we are compared to God, but it's not our final identity. Our relationship with God is a balance between realizing we're unworthy without him (Psalm 14:3) but worthy because of him through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Though we're only bits of clay, when we reverence who he is versus who we are, he can remold us into vessels full of his power (2 Cor 4:7).

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Thank God for Rest

    More and more each day, I realize that missions is not just a job, it is a life. And in this life that I love and wouldn't trade for anything, I have to fight for rest.

    But after Love Extreme and some crazy time of consolidation, we got to take a retreat as the entire staff, and just rest.

    The weekend of our US Independence Day, we went to the beach a couple hours from Arequipa.

    Now keep in mind, it is winter in Peru. (I know, I know. Seventy degrees during the day is not winter. But it really gets cold! Or I'm just super-Peruvian now.)

    So the beach was pretty much empty, accept for the 150ish Extremies. It was awesome.

    Thank God for His rest. He is the One who renews us. He is the One who strengthens us. And He is so faithful. He has given me a supernatural joy. And I am so thankful.

    I am also so thankful for my family here. They make everyday great. But if you could, say a prayer for this family of mine. For health, assurance of call, and unity.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Bring Your Mom to Work Month

    I just wanted to give my mom a shout-out. She was here from June 8-July 2, and we had a blast together!
    I love you Mom!

    Sonia's Story

    The morning of the mega event, I was helping with consolidation at the women’s conference. Tammy Trent sang and gave her testimony, and then Lonna Vopat spoke. She gave the call for the women to accept Christ. The other consolidators and I prayed with the women, and led them out to another room to take their information.
    I was the first one out there, so I was immediately surround. I was able to tell them welcome to the family of God, and that we wanted to take down their names and be able to contact them. So I passed out all of my information cards, and then some extra papers too. That’s how many women there were. But I didn’t get to actually talk to a single one of them. I had more names than any other female consolidator, but hadn’t gotten to talk to or pray with a single person. So I prayed that the next time, I would be able to have a conversation the next time.
    After Nick’s talk, we had a crowd of women come for consolidation. So we had them all sit, and one of the 40/40s gave her testimony. We then went around to take information.
    I began with a woman named Sonia. She shared with me that she had left her life of drinking and partying because he realized it was bad, but still felt an emptiness inside of her. She told me that she really wanted to change her life. She told me that she really wanted to learn about the Bible, and really just wanted to learn. I mentioned to her about the spiritual retreat, not expecting much, and she said, “I’m going,” and paid that bight. She told me she wanted her whole family to go, too, so that they could hear about Jesus.
    I prayed with her, and after we had finished talking, there was hardly anyone left in the room. Her’s was the only name I got that night, but it was worth it!
    Sonia went to the spiritual retreat, and was one of the people who got baptized. She also signed up for discipleship school, and told me the night of Love Extreme that she was saving money for a house, and when she had one, she wanted to have a cell group there. She also is going to bring her family to the next spiritual retreat. I firmly believe that she is a future leader for the church in Arequipa.
    Another cool thing about this contact of mine is that she lives in one of the districts where my church is working, so I can be one of the people who continues to follow up with her. And, incidentally, she sells our fruit to us that we eat everyday!
    So please pray for Sonia as she grows in her faith and witnesses to her friends and family.


    Did you know that only 10% of new converts are in church a year later? That means that the enemy wins back 90% of new Christians. With Love Extreme, we want to change that statistic. So we have a system to take care of new Christians, and turn them into disciples of Jesus Christ, not just converts.
    During the whole day of Love Extreme, we wrote down the contact information  of each person who made a decision for Jesus Christ. The next day, and the whole following week, people from the church and 40/40s made phone calls to these people to set up visits with them.

    During the next week especially, but even now, 40/40s and church members have been visiting these people to pray with them and  invite them to a spiritual retreat.
    We made around 150 house visits and had 26 in attendance for the spiritual retreat the following weekend.

    The spiritual retreat is the equivalent of one year of discipleship. The new spiritual babies are given training in the basics of the Christian life. We also had four people baptized.

    The next step in consolidation is attending cell groups, which are essentially house churches. We started them last week! These will be the churches the Arequipa group starts.
    We also have a discipleship school and a leadership school , with classes once a week, which have also just started. We are making sure that the church has strong members and leaders once we, the missionaries, leave.
    After we got back from the retreat, we had a huge joint worship service for the new converts and the churches in Arequipa. 

    During the service, eight more people accepted Christ!  These results tell me that this thing that began with the mega event is a movement. It will not stop with 700 converts. Their families will come to know Christ, them their neighbors, and it just keeps going until all of Arequipa comes to know Christ! The harvest field is ready and the workers are here!

    Amor Extremo Mega-Event

    The morning of Love Extreme we had to get up early and arrive at the fairgrounds in Arequipa by 7:00am for prayer. 

    We then had a meeting to figure out assignments, and a few of us were sent to help take tickets. Hundreds of people were already lined up!

    At the beginning of the day there was a kids festival, a women’s conference, and a men’s conference. There were also medical clinics going on. 

    My job throughout the day was “consolidation,” meaning that I was one of the people praying with, talking with, and taking information of new converts. After the women’s conference, I was swamped with people, and my info cards were gone immediately! More than a hundred women accepted Christ that morning! (Meanwhile, 150 men accepted Christ during the men’s conference!)

    God was moving, that was certain. And we were all excited for the “main event”—Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms and legs, was there to share the gospel. Everyone in Arequipa had heard about him, and wanted to hear him speak.

    Nick shared his testimony, and invited the crowd of nearly 10,000 to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. About 6,000 people raised their hands to make this decision. He asked them again, “Do you realize this is a commitment you arte making?” Still, they raised their hands. He asked three times, but they didn’t back down. So he invited them to pray.
    We had been praying for a harvest, but this was beyond our wildest expectations! Nick told Brian (Extreme’s director) on his way to the airport that it was obvious this event had been covered in prayer.
    When I think about it, I still get excited about the gigantic crowd of people who accepted Christ that day. And ever since then, our job has been to follow up with them to make disciples, not just converts.

    Soy Peruana

    I am an official resident of Peru!

    We went to Lima Friday night on a 16-hour bus trip, and spent Saturday there. We went straight to the office of migration, and things went pretty smoothly. There was a lot of waiting, but we all left with our residency cards!
    And then we went and got lunch at Chili's, went to Starbucks, and got some Dunkin' Donuts! I felt like such an American!