Be fruitful and multiply

That’s the subject line of an important email from Global Frontier Missions to its supporters.  The ministry announcement, sent Monday, has significant implications for our church planting team.  In case you missed it, allow me to sum up the message in a few points:

  • GFM’s heart is and always has been the least-reached of the entire world.
  • GFM’s mobilization in southern Mexico resulted in a church planting team committed long-term to the work here.  This frees up GFM to relocate its mobilization efforts to the United States, in order to focus on raising up workers for the 10/40 Window.  (The 10/40 Window is the area where 95% of the world’s least-reached people live.)
  • GFM’s leadership team has been asking the question, “What should be our focus?”
  • Our answer is for GFM to dedicate its efforts to mission mobilization for the 10/40 Window.
  • Because this means the work of the Mexico church planting team will not fit directly within the scope of GFM’s ministry, GFM will be commissioning and releasing our team in April, 2010.  We will no longer be under GFM’s covering, but we will continue under the covering of Commission To Every Nation.

The preceding summary is rather matter-of-fact, but much prayer and heartfelt discussion went into the decisions.  Forming two distinct organizations from what has been one is a big step.  We would only be doing this if GFM’s leadership team clearly felt it was God’s direction for all of us, which we do.  The “sending out” of our church planting team will allow us to fully focus on making disciples in Mexico.  It will simultaneously free GFM to dedicate itself to mobilizing missionaries for reaching Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists.

Our team has been so blessed these past few years by Global Frontier Missions and Grant and Jenn Haynes.  We are honored to be sent out by them.  The passion for the least-reached with which they infected us has brought us to where we are.  We love GFM and will continue collaborating with them as close friends.  The day in April when this change takes effect will be bittersweet indeed.

Being sent out by GFM will in no way change the work our church planting team is doing in southern Mexico. Our purpose is to make reproducing local disciples who multiply themselves to reach the numerous least-reached villages in our region.  In January, Erin and I sensed God leading us to commit to the work here until He makes it clear to us our job is done.  We’re not going anywhere.  Continuing with us on our team are Nick and Sarah, David and Rhonda, Sarah, and Tasha.

If you have questions or would like to know more about this transition, please write me or any other GFM leadership team member.  I would be happy to dialog and to send you a copy of GFM’s announcement.  The announcement has a Q and A section at the bottom that includes answers to the following questions:

  • Will I still be able to be involved in the work in southern Mexico, even though it will no longer have the GFM name on it?
  • What about the GFM base down there?
  • Will any opportunity exist for mission trips to Mexico with you all in the future?

We love all of you in our ministry family!  We look forward to continuing to share the work here with you, and we covet your prayers for both our team and for GFM in this time of transition.

More testimonies from the medical outreach

The medical outreach we were doing this week is now done.  In the final two days we continued to see God touching people and healing them.  I don’t know how many people were healed, but it was a good number.

I saw God heal the vision of four people in the final two days.  The optometrist was in such high demand that people were arriving as early as 4am (the clinic started at 9 each day) to see him, and we had to turn a number of people away.  Thursday, when a number of people had just been turned away, I invited anyone who wanted prayer to come over.  A few people did, and I and some others began praying for them.  I prayed for three people in a row whose vision cleared up.  I know this because we gave them before and after tests.  Before prayer, we would hand them a passage to read from a Bible and they couldn’t see well enough to do it.  Immediately after prayer they were reading even the very fine print of the footnotes of the Bible.  Praise God!!

I was part of praying for three other people in the last two days who had various problems in their shoulders, backs, or legs.  God took away all their pain when we prayed.  One woman had an inflamed lump in her shoulder that Rhonda could feel and that caused her to wince every time it was pressed.  Immediately after praying for her the lump had disappeared and she had no more pain in the shoulder.  God is awesome!

Friday I invited my sister Micah, who is staying with us for the summer, to come along and help pray for people.  She did, and got to help pray for a number of people.  She was very excited (as were the rest of us) when she and Jackie prayed for an older man who couldn’t walk well because his foot was in a lot of pain.  They prayed for his healing in the name of Jesus, and all of his pain went away.  I got to talk with him afterwards, and he was very happy!  He had hardly been able to leave his house recently because of the pain, but now he said he can walk around fine.  He is a believer, but he does not have a church and is very anxious for fellowship.  I agreed to come see him, and I plan to help get him plugged into fellowship.

Once again, I have shared just some of the many things that God did this week.  The best part at the end of the outreach is that we have contact information for a number of people to follow up on.  These are people who said they want to follow Jesus or who are interested in learning more about having a relationship with Christ.  They were touched by God’s healing power, and now they want to know him better.  Please pray that in the coming weeks fruit would come out of the ministry that took place with these people this week.

Thanks for all of you who were praying this week for God to be moving down here.  He certainly did, and we praise Him for His greatness and for His compassion.  Join us in giving Him all the glory!

Testimonies through two days of medical outreach

We’re halfway through a 4-day medical outreach here, and I want to share a bit of what’s been going on while it’s fresh on my mind.

Yesterday, we ended up sending our last three patients of the day on their way with no medications because we prayed for their healing in Jesus name and God touched them!  Jordan, one of our GFMers, prayed for the first guy before he got back to the consultation area where I was translating.  By the time this man came back to us, he described all the pain he had been suffering, especially in his shoulders, but then said it went away when Jordan prayed for him.  He hadn’t been able to lift his elbow higher than his shoulder because of the pain, but now he was making full circles with his arm.  We gave him a couple of exercises to do at home and sent him on his way.

When the next man came back for his consultation, we shared with him what had happened with the patient before him.  We gave him two options: He could have a normal consultation, or we could pray first and ask God to heal him.  He opted for prayer.  We prayed for him and he walked out healed of a shoulder problem very similar to the guy before him.

Jordan and I looked at each other and said, “All right, who’s next!”  We called back the last patient of the day.  We gave him the same option, and he also asked for prayer.  After we prayed for him, he said he still had a little pain but definitely felt better, and felt good enough that he was happy to go and didn’t want a consultation.  Praise God!

We started today on the lookout for more opportunities to pray for people.  Jordan and a couple of our GFM ladies spent most of the day in a corner praying for people, and God didn’t disappoint.  I am wary of embellishment or exagerration, so I will very conservatively say that half a dozen or more people were healed today or experienced a noticeable decrease in their pain through prayer.  (I once unintentionally gave some inaccurate details regarding a healing, and it came back to bite me later.)  I was an eyewitness to what happened with four of these people today.

One cool experience for me was getting to pray for a neighbor of ours.  He came in wanting a consultation with the eye doctor.  I had to tell him that unfortunately they were not able to accept any more patients today, but I asked if he would like prayer.  He said he would and described to me several physical ailments.  I first prayed for his shoulder and back.  After praying, he said all the pain was gone from both (and I asked several times if he was sure that all the pain was gone).  Next, I prayed for his knee.  He uses a cane and has a severe limp because of all the pain in his knee.  After praying he said it still hurt a little, but felt a lot better.  Someone said they saw him leaving the consultation carrying his cane, rather than using it.  Finally, he asked me to pray for his eyes.  I did, and when he opened them he said, “I can see clearly!”  We handed him a book to read, and he read it with no trouble.  I asked him if he could do that previously, and he said that he couldn’t–he always had to wear glasses.  Once again, praise God!

I followed up with this neighbor on my way home this evening.  His knee still hurts some, but feels a lot better than it has felt previously.  He wants me to pray for it again tomorrow.  He says his eyes are completely fine–he sees clearly.  His shoulder doesn’t hurt at all, and he said his back started hurting just a little.  (I don’t know what exactly is going on with the back, but I know that if I walked the way he normally does to compensate for his knee, my back would hurt, too.)

We give all the glory to God for what He is doing!  We emphasized over and over to people today that Jesus Christ is the one who healed them.  This led to a number of good conversations, and three people (I believe) professed faith in Jesus.  We have their contact information so we can follow up on them.

One of the neatest things for me was witnessing what happened late this afternoon with a local gal who is a new believer that Liz and Tasha baptized several months ago.  She was invited to come, and Jordan and the ladies tossed her right into the mix and had her start praying for people.  She shared Christ with several people with no hesitation.  I witnessed her laying hands on two different women and praying for healing and their pain completely disappeared.  One lady said after this gal prayed for her that a bone in her hip that had been out went back in.  Praise God for working not only through us, but more importantly through a new believer from our town!  Imagine the possibilities!

These are just some of the really neat things that happened yesterday and today.  Thanks so much to all of you who pray for God’s work down here.  He is moving!  Join us in rejoicing and praising Him for His goodness and in asking him to continue moving through the remaining two days of medical outreach.  We’re excited to see what else He does!

Insights into the spirit world in my friend’s village

My friend Don P’s people group, like most in our area, is quite animistic.  Animists have a far greater awareness of spiritual realities than the average westerner.  As I spent time with Don P on Saturday, he shared some interesting things:

First, he told me a story about the small lake they have in their village.  The lake is–or at least used to be–enchanted, according to the locals.  He said the water would move as if it were alive, and sometimes a wave would come up and grab people and drown them.  Two Catholic priests came to their village many years ago, and the first one was grabbed by the lake and drowned.  The second priest went and knelt beside the lake, Don P said, and began to pray over it.  After he did, the enchantment was broken.  The water ceased to move as if it were alive; now it is still like a normal lake.

Don P went on to relate a story his grandfather told him.  He said the village used to have five lakes, but now it only has two.  Maybe a hundred years ago, a village belonging to a neighboring people group was fighting with Don P’s village.  According to Don P’s grandfather, they had people who were good at casting spells and putting curses on others.  Through witchcraft, they were able to take some of the lakes from Don P’s village and have them brought to their own village.  From a distance, they also caused the (Catholic, I think) church building in Don P’s village to catch on fire.

One other interesting conversation we had was about belief in naguals (pronounced na-wals).  Most villages in our area that have this belief say a nagual is a person who turns into an animal at night.  In Don P’s village, it’s a little different.  They don’t think naguals are people; they think they’re devils.  He said a nagual looks like a person, but its knees don’t bend.  He went on to mention that his wife had just seen one a couple of days before near there house.  It was howling.  I asked how she knew it was one, and he said because it was shaking a large tree back and forth.  The tree is far too big for a person to shake.

Anecdotes such as these are common in the villages of our area.  Though the people are Catholic in name, their religion far more closely resembles animism, because they hold many of the beliefs they had before the Spanish conquest of Mexico.  The advantage in sharing the gospel with animists (and there are disadvantages, too) is they don’t have to be convinced of spiritual realities.  They are already aware of them.

Finally, a visit to my friend’s village

For a while, my friend Don P. has been saying I’ll have to come visit his village, and yesterday we were finally able to make it happen.  I was out there for about six hours and got to help him with a house he’s building, read quite a bit from the Bible, and eat lunch.

Don P. belongs to one of the two main groupings of indigenous people in our area.  I don’t want to use the actual names of the groups because I don’t want people around here Googling this, so here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to start calling the two groups the Mixed people and the Tree people.  If you’ve been around here, I think you’ll know who I’m talking about.  If not, and you want to know, send me an email and I’ll tell you who they are.  So Don P. belongs to one of the tribes of the Tree people.

When I got there he showed me a spring on his property, and we talked about ways to collect the water and pump it up to his house.  He then wanted to read the Bible, so we read the story of the Prodigal Son followed by the creation story.  Though Don P. didn’t know it, I was following the listing of stories for evangelism found in the Shepherd’s Storybook.  The Shepherd’s Storybook is a resource developed by our church planting coach and his wife, Robert and Anne Thiessen, and is available for free download at

We enjoyed a tasty lunch of egg and bean tacos made with fresh corn tortillas cooked over a fire, then we headed outside and worked on a house Don P. is building for his nephew.  After two or three hours of working and talking, we came back around to reading some passages in the Bible that addressed questions Don P. was asking.  He wanted to know why, if God created all the animals, they kill and eat one another.  He thought it was pretty cool to see how Isaiah says they will one day live in harmony once more.  Then we looked at passages relating to death and eternal life, because Don P. was saying he’s heard Christians say you’ll have eternal life, but that can’t be because they all die.  Finally, he got pretty fired up hearing testimonies I shared of how we’ve seen God miraculously heal people, and he thought sometime soon we should look for a sick person who has faith in God to heal and pray for that person.

It was a good time together, with a lot of seeds of the Word planted.  Please pray that God will cause the seed to take root in his heart and grow and bear fruit.

I intend to write a separate post describing a couple of interesting spiritual things I learned about Don P.’s village.  Update: Read what I learned about spiritual realities here.

Another trip to the airstrip

This past Saturday evening I headed back out to the airstrip for another visit.  I saw the teacher who was one of the two guys I talked to last time, and he invited me to sit down for a while and talk.  We had a good conversation about a variety of topics—generating electricity, culture, teaching, the Bible, his community, etc.  He strikes me as a pretty neat guy who (so far) doesn’t seem too standoffish around me.  He’s from a people group in our area that has been known for being very resistant to outsiders and tough to penetrate with the gospel.

While up there, I met one other new family from a different people group and a lady who is their neighbor from across the strip.  I had a nice chat with them as well, delving into spiritual topics some.  They have a very outgoing five-year-old girl (their youngest) who wants me to bring Lauryn and Molly to play the next time I come for a visit.

As for generating electricity, that still seems to have possibilities.  The teacher is quite interested in the project and doesn’t seem put off by the idea of a simple solar system for one home costing several hundred dollars.  I got a better sense of how much electricity families up there use, which will help us be more focused in research.  It sounds like most families have a couple of light bulbs, and radios and TVs are common.  About four families have a kind of portable, wash-only (no spin cycle) washing machine that many in this area use.  The teacher said we don’t have too much else to worry about, so the needs aren’t too intense.

Rob, our church planting coach, was pointing out to me that I should take the teacher along to an internet cafe when I go to do some more study.  We want to include the people of the community in each step of the process as much as possible, so they’ll take ownership of the project.  To the extent that I do research by myself and bring my findings back to them, they’ll conclude that they’re not capable of figuring these things out.  The whole idea of community development is to help the people of a community organize themselves to solve their own problems, eventually without outside help.

I think things are going well out there.  I’m looking forward to my next trip out.  I had hoped that would be tomorrow, but now I finally have an invite from my friend Don P to his village, so I don’t know when I’ll make it to the airstrip.  Maybe Sunday.  The teacher mentioned he knows a village about ten hours away where a guy set up a nice solar system and sells electricity to his neighbors.  When I expressed interest, the teacher offered to take a weekend sometime and take me out there to check it out.  Hopefully we’ll be able to make that happen sometime this summer.

Thanks again to everyone who commented on my last airstrip post or sent me emails sharing your ideas and resources.  Your input has been extremely helpful, and I invite your continuing ideas and feedback.  I appreciate your being part of the team!

New call (no pun intended) for help

Okay, here’s the deal: I need a caller ID hacker.  No, this isn’t bad.  I’ll explain why:

In my last post I mentioned I’ve been putting out much more frequent updates on Facebook and Twitter.  I’m getting ready to head to Mexico City tonight to spend a couple of days exploring a business opportunity that could bring some new jobs into our area.  (We’ve been praying a long time for God to bring new jobs here so families wouldn’t be torn apart as husbands move to the U.S. to work and in many cases don’t return.)  While in Mexico City, I would like to have my phone configured such that I can post updates to Twitter and Facebook by sending text messages.

The problem is this: In order to post updates by text message, I have to be able to dial +44 762 4801423 to send them to Twitter.  My phone is an old model that will not let me enter the ‘+’ character at the front of a number I’m dialing.  Without the ‘+’, I can’t send updates from my phone.

I know some of you know how to hack around in caller ID and show your call as coming from whatever number you like.  Could someone please call me phone and show it coming from the number above?  Or it could be from any number, really, just as long as it starts with a ‘+’.  Once I have a number in my phone that starts with ‘+’, I think I can save it as the Twitter number and be good to go.  I hope.

So if anyone is able to help me out and do that today, that would be awesome, and I’ll give you public recognition right here on my blog.  (How’s that for an incentive?)  My cell number is [my number].  To dial it from the U.S., it should be [like this].  Or if that doesn’t work, try doing it [like this].


Update: After trying a host of different things, I couldn’t come up with any way to get a ‘+’ into my phone.  Thanks for everyone who tried to help, including a former MTS student who called me from North Africa!  Chino was the one who came up with the solution, even though we didn’t have the plus sign – turns out that dialing ’00’ is the same as dialing a ‘+’.  Problem solved!

Connect with me through Facebook and Twitter

Those viewing the home page of this blog will see I have added buttons at the top of the sidebar allowing you to connect with me through Facebook and Twitter.

I have taken advantage of now having internet service at home to post a handful of Tweets/Facebook status updates each day.  These include prayer requests and little tidbits on things I’m doing and thinking about.  For those who use Facebook or Twitter a lot, it’s a good way to get a more constant stream of updates from us and a better idea of what our day-to-day lives are like.

So if you’re not part of it already, this is your invitation to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  We’d love to have you as part of the community!

Note: I have protected my Twitter updates so they’re not visible on the public timeline.  You’ll have to request to follow me, then once I confirm you’re a real person who is interested in our family or our work, I will approve the request.

Saturday afternoon trip to the airstrip

Who can help me with information on inexpensive ways to generate electricity for a household?  If you know something about this or can point me to a good resource, please comment!  Read on to hear why…

In praying about next steps recently, I sensed God leading me to put more effort into connecting with people on the outskirts of our town who have ties to villages.  I felt I wasn’t supposed to take on any new projects (water filters, solar dehydrators, and the like) until I had better relationships with people in need and could more directly respond to needs they wanted met.

On that premise, late this afternoon I headed out to a community about a half hour walk from our house, built on an old airstrip.  The community came to be about three years ago when a number of village families were invited to take small parcels of land and build houses on them.  They did so, constructing one-room houses out of wood and sheets of corrugated tin.  These humble dwellings line either side of what was once a working airstrip in our town, now a gravel runway with weeds poking through it.

The airstrip community enjoys a beautiful view

The airstrip community is an intriguing place, strategically.  Its families come from a number of indigenous villages and speak native dialects.  We (and many missionaries) have found displaced people in difficult circumstances to often be more open to the gospel.  The community is poor, meaning community development has an opportunity to make a more significant impact there than in other places.

I went out with no plan other than to try and connect with people.  I figured I’d let them know that God brought me to the region to come to know Jesus better alongside others and to spread the love of Jesus in any way I can.  Then I’d just see what happened.  Arriving at the airstrip, I saw a couple of guys loading wood into the back of a truck at one of the first houses, so I figured I’d see if I could lend them a hand.  As I got closer and called out a greeting, I recognized both of them as men I’d met last summer when GFM was doing some English classes up there.  (Carl and Lisa, students in the 2008-09 Mission Training School, were the first ones to begin building relationships in the airstrip community, which opened the door for our further involvement.)  The two men recognized me, as well.

We started talking, and in the first five minutes one of the guys asked if I know how to generate electricity for a home.  The families at the airstrip had been stealing electricity from some nearby lines, but they got cut off and fined and are now without electricity.  He explained several ideas he’d heard of involving windmills, solar panels, and car batteries.  I don’t know how to generate electricity for a home, but I told him I would look into it if they would help me make something once I found a design.  He readily agreed, saying to let him know what I found and then he would get people in the community together to chip in money for the project and help work on it.

After a half-hour conversation, he offered me a ride back to town.  I accepted, and on the way back we got into spiritual matters.  I mostly just asked questions and let him talk this time around.  He belongs to a sect based out of Guadalajara called Luz del Mundo.

So now I need some good ideas for inexpensive home power generation!  Does anyone know of anything?  We always say that our supporters back home are just as much a part of the team as we are, we’re just field staff, so here’s a bit of a unique way to participate in the work down here!  I’m looking forward to hearing from some of you.

P.S. I don’t have a photo of the airstrip community, but are there any GFMers reading this who have one they could pass along to me?  If so, I’ll add it to this post.  Update: Thanks to Nick and Sarah for providing the above photo.

Update 05 June ’09: Read about my following trip to the airstrip here.